A puppy's first year entails constant growth, requiring plenty of time spent eating, sleeping and playing. Because his little body consumes calories like crazy, he needs to eat throughout the day to stay healthy. This schedule isn't a life-long habit, and usually tapers off by about 6 months of age.
Eating Like a Big Boy
When your tiny puppy is still nursing from his mother, you may not notice how often he eats. By about his first month's birthday he should be ready to move on to big boy food, typically involving an offering of soft, moistened food to make it easier for him to nosh on. This mushy mash, offered three or four times a day, weans him from his mother's milk over the course of a few weeks. Day by day, harder food is gradually included so by about 2 months of age, he should be able to crunch away at his puppy food without problem. This gradual introduction to solid food also helps prevent upset tummies, as it's so different from the all-liquid diet he had with Mom.
Three Square Meals
Once your puppy is comfortably chowing down on solid food, your job is to keep him happily fed. Some people like to let their pups free-feed, which essentially means leaving a bowl of food out at all times and letting the puppy decide when and how much to eat. Although this is easier, this could cause problems with house-training and obesity, as your pup needs to potty after eating and could end up snacking when he's bored. Feeding him three equal-sized meals throughout the day ensures he gets an adequate amount of nutrition and calories regularly, instead of small amounts from the occasional bite here and there.
Pull It Back
So your quickly-growing puppy has been getting his three square meals a day since about 2 months of age. This regular schedule serves him well when he's little, but as he gets older his growth rate and nutrition needs change. By the time he reaches about 6 months old, he usually isn't growing quite as quickly as he did before, meaning he doesn't need as much food as often. Instead of three meals a day, cut his feedings back to two. Most puppy food bags offer guidelines for the amount of food your pooch needs based on his age and weight, but you can consult with your vet for professional recommendations.
Switching to Adult Formula
Puppy food is high in calories and the essential nutrients he needs to grow healthy and strong, but these very things could cause obesity and orthopedic issues for an adult dog. There's no hard and fast rule for switching your puppy to an adult food, as the recommendations vary depending on what breed your pooch is. Smaller breeds tend to mature faster than larger ones, and could require a food change as early as 10 months old. Larger breeds, those weighing more than 80 pounds, could take as long as two years to reach their adult size. When in doubt, talk to your vet. Switching too early could deprive your still-growing puppy of essential nutrients, but waiting too long could cause health issues in your adult dog.
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