What Do I Feed My Puppy?

You’ve picked out your puppy and you’re buying all the things you need to bring him or her home.  You have toys and a collar with an ID tag and a leash and a crate and a few feeding bowls.  But what do you put in your puppy’s food bowl?  The answer isn’t as easy as you might think.

The question, “What do I feed my puppy?” is really important for the health and happiness of your new pet.  Here are 7 points to consider when feeding your puppy:

  1. There is a timetable for changing your puppy’s diet in the first year.
  2. What it means if he or she doesn’t finish what you put down.
  3. Are more expensive dog foods better?
  4. Should I give my puppy wet food, dry food, or mix it?
  5. Keep track of your puppy’s weight.
  6. Human food is not for puppies.
  7. Other puppy feeding tips . . .

An eBook I have written that is available on the Doggie Bow Wow Blog.com includes information on deciding which diet is best suited for your breed, activity level, preferences, and medical condition for your dog.  All puppies are different, too, so if you have any questions, consult your dog doc.  Go take a look!  In the meantime, here are some of the options for when you get your weaned puppy home to keep him healthy.

If you go to the local grocery store, a specialized pet store, or even your vet’s office, you will be SWAMPED with all the choices that are available to choose from.  The bottom line is that the ingredients need to be from reliable sources with special puppy formulas all the way to their first birthday.  Don’t panic!  They generally are not more expensive just because they’re for puppies.  The little guys just have different nutritional needs that grown dogs.

Timetable for Diet for Pups during the First Year

  • First three months.  DO NOT feed your puppy dog food that is not labeled specially for baby dogs.  From the first four months, give four feedings a day to give all the nutrition that little sweetness needs.  If you opt for dry food, wait until 2-1/2 months for big breeds and three months for little ones.  The amount will be suggested on the back of the container.  While fat baby dogs are cute, cute, cute, obesity will be hard on his joints.
  • Three to six months.  Start to drop feedings to three a day.  By now, your furbaby should be losing her/his potbelly because play should be a pretty much fulltime activity.  Continue to follow package directions.
  • Six months to one year.  At a half year, drop to morning and evening meals.  Except for my senior, my dogs just turned 15 months, I feed twice a day – dry in the morning and wet at night.  Otherwise, I might have to sleep with one eye open.  During this time, you need to seriously considering spaying and neutering your guy or girl.  Please don’t contribute to the vast population of unwanted dogs.  Take a look at my post, “How YOU Can Help the Canine Community. I talk about sterilization there and I don’t think it should be done until they reach maturity because it can cause problems later.  I waited until Sally went into her first heat and that was probably too late.  I neutered Jax when he was a year, but Danes don’t mature until they’re about two years old and I think I may have stunted his growth. 

After the procedure, your pup will not have as much energy, so cut back on feeding and switch to adult food.  Bigger breeds can switch at one year plus another month or two because they take longer to mature.  Those smaller breeds can make the switch at seven to nine months.  Not sure?  Stay on the puppy food a little longer.

  • After 1 year.  After the first birthday, feed two portions a day of half the total daily recommended amount.  Pup still chubby?  Cut back.  Looking kind of scrawny?  Add more.  I feed my crew at 7 AM and 7 PM.  If I get caught up in work, they will come remind me.  I swear you can set your clock by them.

After the first birthday, feed two portions a day of half the total daily recommended amount.

What if he/she doesn’t finish what I put down?

First, you might be feeding too much.  If your pup doesn’t need that much, don’t try to force it.  Feed on a schedule and pick up anything that isn’t eaten after about 20 minutes.  Also, if you’re still in the multiple feedings a day stage, she might be telling you it’s time to cut out a feeding.  It could be that the food you are providing is upsetting her stomach.  Keep your eyeballs open for spitting up or running/hard poops.  Figure in the calories and times you are using treats to train your little guy.  That can make a dent in appetite, too.  Finally, maybe she’s a picky eater.  You can try different kinds of food until you hit on one she likes, or you can wait until she gets hungry enough to eat it.  At my house, with three big dogs, if one dog walks away and leaves it, another one will rush over to finish it.  But I think that’s less because of still being hungry than saying, “HA!  I GOT IT!  I GOT IT!”

Are more expensive dog foods really that much better?


That being said, read the labels.  I went into a high-end store selling only food and ended up walking about without buying anything.  I feed the brand my shelter recommended and I like what I read.  You don’t want any grains and the nutritional density should be high.  Meat should be the number one product.  I have a thing about lamb (they’re BABIES, for Heaven’s sake!), but that’s just me.  There is no FDA for dog food, so the ingredients may be different from one batch to another, but the more expensive brands have a stock in providing more stable food than cheaper ones.  But a well-known brand is not a guarantee of a high-quality food.  Again, refer to my free eBook on Doggie Diets to learn about label reading.

Should I give my puppy wet food, dry food, or mix it?

Canned food is the most expensive, but most dogs really like it.  Be careful that you read that label.  I find that my dogs don’t necessarily like the most expensive one best.  Except Sally.  Because she’s a hog.

Semi-moist food is like the McDonald’s McRib.  It’s shaped to look like a pork rib, but it’s not.  Those individual patties that you crumble for your puppy look like hamburger, but they aren’t.  Also pretty spendy.

Kibble is dry dog food that comes in a bag, is cheapest, and easy to feed.  Dogs also like the crunch.  And spreading it around on the floor.  That must make it taste better. 

Personally, I like to feed all dry in the morning and canned with raw meat at night to cut the cost.  This is evidently exciting for my dog babies, but isn’t always a guarantee.  Once I find what they like and I approve, I stick with it.  They don’t seem to get tired of it.  If Hondo (my husky) doesn’t like it, I find all my trash can contents spread around the house.  Who says dogs don’t talk to you?  You should not mix wet food with dried food for a good reason.  Their stomachs produce one type of acid for dry food and one type for wet.  If they are forced to make both types at the same time, you will get the usual tummy upsets that we know and (DO NOT!) love.

I wish I was rich (someday!) and then I will feed my dogs an entire raw meat diet.  When I have extra in my budget, I mix in beef liver or hamburger or something and they really seem to love it.  Jax (the Dane mix) LOVES chicken feet which are hilarious to watch him eat (the claws always stick out until last), but the others won’t have it.  I tried chicken hearts and Jax ate them, Sally and Sweetness walked away from the bowls, and Hondo left them all at the bottom.  How he did that, I don’t know.  You used to get dog bones for free, but now the stores charge for them and they’re teeny weeny.  Good for pugs, instantly gone for pit bulls.  If you’re going to feed both raw and kibble don’t mix them.  Says the voice of experience.  Also, sometimes it will upset their stomach.

Again, check out my free Doggie Diets eBook for information on the raw meat diet.  Switching from dry and/or wet to raw is a little bit of a process for them to get used to it.  You can also check out YouTube video on the topic.

Switching from dry and/or wet to raw is a little bit of a process for your dogs to get used to.

Keep track of your puppy’s weight to decide on how much to feed.

It’s easy to weigh your pup.  Weight yourself.  Weigh yourself holding your puppy.  Subtract the first number from the second number.  That’s your puppy’s weight.  This gets harder when you’re trying to weight an 80-pound husky who hates being picked up.  Eyeball those guys for their approximate weight or wait until your next vet visit.  They will always weigh.  If you’re taking in one dog, take the other along and ask for a weight.  They won’t charge you.  Probably.

There are charts online that you can keep electronically or print out.  Puppies should be weighed every week and compare results with recommendations for breed and age.  This will help you decide if you’re over- or under-feeding.

Human food is for humans.

You pay good money for dog food that is nutritionally balanced, then knock it out by giving your puppy French fries because he wants one or two or ten and he’s so cute!  This is a fast track to a dog with an upset stomach, puking, farting, and belching.  Just don’t do it.  He’ll have to learn to live with the disappointment.  And dogs that learn to beg can actually get annoying.  Especially when their eyes are even with yours, like my Jax.  Staring.  Staring.  Staring.

Check out my post on “The History of Dogs and Men.” In the long ago, dogs decided humans were a good source of food (the food they provided, not themselves) and learned how to beg with irresistible eyes.  True fact.  I’m not making this up.  Evidently, as their bond grew stronger and the humans started to care about their animals, the dog that looking pathetic and starving would get more scraps.  This is just a learned behavior for survival.  When you don’t give your dog scraps, they will still know you love them.

On a side note, if I am sitting on the couch with a snack, Jax will sit on one side and Sweetness on the other and (so sneaky!) will put a head on my leg or shoulder and the next thing I know, that furry head flops over and a tongue will lick out, resulting in much yelling and (I’m ashamed to say) laughing.  Beware of trick beggars.  Make sure other family members are on board, too.  It may sound funny, but behavior problems start when you are no longer the Alpha Dog.  There can be only one!  Successfully begging for snacks decreases your authority and lets the beggar manipulate you.  Think on that one the next time you get the “I’m starving/Don’t you love me?” face.

Puppy feeding tips

Don’t feed your puppy as soon as you get home.  Stick to a schedule.  I like two meals 12 hours apart.  If your puppy associates food with you leaving or coming home, you may train in separation anxiety.

If you need a really special diet for a medical condition like diabetes or heart disease, buy it from your vet or wherever he thinks you should get it.  Trust him.  He’s a doctor.  If you don’t trust your vet’s advice, get a different vet.

Don’t give mineral or vitamin supplements unless recommended by your vet.  Your puppy should get everything he needs in his food.  Too much can be harmful.

I’ve heard healthy snacks for dogs are small pieces of apple or carrot.  My dogs pick them out of a bowl of food.  If I try to hand feed them the pieces, they laugh and walk away.  Once I put a piece on the ground and one of them urinated on it.  Point taken. But your pet might like them.

Never forget to keep the water bowl full.  With my four monsters, I fill it about five times a day.  Wash it daily to keep bacteria down.  And eliminate the dirt at the bottom.  And bugs.  And dog slobber.  I digress.

Make changes in your puppy’s diet gradually to let her tummy get used to it.  Make one feeding adult food and one puppy food.  Or mix half and half.  It should only take about a week to make a full switch.

Puppies love to chew.  Like I said, I used to buy entire cow femurs, but I can’t find them anymore.  The dogs love them.  Sally would drag one around the same size as her entire body.  You can try store-bought chews, but stay away from rawhide because they can swell in the stomach.  I tried $3 treated ligaments and they lasted about 15 minutes.  Other good bones that are crunchy-delicious are beef neck, and turkey/chicken necks and back.  But ONLY RAW!  Cooked bones splinter.  And chicken feet.  You’re welcome, Jax.

Finally, another good addition is eggs with the shells (you heard right) and green tripe, if you can find it.  Again, check out my Doggie Diets eBook to learn about tripe.  Hard to find.  Stinks like nobody’s business – so much so that you have to bring your own container with a tight tight tight lid.  Dogs love green tripe.  Really good for them.  Don’t even ask what it is.

Related Posts

What do I feed puppies that are one month old to start weaning? These babies are still nursing, but their mom is sorta wishing you’d get them on solid food. Mix some soft puppy-specific food with formula to make a messy mush. Keep a moist towel handy for afterwards.

When do puppies start drinking water? Put water out when you start to wean, and they should be drinking it just fine by 2 months of age.

How old is a puppy when it’s fully weaned? Two months.  His mom will be moving away by then and everyone will lose interest.  Please don’t adopt a puppy before he is 8 weeks old, because they’re too young.  They need the nutrition only a momma dog can provide in mommy-made milk.