How Many Times A Day Should You Feed Your Dog?
When first adopting a puppy or adult dog, this is one of the big questions we hear often:
How many times a day should you feed your dog?
Well, we’re glad you asked as the answer is not so obvious.
Dogs don’t fit into our neat little breakfast, lunch and dinner intervals. Their eating habits change dramatically during their first year of life too.
But not to worry, you have come to the right place!
In this article, we’ll dive into the nuances of feeding frequency for puppies, the best feeding schedule for adult dogs and how to create a feeding schedule that works for you and your household.
How Many Times A Day Should Your Puppy Eat?
Puppies are our babies. And like human babies, they do well with small portions at frequent intervals.
The amount your puppy should eat very much depends on their age. They develop so very quickly that their feeding schedule will be extremely changeable during their first year of life.
2-3 Month Old Puppies - 4 times per day
Your puppy has just been weaned and is adjusting to life with you. They are also completely new to solid food so this is a delicate time. Moistened high-quality dry puppy food is recommended around 4 times per day. You can also opt for wet food too. They will eat little and often in these early stages of life. Larger dog breeds should be fine to eat fully dry food after 9 weeks of age as their teeth are stronger. Smaller dogs may take a while longer to catch up - perhaps around 12-13weeks of age you can switch to the fully dry stuff.
3-6 Month Old Puppies - 3 times per day
After 3 months, you can reduce your puppy’s feedings to three times a day. They should also be starting to lose their puppy weight. Be mindful of portion control and transition them to a feeding schedule that is more spaced out. They should be eating nutritional dry or wet puppy food in the correct quantities suggested by your vet.
6-12 Month Old Puppies - 2 times per day
You can start transitioning your puppy to eating twice per day. Depending on their breed you can also switch them out from eating puppy food to adult food. Generally, small dogs mature quicker so they can eat adult food twice per day from around 7-9months. Larger dogs may need puppy formula kibble for up to a year.
“If your puppy occasionally skips a meal or picks at food, don’t worry. It could mean she is ready to eliminate a feeding or that you have given her too much, in which case simply reduce the quantity served.” - Erika Mansourian, American Kennel Club (1)
Keep an eye on your dog and see how they adjust to their feeding schedule. You will know if it is too little or too much. If in doubt, always contact your vet for advice as they can give you more personalised counsel than these broad guidelines.
How Many Times A Day Should An Adult Dog Eat?
When it comes to your adult dog, most vets recommend they eat twice a day.
As long as the portion sizes are adequate and they are getting all of the nutrients they need from their food, you shouldn’t need to feed them more meals than this. (2)
These meals should be 8-12hours apart ideally. Some dogs that are extremely active such as working sheepdogs and police dogs may eat more often. Again, if in doubt, consult your vet.
How To Create A Feeding Schedule For Your Dog: Step-by-Step
So now we know how many times a day to feed your dog, how do you work this into your daily routine as seamlessly as possible. We are all super busy people after all.
The most important for your dog’s health and happiness is establishing a fixed feeding routine that they can depend on. Don’t worry, dear reader, we’ve got you covered!
What you will need:
An overview of your weekly schedule (this is most helpful written down either in your Google calendar or penned by hand)
- Dog bowls for food and water
- An automatic dog feeder (optional - we’ll explain why)
- Family participation (non-negotiable!)
Step 1: Review your schedule
The first stage of working any new habit into your routine is to determine what is realistic for you. What does your average week look like?
If you work a 9-5 job then this is probably easier to define. You know when you wake up, when you return from work and how available you will be most weeks - simples.
If you primarily care for your children day-to-day or if you work from home with odd hours, then this is harder to do. Your schedule fluctuates so it’s tough to have a strict routine. If you don’t live religiously via your calendar, write down your day-to-day activities every day for one week.
At the end of the week remove the things that are “out of the ordinary” for you e.g if there was a school trip or out of town meeting. Just pay attention to the things you do relatively consistently throughout the week. Where do the gaps lie?
Step 2: Choose two-four 10-15min timeframes to feed your dog
You only need 10-15mins (max 20) to feed your dog every day. This accounts for you laying down the food but also supervising them eating.
As we mentioned before, for adult dogs, you’ll need to provide two feeding sessions 8-12hours apart. I feed my dogs at 7am and again at 4:30pm. They also have a dog biscuit at noon as a little snack. It works out quite well.
If you have a puppy on your hands, then this could be 3-4 times per day at shorter intervals.
Now you may be protesting at the screen right now. “If only I had 10-15mins!”
But remember that your dog’s feeding schedule is also a good time for multitasking.
I very rarely feed my dogs and not be doing something else as I supervise them eating.
It could be washing the dishes, or preparing my own breakfast, or dancing around the kitchen - whatever needs to be done.
If you are going to multitask, make sure that you can still keep a weather eye on your dog while they eat. Of course, most feedings will be drama free but it’s good practice to look out for any changes.
Are they fussy with the food? Are they choking? Are they eating too quickly and causing tummy upset later? Are they leaving huge amounts of food left over?
Feeding your dog is not an entirely passive activity. You still need to be around, but you can be forgiven for washing a dish or two while you watch them.
Troubleshooting - What if I can’t be available to feed my dog twice a day?
This is certainly a conundrum. If you can’t feed your dog twice a day because of your hectic schedule, or have a puppy that needs consistent feeding throughout the day, it may be worth investing in an automatic dog feeder. These can be set to specific times that enable you to feed your dog at a distance.
Step 3: Get your family on board
If you live alone, you can skip this step. For those of you with partners, children, parents - whomever - everyone in the household needs to be fully on board.
There is nothing more disrupting to a dog’s routine than to have mixed signals in your household. Everyone should know what time the dog is fed, where their food is kept, and how much they should be fed at those fixed times.
Step 4: Try it out
So you have established a routine in the abstract. Now test it out!
Sometimes when we choose to instill new habits at certain times, it doesn’t work out so neatly in the real world. You may find that you prefer to wake up a little earlier every day to feed your dog before the kids get up. Multitasking with the kid’s breakfasts and your dog’s breakfast is just too much. Alternatively, you may find that it works out more neatly to feed your dog 30mins before their evening walk so that they can go to the toilet whilst you are out.
Tweak and perfect as you go along until you have an established routine that works for everyone.
Feeding Frequency For Dogs: Parting Advice
The long and short of it is that the frequency of feeding times for your dog varies depending on your dog’s age and activity level. We hope this guide helps you to create a feeding schedule for your puppy or adult dog that works best for you.
As parting advice, just as important as how often you should feed your dog every day is the question of what are you feeding your dog every day.
Whatever feeding frequency you choose, make sure the dog food you purchase is top-notch and you’ll have a healthy and happy pup!
Generally speaking, it depends on your dog’s:
- Activity levels
- Number of meals per day
- Type of food (e.g raw food, kibble, wet food etc)
You can roughly follow the breed guidelines that you may find online for your pup but it is always best to consult your vet regarding what the right portion sizes should be for your dog in particular. Your dog’s metabolism and general eating habits will determine your pup’s portion sizes in the end.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to behave like bottomless pits. They steal food, beg at your table and even give the googly eyes to strangers as you walk if they happen to be eating a sandwich. With all of this performance, you may be wondering if the two meals per day are enough.
To determine if your dog is truly going hungry, there are two main factors:
Is your dog being fed between 8-12 hours apart?
Is your dog getting the recommended portions for their age, breed and weight?
If those things are covered, your dog shouldn’t be hungry.
Begging when you are eating something yummy is not usually an indicator that your dog is hungry overall. It’s just that they want a bite of what you’re having. If your dog is:
- Searching for scraps in the garbage
- Begging by their own food bowl
- Stealing excessively
- Displaying signs of fatigue
Then you may not be feeding your dog enough. Consult your vet for advice.
In theory, if your dog is getting the recommended amount of food per day then technically you could feed them once a day. However, dogs have a natural rhythm to eat at 8-12hour intervals so a one-time feeding would be disrupting that natural hunger cycle.
Think of it this way. Our caloric intake per day as humans is 2000 calories for women and 2500 for men, obviously with variants depending on your metabolism and activity level etc. Now imagine eating 2000 calories in one sitting and not waiting again until the next day.
You have technically fulfilled your caloric quota but it’s pretty miserable to oversaturate yourself in one sitting and then not fill your belly again for 24 hours.
It’s the same for dogs. It can also be tough for dogs to eat that volume of food at once. It can lead to indigestion and other digestive issues.
- Mansourian, E. Jul 15, 2019. “Puppy Feeding Fundamentals”. American Kennel Club. Retrieved May 16, 2021. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-feeding-fundamentals/
- Llera, R & Downing, R. “Feeding Times and Frequency for Your Dog”. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved May 16, 2021. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/feeding-times-and-frequency-for-your-dog