Dogs, just like us humans, come in all different shapes and sizes. Because of this it can be difficult to know how much food you should be feeding your beloved pooch? There is also the question of frequency, how many times a day should you be feeding your dog?
There is even reason to ask yourself, what time of day should your dog be fed. In this article we aim to answer all of that, so you can be safe in the knowledge that your best friend is eating the right amount of food to stay happy and just as importantly, healthy.
How many times a day should I feed my dog?
First we will tackle the question of how often you should feed your dog.
Here, no matter the size and breed of your pooch, most experts recommend that an adult dog be fed twice a day. Furthermore it should be at the same time everyday – namely, once in in the morning and once in the evening.
Keeping a fixed feeding schedule will help keep your dog’s metabolism stable and will aid their digestion.
(Puppies have different dietary needs to this. A dog under five months of age should be fed three to four times a day, or as advised by your vet.)
Your dog’s eating behavior
Most dogs do not stand on ceremony. Once the bowl has been placed in front of them, they will scoff away without so much as taking a breath.
However, it may be that your dog is a fussy eater. Especially if he is newly adopted and is getting used to his surroundings. Under these circumstance you may have to teach him to eat on a schedule.
Rather than leave the bowl out for him to choose when he wants to eat, start by placing the bowl on the floor for ten minutes and then pick it up, regardless of whether he has eaten.
At the next scheduled feeding time, put the bowl back down. Again, if after 10 minutes he is no longer eating and has gone off looking for other forms of entertainment, you remove the bowl. It will not take long for your dog to learn that he needs to eat when the food is offered.
Benefits of a feeding schedule for your dog
There are a few benefits to regularly-scheduled feeding times. As mentioned above, your dog’s metabolism and digestion will be better for it.
However, a schedule also also allows you to monitor your dog’s health. It is much more evident if your dog has a loss of appetite if he is fed at regular times. A lack of appetite is very often an indication that he’s not feeling well. You will be able to react quickly and have him checked by a veterinarian if the problem persists.
Another benefit of set feedings is that a dog who eats on a schedule poops on a schedule. Also, leaving a bowl of food out all day long in order for your dog to choose his own feeding preference, means it has a chance to spoil, or to attract unwanted visitors in the way of house flies and potential vermin.
How much food should I feed my dog?
Now that we have established that your dog should be fed twice a day at regular time, exactly how much dog food should they receive at each meal time?
You may ask yourself, how many cups of food should I feed my dog? How much food should my dog actually eat?
The answer is difficult because the amount clearly varies depending on the size and breed of dog as well as the type of dog food you are giving them. The amount of exercise they get each day is also a factor. That’s why a more careful approach should be taken when deciding how much food a dog should have.
After all the consequences of getting it wrong can have a real impact on your dog’s health. Feed them too little and a dog can suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Too much and they may end up with obesity and all of the related health problems.
One of the first references you should look to is the feeding guide on the label of the dog food. It should look something like this.
Pretty self explanatory right. However, this should still only be taken as a guide.
You may also come across breed feeding guidelines, (you can find a chart similar to the below all over the internet). It is best to exercise caution when using such a chart, as an individual dog’s requirements will normally differ.
Measuring the amount your dog should eat – the right way!
One of the best ways to ensure that you are feeding your dog the right amount of food, is to use a dog feeding calculator. There are a few online and the will help you calculate the amount of food a dog should eat. (Dog Food Advisor have a great dog food calculator here)
Using the Dog Food Advisor Calculator
You will need to enter the following information in order to get the correct results:
- Step 1 – Enter your dog’s ideal weight
- Step 2 – Select your dog’s life stage and activity level
- Step 3 – Insert your dog food’s “calories per serving”
Then, using a measuring cup or a scale you can feed your dog the calculated amount.
It is recommended that you check your dog’s weight once a month so that you continue to feed them the optimum amount of food.
Why Is It Important to Measure the Food You Give Your Dog?
Portion control when feeding your dog is important for many reasons. Quite simply, by measuring the amount of food you give them, you will know how much your dog is eating. This of course will help you control your dog’s weight.
And while measuring your dogs food may seem time consuming, it really isn’t. Just use the same measuring cups you use for cooking, and be sure to be consistent with the amount in line with your weight calculations.
In the long run, your dog will be happier and healthier if they are getting the right amount of food, and the correct level of nutrition for their needs. Ultimately, they will live longer.
What about their water?
It is good practice to change their water every time you feed your dog. That means fresh water morning and night.
Furthermore, if your dog has increased activity in the day, (i.e you’ve just taken them for a walk or have been playing in the yard), you should provide clean fresh water for them.
If you’re working on housetraining or have a dog who overdrinks, you can schedule the amount and times you provide it. But watch your dog carefully and, if he seems to be thirsty, increase the amount. A sample schedule for monitoring water would be:
- 7:00 a.m. – Clean and fill bowl half-way.
- Noon – Rinse out and refill half-way.
- 6:00 p.m. – Rinse and fill half-way.
- Bedtime – Clean and fill bowl about 1/4 of the way.
5 FAQ’s about dog feeding
1. How accurate are dog food label guidelines?
As we touched on above, the manufacturers’ recommended feeding guidelines that you find on dog food labels are not particularly accurate. They are designed to be used as a rough starting point.
What’s more, you will often find there is little consistency between brands. Each manufacturer uses different guidelines. Then of course are the varying factors that the label guidelines do not account for: your dog’s age, health, reproductive status and exercise level – all of which influence the amount of food your dog should receive.
2. How do I know what to feed my dog?
It is best not to scrimp when it comes to the food that you buy your dog. Choosing a high quality food can actually save you in the long run, as poor quality foods produce more waste, can cause digestive problems and often end up being more expensive, (your dog needs more of it to feel satisfied).
Start by getting to know your dog better; no not on friendship terms, I am sure you have that already. You need to get more scientific than that. As we have mentioned in the article above, by knowing your dog’s current weight and the ideal weight for his age and breed, you can begin to research the kinds of dog food that are best suited to him.
Furthermore, you can always consult with your veterinarian if you are not sure about the ideal weight for your dog.
You should also pay attention to your dogs activity level, remember to factor in all the variables (exercise level, age etc) and any additional calorie intake that they may have in the way of treats.
Once you have this information, you can use one of the many available dog food calculators to determine the amount of calories your dog should be getting to remain healthy.
3. How can I stop my dog from gulping down his food at meal times?
When a dog gulps their food too quickly they can often end up taking in large amounts of air which can upset their stomach and cause digestive problems.
There are a couple of ways you can help prevent this. Try placing a large object such a ball in the bowl to encourage him to take smaller bites. There are also slow-feeding bowls available. These have built-in obstructions within the bowl that will prevent your dog from eating too fast.
If you have more than one pet it is best to feed them separately to reduce competition for food.
4. How should I go about introducing a different food to my dog’s diet?
One of the most important factors when introducing a new type of dog food to your pet, is to do so slowly over time.
Your dog needs to be introduced to the new food gradually so that the types of bacteria in their intestines, (which aid in digestion), can change in order for your dog to better digest the food.
Dogs can be very sensitive to dietary changes. To aid the transition, start by mixing the new food with your usual brand, before gradually increasing the proportion over seven to ten days until your dog is only eating the new food.
5. Should I feed my dog a breed specific food?
Because a dog’s nutritional requirements depends on factors such as activity level, age, and temperament, a breed specific dog food should not be relied upon. It is more important to choose a diet that fits his specific health and nutritional requirements instead. If in doubt ask your veterinarian for advice.