Author: Stuehrmann's Service Dog Training

The Ultimate Puppy Feeding Guide

Your puppy has a lot of growing up to do in a short period of time, and it all starts with their food. A balanced diet will give your dog everything it needs to develop strong bones, muscles, and habits that will last a lifetime. Here, you’ll find a guide for feeding your puppy, so you can help them put their best paw forward. We’ve also created a printable PDF version for you to reference as your puppy grows.

What kind of food should I feed my puppy?

Start with nutrient-rich puppy food

The closer you can match your puppy’s food to their specific nutritional needs, the healthier they’ll be. To start, they need puppy food, not adult dog food.

“Puppies have an increased requirement of all nutrients compared to adult dogs; this is due to their active growth. Puppies need more energy per pound of body weight with plenty of minerals.”

Dr. Lindsey Bullen
Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas

To grow up quick and healthy, puppies need more protein, fat, and iron than adult dogs, plus carefully proportioned mineral ratios. That’s why the best puppy food should be specifically formulated to ensure your new best friend grows up healthy.

What about “all life stages” formulas?

By the FDA’s standards, dog foods labeled “all life stages” are considered nutritionally adequate for puppies, adults, nursing mothers, and senior dogs. However, the vets we spoke to still recommended sticking to puppy food because it has the exact mix of nutrients for their life stage.

Look for formulas tailored to your puppy’s breed size

Our favorite puppy food comes in two sizes: One for small and mini breeds like Dachshunds and Beagles, and one for medium to large-sized dogs like Boxers and Golden Retrievers. Some companies even make puppy food for giant breeds like Great Danes and Saint Bernards, but the large size formulas will work fine too.

“These foods have specifically balanced energy, protein, and calcium levels. The goal is to limit the puppy’s growth rate when they are very young.”

Dr. Gary Richter
Montclair Veterinary Hospital

Dr. Gary warned us that, if these dogs grow too fast too soon, they are at a greater risk for hip and elbow dysplasia when they get older. Since smaller breeds do not grow as fast and do not weigh as much, they don’t have these same concerns.

So, whether your new puppy will grow up to be 10 pounds or 100, their food needs to be produced with their unique needs in mind.

Use the back-of-the-box feeding guidelines

All puppy food should come with feeding suggestions on the package for daily food amounts based on your puppy’s ideal adult weight. Unless your vet specifically tells you otherwise, start here. If you’re not sure how much your pup will weigh as an adult, ask your vet for an estimate.

How often should I feed my puppy?

In general, puppies should be fed small, frequent meals, spaced evenly throughout the day. As your dog reaches six months old, you can cut this down to two even meals per day.

Age:6–12 weeks3–6 months6–12 months1 year+
Meals:4 meals per day3 meals per day2 meals per day1 half-portion, twice per day

How can I tell if my dog is a healthy weight?

When it comes to your puppy’s feeding plan, watch the dog, not the dish. Every dog is different and might require a slightly different diet than the package recommends. Here are some things to look for that will help you tell if your dog is at a healthy weight, based on recommendations from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association.

Very thin: More than 20% below body weight

  • Ribs, spine, and hip bones are prominently visible
  • Lack of muscle growth
  • Can’t feel any fat under skin
  • Strong hourglass shape when viewed from above

Thin: 10–20% below ideal weight

  • Ribs, spine, and hip bones are visible
  • Waist and abdominal tuck
  • Small amount of fat cover under skin
  • Less accentuated hourglass shape

Ideal: Within 10% of ideal weight

  • Ribs, spine, and hip bones easily felt with slight fat cover
  • Abdominal tuck seen from the side
  • Small amount of fat can be felt

Overweight: 10–15% above ideal weight

  • Ribs, spine, and hip bones are hard to feel through layer of fat
  • No abdominal tuck
  • Difficult to see contours of waist
  • Layer of fat on belly and at base of tail

Obese: More than 15% over ideal weight

  • Can’t feel ribs, spine, and hip bones through thick fat cover
  • Can’t see the waist, fat hangs from the abdomen
  • Heavy pads of fat at base of tail and lower back

5 puppy feeding tips to remember

Don’t: Buy too much food at once

Most expiration dates on dry dog food bags will tell you that the food will stay good for up to a year in the future. This is a little deceiving: It refers to how long the food will last if the bag stays unopened. Once you break that seal, it will only stay fresh for about 4–6 weeks. To avoid having puppy food going bad, only buy as much food as you think your puppy will go through in a month, and seal the bag shut when it’s not feeding time.

Don’t: Give your puppy human food

As tempting as it might be, it’s never a good idea to give your puppy people food. For one, normalizing human food increases the likelihood that they’ll get their paws on something toxic at some point in their lives. It also teaches them to that they might get a treat when the human plates come out, so they’ll learn to beg any time someone in the house is eating.

Do: Set a regular schedule

Puppies love a good routine. Knowing what to expect will help them transition to their new home, and nothing is more important to this than reliable meals. Try to feed them at the same time every day in the same amounts, and don’t leave food out for more than 10–20 minutes. This will set up good eating habits that will last their whole lives — and help immensely with potty training.

Do: Transition foods gradually

Because puppies eat the same diet day after day, it can be a real shock to their systems when their diet is changed without warning. If you want to switch over to a new flavor (or if your pup’s ready to make the jump to adult dog food), do it as gradually as possible. Start by mixing the new food in with the old over the course of a week. If your dog shows adverse reactions like loss of appetite or diarrhea, decrease the ratio of new to old food until they adapt to it.

Do: Switch to adult food around one year

When your puppy reaches 90% of their expected adult weight, it’s time to switch to an adult diet. For most breeds, this happens right around their first birthday, although small breeds can hit this mark around 9 months, while it can take as much as two years for “giant” breeds like Saint Bernards.

Dog food reviews

We’ve been covering dog food for years. If you’re looking for specific brand recommendations, check out the articles below:

CREDIT: Joe Supan @

Puppy Development Part 1

From Birth to 12 Weeks
This Yorkshire Terrier puppy goes through several development stages to reach adulthood.
Updated December 10, 2014.

A newborn puppy doesn’t look much like a dog and goes through different stages of puppy development during his first twelve weeks. Dogs are considered puppies from birth to one year of age and go through several puppy stages and development periods. However, each dog develops differently, with smaller dogs tending to mature earlier and some large breeds not physically mature before they are two years old.

Newborn puppies vary in size depending on the breed; tiny dogs like the Chihuahua produce puppies sized about four inches long, while giant breed newborns like Great Dane puppies may be twice that size.

Rate of puppy development also varies from breed to breed. For instance, Cocker Spaniel puppies open their eyes sooner than Fox Terrier puppies, and Basenji puppies develop teeth earlier than Shetland Sheepdog puppies.

However, no matter the breed, all puppies are born totally dependent on the momma dog, technically called the bitch.


At birth, puppies are blind, deaf and toothless, unable to regulate body temperature, or even urinate or defecate on their own. Puppies depend on their mother and littermates for warmth, huddling in cozy piles to conserve body temperature. A puppy separated from this warm furry nest can quickly die from hypothermia—low body temperature. Cold, lonely puppies cry loudly to alert Mom to their predicament.

Puppies first experience the sensation of being petted when washed by their mother’s stroking tongue. The bitch licks her babies all over to keep them and the nest clean, and also to stimulate them to defecate and urinate.

Neonatal Period: Birth to Two Weeks

From birth, puppies are able to use their sense of smell and touch, which helps them root about the nest to find their mother’s scent-marked breasts. The first milk the mother produces, called colostrum, is rich in antibodies that provide passive immunity and help protect the babies from disease during these early weeks of life.

For the first two weeks of life, puppies sleep nearly 90 percent of the time, spending their awake time nursing. All their energy is funneled into growing, and birth weight doubles the first week. Newborns aren’t able to support their weight, and crawl about with paddling motions of their front legs. The limited locomotion provides the exercise that develops muscles and coordination, and soon the puppies are crawling over and around each other and their mother.

Transitional Period: Week Two-to-Four

The second week of life brings great changes for the puppy. Ears and eyes sealed since birth begin to open during this period, ears at about two weeks and eyelids between ten to 16 days. This gives the furry babies a new sense of their world. They learn what their mother and other dogs look and sound like, and begin to expand their own vocabulary from grunts and mews to yelps, whines and barks. Puppies generally stand by day 15 and take their first wobbly walk by day 21.

By age three weeks, puppy development advances from the neonatal period to the transitional period. This is a time of rapid physical and sensory development, during which the puppies go from total dependence on Mom to a bit of independence. They begin to play with their littermates, learn about their environment and canine society, and begin sampling food from Mom’s bowl. Puppy teeth begin to erupt until all the baby teeth are in by about five to six weeks of age. Puppies can control their need to potty by this age, and begin moving away from sleeping quarters to eliminate.

Socialization Period: Week Four-to-Twelve

Following the transitional phase, puppies enter the socialization period at the end of the third week of life; it lasts until about week ten. It is during this socialization period that interaction with others increases, and puppies form attachments they will remember the rest of their life. The most critical period–age six to eight weeks–is when puppies most easily learn to accept others as a part of their family. Refer to the article on how to socialize puppies.

Beginning at four weeks of age, the bitch’s milk production begins to slow down just as the puppies’ energy needs increase. As the mother dog slowly weans her babies from nursing, they begin sampling solid food in earnest.

The environmental stimulation impacts your puppy’s rate of mental development during this time. The puppy brain waves look that of an adult dog by about the 50th day, but he’s not yet programmed–that’s your job, and the job of his mom and siblings. Weaning typically is complete by week eight.

Week Eight-to-Twelve

Puppies often go through a “fear period” during this time. Instead of meeting new or familiar people and objects with curiosity, they react with fearfulness. Anything that frightens them at this age may have a lasting impact so take care that the baby isn’t overstimulated with too many changes or challenges at one time. That doesn’t mean your pup will grow up to be a scaredy-cat; it’s simply a normal part of development where pups learn to be more cautious. Careful socialization during this period helps counter fear reactions.

Puppies may be placed in new homes once they are eating well on their own. However, they will be better adjusted and make better pets by staying and interacting with littermates and the Mom-dog until they are at least eight weeks old–older generally is better. Interacting with siblings and Mom help teach bite inhibition, how to understand and react to normal canine communication, and their place in doggy society. Puppies tend to make transitions from one environment to another more easily at this age, too.

Your puppy still has lots of growing to do. He won’t be considered an adult until he goes through several more developmental periods and reaches one to two years of age.

Pet Nail Clipping Guide

Dr. Jean Dodds’ Pet Health Resource Blog

Considered one of the foremost experts in pet healthcare, Dr. Dodds focuses on vaccination protocols, thyroid issues and nutrition.
Visit or for more information.

Pet Nail Clipping Guide

This is a wonderful guide as to how to trim your pet’s nails and keep them trimmed.

If you do inadvertently cut into the kwik, Dr. Dodds’ colleague, Dr. Barbara Royal, has a great home remedy:  Nail bleeding after a trim or being broken? Don’t have quick-stop powder? Apply cornstarch, soap shavings, tea bag, cotton gauze, and apply pressure while you elevate the limb. Do not use water or rub.

(Note: If the bleeding does not stop, please visit your veterinarian or emergency vet service in your area immediately.)

Royal, Barbara, 2012. The Royal Treatment: A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets.



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