Puppies need a routine in every aspect of their lives and food is no different. They need feeding at regular scheduled, time-limited intervals that adjust as they grow older. Initially, you might feed the puppy 4 times a day and eventually whittle it down to twice a day.
The feeding is dependent on your doing the research and sticking to it, not if the puppy is still hungry. When they have a routine, they’ll learn when to expect the first meal (ask any pet owners who’ve had hungry eyes looking at them during daylight saving time starting or ending). We know it’s hard to resist those puppy’s eyes, but a growing puppy is a delicate balance of feeding, training, sleeping, and exercise.
What Kind of Food Should I Feed My Puppy?
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends feeding premium dog food to puppies. The only problem? “Premium” is a marketing word, not a regulated type. Anyone can call their food premium, so let’s investigate what exactly a dog needs to grow up happy and healthy (even if they are still always hungry).
How is Pet Food Regulated?
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the labeling of any pet food and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has suggested pet food regulations that most states have adopted as the gold standard. The FDA has a subdivision called the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) with a mission statement to help ease concerns of pet owners like you.
It reads, in part:
“Makes sure animal food—which includes animal feed, pet food, and pet treats—is safe, made under sanitary conditions, and properly labeled; Makes sure a food additive used in animal food is safe and effective before approving it.”
Puppies should eat puppy food, not adult food. That’s because the nutritional elements of the food help the growing puppy.
If you have another adult dog in your home, they might get a little jealous. Puppies need more food than an adult dogs because the puppies grow so fast in a short period of time. Don’t let the adult dog guilt trip you into more food as that can cause obesity problems.
There are different nutritional requirements for the puppy depending on the future adult size of the dog. A larger breed needs different nutritional elements than a smaller breed.
Small Breed Dogs
The smaller breeds, like the teacup and miniature versions, have a raging metabolism and the food will be burned up in just hours. This means they will take in more calories per pound than their larger canine friends.
These dogs need calorie-dense meals that might be higher in fat than a large breed dog.
Large Breed Dogs
All dogs start out the same size, but the large-breed puppies are going to grow bigger and faster. They need specific nutrients to keep them growing without growing too fast. Half of the calories go right into the growth spots of the dog, while the rest is for energy and day-to-day life.
The AKC recommends food that is specifically made for a large breed puppy, which will include lower fat, calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D levels than other sized puppies. If the nutrients in the food are not correct, the dog can grow too fast or too slow, setting it up for bone or joint issues down the road.
MORE: Nutritional Requirements for Puppies
Look at the label for any sized dog and make sure that oils and fats are not in the first four ingredients.
How Much Food Should I Feed My Puppy?
This is dependent on breed, activity level, and size (current and future). You will need to figure out how much food the dog needs and how many calories need to be in that food.
Here are some helpful tools:
- Pet food calculators
- Calorie Counter Calculator.
- Look at the serving size on the package of your dog’s food
There is also what’s called the “Body Condition Score” and it’s how veterinarians look at the unique circumstances of your dog and determine the exact amount of food necessary for each stage of their puppy and adult life.
How Often Should I Feed My Puppy?
Here’s where consistency needs to come in. You can’t feed a puppy at 6 am one day and 10 am the next. They need to have a feeding schedule and everyone in your family needs to follow it.
The AKC recommends the following for feeding frequency:
- 6-12 weeks: 4 times a day
- 3-6 months: 3 times a day
- 6-12 months: 2 times a day
The times of day are up to as long as they stay consistent. Food should not be left out all day for “grazing”. A puppy needs to know this is food time and if you don’t eat now, you won’t eat until the next feeding.
My Puppy Eats SO Fast! What Can I Do?
Some puppies eat faster than Joey Chesnut on the 4th of July. It’s baffling to see how quickly they chow down. Instead of shooting a video and posting it to social media, look up a slow feeder bowl. These bowls are designed to still feed the dog but make them work to get to it and slow down their digestive system. You can also put the food on a cookie sheet and spread it out or use a muffin pan for smaller bites. This forces the puppy to take more time to get every morsel.
A puppy that eats too fast can choke or vomit immediately after. Fast eating can also cause bloat and can be dangerous to their stomach as they are also swallowing large amounts of air with that food.
The speed at which they eat isn’t necessarily indicative of their hunger level. Just like humans, some eat fast while others savor every bite.
Do Snacks Count Toward Daily Food Amounts?
When you figure out the calorie intake for your puppy, you need to consider more than just the food it gets. If you are doing treat-based training, those calories count too. In the early stages of training, they might get a LOT of training treats. The factor that into the math you do for calories.
If there are any other snacks given to the puppy, those count too. If you want to give your puppy a bone, try one that isn’t edible so they can still get the sensation of chewing without the calories. This is especially important when they are teething as they’ll need to chew.
Should I Let My Puppy Eat Table Scraps?
So Fido is hanging around the kitchen table hoping for a bite. Either you or someone in your family is going to say, “Just one bite can’t hurt!” and here’s how you are going to answer that.
When the dog begs for something and gets it, you are undermining your status as the pack leader. Ignore the dog and carry on with the meal or put the puppy in the crate during human meal time.
Human food can also contain ingredients dangerous to dogs, like onions, grapes, raisins, and some sugar substitutes. You don’t want a couple of bites to send you to Doggy ER, so just keep the human food for the humans.
Feeding table scraps also makes counting calories impossible, thus throwing off that delicate balance you need for the growing puppy.
The Last Bite
What should you do for a hungry puppy? Be the adult in the room. Plan a schedule, provide good quality dog food that is nutritionally sound, balance the diet for training treats, and give plenty of exercise for your growing buddy. If you ever have a legitimate reason to worry about why your puppy is always so hungry – go see your vet. There could be something in the dog’s blood work that shows a deficiency.
Just don’t give in to begging eyes unless it’s for one more belly rub before bedtime. That’s a calorie-free bonding moment.