What should you feed your dog

A bulldog bending over a food bowl eating from it

Short answer? It depends. Adult dogs can eat 1 to 2 times per day, while puppies need anywhere between 3 to 6 meals, though most are fine with 3 to 4. Puppies need approximately twice as much food as an adult dog of similar size–so, for example, if an adult dog weighing 10 pounds needs 350 calories, a 10-pound puppy needs 700. Growing is a lot of work! If you need help figuring out how much to feed your pup, use an online calorie counter as a starting point.

What to look for in dog food

Dogs are descended from omnivores and can eat meat, grains, and vegetables. At least 10 percent of their calories should come from protein. Puppies need puppy-specific or all life stages food, which is often higher in fat and protein than adult dog food to support their growth.

The product should contain the statement “NAME is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.” Look specifically for food that is labeled as a “complete” diet with all required nutrients. Anything labeled “short-term,” “intermittent,” or “complementary” is intended to supplement your pup’s diet.

How to use your dogs food as a training aid

Meals aren’t the only time your dog eats. Treats are an integral part of training. Reserving some of their daily portion of food and mixing it with high-value treats allows you to keep calories within an appropriate range.

Food can also be used to provide mental stimulation. Put it in a kong, a Toppl, a sniff mat, or another puzzle toy to help your dog burn off energy. Hand feeding can also be a powerful bonding tool, especially if you and your pup are still getting to know each other, and provides an opportunity to work on bite inhibition and build impulse control.

Why use food rewards in modern dog training

As a reinforcer, food is more effective than praise and petting. It can be used to mark and reward behavior more efficiently and precisely than play and is more usable in daily life.

Food can also alter a dog’s dopamine levels, allowing handlers to change a dog’s brain chemistry over time. Food and fear are incompatible in a dog’s brain–if a dog is focused on food, they are not focusing on a source of anxiety or stress.

Interested in taking it further? Gentle Beast covers canine health and nutrition in greater detail. Each workshop is led by veterinarian Dr. Jessica Lowe or pet behavior expert Alex Sessa. They walk you through the basics of dog ownership step-by-step.

About the Author

A picture of Melody smiling towards the camera
Melody Lee
Contributing Writer

Melody Lee is a contributing writer for Gentle Beast, and is a CPDT-KA dog trainer. She lives in Manhattan with two feral cats, Littlepip and Alphonse, that tolerate her clicker training attempts. One day, her cats might let her adopt a dog of her own.

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