We go to great lengths to care for our pets: we walk them, groom them, and give them more than enough love to last a lifetime. We even make sure they stay extra hydrated in the heat and procure high-quality food to keep them healthy and happy.
However, many pet parents overlook one important aspect of dog nutrition: proper portioning. How much should we be feeding our dogs, and how do we know the exact quantity necessary for peak performance and optimal pup health?
We’re diving into the science behind this key question: how much food should I feed my dog? Let’s get right into it!
Meal size by breed
It makes sense that the bigger the dog, the more food the dog eats! But since we take doggie nutrition seriously, we need to look at the science behind the dog breed, size, age or life stage, and the other factors at play.
According to Prudent Pet, it’s a common practice to feed dogs based on their weight class, which can be categorized as follows:
- toy breed (under ten pounds)
- small breed (10-20 pounds)
- medium breed (30-50 pounds)
- large breed (60-100+ pounds)
Dogs like Pomeranians, Havanese, and Yorkshire terriers all fall into the toy dog category. There is some wiggle room with these measurements, but if your dog is within one or two pounds of the recommended weight, give or take, it should be all good.
Getting into the small dog category, including Boston terriers, Dachshunds, and Pugs, we bump up the serving size a bit more.
Moving onto medium dogs, we’re talking about larger terriers, smaller shepherds and hounds. Let’s not forget our beloved Collies and Springer Spaniels!
Finally, we get to the big dogs, including larger labs, hounds, and shepherds, and of course, Great Danes. While the small ones can get by with less than a cup per day of food, some of the larger breeds need at least three cups, sometimes even more than four!
Here is a chart from the American Kennel Club that will give you an idea of how large you can expect your dog to become, then plan with the right amount of food accordingly.
From puppy to adult dog
No matter the size of our dog, we want to provide them with the best quality of food for their growth and development, and ensure the quantity is correct, too. Whether you need puppy food or senior dog food, we have you covered for your new food.
This is especially important when they’re young and just getting used to the world.
Remember, puppies are much like human infants in that they not only need to grow physically but also need to learn developmentally. They have to take on a lot of different learned behaviors as well, which requires quite a bit of support and patience from our owners, as we know.
The food they eat during this time is critical for puppies’ bodies and brains to develop properly, and feeding time is a key part of the training process as well.
Puppies love to eat, but they have not yet developed that internal clock that tells older dogs when it is time for breakfast or dinner. It’s up to pup parents to stick with a very consistent feeding schedule in these early stages and try not to vary meal time by more than a half-hour at first. That means if you decided to feed your puppy at 7 am on a Monday, you better stick to that 7 am time slot every day for the rest of the week, including the weekends!
Many pup parents also wonder when they should increase their dog’s food portion, and that’s when things get a bit hairy.
Since puppies grow so fast, you’ll want to monitor your dog's body weight regularly. Be ready to add a little bit more food to each scoop every time your dog increases by five or so pounds, and just use your best judgment to navigate those in-between areas. When in doubt, consult your vet on the proper portion for your pup.
The love factor
Believe it or not, more than half of US dogs are overweight. We tend to want to spoil our pets, but by throwing a little extra food in the bowl or some scraps from the table ends up harming your furry friend in the long run.
Carrying around too many extra pounds can be especially bad for a dog because their bones, tendons, and ligaments just aren’t as sturdy as those of human beings and other larger mammals.
So, if you want to show extra love and care to your dog, look into getting higher-quality food, regularly bathing/grooming them, and taking them outdoors for regular exercise.
The doggie obesity issue isn’t just about the extra stress and strain of excess weight, either. Dogs can suffer real diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, and even arthritis. Think about the food you feed your dog to extend and improve his or her life, not just as a way to make them feel happy in the short term. That goes for dog treats, as well!
We should emphasize the importance of exercise even more, and when dogs are growing up, they need to get accustomed to going for long walks and play sessions.
Here are a few other ways you can make your dog feel great without overfeeding:
- Take them on trips in the car instead of staying cooped up in the house
- Make sure they socialize regularly with other dogs, especially outdoors
- Introduce them to new people on the street and in the dog park
- Give plenty of positive reinforcement (head scratches and belly rubs) for good behavior
- Get regular checkups at the vet and ask plenty of questions
- Hang out and cuddle on the couch in your down-time
We tend to think of food as a reward for accomplishment or improvement.. We also see food as a motivator to be on better behavior and work harder. Why do you think your boss brings donuts to a meeting?
But with our dogs, we need to get comfortable with giving tough love and not toss extra treats and food around. It is really in the best interest of both you and your dog to stick with a strict meal plan without straying too far from the norm.
Why food quality matters
You may have heard about “empty calories” supplied by junk food and sugary beverages. Sure, they may taste good and send feel-good chemicals like dopamine rushing to your head, but the feeling you get after ten minutes of eating them is far from pleasant. We’re talking upset stomach, lethargy, headaches, and worse. The worst part about junk food is that you end up feeling hungry again less than an hour after eating since there was a major lack of actual nutrients and fiber in the low-quality food to start with.
This sets people down a nasty spiral of becoming addicted to junk, and the longer we indulge in the habit, the more difficult it gets to break the cycle.
Well, something similar happens in the dog food world. It’s sad to see, but a lot of the dog food found at the grocery store is simply not what it’s cracked up to be. Many of these foods contain artificial flavors, preservatives, weird vegetable oils, and binding agents that give the illusion of nutrition and taste while delivering very little quality.
Is it starting to sound familiar? Most dog food is like chips or a cheap snack mix! It’s easy and accessible, but not what you want to sustainable for the long run.
As we know, the quantity of how much food we eat is highly dependent on quality.
It’s way better to get 1000 calories from meat, vegetables, and healthy oil than from breakfast cereal and energy drinks. Prioritize quality over convenience.
We applied this approach to dog food, and the results have been amazing. Pup parents love the gently cooked meals that show up to their door and fit the exact specifications of their dog’s needs – including the perfect amount in every serving.
Remember that most dogs will eat pretty much whatever you put in front of them, so it’s our responsibility as pet parents to make the wise decision and bring the best quality to the table (or doggie bowl).
So, what's the right amount of food?
We have a ballpark idea of how much of our dog’s food should end up in their bowls each meal, but there are a lot more variables at play in this conversation that what many pet parents may believe.
The dog’s breed, dog's age, activity level, and allergy sensitivity of your dog are just a few of the factors that determine the right amount of food for each meal.
If you have more than enough on your plate already and want some professional dog food people to take the wheel for your dog's diet, we Ollie is here to do just that!