Can I trust the dog food bag? Is my puppy supposed to look thin? How important is it to feed the correct amounts? The question of how much to feed your Golden Retriever puppy is one of the most important questions to have the answer to before bringing a puppy home.
Overfeeding during a puppy’s first 5-6 months of life can impact a puppy for life. It is of utmost importance that you keep your puppy growing slowly.
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Why Keep Your Puppy Growing Slowly
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.
Growth Chart – Weights and Food Amounts
The chart below gives amounts of TLC Puppy Food (our favorite dry dog food) to feed a Golden Retriever and goal weights for puppies at various ages. Amounts to feed can vary greatly depending on the dog. It is more important to keep your dog’s weight in the correct range. Where in the range your dog should fall is discussed below.
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.
There is a fairly large range of food amounts at the various ages. Most families need to feed on the low end of the chart. Activity level makes a huge difference in how much you need to feed a dog (even for the same dog). Basic metabolism also affects the amount necessary. Some dogs just have faster metabolism and therefore need more food than others.
There is a Big Range For Goldens in General But You Need to Find the Correct Amount for Your Particular Dog and His Lines
The most important facts on the charts below is keeping your dog within the proper weight range. However, there is a range there too. Where you fall within that range is genetic. Consider the size of the parents of your puppy. If your puppy is one of the larger puppies from a litter with large parents, then your puppy will probably need to remain at the higher end of the weight ranges. Conversely, if your puppy is one of the smaller puppies from a litter with small parents, then your puppy will need to be kept at the lower end of our weight ranges. Find out from your breeder how large he/she thinks your puppy should ultimately grow and determine where in the ranges your puppy should be based on this information.
After determining where your puppy should be within the weight ranges, you can keep this information in mind as you determine how much to feed. If your puppy should be at the lower end of a weight range and his actual weight is at the higher end, then his food needs to be decreased. Conversely, if your puppy should at the higher end of his weight range and his weight is actually at the lower end, you should increase his food.
Also, notice that the feeding amounts gradually increase until puppies are about 9 months and then they start to decrease. This is where many owners make mistakes. They continue feeding the same amounts. The dog gradually gets fatter without anyone realizing it until the dog is very noticeably fat. At this point, a vet will often be the one pointing it out to the owners. The vet will put the dog on a diet food for overweight dogs thereby setting the dog up for a lifetime of food devoid of nutritious quality. The food will make the dog “feel” fuller. However, it is at the expense of nutrition.
Most People Overfeed
Another thing to keep in mind as you look at our chart is that most people overfeed their puppies during those initial months when puppies need to be kept thin (even many breeders!). If your puppy has been overfed during those early months, you certainly do not need to feed as much as we suggest between six and twelve months. Keeping your puppy in the correct weight range should be the goal, not feeding the exact amounts on the chart. The feeding amounts in this chart are based on the average Golden who has been started on our growth plan and is being fed TLC Puppy Food. As has been mentioned, amounts can vary considerably depending on the dog, the environment, the life-styles, and the dog food.
Don’t let this happen to your dog. Keep an eye on his weight for life, but especially during his puppy months!
Here is the chart:
Growth and Feeding Chart for Girls
Age Weight in Pounds Cups of TLC
2 months 10-14 pounds 1 1/4 cups
2 1/2 months 12-17 pounds 1 1/2 cups
3 months 15-22 pounds 1 3/4 – 2 ½ cups
4 months 23-30 pounds 2 – 3 cups
5 months 30-38 pounds 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 cups
6 months 38-48 pounds 3 – 4 cups
7 months 42-52 pounds 3 ½ – 4 ¾ cups
8 months 48-56 pounds 3 – 4 ¾ cups
9 months 49-57 pounds 3 – 4 ¾ cups
10 months 50-59 pounds 3 – 4 cups
11 months 52-60 pounds 2 ¾ – 4 cups
12 months 55-65 pounds 2 ¾ – 4 cups
18 months 55-70 pounds 2 – 3 ½ cups
2 years and over 55-75 pounds 2 – 4 cups
Growth and Feeding Chart for Boys
Age Weight in Pounds Cups of TLC
2 months 11-14 pounds 1 1/4 cups
2 1/2 months 14-17 pounds 1 1/2 cups
3 months 17-23 pounds 1 3/4 – 2 ½ cups
4 months 23-32 pounds 2 – 3 cups
5 months 30-40 pounds 3 ¼ – 4 cups
6 months 40-50 pounds 3 ½ – 5 cups
7 months 45-55 pounds 3 ½ – 5 cups
8 months 51-60 pounds 3 – 6 cups
9 months 53-61 pounds 3 – 6 cups
10 months 55-64 pounds 3 – 5 ¾ cups
11 months 56-67 pounds 3 – 5 ½ cups
12 months 60-70 pounds 2 1/2 – 5 ½ cups
18 months 62-85 pounds 2 1/2 – 5 cups
2 years and over 65-90 pounds 2 1/2 – 5 cups
Puppies Under 6 Months Should Look LEAN
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.
Food Amounts Can Vary Considerably
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.
Adjust the Amount You Feed Depending on the Kilocalories Per Cup of Your Food
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 TLC dog food. Most of dry foods (including TLC) 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.
It is Crucial to Watch Your Puppies Weight Prior to 5 Months of Age
Before your puppy is 5 months old, it is very important that you keep your puppy in the suggested range on the chart 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.
By 9 Months Your Puppy Should Start Filling Out
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 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 somewhat lean, but not nearly as thin as he looked at 4-6 months.
Factors to Consider in Deciding Where Within a Weight Range Your Puppy Should Fall
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 Dog’s Ribs
You should always be able to feel your puppy’s ribs. He should also have a visible waste for his entire life.
No Rounded or Straight Wastes
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.
Goldens that Don’t Eat Well Are Most Likely Overfed
If your Golden 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. Cut back on his food. Do not add to his food to make him eat. It won’t hurt him to go without even for a few days. If his body needs more food, he will be hungry and he will eat.
If you’ve had your dog checked by a vet and the vet gives him a clean bill of health, your dog is (at least somewhat) overweight (even if your vet says he’s fine). For a vet to say a dog is overweight, the dog must be VERY overweight. Vets do not know the proper weight of all breeds, at all ages, and for all the different lines within the breeds. You must have a breeder you can ask about your particular dog.
Especially, remember that golden retrievers need to look thinner than most people are accustomed to keeping their dogs. We get pictures of puppies that we’ve bred all the time and more than half of them are overweight according to our standards.
Most goldens will eat as much as you give them and they will simply become overweight. However, we’ve had (and know of many others) who will quit eating when their body is where it needs to be.
You Should Not Be Able to See Ribs Unless Your Dog is Under 5 Months
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 a little rib on a puppy under 4-5 months.
When to Increase Your Dog’s Food
If your puppy’s parents are at the top of the adult weight ranges on the chart, 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.
When to Decrease Your Dog’s Food
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 puppies that are very active in homes where they get a lot of exercise might need to be fed considerably 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.
Feeding Your Adult Dog
See our page on How Much to Feed Your Golden Retriever if your dog is an adult large breed dog.