When Is the Best Time to Feed Your Dog?

When Is the Best Time to Feed Your Dog?

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    As the saying goes, the way to a dog’s heart is through its stomach. If you want your dog to show affection to you, all you need to do is feed them!

    The big question is: when is the best time to feed your dog? That depends on several factors, such as the age of your furry friend. For example, newborn puppies and senior dogs will have very different feeding schedules.

    Another thing to consider here is the dog’s activity level. Active dogs burn lots of calories and may get hungry at unpredictable times. Some breeds also take more time to digest food or need help controlling their diet.

    Want to know more about when to feed your dog? Here are the key factors you should be aware of before creating its feeding schedule!

    Feeding Methods for Adult Dogs

    In general, there are three distinct methods of feeding adult dogs. These are scheduled feeding, free feeding, and controlled feeding.

    Scheduled Feeding

    This is the most common feeding method. It involves giving your pooch food twice a day, with about 8 to 12 hours in between. At the feedings, you give your dog half an hour to eat the food, then take the rest away.

    If you haven’t had pet dogs before, 8-12 hours may sound like a long time. However, the canine stomach needs at least 4-6 hours to digest food. The hunger signals don’t appear until at least eight hours after their last meal.

    Scheduled feeding is a great fit for people who go out to work during the day. This method allows you to feed your dog in the morning and when you return home. Still, try not to leave them alone for too long.

    Free Feeding

    Free feeding is a method that’s been rising in popularity in recent years. As the name implies, it consists of letting your pooch decide when to eat. You give them the whole portion at once, and they eat it at their leisure.

    Though this method has benefits, it also comes with caveats. First, you can only use dry food for it, as wet food will spoil. More importantly, this routine isn’t suitable for some breeds, as it can lead to overfeeding.

    In general, this method is best for highly active and healthy dogs. It also works for dogs that are nursing recently-born pups. Since their hunger is less predictable, letting them choose when to eat is often a positive.

    Keep in mind that many dogs defecate after eating. As such, this method isn’t a good fit for dogs suffering from incontinence. If your dog isn’t in this group but still makes a mess, teach them the basics of potty training.

    Controlled Portions

    Controlled feeding only works with dogs struggling with weight problems. It involves carefully measuring the amount of food your pooch gets each day. In doing so, you’ll be able to control their weight and prevent overfeeding.

    If you opt for this method, consult a vet beforehand. They’ll tell you what the healthy weight for your dog is and how to help them achieve it. Controlled feeding methods usually consist of two portions 8-12 hours apart.

    Feeding Methods for Puppies

    Puppies’ feeding schedules are very different than those of adult dogs. Here’s how often to feed your puppy based on their age.

    Puppies Aged 6-12 Weeks

    Growing puppies generally need four feedings a day to meet their nutritional needs. This will aid both their digestion and energy levels. Large breeds can start eating dry food at 9-10 weeks, and small breeds at 12 weeks.

    As for how much you can feed your puppy, there’s a simple formula for it. Ideally, you should feed them 1/50 of their body weight each day. If your puppy weighs, say, 12 lbs, you can give them 0.25 lbs of food each day.

    For best results, divide this food into equal portions throughout the day. Some treats between meals are fine, especially during training. That said, avoid meat treats that contain harmful ingredients.

    Puppies Aged 3-6 Months

    Slightly older puppies tend to only need three feedings a day. During this period, they’ll start losing their pudginess and acquire a leaner body type. Their portion sizes should remain the same.

    Puppies Aged 6-12 Months

    This is the ideal time to switch to two bigger portions a day. You can also transition them to adult dog food. Before doing that, though, consult the vet to ensure the puppy has reached all its developmental milestones.

    Keep in mind that reducing a puppy’s meals can cause them to get upset. They may try to trick you into giving them more food with their puppy eyes. As long as you persevere a bit, they’ll get used to the new schedule.

    If your puppy keeps asking for more food, try to take their mind off it. Playing with them or taking them for a walk will do the trick. And remember: even if a dog seems upset, you should still do what’s best for them.

    When Is the Best Time to Feed Your Dog?

    Now that you know how much your dog or puppy should eat, let’s talk about creating their feeding schedule.

    General Guidelines

    For a smaller puppy (6-12 weeks), the feeding schedule should look like this:

    • Breakfast: 7 AM
    • Mid-Day Meal: 12 PM
    • Afternoon Snack: 4:30 PM
    • Dinner: 8 PM

    Once they’re three months old, you can move the mid-day meal to 2 PM and get rid of the afternoon snack. Puppies aged 6-12 months and adult dogs should have the following schedule:

    • Morning Meal: 8 AM
    • Evening Meal: 8 PM

    Feeding Time Tips

    You don’t have to follow the above schedule to the letter, but you should set a designated feeding time. This will allow your pooch’s metabolism to get acclimated to this schedule and learn when to expect the next meal.

    For the same reason, you should always use the same feeding place. Dogs are creatures of habit and keeping their food at different places can confuse them. Choose a spot that’s clean and provides no major distractions.

    If you’re going with a scheduled feeding approach, never leave the food out for too long. If you do, your furry friend will get the idea that it can eat at any time. Setting the rules of eating is particularly important with puppies.

    Randomness in a Feeding Schedule

    Once you’ve set your feeding schedule, try introducing some flexibility to it. This is where dogs are very similar to most other pets. A routine blended with flexibility is the key to raising happy dogs.

    Let’s say you intend to feed your dog exactly at 8 AM every day. If they get used to this, they may get upset if you’re even a little bit late. The stricter a schedule is, the less adaptable your dog will learn to be.

    Plus, a strict feeding schedule can be unrealistic for owners as well. How often will you need to run errands during feeding time? To avoid any issues, get your pooch used to a regular schedule with a bit of randomness.

    When Not to Feed Your Dog

    In general, your dog’s feeding schedule can be as flexible as you want. That said, there are some situations where you should avoid feeding them. This should always be done in the interest of their safety and well-being.

    First, never feed your dog before vigorous exercises like running. This can lead to stomach bloat, which is a life-threatening condition. If your dog is going to socialization classes, don’t feed them for three hours before it.

    Leash walks after a meal are fine, as long as you keep an eye on your pooch. That said, you’re usually better off feeding them after the walk. This will give them more time to digest their food and rest before their next walk.

    Nutritional Requirements for Dogs

    Beyond deciding when to feed your dog, you’ll also need to consider their caloric needs. This can have a big impact on their feeding schedule.

    Factors That Determine Caloric Needs

    The main factor that determines how much a dog can eat is its size. Bigger dogs need more energy than smaller ones. Small breeds with long coats, like Yorkshire Terriers, need even fewer calories to stay warm.

    It’s also important to consider your dog’s body type. Muscular dog breeds tend to need more calories than similarly sized, less muscular breeds. That’s because muscles burn more calories than fat.

    Keep in mind that dogs rely on sex hormones to maintain muscle mass. As a result, spayed and neutered dogs won’t need as many calories. Pregnant or nursing unspayed females may need more calories to support puppies.

    Finally, don’t overlook the variations among individual dogs. These variations can cause two dogs of the same breed to have different metabolic rates. Some medical conditions can also affect caloric needs.

    Calculating a Dog’s Caloric Needs

    As you can see, determining your dog’s caloric needs is no walk in the park. That said, you can still use a formula to get a general idea of where you’ll need to be. The formula is fairly simple:

    Daily caloric needs for dogs = (Dog’s weight in kg x 30) + 70

    Let’s say your dog weighs 55 pounds or 25 kg. Using the above formula, you’d get (25 x 30) + 70, which comes out to 820 calories per day. Again, you’d divide this up into 2-4 equal portions, depending on the dog’s age.

    Nutrients in Foods

    Once you have a general idea of your dog’s intake needs, you can create their ideal diet. To do that, let’s go over the nutritional requirement chart:

    • Carbohydrates: 40-50%
    • Proteins: 20-30%
    • Fats: 5-20%
    • Minerals: 1-4%
    • Vitamins: 1%

    All dog foods have labels that tell you which nutrients they contain. For a better idea of what your dog should eat, here are some foods that contain key nutrients:

    • Carbohydrates: Oats, potatoes, millets, brown rice
    • Proteins: Cottage cheese, lentils, chickpeas, pulses
    • Fats: Nuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, avocados
    • Minerals: Broccoli, tofu, cauliflower, green beans
    • Vitamins: Fruits and vegetables

    Other Considerations

    By now, you should have a good idea of when to feed your dog. Here are a few final things to consider before creating their feeding schedule.

    Can a Dog Eat Once a Day?

    Yes, some dogs are fine with eating a single meal per day. That’s because larger breeds don’t need to work as much to regulate their blood sugar. As a result, they can get by with one meal without their blood sugar getting low.

    That said, even large dogs would prefer two meals a day. Feeding time isn’t only about dietary needs; it’s a fun activity! Even if a dog wolfs down its kibble in five minutes, it’s something they’re looking forward to.

    How Does a Dog Know It’s Time to Eat?

    Once you’ve established a routine feeding time, your dog won’t let you forget it. When that time arrives, they’ll often start pawing at their bowl until it’s full. Think of them as your little helper and indulge their wish!

    As for how a dog knows it’s time to eat, it’s all about circadian rhythms. If you feed them at certain times, they’ll instinctively get used to it. Some dogs also “smell time,” as each part of the day smells differently to them.

    How Many Treats Can a Dog Have?

    A common rule for treats states they shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily diet. Again, the easiest way to determine that is to use the calorie formula we outlined above.

    Ideally, you would only use treats as a reward for good behavior. If this means you’re giving out more of them, make them smaller. Fortunately, there are plenty of brands offering protein-rich mini-training rewards.

    Now You Know When to Feed Your Dog!

    So, when is the best time to feed your dog? That depends on a variety of factors, such as age, breed, and dietary needs. The above guide will help you determine the best feeding routine for your furry friend!

    Want to know more about how to take care of your dog? At PetMarvelous, we offer a variety of practical tips on enhancing any pet’s well-being. You can also get in touch with us for expert advice on pet care!

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