Finally! Your wide-eyed, round-bellied, perfectly adorable puppy-child is ready to come home with you. Now what? While some puppy parenting tasks are intuitive, properly feeding a newly-weaned little one may require a little research. 

It’s worth doing your homework — puppy nutrition will positively affect your pal’s future growth and promote a tough immune system, healthy bones, strong muscles, and a beautiful coat. 

Here’s our puppy feeding guide to ensure your sweet-breathed bundle of joy gets everything he needs to be a thriving member of your pack for years to come.

How Often Should You Feed Your Puppy?

Just like human tots, our four-footed babies do best on a puppy feeding schedule - one that runs almost around the clock! Ideally, your pup will be fed the same amount of food at the same time each day, and be given 10-20 minutes to clean the bowl before you whisk it away. 

In addition to helping your puppy grow, following a feeding schedule assists your puppy’s training and your ability to know when it’s time to head outside for a bathroom break (which also makes it a win for your carpet).  

  • In the month or two after weaning, your puppy will need to eat four times a day to keep up with his nutritional needs. 
  • Sometime between three and six months, your pup will start looking less roly-poly {sniff} and you can reduce feedings to three times per day. 
  • After about six months, your puppy will enter the tween phase, and can be fed just twice per day moving forward — once in the morning and once at night. Sticking to a schedule will remain important. It allows you to keep an eye on total food intake and ensure your dogchild stays fit and trim. When dogs are allowed to free-feed, it greatly increases the risks of overeating or becoming obese. 

 How Much Should You Feed Your Puppy?

A good rule of thumb to follow when measuring out your pup’s food is: your puppy’s feeding needs may vary. Not very helpful, huh? We hear ya. 

Unfortunately, there is no definitive scoop size for feeding a puppy, because each pup is different. There is so much variability to consider, including breed, body type, metabolism, puppy food nutrition, and even whether or not you use treats during training sessions.  

Your veterinarian is a great person to ask how much food to use as a starting point for puppy feeding times. Then, stay tuned into your pup’s growth to determine if it’s too much or too little. If your chunky monkey starts looking a little too squeezable, it’s time to scale back a little. 

Oh — and about those training treats. We totally get that it’s super exciting to watch your puppy waddle off to retrieve a tiny tennis ball or sit that cute little tushy down at your command. But training treats — well deserved as they may be — do have calories and should be factored into your puppy’s daily caloric intake. While a well-trained puppy is a good thing, an overweight one is not.

What Should Your Puppy Eat?

Once again, just like human babies, puppies need food formulated especially for their developing bodies. Not all food is created equal. Puppies and adult dogs have different nutritional needs — as a result, it’s important to feed your puppy a complete and balanced food formulated for his or her life stage. Puppy food is formulated with a higher caloric density and a different nutritional profile to support a puppy’s healthy growth and high energy levels.

While there are certain things all pups need to get from food in their first year of life — protein, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals — some things might be more specific to your particular baby canine. Here are a few puppy feeding tips to consider when determining what food to buy: 

  • If you have a small breed: Small pups can have super high metabolic rates, and can even develop hypoglycemia if not fed calorie-dense food often enough. Little guys often actually need more calories per pound than big ones, so look for a food that ticks that box. 
  • If you have a large breed: Big babies grow so much in such a short period of time, you might think they need more food. But overnutrition can contribute to developmental orthopedic disease. Prevent this by choosing a food formulated for big pups that is lower in fat, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. 

How Do You Transition to Feeding a Puppy Adult Dog Food?

When you’re certain your puppy is ready to launch into adulthood, you’ll need to switch from high-calorie puppy food to adult maintenance dog food. The first step is to figure out when your particular pooch is likely to hit full adult growth.

Below are guidelines you can use based on your dog’s weight and age:

  • Toy and small breed dogs that will weigh in at less than 30 pounds when fully grown may reach full maturity between 9 and 12 months of age
  • Medium-sized breeds that grow to adult weights of 30 to 80 pounds may reach full growth between 12 and 16 months of age. 
  • Large and giant breeds weighing in above 80 pounds can take up to 24 months to reach fully mature growth.

When your dog is ready for adult food, they’ll need meat-forward, whole food nutrition for a life of healthy eating. Look for a fresh, gently cooked food that’s high in meat protein and low in carbs. A Pup Above is a great choice — you can get a sampler pack to find your growing dog’s favorite flavor. Here’s a tip for transitioning from your puppy food to A Pup Above: add the new food on top of your current one as you slowly decrease the old and increase the new.

Whether you stick with your current brand or decide to switch to a meat-forward brand like A Pup Above, making the shift too abruptly will be hard on your baby’s tummy. Go slow, and keep an eye on your buddy’s digestion during any food transition.

Bringing a new puppy into your home is such a fun time of life. Proper puppy feeding isn’t rocket science, but providing quality food and a thought-out puppy feeding schedule will set the stage for a long, happy, healthy life as a beloved member of your family.