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After much research, Dan Chippier, left, and Scott Henderson welcomed their new puppy, Tucker Lafleur, to the family. “You think you’re prepared, but as soon as you get your puppy, you realize you’ve still got a lot to learn,” says Henderson.Shelby Lisk

With retirement, a new chapter in life began for Dan Chippier and Scott Henderson. The couple sold their home in Toronto, moved to Kingston, Ont. and adopted a puppy now that they would have more time to devote to its care.

Along came eight-week-old Tucker Lafleur, a rambunctious male Australian Labradoodle named in honour of his dads’ shared passion of hockey. They fell in love with his teddy-bear-like face and adopted him in mid-June.

In researching dog breeds, Chippier and Henderson knew they wanted one that was good with people, had a laidback personality, easy to train and loved to receive cuddles. Their new pup ticked all those boxes and more.

As a social pup, he’s keen to meet new people and other dogs. “Everyone reacts to him so well, whether it’s a senior citizen or a little kid,” says Chippier. “It makes you feel like you have a special dog.”

Being a new puppy parent has its challenges, too. “It’s a lot like having a baby,” explains Henderson. “You do your research and people tell you what it’s going to be like, and you think you’re prepared, but as soon as you get your puppy, you realize you’ve still got a lot to learn.”

Making sure Tucker gets the nutrition he requires is a top priority. His owners feed him a well-balanced kibble formulated for puppies, along with liver treats. They spoke with their vet and breeder to get the information they needed about serving size, feeding routine and getting him to eat more slowly. As pup parents, they want the best for the newest family member.

Start of Life, a recent report from Royal Canin, one of the world’s leading makers of pet food, confirms how much Canadians value their pets, with 9 in 10 respondents saying their pets’ health is as important as their own.

The report shows 86 per cent of dog owners and 82 per cent of cat owners are committed to offering their pets the highest quality of food available.

And there is a clear understanding that nutrition has the largest impact on a pet’s health, outranking visits to the vet, socialization and walks. Seven out of 10 respondents say they want to learn more about pet nutrition, but only half feel well informed when purchasing their dog’s or cat’s food for the first time.

The number one question I get from both new and long-time clients is, ‘What should I feed my pet?’

Dr. Cliff Redford, veterinarian

Those research findings are no surprise to Dr. Cliff Redford, a veterinarian and owner of the Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Markham, Ont. “The number one question I get from both new and long-time clients is, ‘What should I feed my pet?’ Nutrition is top of mind when they get a new puppy or kitten.”

Pet owners are wise to prioritize ensuring their pets get all the vitamins, minerals and protein they need. “It’s the most important thing – other than providing tender loving care, of course – that any pet owner can do,” he adds. “Nutrition plays such a vital role in the animal’s health.”

Dr. Redford encourages pet owners to research the options of food available and to ask their vet for advice. For puppies and kittens, the right nutrition is critical for strong bones, teeth and muscles, healthy gut bacteria, strong immune systems and brain development, especially early on when they’re growing quickly. That requires a balance of fats, carbohydrates and high-quality protein.

Royal Canin, which was founded 55 years ago by Dr. Jean Cathary, a passionate veterinarian from France, offers a lineup of pet food for dogs and cats, with different products scientifically formulated with the nutrition the pets need as they age, from when they’re kittens or puppies to life as a senior.

As the Start of Life report notes, palatability matters a great deal. Puppies and kittens are highly sensitive to smell and taste, so food must be formulated to be appealing and have the right texture and density. Tiny tummies are also sensitive, making digestibility a must.

To set up pets for long-term success, split a puppy’s daily recommended food portion into small meals throughout the day. With kittens, offer a set amount of food each day, and allow them to tap into their natural tendency to graze.

Pet owners should change their dog or cat food, according to their age, and although there are all-life-stages formulas available, Dr. Redford does not recommend them.

“They don’t make sense,” he says. “Nutrition requirements change as a pet grows older.”

Pet owners sharing meals with pets can also be risky, he says, no matter how tempting.

“A lot of human food is toxic to puppies and kittens,” explains Dr. Redford. “Onions, grapes, chocolate, raisins, nuts and garlic are some that people know about, but others are less known, like certain nuts and cherries. They can cause an animal to be at my hospital. My advice? Stick with food made for cats and dogs.”

The reward for providing pets with the best nutrition possible is their good health and unlimited affection. When Chippier and Henderson curl up on the couch with Tucker sandwiched between them looking for cuddles, they know they made the right decision to welcome a dog into their family. “We have no regrets,” they say. “We adore him.”

To learn more about Royal Canin’s lineup of products, including pet food made specifically for the needs of puppies and kittens, visit

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Royal Canin. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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