Puppies have a way of begging that makes them almost impossible to resist. Everyone gives in, as it takes herculean efforts to abstain from offering a few little tidbits of "people food" to puppies looking for treats. The fact is, giving in is teaching your puppy bad manners.
Puppies should stay with their mothers until they are at least 8 weeks of age. Expert breeders such as Kerry Lake, former owner of Bellisima Kennels and breeder of champion Newfoundlands and bulldogs explains that it is important for puppies to get the full benefit of their mother's milk. "Allowing them to nurse right up until they leave the mom helps them build their immune systems and keeps them strong and healthy," says Lake. Many breeders begin to transition puppies to commercial puppy food at about 4 to 5 weeks of age.
When puppies are still with their mothers and nursing, many breeders will begin to wean them off the mother at about 3 or 4 weeks of age, others will wait until they are a little older, it's really up to the breeder. Puppies are given a puppy chow and milk replacement mixture that sort of looks like oatmeal. Once they are able to eat that mixture, the breeder begins to firm the mixture up so that it goes from a runny oatmeal consistency to solid food. This happens slowly over a period of a few weeks so that by the time the puppy is 8 weeks old, he is eating solid food.
If your plan is to cook "people food" for your dog throughout his life, you can begin offering cooked chicken and rice and other suitable foods at about 8 weeks of age. Cooking daily for their pet works for some people, but it takes a great deal of education about dog nutrition. It also takes dedication, as it is not convenient. However, if your plan is to feed your puppy a regular puppy chow that you purchase at a store, you really shouldn't supplement that food with people food.
High quality dog food manufacturers spend millions of dollars researching what your dog needs to be strong and healthy and then making sure their product has those elements. If you feed your puppy people food and he fills up on that, he won't eat the puppy chow and may not get all the nutrition he needs. He may eschew the puppy food hoping to get more pizza, bones and other table scraps. So unless you are cooking for your dog, don't feed your puppy people food. Keep him on a puppy chow diet and you will not only have a healthier dog, but a well-mannered one as well because he won't be begging at dinnertime.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.