How often you feed your dog can have a huge impact on their energy levels, weight, and general health. After some trial and error, we have found a feeding schedule that works very well for our Boston terrier, Nickel, who has a bit of a sensitive stomach. Along the way, we learned a lot about different ways to feed your dog and the pros and cons of these methods which is what we will be sharing with you today.
Nickel enjoying her breakfast. This early meal gives her fuel to play hard until dinner time.
Why Is Feeding Frequently Important?
It is typically recommended that you feed your dog at least twice a day so that they can maintain higher and more consistent levels of energy. Much like humans, eating in the morning provides an instant energy boost and helps your dog to wake up quicker. Refueling with a dinner time meal helps to prevent slumps in energy by providing more fuel throughout the day for your pup. Feeding your dog three times a day can be a wonderful way of providing consistent fuel. Of course, if you work outside the home this may not be an option and in that case, twice a day should certainly be sufficient at keeping your dog happy and cared for.
How Often We Feed Nickel
We have had the most success feeding Nickel her dog food twice daily (morning and evening) and then providing her with a scoop of plain Greek yogurt in the middle of the day. She loves this special treat and Greek yogurt is full of healthy probiotics which are wonderful for the gut. Nickel has a rather sensitive stomach and due to her brachycephalic syndrome is more prone to regurgitation. Giving her a dollop of Greek yogurt is wonderful for her general health and has the added benefit of keeping her stomach a little more settled.
Feeding her dog food twice a day is also helpful at not overwhelming her stomach which is great for avoiding regurgitation. Overall, we recommend listening to your dog and trying different combinations and frequencies of feeding. Nickel has responded best to a scoop of Greek yogurt and two smaller meals of dog food throughout the day. Once we found this combination we have not strayed and it’s worked out wonderfully for Nickel!
Nickel enjoying a little bit of peanut butter off a spoon. It’s a very special treat that she very much enjoys!
What Does The Label Say?
Reading the label on your dog food is highly important. Many dog foods include allergens like corn or wheat which can irritate your dog’s digestive system. Look for meat to be one of the first ingredients on the dog food label. Other things in your dog’s food should sound appetizing to you, such as apples, broccoli, and yams. If a lot of the ingredients don’t sound appetizing to you then they probably aren’t very appetizing to your dog or very healthy options for them.
Another important thing to note is what the label recommends for the frequency of feeding. The Purina dog food company suggests looking at the label and comparing your dog’s size and age to get an idea of how often you should feed your dog. After figuring out the appropriate serving size, divide that into smaller meals for your dog throughout the day. Most importantly continue to observe your dog as you know them best.
Are they lethargic with only one meal? Try breaking your dog’s meals up so that they have more consistent energy throughout the day and aren’t weighed down by a large meal.
Unable to play at night after eating without discomfort? Consider changing up their nighttime meal to an earlier time to see if this helps their discomfort. Nickel is more prone to regurgitating her food if we play with her immediately after a meal, which is common with many dogs. Try to let your dog have a little time for their food to settle even if they are pressing you to play ball.
Gaining weight? Try feeding your dog a little less and keep an eye on any treats. Also, consider that it might be the type of dog food you are feeding them and consider a change in what you are feeding them. It’s becoming more popular to prepare human grade food for your dog. This type of feeding is more work intensive but it can have massive health benefits for your pup.
Nickel being weighed at the vet. We keep a close eye on how many treats she is getting and if we are overfeeding her which helps us to keep her at a healthy weight. Our poor vet just has to get her to stand still long enough to be weighed accurately!
Create A Feeding Schedule & Avoiding Free Feeding
Just like humans, dogs do much better with consistency. Due to this, we recommend keeping a regular feeding schedule. We remember to do this with Nickel by feeding her breakfast and dinner whenever we sit down to eat, which is roughly within the same hour every day. Your dog will quickly learn to eat when the food is offered at these times which keeps their digestive system more regular as an added bonus. This will help your dog to regularly poop at the same time every day.
Feeding your dog at the same time every day is crucial for noticing if anything is wrong faster. If your dog is always excited to eat but suddenly doesn’t touch their food when offered this is an indication that something is off with your dog. In this situation, we recommend closely monitoring your dog and calling your veterinarian for guidance.
Free feeding is a feeding method where your dog’s food is left out all day for them to eat whenever they please. This method can be very problematic as it doesn’t provide any structure for your dog’s digestive system. Unlike scheduled feedings, dogs on free feeding will not have a regular pooping schedule and you will not be able to see any warning signs if they don’t eat when you provide them food as they are used to the food being there all day. If you have multiple pets they may fight over the food even if there is plenty to eat which could be dangerous. This can be avoided by having individual bowls and scheduled feeding times so that you can monitor your pets.
Per Pet MD, sometimes very active dogs or dogs that are nursing might be recommended by a vet to be on the free feeding diet as they need a constant source of energy. In general, though, this method is discouraged as it often leads to weight gain, irregular digestion, and leaves you with fewer cues if your dog isn’t eating. Leaving food out all day can also attract insects or other animals to your home which is less than desirable.
What About Puppies?
Puppies have smaller stomachs and can only consume so much food at one time. They need more frequent feedings to maintain their energy and ensure healthy growth. It’s typically recommended that puppies are fed three to five times a day. Check with your veterinarian to see what they suggest for your puppies so that they can have optimal nutrition during this huge growth period in their lives.
Nickel mid-chew at breakfast. She gets very excited for her food and usually scarfs it down when we put her bowl down so she can fuel up for her busy day of ball play.
At the end of the day, every dog is unique. We recommend trying to feed your dog twice a day with at least a rough schedule so that they have plenty of energy and more consistent digestive systems. Monitor your dog and use your gut to deduce whether or not a system or particular dog food is working out. With a caring owner such as yourself, your dog is truly a lucky dog!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.