Getting a youngster's nutrition right is crucial if you want a well-developed, healthy dog. Here's how to do it.

Q: I’m about to buy a 10-week old cocker spaniel bitch. At the moment she is being fed on Beta puppy food as I’m planning to work her when she is old enough. Would you consider changing her to minced meat? If so, what type would you recommend? Beef or chicken? What’s the best food for gundog puppies? 

A: Great question.  But the answer is NO!  Don’t change her diet in the first few days home, she has plenty of other new things to get used to anyway. Instead, make sure you get a reasonable quantity of the food the breeder is feeding the pup so that you can keep things consistent for the first weeks.

Puppies of this age are best fed a complete, balanced puppy food designed for medium sized gundogs. I do not think there will be any benefit changing to minced meat.

gundog puppies

A balanced diet for puppies

Indeed, it would be very difficult for you to achieve a balanced diet by doing this as you would have to add the correct vitamin and mineral supplement etc. Puppies cannot develop properly on meat alone.

Training gundog puppies is hard enough without having to spend time making up complicated food so I suggest you use all the time available with your puppy for this and take advantage of the food company’s expertise. It won’t cost you any more money.

Beta is adequate, but make sure it is the special puppy diet version. There are plenty of other foods for puppies, Hills and Royal Canin are good.

When you get the puppy home make sure she is checked by your own vet within 24 hours (and tell your breeder you will be doing that.)

Your vet will give you valuable advice about parasite control, vaccination and can assess your puppy’s body condition. This may in fact alter the advice on food I suggest – your vet may have some other useful tips.

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Other key tips for looking after a new gundog puppy

  • Don’t be tempted to do too much too soon
  • Use the first few months to build up a close relationship with the dog
  • Don’t skimp on food quality, it’s false economy
  • Don’t ask the puppy to do too much. Be sure only to give a young dog enough retrieves to keep the enthusiasm going and help develop its ability. Always leave them wanting more.