What Times Should I Feed My Dog?


All new dog owners quickly find themselves exploring the best approaches to feeding their new canines.

Is there a right or wrong way to feed your dog, then?

General Overview of Feeding Your Dog

There’s no need to over-complicate feeding your new furball. All you need to do is understand a few core concepts, and the whole process should go smoothly.

Understand first and foremost that dogs are habit-driven. By creating a fixed feeding schedule, you can tap into this innate behavior and use it to your advantage.

Now, if you combine a regular feeding schedule with house training, you should find these two concepts play into each other. If you have a new puppy, you’ll find he typically needs to relive himself within 15 minutes of eating.

So, by linking a meal with a potty stop, you can help your dog to control his urge to pee or poop. He will associate a toilet break with a specific location and link it to eating. This is a valuable breakthrough when toilet training.

By providing an adult dog with food at set times, you’ll give him the security of a routine, along with the welcome sense of predictability that instills in him. When you stick to regular meal times, these become the cornerstones of your dog’s day. Other activities weave in around meal times. An inbuilt benefit of feeding your dog this way is that he’ll find it easier to cope with change. His routine alone will keep him feeling anchored, even if there are changes at home.

If you need to make any changes to your dog’s diet, this is easier to execute if he’s accustomed to eating at the same time each day.

Are all dogs the same when it comes to food, though?

What Variables Influence How Often a Dog Needs to Eat?

Vets generally advise feeding dogs at least twice a day.

Any dogs with underlying medical issues or special dietary requirements may also need personalized feeding schedules. You’ll need to liaise with your vet about this.

Clearly, the breed also plays a significant part in how much and how often you’ll need to feed your dog. Most large breeds will eat more than smaller and medium breeds. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but it generally and logically applies.

Age is the other main variable when it comes to feeding dogs. As your dog ages, it’s natural for his appetite to diminish. Tailor his feeding schedule accordingly as he enters his golden years.

So far, so good.

What sort of approach works best when you’re trying to create a feeding schedule, and do you have much leeway here?

3 Ways to Approach Feeding Your Dog

Luckily, there’s not just one way to feed your dog.

These are the 3 most common methods of feeding you can try out with Rover.

  1. Free-choice feeding
  2. Portion-controlled feeding
  3. Timed feeding

1) Free-choice feeding

If your dog is a normal, healthy weight, and he is properly toilet trained, you could consider using free-choice feeding.

What does this entail, then?

Well, you put out enough food for your dog to work his way through over the course of the whole day. If your dog is extremely active, this method of feeding can be especially effective. Nursing dogs also respond well to this approach to feeding. It will allow them to readily take onboard the calories they need to fuel the supply of milk needed for their pups.

When utilizing free-choice feeding, make sure you use dry dog food so it won’t spoil.

Measure out food for the day first thing in the morning and leave your dog to help himself.

This is not a failsafe strategy. If you have several dogs, they could end up fighting over food. Leaving food out all day can also attract insects or vermin, so make sure to account for this.

2) Portion-controlled feeding

If your dog never seems to stop eating and couldn’t be trusted with the free-choice feeding method, why not consider portion-controlled feeding?

First, you’ll need to establish your dog’s ideal weight. Ask your vet if you’re not certain.

You can then feed Fido once or twice a day. It’s preferable to feed him twice daily, with meals spaced 8 to 12 hours apart.

3) Timed feeding

For dog owners not concerned about overeating but unwilling to leave out food for the whole day, timed feeding is the other widely-recognized strategy.

With this method, you give your dog a set amount of time in which to eat – thirty minutes or an hour, for instance. When time is up, the rest of the food goes in the bin.

It won’t take Rover long to accustom himself to this routine. The idea is that he’ll be hungry and primed for his meal every single time.

OK, now you have several feeding strategies to draw on, how much should you be feeding your furball?

How Much Should You Feed Adult Dogs?

Even if your dog is seemingly always begging for scraps, most pups only need two meals a day. That said, a treat from time to time is essential.

It’s crucial not to feed your dog more than recommended. You won’t be doing him any favors.

If you rely on generic feeding charts, you could end up unwittingly overfeeding Fido. Check the source of your information closely. Better yet, consult with your vet.

When calculating how much food to give Rover, you need to know his weight first. This, in combination with his breed and life stage, can help you to determine his daily calorie needs. Again, speak with your vet for specifics.

How Much Should You Feed Puppies?

Puppies are growing quickly, and they’ll need more food than adult dogs.

Getting your pup’s nutrition squared off is vital if you want to furnish him with a strong foundation in life. Your dog needs plenty of calcium to stave off metabolic bone disease and early-onset arthritis.

Feed puppies little and often. As they transition from milk to solid food, you can give them small portions as and when.

From the age of 4 months or so, you can introduce puppies to 3 meals a day, if required and dependent on breed. From here, you can step them down to twice-daily feeding.

Although you need to ensure you cater for your puppy’s nutritional need, exercise a light touch. You don’t want to overfeed your puppy as this could trigger a lifetime of weight management issues, in itself something that triggers other health issues.

Between the ages of 4 and 12 months, it’s essential to give your puppy a consistent amount of calories to set them up for a balanced diet and a healthy life.

Some General Feeding Tips For Best Practice

To round out, here are some general tips on feeding your dog to give him the best chance in life.

  • Unless your vet specifically advises you otherwise, consider sticking to a single premium balanced dog food. Don’t add any supplements unless specifically vet-recommended. It’s too easy to fall for the marketing hype and end up loading your pup up with stuff he doesn’t really need. With a balanced diet of high-quality food, he shouldn’t need supplements as a rule
  • Don’t overfeed your dog. Many dogs don’t need the amount of food recommended by the manufacturer. Remember: the manufacturer is in the business of selling dog food, so they want you to buy as much as possible, and they’re not above inflating the suggested amount. Don’t be scared to tweak this RDA accordingly. If you notice your dog’s stools become firm but getting softer toward the end, this is a classic marker of overfeeding
  • Refrain from feeding your dog before a trip out in the car. This can trigger car-sickness
  • Don’t change your dog’s diet abruptly. You should introduce any changes gradually, phased over 7 to 10 days
  • Leave your pooch to eat in peace. Never remove his bowl while he’s eating. This can encourage anxiety, and possibly even aggression. You can always add some food to his bowl, but don’t start taking his food away or he will view you as a threat rather than an asset
  • Don’t feed your dog scraps from the table. This is liable to bring about attention-seeking behaviors like barking or begging
  • Always leave your dog fresh water. He needs to be properly hydrated at all times


We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s guide to what times you should feed your dog.

Remember, there’s no one fixed method that works for all dogs. The above guidance should be used as a general framework and tweaked to fit the needs of your furball.

Bookmark BarkVA before you head off, and we’ll see you soon!

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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