Feeding Your Labrador Puppy

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feeding a labrador puppy

In this article we answer your concerns about feeding your Labrador puppy. You’ll find all the information that you need for choosing the best dog food for Lab puppies. Including how much to feed your Lab puppy and how often to feed your Labrador puppy. Together with schedules, quantities and even a handy puppy diet chart.

There are often questions on the website about feeding Labrador puppies. People ask if it is OK to give puppies eggs, or rice, or milk, and so on.

They also want to know how much to feed their puppies, and how often.

When I was small,  puppies were fed on all sorts of things, including scraps, raw meat, canned puppy food,  puppy meal, weetabix and milk, etc.

Nowadays feeding your Labrador puppy is usually much simpler.

If you want to find out how to feed an adult Labrador then check out our extensive guide here.

Best puppy food for Labs

We all want the best for our puppies. But what is the best puppy food for labs? Most puppies are fed on commercially produced dry dog food known as kibble.  We’ll look at different brands of dry puppy food in a moment.

But it is possible to feed a puppy on home cooked food or on a totally raw diet.  You’ve probably heard of BARF or biologically appropriate raw food.

Feeding dogs this way is growing in popularity, and there are pros and cons to raw feeding puppies, which we’ll be looking at here.

The alternatives are

  • Kibble (dry food)
  • Barf (raw food)
  • Wet food (cans and pouches)
  • Home cooked puppy food

Let’s look at what the experts say

Experts disagree on puppy feeding

Even experts disagree on what is the best food for puppies, and people often feel very strongly that one way of feeding is better than another.

You will find veterinarians on youtube pronouncing that BARF is the only way to keep a dog healthy, and veterinarians pronouncing that kibble is the only way you should feed your puppy, with dire consequences if you attempt to go ‘natural’

Dog breeders too tend to be divided into those that feed a natural raw diet, and those that feed kibble.  And you will find plenty of wild claims for the benefits of one method over the other.

The truth is, there is no good quality evidence that kibble is better for the long term health of your dog, or that raw feeding is better for the health of your dog.  And there are risks and benefits to both.

Choosing which puppy feeding method to use

Some dogs and some families are better suited to raw feeding, and many dogs and their families are probably better suited to feeding kibble.  And you can choose the method that suits you best.

If like most people, you choose to feed your puppy on commercial dry puppy food, you should not feel that you are letting him down in any way.   Let’s look now at feeding puppies kibble.  This is how most modern puppies are fed in the USA and the UK

Feeding your Labrador puppy on kibble

In most parts of the world you can buy ready-made pelleted puppy food of good quality.
Otherwise known as ‘kibble’, these dried, pelleted foods come in sacks or cartons.

They store well provided that you don’t get them damp.

Most vets and breeders believe that kibble is the best way to feed a puppy.  And you are likely to get support from your vet if you decide to feed your puppy on dry food.

Here are some dry dog food options you might like to choose from.

A good puppy kibble will contain every nutrient your Labrador puppy needs in order to grow and remain healthy.

What other food should you feed with puppy kibble?

I cannot stress this too strongly:  if you are feeding  kibble you don’t need to feed anything else apart from water.

Puppy kibble from a reputable manufacture  is intended to be a complete and balanced food.  There is no need to add anything else to it, and doing so may do more harm than good.

If you are feeding kibble, pick a good source and stick with it.

What about feeding puppies on raw food?

Some people feel that kibble is not the best way to feed a dog.

kong gyro dog  toySome people are worried about the long term effects of feeding kibble,  and believe there are advantages to feeding a more natural raw diet.

I feed my own dogs this way.

But, I would caution people from switching puppies to raw in a hurry. There are pros and cons to raw feeding which need to be carefully considered before plunging in.

If this way of feeding appeals to you, do get yourself a good book on raw diets for dogs.  Tom Lonsdale’s book is a good choice, and check out the articles below.

You need to do a fair amount of research on the nutritional needs of puppies in order to maintain a balanced diet during this period of rapid growth.

Here is a link to the articles you need to help you decide whether or not raw feeding is for you:

How much should I feed my lab puppy?

People often tell me how much their puppy weighs and ask me how much his food should weigh.

I have put up a puppy diet guide below, to give you an idea of what quantities you should be feeding.

Risks of overfeeding your puppy

It is very important that you don’t overfeed your puppy.  Overfed puppies may grow too fast and this can be very bad for them.

Labradors and other larger breed dogs are at risk of bone and joint abnormalities if they grow too quickly.

The puppy diet chart is for kibble fed puppies and does not apply to raw fed pups

Labrador puppy diet chart

The puppy feeding chart below is only a very rough guide.  The quantity you need to feed your puppy will vary depending on your puppy, and on the brand of food you are feeding him.
puppy feeding chart

Choosing best brand of puppy food

A good brand of dog food is one that will provide all your puppy’s nutrients, and keep him healthy, without costing you a small mortgage each week.

The cost of puppy food

Some brands of food are more concentrated than others.  The cheaper ones may contain more ‘fillers’ in the form of extra carbohydrates, usually made from grain.

The absence of these fillers means that you often have to feed lower quantities of more costly food making them less expensive than they might at first seem

You might also find on a cheaper brand that your puppy poos more as a result of those extra fillers going straight through him.

High quality brands of puppy food

Some brands of puppy food have developed a reputation for a high quality product and have many devoted supporters, including breeders that have fed them to generations of puppies.

We’ve selected some good quality brands in our Amazon puppy picks above

Orijen - one of the best puppy food choices
Biologically Appropriate Kibble

Another of our favourites is Orijen Large Breed Puppy Formula.

We also like Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Book Large Breed Puppy Food.

Orijen and Nature’s Variety (and some of the other more expensive brands), rely on legumes like lentils and chick peas as a source of carbs, rather than grain.

They both have good ratings on Dog Food Advisor, an independent dog food review site where you can find lots more information on the ingredients of different brands of dog food.

Availability of puppy food

The big brands are widely available now in many parts of the world and have a valuable reputation to maintain.

So the chances are, your puppy will be eating a good quality product if you choose one of them.

labrador puppy feeding and puppy food guideOn the packet, your puppy food should give you the manufacturers quantity guidelines for that brand.

Again, this is a rough guide only. And should not be followed slavishly.  Overfed puppies may get diahorrea and /or become obese and /or grow too quickly. I’ll explain below how to figure out if your puppy is getting too fat or too thin.

Following puppy feeding quantity guidelines

Not every puppy in each age group will fall within the weights on the chart above. This does not mean that there is something  wrong with your puppy.

It’s simply that there is a big variation in weight between puppies of the same age, and for that reason, there is also a variation in the quantity of food puppies of the same age and weight might nee.

Use the guidelines on the packet as a guide,  then observe and feel your puppy to check how he is doing.

Where to feed your puppy

If you feed your puppy in a family room when he is small, he will get used to eating with people milling around him.

Food guarding

Some puppies may attempt at some point to guard their food by growling.  This is more likely if he has been used to eating in isolation and is suddenly expected to eat in front of people.

Don’t panic if your  tiny friend starts food guarding, it is an easy thing to sort out, but it does need to be done properly.

Don’t punish him, that will make things worse. You will need to follow the instructions in this link in order to stop your puppy growling over food.

Feeding in his crate

It can be helpful to feed your puppy some of his meals in his crate, especially if he is a bit unsure about whether or not the crate is a good thing.  You can read more about this in my in-depth guide to crate training

Choosing the right food (and water) bowls

There is plenty of choice when it comes to choosing a food bowl for your puppy.  You can if you wish, simply feed your puppy from one of your own plates or bowls.

My own preference is for a simple stainless steel bowl.  They are dishwasher safe, don’t break, and last a lifetime.

water-bowl
pretty paw print ceramic bowl

The only disadvantage is that they can be a bit noisy when the puppy chases the empty bowl around the kitchen!

And to be fair, there are plenty of much prettier bowls on the market if that is what appeals to you.

I recommend a really heavy ceramic bowl for water, simply because they are so difficult for your puppy to tip up – and he will try!

Keeping your puppy at the right weight

It is important that your does not get too fat,  nor too thin.  But you have some leeway here,  and should increase or decrease his rations accordingly as he grows.

The most common problem is puppies that get too fat.  Labrador puppies should not be rotund!

By three months or so  they should have definite waist just like older dogs.  Check out this page for more information and don’t forget that if you are unsure about your puppy,  your vet is the best person to guide you. feeding2

What if your puppy is too thin?

If you are worried about your puppy’s growth rate it is a good idea to take him along to your vet for check up.

Don’t just double his food, it’s possible that a sudden increase in quantity will upset his tummy and make matters worse.

If you can see your puppy’s ribs, or if he weighs a lot less than the weights on the chart above for his age, get your vet to have a look at him.

How often should you feed your Labrador puppy?

Like most baby animals, puppies need feeding more often than adult dogs.  Right now, your puppy’s growth is the fastest it will ever be in his life.  He needs plenty of calories to fuel that growth, as well as the right nutrients.

If you feed his whole day’s ration in one go, his digestive system will be overwhelmed and he’ll end up with diarrhoea.  So you need to make sure that your puppy’s daily ration of food is broken up into several small meals, fed three to four hours apart.

Feeding little and often is a great way of preventing tummy upsets and if your puppy has rather loose stools on three meals a day,  try breaking his ration up into four meals a day for a while.

As a rule of thumb puppies fed on kibble require

  • Four meals a day from eight weeks to three months
  • Three meals a day from three months to six months
  • Two meals a day thereafter

Mealtimes and schedules: or when to feed your puppy

Your puppy’s feeding schedule can fit in with your personal preferences up to a point.  Don’t try and cram all his meals into the evening for example.  If you have to work during the day, you’ll need to make sure someone comes in to feed him.

You can’t just leave a puppy’s food ration for  the day down for him, he’ll eat  it all at once.

Ad libitum puppy feeding

You may have heard of the ad lib feeding system where puppies can help themselves to food at any time from a hopper.

The idea is that the puppy will regulate his own food intake if food is never restricted.  However, studies have shown that puppies fed this way have a higher incidence of bone and joint problems. So it really is not a good idea.

Choosing the right time of day to give your puppy his meals is important, because it is linked to getting your puppy clean and dry at night.  And can influence how long your puppy sleeps for at night.

First meal of the day

It is tempting to fill up that little puppy bowl, as soon as your puppy wakes you in the morning.  But I caution you against doing this.

Puppies love food, and all the attention that goes with being fed.  If you feed your puppy at 6am, because he has woken you and seems hungry, the chances are he’ll wake you at at 5:45 the following day!

Remember, feeding is a powerful reinforcer of behavior. If you don’t want to encourage your puppy to wake you up earlier each morning, don’t feed him as soon as you get up.

Have a set time for breakfast, and don’t feed him before then, even if he has been awake for two hours.  He won’t starve in that short period of time.

Last meal before bed

Try to space your puppies meals out fairly evenly throughout the day. But most importantly, don’t feed your puppy just before you put him to bed for the night.

I like to leave at least a four hour gap between the puppy’s last meal, and his bedtime. This helps to reduce the risk that he will want to use the bathroom at 2 am.

Example puppy feeding schedule

My puppy feeding times for 8 week old puppies tend to be something like this

  • 7am
  • 11am
  • 3pm
  • 7pm

You don’t need to be a slave to the clock, but this is just to give you an idea.

Then at 12 weeks I go to

  • 8am
  • 1pm
  • 6pm

If you want to make an early start with training your puppy, you can use all or part of his daily rations during training sessions.  Again, spread these out throughout the day and don’t feed too close to bedtime

What if your puppy is still hungry?

One of the things people most often ask me, is “what if my puppy still hungry?”   They have followed the guidelines on the packet, and it doesn’t seem to be enough to satisfy the puppy.

Finding the right puppy food for hungry puppies

What if he wolfs down everything he is given and begs for more?

This is perfectly common and normal.

After all, your puppy doesn’t know for sure when his next meal will be along, so it makes sense to him to eat as much as he possibly can right now!

If your puppy seems ravenous, what you can do is to give your puppy his meal on a slow feed bowl or plate.

slow-feederOur favourite is the Northmate Interactive Feeder.

The large one will hold a full meal of Labrador kibble, enough for an adult.

And your puppy will have a lot of tail-wagging fun getting the pieces of kibble out from in between the ‘blades of grass’.

Should your puppy have milk?

Old habits die hard and a few older breeders still give puppies milk and cereal for two of their four meals.   This is a throwback to the days before kibble was invented.

It is also very natural to want to give milk to a baby animal.  It feels like the right thing to do. But dogs are weaned at a younger age than many other mammals.

At eight weeks old when you bring your puppy home,  he is fully weaned.  He does not need milk of any description.  In fact many older puppies are highly intolerant of milk and will simply get diarrhoea if you feed it to them.

If you are feeding your Labrador puppy on complete kibble, your puppy does not need milk to drink.  Only water.    There would be fewer puppies with upset stomachs if all new puppy owners were advised to resist pouring milk down their little dogs.

Changing from puppy to adult food

Kibble manufacturers often  recommend feeding puppy kibble up to 12 months of age (longer for very large breed dogs).

Feeding Labrador Puppy on kibbleMany breeders and experienced dog owners however, do switch their puppies on to adult food before this,  usually at some time after six months.

When you choose to make the switch is up to you,  but if you are unsure what is best for your dog,  have a chat with your vet.

Switching between dog food brands

If you haven’t brought your puppy home yet,  do make sure to get a diet sheet from the breeder, and to feed him on the same brand as the breeder for at least a week or two.

There will be quite enough for his little tummy to cope with when he leaves home,  without learning to digest a different food.

Adding variety to your puppy’s diet?

Remember, adding your own extras (like cereals or milk) to kibble, might make you feel caring but will only unbalance the whole diet.

Don’t be tempted to fix what isn’t broken.

And no, puppies probably don’t get bored from lack of variety.

If you want to give your puppy on-off treats then check out our extensive dog treats review here to find the right ones.

Good luck with your new puppy!  And don’t forget to contact your vet if you are worried about him in any way.

More puppy feeding and growth resources!

You can find out more about feeding your puppy in our puppy feeding FAQ here.

If you have recently brought home a new puppy then don’t forget to check out First Days at Home with Your New Puppy and our Labrador Puppy Growth FAQ, for lots more tips and information!

If you want to find out the best way to feed an adult Labrador, then check out our article on how to feed a Labrador here.

One of the best places to get help and support in feeding your puppy is of course our wonderful forum. It is packed full of puppy advice and information and there are lots of other new puppy owners, and experienced Labrador owners there to advise and support you.

If this is your first puppy, don’t waste any more time – get yourself over to the forum now  – we’d love to meet you.  And don’t forget to bring some photos with you, we love puppy pictures too.

More information on puppies

Happy-Puppy-jacket-image1-195x300For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

Published in April 2014, the Happy Puppy covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.

The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.

The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.

to ask questions or chat about this topic

on our forum

 

This article was first published in November 2011, and has been fully revised and updated for 2015.

 

 

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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

176 COMMENTS

  1. Hi there I have a lab puppy she is 2 months old she is about 4kg in weight but she has now stopped eating her dinner but still wants her treats when she pees on the mat for her should I stop giving her treats to see if her Apatate comes back again

  2. Hello! I recently switched my 3month black lab onto Lillys Kitchen puppy food as I was given a bag by my friend and her behaviour has become quite strange. I was feeding her Eukanuba lamb and rice before this. So I am trying to gauge if this would have happened anyway. She’s stated waking early again; 30 mins before usual and as soon as she gets up she is preoccupied with food. I have been trying to wait until 8 every morning to feed her which has been fine until the past few days, where it’s become a battle of wits. A battle which continues to each meal time. For example she will ask out for the toilet (because she knows I will let her) and then dash into the kitchen. I have since banned her from the kitchen as she has also resumed (since very early days) jumping up on surfaces to get to food. And hunting about the floor for any ‘leftovers’. I am putting her back onto the Eukanuba for 3 days to see if there is a change, however i was wondering if this related to the diet or is this just behavioral? Can anyone help here or have had similar experiences?? Thank you!!

  3. I have a 4 months old Labrador I brought a pedigree chicken and milk(dry food) but I don’t know how much I feed him a day and the quantity of feeding him a time and is it enough for him ??

  4. Hi,l have a 3months lab,i feed him 2 times a day on kibble(Royal canin maxi junior) and 1chicken neck with barly,is this good for him?

  5. Pippa,
    I have a 14 month yellow lab which I have been feeding kibble to since I brought her home at 8 weeks.
    I have never been able to get her to eat it all at once, she takes a few bites and then walks around. Now we are feeding her once a day and it takes her about 3-4 hours to finish.
    Should I consider changing food?

  6. I have a 2 mth old lab puppy,Can I give him cereals for 2 meals and kibble for two meals?
    When he is playing he starts growling and becomes aggressive, how am I to handle this situation?He is also into biting habit,how am I to stop this? Kindly let me know.

  7. I have 3 months old Labrador retriever puppy… I give her a ALPO brand of dog food which is the ingredients are meat (Beef) and Vegetables only… I was wondering if its okey too feed her a dog food with Beef??? I dont know were can i buy a dog foods that theres no Beef ingredients ?? Philippines here mostly the dog foods brand here that I surely trusted is Alpo and Pedigree products only… Can you give some advice ??? Thank you Godbless

  8. I have a 10 week old lab mixed with Dalmatian should i feed her the lab rules or Dalmatian. My daughter had been feeding her purina one smart blend should i change it or stay with it

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