While feeding your German shepherd the right kind of food throughout his entire life is important, it is especially important during puppyhood. As with any animal, including humans, what is eaten during the developmental stages has a lot to do with how healthy that animal is through the rest of its life. Making sure that your German Shepherd puppy gets the right levels of nutrients at the right stages of growth, will be essentially for ensuring a long and healthy life.
But how do you pick the right food for your puppy? What is the best German shepherd puppy feeding schedule? What is the best dog food for German shepherd puppies? And where can you buy German shepherd puppy food? This guide will make sure that your GSD puppy has the right nutrition, whether he’s eleven weeks or a year old.
How to Pick the Right German Shepherd Puppy Food
There are a few factors you should look for when choosing puppy food. While it might seem more expensive to buy higher quality food, if you’re committed to feeding yourself high-quality food, you should be willing to do the same for your dog, too. Here are a few factors to consider as you pick out your brand of puppy food:
Is it formulated for puppies?
While you do not absolutely have to buy puppy-formulated dog food, dog food that is made especially for puppies will have the right ratio of protein to vitamins to fat to minerals to carbs that are essential for a growing puppy. Some might even be enhanced with compounds that support proper brain function, which is especially important for German shepherds, as these hyper-intelligent dogs will be using their brains a lot throughout their lives.
The extra nutrients in these formulations can make sure that your GSD gains weight appropriately and doesn’t lack the vitamins and minerals his body needs to grow properly. Most puppy formulations also have smaller kibbles, which makes them easier for little mouths to chew and small digestion systems to process.
Is it formulated for German shepherds?
There are actually brands of puppy food made especially for German shepherds. Royal Canin, for example, makes dry food especially for German shepherd puppies. Why is this important? Because different breeds have different allergies and dietary needs. While a general puppy food can cover all of your shepherd’s needs, it might not have the particular balance that is best for this breed.
At the very least, look for the “large breed puppy” formulations made by brands like Eukanuba or Blue Buffalo. Because these dogs grow faster and will ultimately be larger, they generally need more protein and calcium than smaller breeds. If your preferred brand does not have a line for large breed puppies, look for a large breed line that says it is appropriate for all stages of life.
Does it contain fillers or byproducts
Most cheap puppy food brands are going to use lower-quality ingredients and fillers in order to get their food up to the right caloric content for puppies. Always be sure to read the entire ingredients list before you buy a bag of German shepherd puppy food.
Why? Because many brands will plaster the words “organic” or “natural” on the front of their bag and will hope that the buyer won’t turn the bag over and look at what kinds of ingredients they’ve actually added to the food.
Does it contain something that my dog is likely to be allergic to? Corn, for example, is a common food allergy for German shepherds. While you won’t be able to know exactly what your puppy is allergic to unless you have him tested, it might be best to avoid any and all dog foods that use corn as a filler. Most dogs, especially puppies, cannot digest cow’s milk very well. Other common allergens include wheat and soy.
If you pick a dog food and your puppy becomes very itchy or refuses to eat that food, it may be because it contains an ingredient that he is allergic to. While most allergies can be managed with a pill from your veterinarian, it is always best to try to avoid foods that contain these common allergens that are mostly used as fillers, not for their nutritional value.
Moisture and meat
Does it have a high enough moisture and meat content? Dry food is a great choice for dogs—it helps them maintain their teeth and it can help a puppy grow a strong jaw and develop great dental health in his early years. Many owners make the mistake of feeding their puppies only wet food. Not only is wet food more likely to be packed with nasty chemicals, it also does nothing to promote the health of a GSD’s mouth.
That doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t want your food to have a high enough moisture (or fat) content. Even dry food should have a high ratio of meat protein and fat, to other ingredients. Meat should always be the first ingredient.
Fruits and vegetables
Does it contain some fruits and vegetables? Another major mistake that some owners make is believing either that their dog needs nothing but meat or that their dog can subsist on a vegetarian diet. Dogs may be willing to eat grass and a few fruits and vegetables, but they are meat-eaters, both in ancestry and in build.
Their sharp teeth are made for tearing meat off of bones, not mashing carrots into a digestible paste (like our flat molars are). This doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t need some fruit and vegetables, as their prey in the wild would likely have eaten fruit and vegetables, which the dog would have then eaten when he ate that prey.
Grain or starch in dog food
Does it contain grain or starch? German shepherds, as much as they might like the sweet taste of processed white bread (ours does, anyway, when he can scam some off of the kids in the house), do not need grains or starch, at least, not in the higher levels that humans do. Look for a dog food that contains, if possible, no wheat or wheat byproducts, and low levels of starches like potatoes.
Using these guidelines can make it possible for you to pick a German shepherd puppy food that will actually be good for your puppy, help him grown and gain weight, and get the nutrients that he needs. There are plenty of brands that make puppy food that really is natural and organic and has only the good stuff that your Alsatian needs to grow up strong and healthy. Royal Canin, Eukanuba, Blue Buffalo, and Nutro are all good options.
How often should I feed my puppy? And how much food does he need?
There is no strict rules for how much a puppy eats or how often he needs to eat. In general, for a large breed like the German shepherd, smaller, more frequent meals are better than larger, less frequent meals. Feeding him three to four times a day, about a half cup of dry food at a time, is usually the best plan. You will want to customize his feeding plan by paying attention to his weight gain and making sure it is in line with what you should expect.
A good way to tell if your dog is getting enough or too much food is to feel his sides. You should be able to feel his ribs under his fur, but you should not be able to see them through his fur. All puppies will beg for food at the table or eat more if they’re given more food, so don’t necessarily take begging as a sign of hunger.
It is especially important with German shepherds to not just leave their puppy food out where they can eat as much as they want as often as they want. Large breeds like GSDs will eat and eat and eat. This can cause gastric dilation volvulus, which is an accumulation of gas in the stomach that the dog cannot expel, causing distention of the stomach, along with many other serious problems.
Where can I buy the right puppy food?
Once you have followed the above guidelines to pick a brand that you prefer by researching online, you will want to start looking for a place where you can get buy that food regularly. Our fully grown Alsatian eats one giant bag of dog food every month, so you want to find a source that will have your brand at least once a month, possibly more, depending on how large your shepherd is and his activity level.
Most large pet stores will carry all of the best dog foods for German shepherds, but if your preferred brand is harder to find, you might want to resort to online shopping.
When to Switch to Regular Dog Food
Unlike smaller breeds that may take only a year to reach adulthood, your German shepherd is probably going to take eighteen months to two years to become an adult. While this doesn’t mean that you have to keep feeding him puppy food during the entirety of those two years, it may mean that you want to find a brand that has both puppy and adolescent formulations.
You’ll know it’s time to switch to regular dog food if he starts to gain weight, even if you are feeding him the same amount, or if he refuses to finish his meals. Puppy formulations usually have a higher calories count than adult formulations, so if he is gaining weight or eating less, this is usually a sign that it is time to pick a lower calories, adult brand.
Most brands will have an adult version of the puppy food that you like, so your dog probably will not notice any change in his food. You may also want to adjust his feeding schedule to two meals a day, instead of three. More on regular German Shepherd dog food.
One of the most important things to remember, especially with German shepherds, is to never feed them from the table. While there are plenty of varieties of “human” food that are just fine for dogs, and while a healthy GSD can probably eat just about anything without any adverse effects, feeding a puppy from the table only encourages begging. When he’s older and larger, he’ll still practice this behavior and may even start to steal food, as he’ll be able to reach it.
It’s also important not to let your dog gain too much weight. Large dogs are already prone to problems like arthritis, and being overweight will only exacerbate this problem when he is older. If he is gaining weight too quickly as a puppy, you might want to pick a brand with fewer calories per serving.