If your dog is like mine, mealtime is his absolute favorite. And if you want your dog to be happy and healthy, the food they eat is absolutely critical.
You’ll want to make sure they’re getting the nutrients they need to grow at a steady pace and stay healthy. Good food and a feeding routine will also make your life easier as a puppy parent.
Puppy Feeding Timeline
- 6 – 12 weeks – You’ll want to start feeding your dog puppy food. Your pup is growing fast and needs the extra nutrition in the ‘puppy’ varieties of food. At this point, you should feed your dog about 4 times per day to space it out.
- 3 – 6 months – Switch your dog’s feedings down to 3 times per day.
- 6 – 12 months – Begin feeding your pup twice per day. For small breeds, switch to adult food around 8 months. For large breeds switch around 13 months.
What to Feed a Puppy
When you first get a puppy, it’s best to figure out what food they’re currently eating so you can either continue feeding it to them or gradually transition them to a new puppy food. This is easier on their stomachs than abruptly changing.
Work with the breeder, rescue organization, foster home, or whoever cared for your puppy before you to learn what they were initially being fed.
Selecting the right dog food
When determining what to feed a puppy long-term, it’s a good idea to speak with your vet and see if they have any food recommendations.
When picking dog food, you can choose between canned, semi-moist, or kibble. In most cases, you’ll find kibble to be more economical and well-formulated for what your dog needs.
First, you’ll want to make sure the food fits your dog. The first thing to think about is their age. Start with a puppy formulation and eventually move on to the adult option. (See timeline above for what your pup needs now.)
The next thing to consider is the dog’s size. Some food is formulated for either large or small breeds. Determine which category your dog falls into and pick their dog food accordingly.
Finally, you’ll notice some price differences. The cheapest food is stuffed with the cheapest ingredients, so it’s recommended to go with a middle or premium brand. They’ll actually need less quantity because the quality meets your dog’s nutritional needs faster.
Some top brands include:
How Much to Feed a Puppy
Once you’ve picked a dog food, check out the label for guidelines on the amount needed for your dog’s weight. Keep in mind these are guidelines only, but it’s a good place to start.
Divide the total amount by the number of feedings you’re doing per day (e.g. 2 cups of food would be 1 cup per feeding if you’re feeding 2 times per day).
Then monitor your pup’s weight. As they’re growing you’ll need to continue increasing the food amount. You want to watch and make sure they’re looking healthy but not overweight.
Look to make sure you can’t see ribs and that they have a visible waist and aren’t bulking up too much. Regular vet checks will help give feedback on how they’re doing.
Treats are great for training your dog or rewarding good behavior. But keep in mind that they aren’t included in your feeding recommendations.
We went a little ‘treat happy’ with our new puppy and he gained too much weight in the beginning.
If you find yourself in this situation, cut back on the treats. They’re generally not as healthy as your dog’s food.
Ultimately, you want to find the right balance of total food and treats so your dog has a healthy weight.
You can also give some healthy treats or longer-lasting treats to help slow down the weight gain. Our dog loves bully sticks for longer-lasting treats (though expensive). Or you can take some peanut butter in a Kong and freeze it to make it last longer.
Small treats are best for training so you can avoid giving them too much to eat. We like these Zuke’s mini treats for training.
When switching to a new food for a puppy you just adopted or if you’re moving from puppy to adult food, it’s a good idea to transition slowly. This will keep your pet from having stomach issues or getting sick from the quick transition.
Before you run out of the previous food, buy some of the new food and give them a few feedings containing both types of food.
- Don’t feed from the table – This encourages begging and other unwanted behaviors.
- Avoid most human food – Human food is full of things that aren’t good for dogs and often has higher calories. This can make your dog sick (and you’ll have to clean up). Some human foods are also poisonous to dogs, including candy, grapes, onions and chocolate.
- Make feeding time consistent – If you stick to a feeding schedule, it’s easier on your dog and you. You may want to avoid feeding your dog immediately when you get home from work as it can encourage separation anxiety.
- Be sure your dog has water – Your dog needs to stay hydrated and should have clean water available all the time.
- Beware bones – Chicken and pork bones or any cooked bone can easily splinter and harm your dog. Bones that break into fragments can block internal organs and lead to death. You can find chews, treats, and other fake bones or bully sticks that are safer for your dog to enjoy as a treat.
- Is your dog eating too fast? – Try flipping a bowl upside down and adding food so it’s harder to get when it’s spread around. Or you can buy a special feeding dish for this purpose. Here are more suggestions.