If you bought your Bichon from a responsible breeder, you were given written instructions on the care and feeding of the puppy. This article does not intend to override those instructions. However, many pups are sent home with minimal instructions and we are often asked for feeding advice. This information is provided to assist you in getting your pup off to a good start and to guide you in providing healthy food.
What foods should I feed my Bichon?
The first instruction is to provide premium dog food and to avoid generic brands. It used to be that premium foods could not be found at the grocery store but that has changed in recent years. There are some brands of foods that are better for your pet than others. We do not offer specific brand names but you can sometimes use low price as a guide in that cheaper food may be an indication of poorer quality of ingredients. Ask your local pet supply store for a list of premium foods and choose from among those. Up to about one year of age, this will also mean a Puppy formula as opposed to adult foods.
These premium foods are based on serious research and that research tells us that a dry (kibble) diet is better for the dog’s health. Dry food is better in terms of dental health (see The Importance of Good Dental Care in a Bichon) and the kibble diet is balanced in regard to vitamins, minerals and the ratio of fat to protein to carbohydrates. There is no reason to add other foods and this includes canned dog food. In fact, adding other foods can alter the important balance of minerals and vitamins and will likely make the dog too fat over time. An occasional treat will be discussed later.
Does the food I feed my puppy now affect his future health?
What a dog is fed can affect him as far as future problems with allergy, weight and general health so starting him with quality foods can have a life long effect. Some the ingredients you will want to see in his commercial dog food are meat, not meat byproducts, cereals such as barley, brown rice and oatmeal, natural additives and vitamins, probiotics/ lactobacillus, vegetables (not just corn and beets), natural preservatives instead of chemicals. The dietary ingredients will sound much like a human diet and will be balanced. If you buy from a pet food supplier, you should be able to talk to an employee knowledgable about quality dog foods. A grocery clerk will not have that kind of knowledge and most grocers do not carry premium foods, though some do. Premium foods cost more but the extra cost is well balanced against the veterinary costs that will be encountered later in life by feeding low quality brands of foods.
What about the treats I feed him?
Treats can be used in training your puppy and you can find articles on this web site that will instruct you about using treats for training. If you feel you must also use treats occasionally just to say “I love you”, use a piece of the daily allotted amount of kibble or rarely offer a tiny bit of lean chicken. His kibble is the best treat for training, as well. Deduct the treats from the total amount fed daily. Remember that what you feed today may affect your puppy later in life! This includes over feeding. Obesity adds stress to hips and knees and may set the dog up for pancreatitis, diabetes and other metabolic problems.
What kind of schedule should my puppy be on?
We hope you have not purchased a puppy as young as 6 weeks old because he is just being weaned and is NOT ready to leave the litter. Most responsible breeders will not place pups earlier than 10-13 weeks of age. However we know that pups are shipped from mass breeding kennels as early as 8 weeks and we take that into consideration in providing this schedule. Remember that the total amount of food in a 24 hour period for a normal sized Bichon is about 1 cup of dry kibble. The following schedule is based on that total amount. Remove any uneaten food after 10 minutes.
A schedule for feeding:
Pups just weaned will eat 4 meals a day. These meals should be about 4-5 hours apart. Divide the cup of food into 4 portions and give him the first ¼ cup when he wakes up in the morning after he has been walked. The next ¼ cup will be about midday, followed by a third ¼ cup in the late afternoon, say between 5-6 PM. A final feeding will be given in the evening. Read Crate Training Your Puppy to understand how this works into the house training schedule.
Starting at 10 weeks, watch the puppy for signs that he may be about ready to cut the number of meals to 3 times a day. When he starts to leave some of his food at his second meal, try him at 3 meals a day. Adjust the following schedule to suit your family:
6-8 AM Feed 1/3 cup of dry kibble; midday feed 1/3 cup of dry kibble and about 6 PM feed 1/3 cup of dry kibble. You may want to set aside just a few pieces of kibble for bedtime but a full meal at bedtime will probably cause him to need to go outside during the night. Review Crate Training Your Puppy for more information on training him to be clean in the house.
Suppose he won’t eat the food dry?
Moisten the food for a few days until you are sure he is eating well and then gradually reduce the amount of water added until he is eating dry kibble. You may want to try giving him the food dry from the start and only add water if he won’t eat it dry. Do not add any other food to the dry kibble. He may need a couple of days to adapt to his new food. You can always alternate between wet and dry for a short time but it is to his advantage and to yours for him to eat it dry.
When does he start eating only one or two meals a day?
At some point he will not want all his food at midday, probably at about 6 months. At this time, change the amount given to 1/2 cup of dry kibble and feed him twice a day. Suggested meal times would be 7-8 AM and 6-8 PM. Most Bichons do well on two meals a day the rest of their lives. Switch to adult formula at about one year of age. Senior formula works after age seven or so.
Did you know that feeding your puppy in his crate is a good thing to do? Puppies who are fed in their crates tend to accept being in the crate very readily. Also it means that each pet, in multipet households, eats only his own food, very important in controlling weight gain. In fact, for the new pup just being introduced to a crate for the first time, a good way to get him to like being there is to throw a piece of his kibble into the crate as a treat as you place him in it.
Will he never need meat or vegetables added to his diet?
As we have explained, a balanced premium dry food is prepared to provide your Bichon with all the nutrients he needs for a healthy life. If you decide to occasionally give him a tidbit of lean meat, cooked egg, yogurt or a treat of raw apple or carrot, you will not greatly upset his nutritional balance. But these treats must be in relation to his size. A 12-14 pound dog does not need a Great Dane sized portion so we are talking about a teaspoon or less of supplemental food. There is another issue here – dogs with calcium bladder stones or with metabolic or other diseases can actually be harmed when you add the wrong food to his diet. So make sure you do not get carried away with the extras. We would again remind you that obesity in dogs is rampart these days and can greatly increase his chances of patellar luxation, diabetes, pancreatitis and other conditions.
So instead of extra meat, should I give him vitamins?
The answer to that question is NO!
Remember that we said he was getting a balanced diet from his premium dog food. When you add vitamins and minerals to that diet, you are again throwing off the balance that research has proved to be good for a growing puppy (or for a healthy adult). A sick dog may need some sort of prescribed supplement but a healthy dog does not and your veterinarian will tell you if he ever needs something special added to his daily diet. Of course, we hope he stays healthy and does not ever have to have prescribed medications or vitamin supplements.
Suppose I did not feed my Bichon this way from the start and now he wants his food mixed with meat. What do you suggest?
Finicky eaters are created and, with patience, they can be trained out of their bad habits. Gradually cut down the amount of meat you add to his dry food until there is none added. If he won’t eat the food after 10 or 15 minutes, pick it up and offer no more food until the next scheduled feeding time. Do this at each meal for a few days and he will eat – so long as you do not give him treats in between. Of course he will need water and his water bowl should be available at all times.
The breeder of my puppy gave me instructions for a diet based on raw foods. Is this a good diet?
There are diets available that include raw foods and some dedicated pet owners follow those diets. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the diets but they take a lot of time to prepare, usually in quantity with the pet owner freezing portions that can be used as needed. For the person who will devote the needed time, who has access to the products needed and who will be consistent in following this diet plan, these diets are very healthy for the dog. However this is not a dietary plan that is served at the convenience of the human who must prepare the foods. It takes dedication, research, study, shopping for quality ingredients, a home freezer for storage – the picture should be clear. If you work full time, have a family who need your time and attention, tend to be a bit disorganized, we cannot recommend that you start this kind of diet plan. For that reason, we do suggest PREMIUM prepared dog foods as the answer to feeding your Bichon.
However if your dog is your family and you want to provide quality human grade food, this is the route for you to take. Just be certain you will continue to do justice to providing the quality ingredients in consistent fashion. Our recommendation for those who undertake a home prepared diet is to study the diets and follow them accurately. There are a number of publications available to help you.
We urge you to always provide fresh water that is readily available to the puppy or adult. Fresh available water is essential to good health!