Puppy Weights and Balances
As a puppy breeder, one of the things that is constantly on our minds is puppy weights. From the time they are born, and yes, even when we see your recent post on Facebook, we are checking out the weights of our puppies. We cannot help it. It is a constant struggle for a breeder. We love those pups and it is our duty to them to help them find that happy medium. With Labrador Retrievers, the struggle is real.
Lots of factors go into a puppies weight. First and foremost is the size of the parents. Field Lab puppies are most likely not going to be the same size as a litter of show bred puppies. If you have a 55lb Mama, you can expect smaller pups. Here is where the problem lies for me. Recently I had two litters that were two weeks apart. The first mom is a a blockier big boned female with a nice big head. She runs close to 70lbs and her sisters and littermates a little bigger even. She had seven nice big puppies. She is a great milker and loves to be a Mom, so she spends every waking second with her pups and never wants to wean. Ideal right? Some breeders pride themselves on big pups. Next comes itty bitty 55lb Mom in the whelping box next door. She is huge and miserable. Obviously this pregnancy is already taking a toll on this little girl. She has 13 decent sized puppies.
So now factor number two comes into play: Litter size
This itty bitty Mom could maybe use a little help, but you want to let the puppies have at least 24 hours on mom before you start shoving bottles down their throats. The more they can get from Mom and less from you, the better their immune systems will do, etc, so there is a fine line.
Jump to 6 weeks later.
The first litter is now 8 weeks old and ready to hit the road, and head off to their new families. The boys are topping the scales at 18lbs. With these puppies I am now worried about obesity, joints, and hips later down the road. Your dogs hip health has been linked to weights as a puppy and the ability to get footing when they nurse. Yes, it happens that young.
Litter number two has puppies ranging from 6-10lbs. They are on the same food as the first litter and are receiving milk supplements with their food for added calories and free choice food. Different parents, different litter sizes, same food and surroundings. Genetics plays a huge part, as well as good Moms. I am not worried about the hips on this litter. I am worried about growth and proper nutrition for them however.
How can you tell if you puppy is in good weight? Even in puppies, they should have a waist from the top. A slight indentation after the rib cage. Dont look for this right after your puppy has eaten as his belly will likely be full and distended. lol
You own a lab. They are ALWAYS hungry. Don't let them trick you into feeding them more than they need. This is not healthy. Dogs like animals in the wild dont know when their next meal might be so they take advantage of all food available at all times. It's their nature. Ad Libitum feeding, or free choice feeding is not healthy for bone and joints in big breeds and is not advised once your puppy goes home.
Meals vs Bedtime
One of the biggest challenges is balancing what goes in with what comes out. We advise feeding your puppy on a schedule. Your best bet for a night feeding is 4 hours before bedtime. This allows sufficient digestion time and should help you keep a clean crate through the night.
If you puppy gulps his food, eats so fast that he then throws up, or gets bored and destructive, you may want to consider a slow feeder. You can also create your own slow feeder by adding huge rocks to the bottom of your dogs dish that he must eat around. I say huge, because you want to make sure they are larger than bite sized. You can also turn feeding time in to training time. Hand feeding while your dog performs tasks is a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
When do I switch my puppy from Puppy Food to Adult Food?
Most puppies switch between 6 months to 1 year. With all big changes, I always say go with your vet recommendations. They are the ones who are seeing your pet, know weight patterns, and can see how your puppy is maturing. Personally, we tend to switch ours right around the 8 month mark. We own field bred labs that are high energy and of a slighter build. You might consider earlier on a more show bred dog with more weight and pressure on the joints. One of the best ways to switch is to stay within the brand. For instance, Taste of the Wild Prairie Venison and Buffalo puppy food and Taste Of The Wild Prairie Venison and Bison Adult would be a subtle easy diet change. As with any change in diet you want to make it very gradually, and despite the slow progress, you may experience some loose stools. Probiotics may help. If the stools remain loose for more than a few days, or contain mucus, please consult a vet.