How much should I feed my dog?
Giving the correct portion of food to feed your dog(s) is an important skill that all dog owners should know how do.
Unfortunately a lot of dog loving owners tend to overfeed our dogs. (src)
But fear not, in this article you'll learn more about portioning your dog's food right, and maintaining a healthy weight for them overall.
The correct answer to on how much to feed your dog is: It depends on quite a few factors listed below.
Age of Dog
The age of your dog plays quite a large factor in the amount of food to feed your dog!
In general, puppies eat far more than the adults, since they're still at the growing phase and require all the proper nutrients and protein to grow into full sized adults.
Below is the table that can help visualize how much you should feed your puppies in general.
Age of Puppy
Type of food
Below 6 weeks
Mother's milk. or milk replacer
Milk to be warmed 100 Fahrenheit
6 - 12 Weeks
3 - 6 Months
6 - 12 Months
After 1 Year
Normal Adult dog food
Good time to experiment with foods!
Preferably wetter food/ Senior dog food formulas
Wetter food is easier for senior dogs to chew
Special note on pre-weaned puppies
Typically for puppies below the age of 6 weeks, they're usually left with their mother to nurse on their milk until they're weaned.
However, sometimes we chance across an orphaned puppy below that age.
In that case, you'll need to hand feed them a special milk formula via bottle or a syringe.
The puppy milk formula should be heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit / 38 degrees Celsius before being fed to the puppy.
It's important that you get the special milk formula for puppies - other types of animal milk like cow's milk or goat's milk will work temporarily, but not recommended for long term use, as it can cause stomach problems in puppies (especially puppies lactose intolerant)
New born puppies (under 1 week old) require feeding about every 2 hours with the warmed milk formula mentioned above.
Puppies at 2 weeks old will require about 8 bottle feedings a day, and puppies subsequently will need about 5 feedings a day until they're weaned and can eat solid food at 4 - 6 weeks old.
Once they're at the age of 4 - 6 weeks old, you can begin to feed solid food - puppy kibble or some easy to digest wet food for puppies would be ideal.
However they will need the canine replacer milk formula until about week 7 or 8 of their life, which after they'll be fully weaned off milk and can eat solid puppy food without the milk.
Once weaned and eating solid puppy food, they'll reach adulthood at a health weight range (about 90% of the estimated weight range of the breed)
After reaching adulthood (around 1 year old), thankfully dogs don't require that constant of an intense feeding cycle, and it also signals the start of the period of their lives where you can experiment with what dogs can eat as treats or part of their meal, and what dogs cannot eat and should avoid.
But also make sure to go slow when introducing new food to your dog - your dog might have some allergies that were not previously known.
Of course, as your dog ages gracefully into their silver years, they also tend to eat a little less.
A healthy estimate on how much to feed your senior dog also depends on how active they are, but in general, it's fine to slowly taper off their food intake by 1/3 to 1 cup a day while maintaining the feeding schedule of 2 feedings a day.
How much to actually taper off depends on their breed type and size (see the table below)
You'll also instead focus more on foods that support your older dog's joint, eye and organ health, so that is also something to focus on.
Size of Dog
By size we mean the size class of dogs - from toy breeds like the Chihuahua, to the big dogs like Great Danes.
The table below will help give you a rough estimate of how much to feed your dog based on its size.
For example, in the 'Toy' category, if your dog weighs about 6 pounds, you should give it about 1/2 a cup a day of food.
Feeding Amount / Cup
Under 10 Pounds
Below 5 kg
1/3 cup per day if 3 pounds
1/2 cup per day if 6 pounds
3 pounds = approx. 1.5 kg
6 pounds = approx. 3 kg
10 - 20 Pounds
approx. 5 - 10 kg
3/4 cup per day if 10 pounds
1 cup per day if 15 pounds
1 2/3 cup per day if 20 pounds
10 pounds = approx. 4.5 kg
15 pounds = approx. 7 kg
20 pounds = approx. 9 kg
30 - 50 Pounds
approx. 13 - 23 kg
1 3/4 cup per day if 30 pounds
2 1/4 cup per day if 40 pounds
2 2/3 cup per day if 50 pounds
30 pounds = approx. 13.5 kg
40 pounds = approx. 18 kg
50 pounds = approx. 22.5 kg
60 - 100+ Pounds
approx. 27 - 45kg +
3 cup per day if 60 pounds
3 1/2 cup per day if 70 pounds
3 3/4 cup per day if 80 pounds
4 1/4 cup per day if 90 pounds
4 1/2 cup per day if 100 pounds
Note: Add an extra 1/3 cup for every 10 pounds if your dog weighs over 100 pounds.
However, you know your dog best, and you know how much your dog can eat per day without packing on the weight.
Which leads us to the next important factor of a dog's energy usage...
Activity level of dog
One of the bigger factors in how much to feed your dog would be how active it is on a daily basis.
If your dog is active throughout the day (i.e. goes for long walks, runs around a lot, or is just a generally hyperactive furball) then it would make more sense to feed your dog a little more.
The recommended amount of daily exercise (if possible) for your dog would be between 30 minutes and 2 hours.
However, do be aware that certain breeds will need much more exercise (closer to the 2 hour mark) than others - a Husky definitely needs to run around and be active a lot more than a Chihuahua.
But that would also be at your discretion - you know your dogs better than we do.
Weight of dog
In this case, weight of the dog refers to whether your dog is in the healthy range of its breed.
For example, a male golden retriever golden retriever should be anywhere from 65 to 75 pounds (~ 30 - 35 kg). (src)
If it's above 35kg then the dog is a little on the heavier side, and less food should be given - an overweight dog can cause quite a lot of health issues later on in it's life, such as:
- Musculoskeletal problems like osteoarthritis, cruciate ligament ruptures, and intervertebral disk disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Labored breathing
- Cushing’s disease
- Skin disorders
- Some types of cancer
- Shortened life span
- Reduced quality of life
Likewise, below 30kg and it might be time to add a bit of extra food into its diet so that it'll be in the healthy range again.
Feeding schedules also quite a large part in your dog's overall feeding - a consistent feeding schedule can help your dog maintain good digestive health and weight.
This usually sets the rhythm for your dog's hunger as well; you'll know when your dog is hungry or when he's full.
It's also a better idea than having free feeding sessions, where a dog can eat whenever it wants (more on that below)
Treats also play an important part in managing your dogs weight because all treats contain a certain amount of calories.
These calories can, and will often add up to a dog gaining quite a bit of weight over time.
It has been estimated that treats can factor in up to 10% of a dog's calorific intake, a study suggests (src)
While of course that may or may not be the case for your dog, it's better to err on the side of caution - make sure that you also account for the treats you've given your dog in a day before pouring out their main meals and overfeed them!
Health of Dog
If they seem hungry all the them but are still underweight, you might need to feed them more (some dogs really burn a lot of calories even doing nothing)
Otherwise if you're already giving them extra portions and they don't seem to gain weight, it's worth a visit to the vet, as they might have some other issues that demand immediate attention!
For dogs that always seem hungry and are already overweight, a prescription diet plan might work better.
That said, the amount of food your dog needs may change if:
- Your dog becomes more active or is pregnant or nursing.
- The weather is very hot or cold.
- Your dog is recovering from surgery or an infection.
Before giving them more food, make sure they are not just looking for attention and love. And if they are, serve that up instead.
Sometimes puppies (and occasionally, rescue dogs) can be a little hardheaded with their own ways - here are some helpful tips to both feed your dog at appropriate times, as well as to help them bond with you even more!
Persuading your dog to eat
Sometimes dogs can be stubborn with their food - if you're struggling with a picky or stubborn pup, we recommend adding some bone broth or wet food to their meal to encourage them to eat.
If not wet food, you could also coax them to eat with a piece of treat inside their food!
Just take note of how much treats you give them, as too much will add to them gaining too much weight.
Limiting meal time
Sometimes if you leave your dog's food out the whole day, they might just ignore the food altogether.
To break this habit, have their food left at meal times for a maximum of 10 - 15 minutes.
Even if the dog doesn't touch it, take the food bowl away until the next meal time.
This will teach your dog to eat when the food is on the ground.
Free feeding is the direct opposite of the above - leaving their food on the ground all the time. This also lets your dog decide when it wants to eat.
Typically you leave out dry food like dog kibble so that it won't spoil by being out in the open for hours at a time.
This method is usually good for highly active dogs that burn a ton of calories - especially working dogs like sheepdogs on farms.
Free feeding is also great for dogs that are nursing or pregnant, as they will need all the calories and nutrients they can get to feed their babies and produce milk.
However, the free feeding method is not for all dogs - Limiting meal times is a far better method if your dogs are neither active nor nursing/pregnant.
Plus, the food being left out all day can result in insect or pest infestation inside your home as well!
Slow Their Eating Down
Some dogs inhale food within a second.
Eating too fast can be dangerous for dogs (choking hazard), so investing in a slow feeder dish will help them take it nice and slow.
Alternatively, get slightly bigger kibble that requires them to crunch on before they can swallow to slow their eating speed.
Some dogs just love to eat, forever.
For such dogs, it would be best to just limit the food portion they get every meal.
Before that, ask your vet what the ideal weight of your dog should be, and also ask how much you should taper down the quantity of food at first.
Remember to slowly taper their food portion, or else they'll still be hungry and you might risk them rooting through the trash for some extra food, which can be extremely dangerous for their health.
What about treats?
Dog treats should be less than 10% of your dog’s daily diet, as mentioned above.
Ask your vet about the number of treats this means for your dog. It’ll vary based on their weight and activity level.
If you need to use treats frequently for training, use very small pieces.
You can also set aside some of your dog's daily meal of kibbles to use as “treats” when you train.
To summarize, how much to feed your dog varies by quite a few factors, but the general guidelines in the tables above are what is set by the AKC themselves.
However, those numbers are just guidelines, and you should adjust to fit them to your dogs accordingly!
But which is better, dry dog food or wet dog food?
Coming up next!