How Much to Feed Your Puppy
There are many reasons for feeding your puppy so that he grows slowly while he is under 5 months of age and for keeping him at a fairly lean weight for his entire life. Studies have shown that dogs that are kept leaner have longer lifespans (up to 2 full years longer), have lower cancer rates, and have less hip and dysplasia. Studies have also indicated that the first 4-5 months are the most important. Unlike people, puppies grow too fast before growing fat. Fast growth has been linked to several orthopedic conditions including hip and elbow dysplasia and Panosteitis. In addition, faster growing puppies have greater chances of incurring soft tissue injuries during play and exercise. Other problems with feeding too much include loose stools and a puppy that isn’t sufficiently hungry to be motivated during training sessions.
See our Growth Chart for amounts to feed and goal weights for puppies at various ages. Our feeding recommendations will mean feeding a little less (or at least on the low end) of dog food bag guidelines until your puppy is over 5 months. Dog food bag recommendations can be deceiving. If your puppy grows too fast, he will be bumped into the category of a larger dog on the dog food bag chart. When a puppy has grown too fast, you need to be cutting down the food, but if you are following a food bag’s recommendation, the larger category that your over-fed dog is now in will tell you to over-feed even more. Following dog food bag recommendations will often lead you down a path of causing your puppy to grow too fast.
Golden Retriever puppies from 3 to about 6 months of age need to look very lean. You might even think your correctly fed puppy is too thin or even skinny, but this is what is best for him. It will not affect his ultimate size but will only slow his growth. Then starting at around 6 months, your puppy needs to begin catching up with his growth and filling out some. By 12 months, he should no longer have that extremely thin look that 5-month old puppies at a good weight have, but he should still be somewhat slender and have a puppy look. English Golden Retrievers don’t totally mature and fill out in their chests until they are close to 3 years old.
There is no simple formula for coming up with the amount to feed a puppy. It is dependent on amount of exercise, genetic size, basic metabolic rate of the puppy, and to some degree the type dog food you are feeding. The chart below has quite a large range of amounts and correct weights but there are some clues that will help you to come up with the correct amount for your particular puppy. Then you’ll have to adjust these amounts as you watch your puppy grow.
For most foods, you can use our chart as is, but if your dog food has a significantly smaller or larger number of calories per cup than the foods we use, you’ll need to convert the amounts in order for it to be appropriate for your food. For comparison purposes, this chart has been devised for feeding most of the foods on our recommended foods list. Most of dry foods have around 400 kilocalories per cup and weigh close to 4 ounces per cup. Look at the bag for your food and find the number of kilocalories per cup. If the food you are feeding is not between about 350 and 450 kilocalories per cup, you’ll need to adjust the feeding amounts. To make this adjustment, simply multiply the feeding amounts in cups on the chart by 400 and then divide by the number of kilocalories per cup in your food.
Before your puppy is 5 months old, try to keep your puppy as low in the suggested range on the chart as possible while at the same time keeping your puppy gaining weight at at least a pound a week and averaging about 1 ½ pounds a week. The feeding guidelines are just guidelines. They must be adjusted to keep your puppy’s weight gain at the appropriate level. Keeping your puppy at the correct weight is the goal, not feeding certain amounts.
If you’ve kept your puppy growing slowly during his first 5 months, you’ve given your puppy a huge health advantage over most large breed puppies. After 5 months, he should begin growing at a little faster rate. His food intake should be gradually increased until he is eating his maximum amount of food at around 7-9 months. By 9 months, he should still look lean, but not nearly as thin as he looked at 4-6 months.
As you look at the growth chart, keep in mind some key factors in determining where in each range your puppy should be. You should always be able to feel your puppy’s ribs. He should also have a visible waste for his entire life. A rounded or straight waist is an indicator that you are over-feeding, as is the inability to feel ribs on the sides of your dog. If your dog leaves food (and he’s not sick), then you are probably feeding him too much. If he hesitates before eating and doesn’t act really hungry, he’s probably been fed too much. You shouldn’t be able to see ribs on an adult dog, even when the dog is wet. If you can, he is too thin. You need to increase food. It’s okay to see ribs on a puppy under 5 months. If your puppy’s parents are at the top of the adult weight ranges on the chart below, if your puppy gets a good amount of exercise, if your puppy’s weight is low in the suggested weight range, and/or if you can feel ribs more than you should, then you probably need to feed an amount on the higher end of the range. Conversely, if your puppy’s parents are at the bottom of the adult weight ranges on the chart below, if your puppy gets minimal exercise, if your puppy’s weight is high in the suggested weight range, and/or if you can’t feel your puppy’s ribs or see a waistline, you probably need to feed an amount on the lower end of the range. There are quite a few things to keep in mind as you determine how much to feed. Some Micah puppies that are very active in homes where they get a lot of exercise might need to be fed more than what’s on the chart, but remember, the goal is keeping your puppy at the correct weight, not necessarily feeding a certain amount.
If you prefer using a dehydrated food such as Honest Kitchen, there is a column for feeding amounts for that as well as traditional dried dog food.
When rotating foods, make sure you do it gradually over 3 or 4 days. Feed ¼ new food and ¾ old on the first day, ½ and ½ on the second day, and ¾ new food on the 3rd. On the 4th day, feed 100% new food. Adding probiotics is also helpful when making the change.