How and when to feed your dog - Dr. Marty Becker


How and when to feed your dog

Thursday, Sep 10th, 2020 | By Dr. Marty Becker

Dog looking at camera standing by green bowl

Do you know the best way to feed a puppy or adult dog? Here’s the advice I have a reader!

Q: How often should I feed my puppy? And when she grows up, is it better to feed her once or twice a day?

A: When puppies stop nursing and start eating on their own, the breeder usually gives them four small meals a day. Their little tummies can only take in so much food at a time, after all. By the time they go to their new homes, when they are 8 to 12 weeks old, they are usually eating three meals a day to fuel growth. Take the amount the puppy should receive for the day and divide it by three to determine how much to give at each meal. Eventually, your puppy’s gargantuan appetite will start to decrease. You may notice that she picks at one of her meals or starts to leave food behind. That’s a good time to cut back to two meals daily and adjust amounts.

Feeding measured amounts at set times instead of leaving food out helps establish pee and poop schedules in puppyhood and ensures that dogs don’t overeat. One thing I like to recommend is measuring the appropriate amount of food and placing it in a dispensing toy so dogs have to “hunt” for their meals. This engages their brain and encourages physical activity. If you want to feed only once a day, this is a good way to do it.

A related question is when to stop feeding puppy food and start feeding adult food. The answer depends on the breed. Large- and giant-breed dogs should grow slowly. They’re best eating a puppy food developed to promote slow growth. Smaller dogs who enjoy eating and have a tendency to become roly-poly may do better switching to adult food at an early age, often before they are 6 months old.

There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.