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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
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 food. If you’re going the homemade route, speak to your vet 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 workday, 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 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 to eat puppy food for up to one year.
After dogs reach one year of age, most households settle into 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 toilet 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. Check out a few of the great-quality puppy foods currently available:
- Orijen Puppy Food (£10/kg): 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.
- Wellness CORE Grain-Free Puppy Food (£3.50/kg): This grain-free recipe is formulated for puppies to control growth and promote musculoskeletal health, made with single-source protein and DHA (omega-3 fatty acid) to help support your puppy’s cognitive development.
- Pooch & Mutt Grain-Free Puppy Food (£5/kg): Pooch & Mutt’s grain-free offering for puppies contains 48 percent chicken, supplemented with grain-free carbohydrates like potato and sweet potato.They’ve also thrown in a few superfoods including kale and spinach, plus a few antioxidants and probiotics for good measure.
- Lily’s Kitchen Dry Food for Puppies (£6/kg): Like all of Lily’s Kitchen’s products, this one’s made with only freshly prepared meat—no meat meal, no bone meal, no rendered meat or any cheap fillers. This unique, grain-free recipe is suitable for dogs from 8 weeks to 8 months old. Depending on the size and breed, you may want to continue feeding your dog this recipe until they are 14 months old.
- Harringtons Complete Dry Mix Puppy Food (£3/kg): This turkey and rice formula can be fed to puppies from 3 weeks onward. It doesn’t contain any artificial colours or flavours, diary, wheat or soy. It does, however, contain other ingredients such as kelp, a natural source of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, and yeast to help maintain a healthy digestion.
For more on puppy and dog nutrition, check out our posts about grain-free foods.
- Grain-Free Dog Food: Is It Always Better, and Which Brands Are Best?
- The Top 13 Affordable Grain-Free Dog Foods of 2020
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 vet. 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! If you can’t be around as much as they need you to be when they’re young, hire a loving Rover.com dog sitter who offers dog boarding and can give your little one all the attention they deserve!