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Establishing a puppy feeding schedule will benefit you and your new pet for months and years to come. Not only will it help you keep on track with how much and how often they are eating, but it can even help avoid picky eating and other potential problem behaviors.
Specifically, how much you need to feed your puppy will depend on their age, breed, weight, and of course, the food you choose to feed them.
Why Do Puppies Need a Feeding Schedule?
You may be wondering if actually need a puppy feeding schedule and the answer in most cases is yes. Dogs (and puppies) are creatures of habit and helping them establish a routine with their feeding (and all parts of their life generally) will help them to become more consistent in their potty time. That in turn, will help make potty training much easier and faster! Who doesn’t want that?!
PS- we offer a 100% free and comprehensive online puppy training class, led by YouTube’s #1 dog trainer Zak George. You can sign up for free here.
Puppy Feeding Schedules by Age
8-12 Week Old Puppy Feeding Schedule
Once your puppy has been weaned off of their mother’s milk (around 8 weeks), you can start feeding them soft foods like canned or dehydrated dog foods (if you aren’t sure what that is, read our complete guide here). You won’t want to start feeding your pup any hard foods until they are at least 9-10 weeks old. If you decide to use hard foods, be sure to soften the food with some water.
At such a young stage in their life, puppies are growing like crazy! In this early stage of their life, you’ll want to feed them 3-4 times per day. These tiny puppies have just as tiny of stomachs, so smaller meals throughout the day will help their little bodies digest the food!
Below is an example of a puppy feeding schedule for 8-12 week old pups. Not only will this schedule help with creating a feeding routine, but it will help you work on crate and potty training. You can also click the image below to access a printable version to stick on your fridge or mirror!
3-6 Month Old Puppy Feeding Schedule
Once your pup hits 3 months old, you will for sure want to reduce to feeding 3 times per day (if you were doing 4 times at a younger age). By this time your pup should be used to their feeding schedule. Be sure to stay consistent and do your best to feed your pup at the same times each day.
Refer to this feeding schedule for your 3-6-month-old puppy below. Just click the image to access a printable version to hang on your fridge or mirror!
During this stage, your puppy should start becoming less “round” and start shaping more into a more normal dog figure. If you have any worries that your pup is overweight you should contact your vet.
6-12 Month Old Puppy Feeding Schedule
Once your pup hits 6 months old you can decrease feeding time to only twice per day. But remember that each pup is different, so monitor their energy levels and stools and find what works best for your pup!
You would want to apply a similar feeding schedule as shown above for the 3-6 months old but just eliminate the lunchtime meal. Also, aim for consistency in your feeding time to help establish a routine in your pup’s life.
How Much Should You Feed a Puppy?
When choosing how much to feed a puppy, you should keep a few things in mind. First, every puppy is different! Factors that can influence how much a puppy should eat can include (but aren’t limited to) age, breed, current weight status (overweight, underweight, etc.), activity levels, and of course, the food you will be feeding.
All foods should have feeding guidelines that give you a general range for your pup based on their age and weight. If your pup seems disinterested in food or leaves too much in the bowl, that may be a sign that your pup is being overfed or it can also be a sign your pup just might not love their food… yikes! As you try out any new food, be sure to monitor your pup’s weight and energy levels in the beginning stages of the transition.
Another thing to remember about your pup’s caloric intake is that treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of their daily food intake. So that means if you are training your pup (hopefully you are… if not, we’ve got a free class you can sign up for here) you should only use very small-sized treats or rewards as to not overfeed your pup. Remember, healthy pups that get the right levels of nutrition, are happy pups!
Can I “Free Feed” My Puppy?
Although some people choose to free feed their dogs (everyone can make their own decisions, but you knew that right?), we recommend sticking to your puppy feeding schedule for your dog and here’s why.
- Consistent meal times help creates consistent potty times! If your pup is eating at a specific time each day, they’re going to need to go potty at roughly the same time each day. Not only is this a positive routine for your pup, but it will help make potty and crate training SO much easier for you and your pup.
- Being able to monitor your pup’s appetite can help you notice any changes that might be caused by health problems. Sometimes when a pup gets sick or contracts some type of disease, their appetite will change. If they are free feeding, it can be difficult to monitor and notice these changes.
- Meal manners are important for multi-dog homes or if you ever wanna have other pups visit. Whether you have a multi-dog home or not, your dog learning not to be protective of their food is a vital skill for them to possess. If you ever have another dog come to visit (or you visit another dog’s home with your pup), you’ll want your pup to understand how feeding time and boundaries work!
- Helps to keep away ants, mice, or other unwanted pests. When dog food (like human food) is left out for an extended period of time, it can attract unwanted pests and insects. No one wants that, period.
- Mealtime can double as training time! One of the best times to train your pup is when they are hungry and therefore more “food driven” and willing to listen so they can receive that food reward. When giving your dog a meal it can be a great time to practice a sit, leave it, and a whole host of other behaviors.
Although free feeding your pup may not be the end of the world, the benefits above are extremely valuable and will help your dog in so many ways throughout their life.
Puppy Feeding Tips
Ready for some extra puppy feeding tips? Here are 11 tips and tricks that will make feeding time more enjoyable and successful for you and your pup!
1. Don’t free feed
Like was mentioned above, free feeding can bring about some unwanted consequences. Those unwanted consequences can include unwanted pests, difficulty in monitoring change in appetite, and more. Decide on a puppy feeding schedule and stick to it.
2. Incorporate training and commands into your feeding time
One of the best times to train your pup is when their “food drive” is higher, as in when they are hungry. Using their food as an incentive can make your pup more likely to follow through with desired cues/skills.
3. Don’t feed table scraps
Although this can be extremely tempting, feeding your pup tables scraps can lead to an overtake of calories. Another issue you run into is that your pup will be much more likely to beg while you eat your meals.
4. Mind the 10% rule
The 10% rule states that treats should only make up 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. Because treats aren’t a completely balanced “meal”, overfeeding treats can cause weight gain and ensuing health issues. So be sure to not overdo it with treats, and find one that’s a healthy, low-calorie treat.
5. Weigh your dog
Weighing your dog frequently can help you keep an eye on sudden changes that may be related to health issues. Even if you weigh once or twice a month, this will help you stay alert to changes in their health and weight.
6. Clean food bowl frequently
Although your dog’s bowl may look clean (especially if they lick it clean when they eat), bacteria can easily build up and cause potential problems! It’s recommended to wash your pup’s bowl at least a couple of times a week. I typically just throw mine in the dishwasher whenever I’m gonna run a load.
7. Adjust seasonally (due to exercise)
Depending on where you live, some seasons might constitute more or less exercise. Our play time slows down slightly during Utah winters, so we typically feed a touch less to compensate for the lack of burned calories. Just keep an eye on your pup to know if this is necessary or not.
8. Measure their food
Dog foods come with feeding guidelines. Instead of just “eye-balling” what you think a cup is, get an actual measuring cup when scooping out your pup’s meals. This will help ensure that your little buddy is getting jus the right amount of food. Also, if changes need to be made feeding proportions you’ll know exactly what your baseline was when you make the change! 🙂
9. Stick to a schedule
As was mentioned before, sticking to a feeding schedule will help your pup also maintain a more normal and consistent potty schedule. A consistent potty schedule is good for everyone, especially your floors! 😉
10. Choose your feeding spot wisely (easy to clean, not a lot of foot traffic, etc.)
Just like with a puppy feeding schedule, having a consistent feeding spot will help your pup associate that time and location in a positive way. When starting to crate train, many people will feed their pup inside the crate and then continue that habit even once the dog is fully crate and potty trained. The main idea is to stay consistent and to choose a spot that’s easy to clean and doesn’t get lots of foot traffic.
11. Monitor stools
Keeping an eye on your pup’s stools (or poop if you prefer that term) will help you monitor any potential health changes. One of my pup’s developed a stomach problem that we maybe wouldn’t have caught if we weren’t aware of his poop habits. No need to dissect or anything like that, just keep an eye on it.
Recap & Puppy Feeding Schedule Overview
Keeping your new dog on a consistent feeding schedule will help your pup to establish routines that will benefit them (and you) as they age! Consistent eating time equals consistent potty time.