At each stage in a puppy’s physical development, the food they eat will influence how strong, healthy and happy they become as an adult dog. It might feel complicated to know exactly where, when and how to feed your puppy, but here’s some simple advice to help you give them the best start possible.
How often should I feed my puppy?
Dogs in general can have sensitive digestive systems that don’t respond well to being overloaded by too much, or completely new, food. When you’re feeding your puppy, it’s better to split their food portion for the day into smaller, frequent meals to avoid any pressure on their digestion. Here’s a simple guide:
- Weaning (all sizes): four meals a day
- Up to four months (small breeds) or up to six months (large breeds): three meals a day
- Four to 10 months (small breeds) or six to 12 months (large breeds): two meals a day
How much should I feed my puppy?
The amount you give your puppy each mealtime will vary depending on their breed and their size category: x-small, small, medium, large or giant. Look at the manufacturer’s instructions on the puppy food as a guideline, and ask your vet for help if you’re not completely sure.
Don’t worry too much if your puppy doesn’t eat all of the food you put down at mealtimes; their appetite will naturally vary and by having regular meals they will be able to satisfy their hunger next time.
Due to the rapid phases of growth puppies experience, they need a food which has higher energy-density than an adult dog. However, puppies don’t know how to regulate their food intake, so it’s essential to maintain portion control and avoid weight gain. This is particularly important for large breed dogs, as over-feeding can encourage them to grow too quickly and result in skeletal problems.
What’s the best way to feed my puppy?
The best way you can feed your puppy is to create a routine and stick to it. Feed them at the same times, in the same place, using the same bowl, so they understand exactly when and where mealtimes are. They don’t need variety in their diet in the same way humans do, so stick to the same food each time.
When you do transition to a different food – for example, when they move from being a puppy to an adult dog – do it over a week or so, by mixing the new and old foods together and gradually increasing the percentage of new food.
Once you’ve put your puppy’s bowl down, they’ll smell and nose the food to test its temperature. When they’ve started eating make sure to keep an eye on them to ensure their safety, but don’t fuss over them while they’re eating as it could cause protective, aggressive behaviour.
Leave the bowl down for 15 to 20 minutes and then remove it, even if there is food still uneaten; this will help them learn they must eat when you decide. You should also feed your puppy after you’ve eaten or at a different time completely to demonstrate the hierarchy of the household. Always make sure there is plenty of water available, and change it regularly.
Giving your puppy scraps or leftovers can result in bad behaviour as it confuses their routine. Similarly, try and avoid offering food as a reward too frequently (for example, after learning a specific skill) and do not offer treat food as a way to entice them to eat their ‘main’ food – it’s too confusing for your puppy and may result in them not eating.