It can be hard to know how often and how much to feed your dog. Some have voracious appetites and could seemingly eat for England. Others may need a bit more temptation.
In an ideal world, dogs should eat two meals every day. These should be around 12 hours apart, so each meal lasts for an equal amount of time. But if it works better for you and your dog, they could be given three meals every day, in time with your human dinnertimes.
Having a schedule can help with your busy life, and keep your dog on track too. Your feeding schedule should depend on your dog, your lifestyle and the overall best care for a dog. It can also depend on whether they have wet food, dry food or a mixture of both as you may need to calculate portion sizes more finely.
Feeding a dog at the same time every day helps to keep their digestive system regular, and can make their toilet times a lot more predictable too.
When should I feed my dog?
Your dog’s feeding schedule should probably work around yours, too. So if you have breakfast at 7 am and dinner at 7 pm, feeding your dog at these times makes a lot of sense.
Likewise, if you come home for lunch and your dog is usually hungry, it may make sense to split their meals into three over the day.
The most important thing is that they shouldn’t consume too much food throughout the day. Look at the guide on your dog food packet and see how much food they recommend. This amount can be split in to as many (or as few) meals throughout the day as you think is best.
There are some things to consider, though:
- Don’t feed them just before you leave the house. They may not eat, or they may need the toilet when you’re out
- Think about convenience. If you’re out of the house during the day, a morning and evening meal makes more sense
- Your dog may prefer three smaller meals compared to two bigger meals. If they leave some food or are really hungry between meals, consider adapting to suit their wishes
- Your dog shouldn’t eat just before or after exercising. This leads to bloat, which can be fatal. If you’re more restricted on the time you walk them compared to when you feed them, you may wish to think about this
- Don’t leave more than 12 hours between a meal. This can cause hyperacidity and nausea
My dog eats too fast – what should I do?
If your dog wolfs down its food, this can be cause for concern. As the food swells in their stomach, they could suffer from bloat or even sickness.
Splitting their daily intake into three or four meals, rather than two, could mean this quick eating has less of a negative effect on their stomach. You can also buy slow feeder bowls. Some dogs simply get tired of having to hunt out their food, so come back to it after a rest. Others will get too full after only eating half of the meal, coming back to the rest afterwards.
My dog seems to prefer grazing – what can I do?
Some dogs can regulate their food intake really well throughout the day, naturally. If they feel full, they will leave the rest of the meal and go back to it later.
Observe them for a little while and see if they seem to always eat at the same time. For example, if they are fed at 8 am, then always go back to their dish at 12 pm and 3 pm before dinner at 7 pm, you may wish to just split their meals into four smaller portions. Use a measuring cup to ensure they’re equal.
But if they go back to their food as and when they want to, as long as it stays fresh in the bowl you can just allow them to do as they wish. You may think it is a better idea to give them 2/3 of their daily intake in the morning to graze with, then 1/3 at night if they sometimes leave some before bed.
Again, slow feeder bowls or food toys are also available, which can give your dog their food in stages throughout the day if you’re concerned about it sitting too long in their bowl.