Article Last Updated November, 2023
Key Takeaways –
- Regular meal times are crucial for your dog’s digestion, energy, and overall well-being.
- Free feeding can lead to overeating and weight gain; regular meals help maintain a healthy weight.
- Proper feeding goes beyond nutrition; it’s a vital part of caring for your dog’s overall well-being.
Hello, dog lovers! As dog parents, we always aim to keep our four-legged mates happy, healthy, and well-fed. But what time should your dog eat?
Feeding is more than just putting kibble in a bowl. It’s about understanding their nutritional needs, age, health, and lifestyle.
Why does this matter? Feeding your dog at the right time impacts its health and behaviour.
Regular feeding can maintain a healthy weight, support digestion, and promote better behaviour.
In this article, we delve into canine nutrition, guided by experts, to uncover optimal feeding times. We’ll explore the best times, the pros and cons of feeding once or twice a day, and puppy feeding requirements and provide a sample feeding schedule.
So, grab a cuppa, get comfy, and let’s journey into canine nutrition. It’s time to optimise feeding time for your dog.
The Best Time to Feed Your Dog
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the best time to feed your dog, most experts agree on a few general GUIDELINES.
Typically, most adult dogs should be fed twice daily, with meals ideally spaced 10-12 hours apart to support their digestion and keep ENERGY LEVELS consistent. This could mean serving their morning meal early, around 7 am, and dinner early in the evening, at approximately 6 pm.
However, remember that every dog is unique, and their feeding times might vary based on age, health, and lifestyle. Ensuring your dog has a consistent feeding schedule is more IMPORTANT than the specified time meals are given.
Tailoring the feeding schedule to your dog’s specific needs will help them stay happy and HEALTHY. Always remember consistency is key when it comes to meal times.
Feeding Your Dog Once a Day
Adopting a once-a-day feeding schedule for your dog can be a PRACTICAL solution for some. The convenience it offers can fit seamlessly into a hectic routine.
Moreover, some argue that a single daily meal aligns more naturally with a dog’s instinctive feeding habits in the wild, where they would feast when food is available.
However, it’s key to note that this approach isn’t ideal for all dogs, especially smaller breeds. Smaller dogs have faster metabolisms and, therefore, may require more FREQUENT MEALS to sustain their energy levels throughout the day.
On the other hand, larger dogs often have slower metabolic rates and might be content with one WELL-BALANCED meal a day .
Pro Tip: If you feed your dog once a day, it’s best to give them their meal in the morning as it provides fuel for the whole day and prevents overeating at night.
Feeding Your Dog Twice a Day
Many vets recommend feeding an adult dog twice a day, as this routine can offer several BENEFITS to your pet’s health and well-being.
A twice-daily feeding schedule helps maintain STABLE BLOOD SUGAR levels and provides a steady energy supply, keeping your dog active and content throughout the day.
This practice is backed by research. A study by The National Institute of Health showed that dogs fed once a day were more likely to GAIN WEIGHT. In contrast, those fed twice daily had stable body weights throughout the research period and lower calorie consumption overall .
Twice-daily feeding can help reduce bad behaviour due to boredom and hunger and prevent them from binging on food when given the opportunity.
How Often Should You Feed A Puppy
Feeding your puppy properly is key to their GROWTH and development.
Up until 8 weeks, puppies should primarily feed on their mother’s milk. It’s important not to adopt a puppy before this age, as premature weaning can lead to behavioural problems later in life.
From 6-8 weeks, puppies can start having SMALL PORTIONS of dry food four times a day alongside their mother’s milk. As they grow, their diet needs to change too.
By the time they’re 2-3 months old, puppies should be weaned off their mother’s milk and be on 3-4 solid meals a day.
The exact number of servings of dog food will depend on the BREED of the dog, with smaller breeds often requiring different feeding schedules than larger ones.
As your pup matures and becomes accustomed to solid foods, you can adjust its feeding schedule.
At 3-6 months, you can reduce the number of feeds to three times daily.
By the time they’re 6 – 12 months old, this can be gradually REDUCED to two meals a day.
Choosing the right food for your puppy is crucial to this process. For detailed information on the best foods to support your puppy’s growth, be sure to check out our article on the best puppy food.
Pro Tip: Remember, not all breeds are classed as adult dogs at the same rate. So, it’s essential to tailor the feeding schedule to the specific needs of your breed.
How Often Should You Feed Senior Dogs
Feeding our senior dogs is a bit like fine-tuning a beloved instrument. As our furry friend’s age, their activity levels decrease, and their metabolism slows down, affecting their dietary needs.
Many vets suggest sticking to a twice-a-day feeding routine for our golden oldies. Smaller, more FREQUENT MEALS can be easier on their tummies and help keep their blood sugar levels steady.
But, just as each wrinkle tells its own tale, each senior dog has UNIQUE health considerations.
Keep a watchful eye on your dog’s weight and overall condition as they age because our senior companions might be more susceptible to weight changes.
Pro Tip: Ensure your senior dog eats in a calming environment to reduce stress and encourage them to finish their meal.
What Is Free Feeding?
Free feeding, you ask? It’s a bit like a buffet for dogs, where their food is available all day to nibble at their leisure.
Sounds pretty convenient, doesn’t it?
Especially for those of us with erratic schedules, this feeding method seems like a TIME-SAVER.
However, before you start filling up that food dish to the brim, let’s delve a little deeper.
Free feeding, while appearing convenient, can often lead to OVEREATING and weight gain in many dogs.
A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found a link between free feeding and obesity in dogs, mainly because it’s challenging to monitor their calorie intake .
Each dog is a unique character with individual nutritional needs. Free feeding doesn’t consider these, and it can be especially risky for dogs prone to weight issues or those with specific dietary needs.
A Dog’s Feeding Schedule
Ever noticed how our four-legged friends seem to have a sixth sense about when dinner’s on its way?
That’s because dogs thrive on routines, including a regular feeding schedule.
This routine not only satisfies their tummies but also brings a sense of predictability and SECURITY to their day.
This can be particularly beneficial for rescue dogs, who may have experienced inconsistent care in the past.
A sample feeding routine could look something like this: breakfast served at 7 am, perhaps a small midday snack or treat for training, and then dinner at 6 pm. But remember, this isn’t one-size-fits-all.
|12:00 pm||Midday snack or treat for training|
As I have said before – Our dogs are as individual as we are, so a chihuahua’s feeding schedule might DIFFER from a labrador’s.
Sticking to a meal schedule helps to maintain REGULAR bathroom habits (trust us, you’ll appreciate this one!), supports healthy digestion, and can even alleviate anxiety by providing structure to your dog’s day.
So, as we navigate the world of doggy dining, let’s remember the importance of a CONSISTANT feeding schedule.
It’s more than just filling their bowl; it’s about providing our dogs with a routine that helps them feel secure and loved.
After all, they do say that the way to a dog’s heart is through its stomach!
And there we have it, folks! The ins and outs of when to feed our precious pups. Whether they’re sprightly puppies, energetic adults, or golden oldies, it’s clear that a regular and well-considered feeding schedule plays a pivotal role in their health and happiness.
From early morning breakfasts to evening dinners, the timing, frequency, and consistency of meals all contribute to our dogs’ well-being.
But remember, just as no two dogs are the same, their feeding schedules will differ, too. Always consult with your vet to tailor the feeding schedule to your dog’s unique needs.
So, as we embark on this feeding journey, let’s remember that we’re doing more than just filling their bowls. We’re providing love, care, and nourishment, one meal at a time.
- Middleton RP, Lacroix S, Marie-Pier Scott-Boyer, et al. Metabolic Differences between Dogs of Different Body Sizes. 2017;2017:1-11. doi:https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4535710
- Bray EE, Zheng Z, M Katherine Tolbert, McCoy B, Kaeberlein M, Kerr KF. Once-daily feeding is associated with better health in companion dogs: results from the Dog Aging Project. 2022;44(3):1779-1790. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-022-00575-7
- Heuberger R, Wakshlag JJ. The relationship of feeding patterns and obesity in dogs. 2011;95(1):98-105. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0396.2010.01024.x
Jeff Carbridge is a dog behaviourist and trainer with 15 years of experience. He is strongly interested in nutrition and diet for both canines and humans. Jeff has been featured in several publications, providing expert commentary on dog-related topics. His knowledge and expertise make him a valuable resource for anyone seeking to improve the health and well-being of their dogs.