How much food should I feed my puppy?

On the back of almost all dog food bags is a recommended daily serving for a dog. The question we get many times is “How accurate is the recommended daily serving size?” “Is it the same for puppies as for adults?” In this blog, we will do our best to answer these common questions.

The Dangers of an Obese Golden Retriever

Obesity is rampant in Golden Retrievers and especially English Cream Golden Retrievers. MOST Golden Retrievers I have come in contact with are obese. Obesity causes beaucoup problems in Golden Retrievers and is one of the main reasons Goldens get hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, heart problems and even several types of cancer. Many people believe dysplasia is simply genetic. That is perhaps only 50% true. Genetics are very important and because of that Recherche Goldens only breeds Golden Retrievers that are in the top 20% of Golden Retrievers in hip scores.

Not only do our Golden Retrievers NOT have dysplasia, but they have very tight hips. This is accomplished by purchasing English Golden Retrievers with generations of healthy parents. But genetics only account for roughly half the reason dogs get elbow or hip dysplasia. The other major causes are diet and exercise. If you run 10 miles a day with your Golden Retriever, especially while young, then your Golden Retriever’s chance of getting dysplasia goes up dramatically. If your dog is obese and carrying around 20% more weight than he/she needs to, they are at a significantly higher risk of dysplasia. It’s so important that Recherche Goldens voids their warranty if the Golden Retriever in question is found to be obese.

Never Trust Your Golden Retriever!

One of our pups fell asleep while eating!

Never decide how much you feed your dog based on how hungry your Golden Retriever is. Golden Retrievers are notoriously food oriented…more than any breed I have personally come across. They love food…I mean they LOVE food. Most Golden Retrievers will eat and eat and eat if allowed to and will become morbidly obese if permitted.

Please remember this…unless your dog has a major health issue like a thyroid problem, if your dog is obese it is YOUR FAULT! This might sound blunt, but it’s very important to know that you alone are responsible for teaching proper behaviors and habits in your puppy. You have the ability to limit your dog’s intake and you should take advantage of that opportunity daily.

Goldens will almost always overeat if given the opportunity, so you cannot trust their appetite. I have had many emails from clients saying things like “You don’t understand…my dog is always hungry.” Most Goldens eat like they’ve never eaten a day in their life, rarely chew their food and beg for more.

We even have had Golden Retrievers that eat so fast they vomit EVERY meal…and eat it again. For those dogs, we implement a couple of strategies, since eating and throwing up is not healthy. First, soak their food with water moments before feeding them. You don’t want the food to sit in water for long because the dry kibble is actually good for cleaning their teeth. This little technique of filling their bowl up with water forces them to slow down while eating .

The second technique we use is feeding our dogs from a slow feed bowl. There are many new ones coming out every year, so you can get creative. Just remember…do not feed your Golden Retriever based on their appetite!

Every Golden Retriever Has a Different Metabolism

One of the dangers of giving a standardized amount of food to your dog is that we stop continually monitoring our dogs’ weight. Every Golden Retriever is different. We have some Golden Retrievers that eat only 1 1/2 cups of food per day total and we have others that eat 5-6 cups of food per day. Just like people, every Golden Retriever has a different metabolism…and that changes. Like humans, the older a dog gets the slower their metabolism normally is.

Their metabolism is also based on their activity level. Obviously the more active your Golden Retriever is, the faster their metabolism is and the more they can eat. Our average adult and puppy Golden Retriever gets 2 1/2 – 3 cups of TLC Whole Life Puppy Food to eat total per day. But that’s average. Some will need more and some will need less. We recommend feeding your puppy twice a day. We feed them after training them at around 9 am and a second time at around 3-4 pm. The same schedule can be kept when they become adults. You could just feed them once a day, but the Golden Retrievers would rather eat twice a day! As your pup gets older, you can move the second feeding to later and even feed your adult after 5 pm.

Know How to Tell if a Golden Retriever is at a Healthy SIZE

dog weightThe greatest lesson we can teach you is to learn what a healthy SIZE looks and feels like for your Golden Retriever. Notice that I don’t say “Weight.” “Weight” is deceiving. It can change. As a puppy grows it changes all the time. You must be able to feel a dog’s side to determine if your dog is at a healthy size or not. You have to look THROUGH their coat and feel the actual fat that they have. Your dog could look great to you, but after further investigation could be too thin or too fat.

Here’s the key….Feel the skin located on the rib cage/side of your Golden Retriever. How thick is that skin/fat? Your goal is for that skin to be as thick as a sweater. If it feels like a t-shirt then your Golden Retriever is too skinny. If it feels like 2 sweaters then your Golden Retriever is too fat. You may say, “But my Golden Retriever only weighs 67 lbs!” The actual weight means little…how fat is your Golden Retriever? You do not want your Golden overweight because, as mentioned before, it leads to many problems like dysplasia, heart issues and even cancer. It also voids our warranty if a Golden Retriever is found to be overweight.

Review the picture to the right. Most people would say the Golden in the top photo is too skinny, but the truth is that the top Golden Retriever is at a healthy weight.

The Choice is Yours

Remember: if your Golden is overweight, it’s your fault. Giving your dog table scraps, just guessing at how much food you should give, giving too many treats…all cause obesity. You must make everyone in the family commit to keeping your dog healthy, trim and fit. Always measure how much food they are getting. You should know how many cups of food your dog eats daily.  If you don’t, it’s because you are not being careful enough with how much food your dog is consuming.

Telling your dog “no” is another way of saying “I love you.” Do you want your Golden to still be around past 10 years of age? Do you want your Golden Retriever to not limp and be in pain when he/she gets older? The eating habits you establish for your Golden Retriever will be a huge determining factor in the quality of life that your pup has!