How much? How often? And how should you adjust if your best furry friend has had a few treats before dinner? When it comes to knowing how much to feed your dog, there can be a lot of questions, luckily, we’ve got the answers you need in our simple guide below.

Bowl Basics: Where to Start

Generally, most vets recommend feeding dogs about twice a day—once in the morning and once in the evening—but that may vary, depending on the age of your dog, his size and activity level.

Puppies should be fed more often than adult dogs to keep up with their growing nutritional needs (about 3-4x a day from around 8 weeks to 6-12 months), and dogs that engage in a lot of strenuous activity (like running, herding or competing in agility) might need to supplement their meals with a few extra calories.

Additionally, larger dogs naturally need a bit more food than smaller dogs, and the type of food you choose can play a factor in how much you feed. Soft or wet food has a higher moisture content, so dogs can eat a bit more of it without putting on the pounds. Higher quality kibble is also more nutritionally dense than basic kibble, meaning you can probably feed a bit less of it while still providing your dog with complete and balanced nutrition.

Differences in feeding amounts based on nutrient density, or dog size will usually be covered in the feeding guidelines on your package of food. Use those as a good starting point for how much to feed.  

Puppy Food vs Adult Food

If you have a puppy, make sure he’s on a food that is appropriate for puppies in order to properly fuel his development. Adult food won’t have the nutrition his growing body needs. Keep in mind that some foods may be marketed as "Adult", but if they are labeled for "All Life Stages" they may still be suitable for puppies.  

Small breeds may transition to adult food anywhere from 7 months to a year, while larger breeds may not hit adulthood until up to 14 months. If you’re not sure when your pup will officially become a big dog, err on the side of caution, and keep him on puppy food a bit longer. It’s better to transition a little later than too early, and rob him of nutrition that he needs to keep growing.

Reading the Bag or Can

Reading the label on your dog food, and using the recommended feeding guidelines, is a good place to start when figuring out how much to feed your dog. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) also has certain regulations that all pet food manufacturers must follow on package labels, including specific terminology and phrasing that indicates ingredient percentages and general nutritional value. You can read up a bit more on those here.  

Food Nuance: Know Your Dog

Even if you follow package guidelines to a T, your dog might still show signs of being hungry, or even start getting a little round in the middle. Don’t worry! Just like people, many factors can come into play when it comes to a pet’s nutrition. Watch your dog, and adjust accordingly based on his specific needs.

What Optimal Body Condition Looks Like

Simply looking at your dog can tell you a lot about whether he’s close to his optimal weight. You should be able to feel his ribs, but they should not be prominent or highly visible. His abdomen should tuck up under his ribcage when you look at him from the side, and you should be able to see a defined (but not extreme) waist behind his ribs when you look at him from above. Here’s a handy chart to reference in terms of how things should look.     

Additional Tidbits

You’re well on your way to feeding your pup like a pro, but before you fill that bowl here are a few last things to keep in mind: 

  • Treats can quickly throw off a pet’s diet, so make sure they are occasional, and don’t become regular sources of sustenance
  • Don’t feed table scraps, as there are many human foods that may make a dog sick
  • If your pet has health issues or specific nutritional needs, talk to your vet about the best way to approach his diet
  • Don’t feed supplements without consulting a vet either, as some may do more harm than good if fed incorrectly
  • Have clean water available with food at all times, to keep your dog hydrated
  • Keep water and food bowls clean and fresh to avoid bacteria growth

You should also talk to your vet if you notice any of the following:

  • Loss of appetite or refusal to eat
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Excessive thirst

Ready to start filling that bowl? Check out this pet food selector to find the perfect food for your pooch.