So you’re getting ready to bring home your new puppy and are feeling a little overwhelmed. There is so much to learn and do before the puppy comes. Puppy proofing, setting up the crate, finding a great veterinarian and trainer, and even selecting a food for your puppy. With so many brands and types of food, this might be one of the most overwhelming decisions you can make. Do you feed wet, fresh or dry food? Can you mix them? What is the healthiest food for a puppy? Does breed matter when choosing food? My goodness, if your head wasn’t spinning before it probably is now! We did the research to help guide you along in this process. Here’s what we learned:
The 4 Stages of a puppy’s first-year and often you should feed your puppy in each stage
- 6-12 weeks of age
- 3-6 months of age
- 6-12 months of age
- After 1 year of age
- Create a routine
- Don’t switch food too quickly
- Consider training treats as part of your dog’s diet
- Feed a puppy specific formula
- Consider a puzzle bowl or slow feeder
This is the stage when most people get their puppies. Generally, puppies are kept with their mother until they are 8-10 weeks old. Young puppies need food that is specifically formulated for their nutritional needs. If you have a large breed puppy make sure you are feeding food specifically formulated for a large breed. At this age, puppies generally should be eating about 4 times a day. Small, more frequent meals will help them keep their energy up.
At around the 12-week mark, you may be able to decrease your puppy’s meals from 4 a day to three a day. You can consider having your pup eat on a similar schedule to you, think breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your pup is still rapidly growing at this stage, so you may need to increase the total amount of food you’re giving them.
In this phase your puppy may still be growing fairly quickly but a little slower than earlier stages. You should be able to decrease your puppy to two meals per day. There is some debate about how soon to switch your dog to adult food from a puppy specific formula. You’ll want to consult your vet about the best time to make the switch for your individual dog. It is better to feed puppy food a little too long than to make the change too soon. However, you can start thinking about what adult food you want to use for your pet sooner than later.
Larger breed dogs can take up to 15 months to mature. This means even though they’re a year old they’re still puppies! Talk with your breeder, rescue or vet about your larger breed dog’s nutritional needs. You want to ensure they continue to grow and fully develop into a healthy adult dog! Although your pup may be considered an adult some dogs take up to 2 years to reach sexual and social maturity.
How much food should you give your puppy at each ‘meal’?
The answer to this question is not easy to generalize. The amount of food your puppy needs will depend on a lot of factors. These include your puppy’s age, size, breed, activity level and the type of food you’ve chosen to feed them. The easiest way to figure out how much to give at each meal is to determine the total amount of food your puppy needs to eat in a day. For example, let’s say you’re feeding your puppy a puppy kibble formula. The package recommends puppies who are 3 - 6 months old and are 15 -18 pounds eat 2 cups of kibble per day. If your puppy is 4 months old and is very active weighs 18 pounds and is growing you may need to bump up to 2 and a quarter cups per day. If you feed your puppy three times per day, that means, in this case, you’d want to give your puppy three-quarters of a cup per meal. Ollie's custom meal plans take the guess work out of feeding your puppy. Ollie's fresh, healthy food is vet-formulated for all ages and life stages and provide your pup with personalized portions based on their age, weight, breed, and activity level. Get your puppy's custom meal plan today!
Other important things to know about feeding your puppy
Puppies are very good at picking up routines. Having a routine for feeding and going to the bathroom will not only help your puppy feel safe but will also help with potty training.
If your puppy is a picky eater or you’re noticing what could be food allergies, you might find that you need to try another food. Whatever you do, you can’t just feed a new food right away. Puppies have very sensitive stomachs and that can lead to a lot of vomiting. If you find that you need to change your puppies food for any reason, you need to transition gradually over the course of about a week or as directed by your vet.
Now that you’ve read all the way through, we have one wrinkle to add to your puppy feeding plan - training! It is very common to use high-value treats when training a puppy to reinforce the correct behaviors. Whether your puppy likes cheese, peanut butter or another delicious treat they all have one thing in common - calories. It is important to take training treats into consideration of your dog’s overall diet. You may need to cut back on your dog’s food on the days you take them to a puppy kindergarten or other training class. Also, if you do a few short sessions at home to reinforce what you’re learning in training and work on manners in the house, those treats can add up. You can try a really delicious training treat like the training bites from Bocce’s Bakery that clock in at only 4 calories per treat. You can also cut larger treats into very small bites so a little goes a long way.
It is important that your puppy gets the right overall nutrition. This is especially true of large breed dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, “A dog born weighing one pound can grow to 150 pounds within the first 18 months of its life. This accelerated growth rate means that large breed puppies are very sensitive to nutrient and caloric intake – imbalances, deficiencies, and excesses all negatively impact your large breed puppy’s health. Growing too quickly is not healthy for large breed puppies. Excessive growth has been linked to developmental orthopedic disease (DOD).” Consider a fresh diet such as Ollie to ensure your puppy is getting a good balance of the appropriate nutrients for their age and caloric demands.
If your puppy is known to inhale their food, this can cause indigestion, vomiting, flatulence or in more serious cases bloat. To get your puppy to slow down at mealtime consider a puzzle feeder or an interactive feeding method so your dog has to “work” for the food. This will keep the digestive issues at bay and can be mentally stimulating as a bonus.
Sample puppy feeding schedule (10-12 weeks)
6:00 am Wake up and go to the bathroom
6:30 am breakfast #1
7:30 am take a walk and potty break after breakfast (continue potty breaks every 30-45 minutes when your puppy is awake. Puppies should take a lot of naps throughout the day)
9:30 am breakfast #2
10:30 am Kong with peanut butter while mom works
12:00 pm lunch
4:00 pm training session (5-10 minutes)
5:00 pm dinner
6:00 pm snack while mom eats dinner (Plain chicken, cucumber, etc.)
While these are some great general guidelines, consult with your breeder or rescue as well as your vet to come up with the best meal schedule and food for your individual dog. You can learn more about the best foods for puppies through Dog Food Advisor. They are transparent about the criteria they use to evaluate dog food and do provide recall alerts. Note that a positive rating does not mean a food is ideal for your pup.
If you want to learn more about feeding fresh food, check out our full website at Ollie. There you will learn more about the different recipes and be able to take a quiz to customize a meal plan just for your pup!
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.