If you’re bringing home a new puppy, get ready for lots of fun, affection…and food. Puppies grow fast, and they need steady, balanced nutrition to keep them active and healthy. But how often should you feed a puppy, and what’s the best kind of puppy food?
Don’t worry, we’ve got info to help you feed your puppy the right stuff at the right time throughout their development.
Six to Twelve Weeks
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After puppies are weaned from their mothers and sent on to their new homes, they need to eat several times throughout the day. At this age, they’re growing fast! Experts recommend feeding four meals spread evenly throughout the day, always at the same time.
You should be feeding a diet specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of a developing puppy, i.e. puppy chow. If you’re going the homemade route, speak to your veterinarian about your puppy’s particular nutritional needs.
In general, if eating a commercial diet, puppies can transition to un-moistened dry food by age 9 or 10 weeks. Before that, you may be supplementing with canned food.
Three to Six Months
During this stage of your puppy’s growth, you can drop from four feedings a day down to three. Feed your puppy breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same time every day. You’ll still feed puppy food, but watch your puppy’s growth and adjust amounts as needed.
If you have a regular 9am-5pm work day, your puppy feeding and walking schedule may look like this:
- 7:00 am: Morning meal, followed by an outdoor walk and playtime
- 8:30 am: Outdoor walk and playtime
- 12:00 noon: Midday meal, followed by an outdoor walk and playtime
- 2:00 pm: Outdoor walk and playtime
- 5:00 pm: Evening meal, followed by outdoor walk and playtime
- 7:00 pm: Final outdoor walk and playtime of the night
By the time she’s around three or four months old, your pup will likely lose her puppy pudge. Consult your vet if you believe your puppy is over- or under-weight, and adjust food quantities accordingly.
Six to 12 Months
Your puppy is turning into an adolescent! At this stage, you can transition to two meals a day. Continue feeding puppy food up until your pup is spayed or neutered. Then, depending on her age, you can switch to an adult maintenance food. Some puppies (particularly from shelters or rescue groups) are fixed as young as 8 weeks old, and should still stay on puppy food up until they reach six months.
When should you switch from puppy food to adult food?
It really depends on the dog! In general, smaller-breed dogs can switch between seven to nine months. Larger breeds have more growing to do, so they may continue eat puppy food for up to one year.
After dogs reach one year of age, most households settle in to a feeding routine of two meals per day of adult dog food.
How much food should you feed your puppy?
The feeding guidelines printed on the puppy food bag are a starting point, but really, portion size depends on the individual dogs.
Watch your puppy’s body condition as she grows, and adjust portion sizes accordingly. If she seems to be holding on to her puppy pudge for too long, it could be a sign she’s eating too much. Similarly, if she leaves food in the dish, it may mean she’s ready to drop from three to two meals a day. Also, if you’re giving your puppy lots of treats throughout the day, you may need to adjust her meal size.
In general, several meals spread throughout the day is the best way to feed your puppy. A feeding schedule helps distribute calories and energy throughout her day. As a bonus, sticking to a regular feeding schedule means a regular potty schedule, too!
Which Puppy Foods Are Best?
With so many choices on the dog food shelf, it can be overwhelming to choose the right chow for your puppy! In general, a quality puppy food is made from whole ingredients, with single-source protein an minimal or zero fillers. Read our post on the truth about dog food, and check out a few of the great-quality puppy foods currently available:
- Orijen Puppy Formula ($26.41 for 4.5 lbs): A premium grain-free puppy food formulated with “richly nourishing ratios” of poultry meat, organs, and cartilage, plus whole fish and eggs to meet all your puppy’s nutritional needs, naturally.
- BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Puppy ($21.89 for 4 lbs): A healthy, holistic kibble for puppies showing signs of food sensitivities. BLUE Basics is made with deboned turkey for high-quality protein, and potatoes for an easily-digestible carbohydrate.
- Wellness TruFood Baked Blends Natural Grain Free Dry Raw Puppy Food ($12.59 for 3 lbs): This dry raw formula is grain free, with 70% more raw protein than other dog foods, made with single-source protein and DHA (omega-3 fatty acid) to help support your puppy’s cognitive development.
- Purina Beyond Natural Dry Dog Food Superfood Blend ($24.86 for 14.5 lbs): A great transitional food for an older puppy, this grain-free kibble is made with salmon, egg, and pumpkin to give your dog the energy she needs and a shiny, healthy coat.
For more on puppy and dog nutrition, check out our post about grain-free foods.
Every puppy is different, and their food and nutrition needs change as they get older. Observe your puppy’s eating habits, chart her growth, and if you have any questions or concerns about your puppy’s food intake, talk to your veterinarian. Most importantly, enjoy this time with your active, growing puppy. They grow up so fast; before you know it, you’ll be researching senior dog diets!