Establishing Your Puppy's Feeding Schedule

puppy dog

Photo by Berkay Gumustekin on Unspalsh

Introducing a puppy to your family is a really special time, and establishing a routine is one of the first steps you can take towards building a strong bond with them. Eating habits and schedules are an essential part of this, puppies need a balanced diet and a regular feeding schedule to grow and develop into strong, healthy adult dogs. However, figuring out how often to feed and when can be confusing, especially for new dog owners.

How often should you be feeding your puppy?

Puppies have smaller stomachs than adult dogs and require small frequent portions to help their digestion, meaning more mealtimes throughout the day than for an adult dog. You also need to consider your puppy’s breed size when building a feeding schedule, so it’s good to get advice from your breeder, adoption centre or vet. For example, small breed puppies have a smaller sized mouth and stomach, and their metabolic rate (calories needed per kg bodyweight) is higher than for a larger breed puppy. Free-feeding, or leaving food out all day, is not recommended for puppies, as it can lead to overeating, weight gain, and digestive issues. Below is a good example of a feeding schedule for the average puppy.

Number of meals per day by age of puppy

8-12 weeks 4-6 meals
13-16 weeks 3-4 meals
6 months - 1 year 2 meals
1 year+ 1-2 meals

 

How to introduce a feeding schedule?

Consistency is essential for establishing a good feeding schedule. Train your pup to associate specific events or times with feeding, such as after waking up, coming home, or going for a walk. Over time, your puppy will learn to anticipate mealtimes and may even remind you if you're running late.

When should you establish a schedule?

Ideally, you should start introducing a feeding schedule as soon as you bring your puppy home. Puppies are most trainable and adaptable in the first two to four months of their lives, when they go through their main emotional development. During this time, it’s important that your pup is well socialised, as their relationship with humans will impact how receptive they are to training. This said, it's never too late to start. Even if your dog is already an adult, you can still establish a feeding schedule.

Steps to setting up a feeding schedule

Ensuring that your pup has a consistent feeding schedule is crucial to their health and development. There are a few simple actions you can take to make sure your puppy’s feeding schedule is on the right track.

  • Establish the appropriate number of meals your puppy needs per day based on their age, breed, and size.
  • Set a mealtime routine that works for you and your pup. Choose the times when you’re most likely to be home and available to feed your puppy and stick to these mealtimes as closely as possible.
  • Try and avoid treats between meals and keep in mind mealtimes should also be consistent on weekends.
  • Choose a feeding area where your dog will eat each meal, preferably somewhere quiet and not too busy, make sure to use a consistent location and bowl.
  • Measure out the appropriate amount of food indicated on the dog food package label, considering your pup's individual needs.

Remove any unfinished food after 30 minutes, as this will reinforce mealtimes.

puppy feedingss

Troubleshooting the feeding schedule

If your puppy is having digestive issues or difficulty adjusting to the feeding schedule, consider changing the type of food you're feeding them. Some dogs are more sensitive to different ingredients or brands than others. The OPTIMUM™ Puppy range, for example, is specially formulated with high levels of protein and calcium to meet the needs of growing pups. If you continue to face issues, ask your vet what they recommend, to see if a different kind of food or feeding schedule is appropriate for your dog's size, breed, and lifestyle.

How to handle interruptions to the schedule?

Life happens, and sometimes you may need to alter your puppy's feeding schedule. Perhaps you need to go out of town, or your work schedule has changed. If this is the case, try to adjust the schedule gradually over the space of several days or weeks to hopefully avoid stomach upsets or your pup feeling unsettled. It may take some time for your dog to adjust, but a gradual shift is less likely to cause disruption. Otherwise, you may be able to find a practical solution that works best for you. For instance, you can hire a pet sitter to feed your puppy when you're not around or use automatic feeders that allow you to set specific feeding times. Establishing a feeding schedule for your puppy is just one step in building a healthy, happy relationship with your furry friend. Consistency is the key to success, so choose regular feeding times that work for you and your dog and stick to them as closely as possible. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process of getting to know your new pup! For further advice on your puppy’s nutritional needs, as well as tips on training and caring for them as they grow up, check out our pet care blog.

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