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Dog Feeding Schedule: How Much and How Often?

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The best way to keep your dog in good health is feeding them the right amount of dog food daily. But many owners are left wondering “How much should I feed my dog?” Feeding your dog too little can lead to lack of nutrition while over feeding can lead to obesity. So how much is the right amount to feed your dog?

Feeding Guidelines

The basic guidelines are normally on the back of your dog food bag. The feeding guide looks something like this:

Dog in waiting.

This is a general feeding guide that you will see on most dog food bags. These feeding guides should not be the only thing that you base your dog’s food intake. Owners should take into consideration on their individual dog. There is no such thing as an universal feeding guide. Your dog’s age, weight and his activity levels also influences how much and how often you should feed your dog.

Daily Feeding Frequently and Amount

-Puppies are growing and need all the nutrients they can get to grow healthy and strong. Because of this, it is normally recommended for them to eat twice as much as the serving size for adult dogs.

– Puppies should be fed three to five times a day. This is because puppies have an abundance amount of energy—they will burn off a lot of calories throughout the day requiring them to need more fuel.

-Adult dogs should be fed depending on their weight and level of activity. Assuming your dog has a typical activity level, toy breeds should have about ¼ cups to 1 cup, small breeds should have about 1 cup to 1 2/5 cup, medium breeds should have about 2 cups to 2 2/3 cups, and large breeds should have about 2 4/5 cups to 3 cups.

-Senior dogs should be fed a little less than adult dogs. Because they have lower energy levels, lessening the amount of food should be taken into consideration to keep your dog at a healthy weight.

-Adult dogs and senior dogs should be fed two times daily.

-For pregnant dogs, it is a little different. For the first 6 weeks of pregnancy, you should increase your dog’s intake minimally. You should start to increase the food by 20% during week 7 to 9.

-Lactating dogs are a special case as well. Immediately after giving birth, you should feed your dog up to 50% more dog food than her normal amount. During the peak lactation, which is around 4 to 5 weeks, you can feed your dog up to 30% more food than her normal amount.

-Lactating dogs should be fed three equal meals a day.

Best Way to Starting a Feeding Schedule

It could be a little daunting for new doggie parents to create a solid feeding schedule that best optimizes your dog’s health and well-being. The best way to start a routine is begin loosely basing your dog food amount from the feeding guide.

Take into consideration your dog’s activity levels–if he is more active, feed the dog more. Combine all the information of the feeding guide and your dog’s lifestyle and create the amount and time you would like to feed your dog.

Having a set time schedule for your dog doesn’t only establish a feeding routine but it is also easiest way to monitor your dog’s eating. If your dog is given the option to pick at his food throughout the day, you might not be able to easily notice how well your new feeding schedule is working. This also ties into learning your dog’s food habits and manners which can help you track down his health. For example, if you dog is normally gobbling down his food right when it is given, wouldn’t it be strange if the next day he isn’t too excited or thrilled about the food that he normally goes wild for? You can immediately sense there is a problem with your dog’s lack of appetite, which normally mean he is not feeling well. Addressing the problem sooner than later is always best for your dog—who wants to be sick longer than they have to? Tracking this is important for your dog’s health and early prevention is important to avoid potential health problems. We recommend for adult dogs to have a feeding time once in the morning and once in the evening.

Make sure you are monitoring your dog for the next 2-3 weeks and track down if his weight is dramatically fluctuating. If he is, adjust how much you are feeding your dog according and keep track of which amount of dog food is the perfect for your pooch.

Tips and Tools

There are a couple of tools online to help you create a solid feeding routine. One in particular is a dog food calculator:

This, like the feeding guide on your dog food bag, can be used as a starting point. But, like the feeding guild, make sure to be mindful of your individual dog’s lifestyle as well.

Another tool to help you monitor your dog’s weight is the body condition chart. Here is a visual guide of the ideal weight for your dog:

Puppy Development From 1 to 8 Weeks

Bartley Harrison

Dr. Bartley Harrison is a veterinarian with more than 15 years of professional veterinary experience treating dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, birds, and small mammals, with a specific focus on Emergency Medicine. Dr. Harrison is part of The Spruce Pets’ veterinary review board.

Puppy Development: Birth to 12 Weeks of Age

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During the first eight weeks of life, puppies are extremely dependent on their mother, because they need special care to grow healthy and strong. The mother will provide her puppies with the nutrition they need by nursing them until they are fully weaned and are less dependent on her to survive. During this period, puppies open their eyes for the first time, generally when they are between 10 and 14 days old.

Over these crucial first weeks, puppies grow out of infancy and learn to explore and play. They will begin to socialize with each other and with other members of their household once they’re physically able to do so. From interacting with their littermates to humans, the period of four to seven weeks is the ideal time to introduce your puppy to numerous people, as this helps the pup grow into an outgoing, friendly, and secure dog. Just be sure that anyone handling your young puppy knows to do so gently.

Watch Now: All You Need to Know about Puppies

Physical Development

At one week old, puppies’ eyes are still closed. Their eyes will begin to open in the second week of life, usually between 10 and 16 days of age. However, they won’t be able to see clearly at first. The eyes will gradually open wider, revealing grayish-blue eyes with a hazy appearance. Puppies’ eyes will continue to develop over the next several weeks, reaching full vision around eight weeks of age.

Puppies’ ears begin to open around the time that the eyes do, generally around 12 to 14 days old. Their hearing will continue to develop until the puppies are around five weeks old.

Newborn puppies cannot fully support their weight for the first two weeks of life, so they crawl around on their bellies, paddling and pushing with their legs and building strength. Most puppies will be able to rise up on their forelimbs around 5 to 6 days of age and will begin to use their hind legs around two weeks old. They usually begin to walk with a wobbly gait around 18 to 21 days of age.

Puppies need to be stimulated to urinate and defecate for the first several weeks of life. Mom does this by licking the anal and genital areas. If you are raising an orphaned pup, you can use a warm, damp cloth or cotton ball to stimulate the area. Puppies gradually develop the ability to urinate and defecate on their own around three to four weeks of age.

Puppies are born without teeth. Their baby teeth, or «milk teeth» will begin to come in between three and four weeks of age and continue to develop until about eight weeks of age.

Behavior Changes

For newborn puppies, the first two weeks of life are all about sleeping and eating. After 14 days of age, physical changes open up a whole new world. They begin to see, hear and walk. By the age of 21 days, they begin to explore the world and learn about being dogs. This is also when the socialization process begins. Puppies learn how to interact with other dogs by interacting with their mother and littermates. Human socialization with gentle handling is important at this time as well.

Around seven to eight weeks old, the first «fear period» will begin. This is a time when most puppies seem to be afraid of new things. Anything you can introduce them to before this time may help make the fear period go more smoothly.

Health and Care

Mom will still be taking on most of the care for her puppies until they are fully weaned between five to eight weeks of age. However, her puppies will become less and less dependent on her after three to four weeks of age. You may find that the puppies wander out of their little «nest» and try to check out more of the house. It may be best to keep mom and pups in an exercise pen when you are not home.

The first few weeks of life are a time of vulnerability for the puppies. If a puppy is not growing at the same rate as its littermates, it should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. In addition, any sign of illness, no matter how subtle, should be taken seriously.

Food and Nutrition

For the first three weeks of life, puppies get the nutrition they need from their mother’s milk. If the puppy was orphaned or needs supplemental nutrition, puppy formula can provide the necessary nutrients.

After baby teeth have erupted, around three weeks old, the puppies may be ready to begin weaning. Mom may naturally begin this process as she feels those puppy teeth nipping at her teats. A good way to transition the pups to dog food is to bring out some canned puppy food or softened puppy kibble (use warm formula or water to soften the kibble). Be sure to choose a dog food intended for growth. You can encourage them to eat it by offering a taste from your finger. As puppies get used to the puppy food, they will gradually nurse less and less. Most pups are fully weaned by six to eight weeks of age.

Training and Socialization

Puppies between one to three weeks are still too young to respond to training or socialization. At three to four weeks, they are able to see, hear, walk, and urinate/defecate on their own. Though their brains are still developing, they are capable of learning some things.

Of course, it is still important for these young pups to remain with their mother and littermates until eight to twelve weeks of age. As early as three to four weeks of age, you can start to introduce the crate and start some basic potty training. Even if the pups will be getting homes between eight to twelve weeks of age, you can start laying the groundwork for training.

The time between four to seven weeks of age is an early socialization window. Although the puppy must remain with its mother, it is now ready to be exposed to new sights and sounds. It should start meeting people of all ages and appearances. This includes children who know how to act around dogs and will handle the puppy gently.

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