How To Feed a Labrador


It isn’t easy to decide what is the best food to feed a Labrador. There are so many different brands available. Not to mention the alternatives to commercial food.

I’m going to help you choose the right diet for your dog and answer your feeding questions and concerns.

If your dog is under six months old, you’ll probably want to visit our puppy feeding page for detailed information on feeding your Labrador puppy.

What is the best food for a Labrador?

Most experts agree that the best food for any dog is one that keeps him in excellent health at a reasonable price.

They also agree that to keep a dog in great condition, he needs to be fed a ‘balanced diet’.

Unfortunately that’s about where the agreement ends.

Even experts differ on which method of feeding is the most healthy, what makes a diet balanced, how easy it is to feed a dog a balanced diet, and which brand of kibble is best.

So, I’ll be cutting through the confusion and helping you decide what is best for you, your dog, and your family.

What we’ll do is look at the different styles of feeding first, then for those of you (the  majority) that will be feeding your dogs on dry commercial foods, we’ll look at which brand to chose, how much to feed and answer all your other feeding questions along the way.

How to feed a Labrador – different methods

There are currently two very different approaches to dog feeding that are popular with many Labrador owners.

  • Dry kibble
  • Raw meat and bones or BARF

Both methods of feeding have their supporters and detractors.

At one time a lot of dogs were fed on canned food with an added biscuit mixer, nowadays, only a dwindling minority of dog owners do still feed this way.

There are also a few pet parents that cook an entirely home made diet for their dog each day, and you can find useful information on home cooking for dogs in the Whole Dog Journal

What about BARF?

At one time, raw feeding or what you probably know as the BARF diet was considered to be a cranky and extremist fad.


But as interest in raw feeding has grown and more dogs are fed this way, it is becoming clear that they are thriving too.

With the majority of dogs now being fed kibble and a substantial and growing minority being fed raw, these are the two feeding methods we’ll be focusing on here. Let’s start with kibble.

Feeding a labrador on kibble – dry dog food

By far the majority of Labrador owners nowadays, feed their dogs on kibble .

That is the dried pellets of dog food that you can buy in pet stores and online.

All major pet food companies now supply a dried version of their brands, and you’ll find masses of choice in pet stores and supermarkets worldwide.  It is this very choice that many new Labrador owners find so confusing!

Is kibble good for dogs? 

It is really only a very short time (a couple of decades) since almost all dogs were fed on canned meat. Many of you ‘over 50s’ will remember the rows of Pedigree Chum lining the supermarket shelves when you were young.

These have all but gone now, and the effect that this shift away from wet food and onto dried food, has had (if any) on canine health remain the subject of intense speculation.

One canine problem that does seem more common since the appearance of kibble is ‘allergies’ and allergies in Labradors do seem to be on the rise.

However, despite this, and despite some of the wilder claims made by some raw feeding enthusiasts, it would appear that most Labradors do thrive on kibble and it is an extremely convenient way to feed your dog.

The convenience of kibble

The advantages of being able to open a packet and instantly pour food into a dog’s bowl are often underestimated.

We lead busy lives and kibble is very convenient.  It also stores well, even after opening, provided that it is kept in a dry cupboard.

It doesn’t need refrigerating or freezing and it doesn’t smell very strong.

With most dogs nowadays being trained with food, kibble has the added advantage of making handy portable training treats

The disadvantages of kibble

While kibble itself doesn’t smell too bad, what comes out of a kibble-fed dog smells very unpleasant.

That is partly because kibble is full of ‘fillers’  –  additional bulking agents that are not fully digested and that pass through straight through the dog.

These fillers mean that kibble fed dogs produce much greater quantities of poop and much smellier poop, than dogs fed on raw meat and bones.

Kibble fed dogs may also need their teeth cleaning on a daily basis, and there may be a small increased risk of bloat in susceptible dogs fed on a dry food diet. You can find out more about this in our article on bloat.

Increasing popularity of raw food

Over the last ten years a more natural raw diet of meat and bones has become increasingly popular in the UK
This is despite some websites giving out dire warnings of the dangers of letting dogs consume bones.

I wrote a fairly in-depth article on why I switched to raw food for my dogs some years ago.

You can read about that in Switching to Raw.

And you can find out a  lot more about raw feeding in Tom Lonsdale’s excellent books on the subject.

Unfortunately, raw feeding does seem to attract a few extremists, and it can be tricky to find objective and unbiased discussions of the pros and cons of raw feeding on the internet.

For this reason I have provided a number of resources that look at this topic in some depth and from both points of view.

The pros and cons of feeding raw

Raw feeding is quite a big topic, and it is both complicated and simple. Complicated because we tend to worry about the nutrients our dogs are getting and we can’t see a list of ingredients on a meaty bone.  And simple because the truth is, we don’t need to.

Raw feeding is not as convenient as kibble feeding and requires plenty of freezer and refrigeration space and good meat preparation hygiene.  (Just as with meat preparation for people).

Small puppies are growing fast and are vulnerable to diets with a poor nutrient balance. It is very important you do your research before attempting to raw feed  a small puppy.

As a brief summary, the primary well documented benefits of raw feeding are great dental health (with self-cleaning teeth), small quantities of virtually odourless poop, and (important for dogs with allergies) a diet free from grains.

Raw feeding also provides a huge amount of pleasure for dogs, pleasure that is hard to quantify, but you’ll know it when you see it!

Raw fed dogs and small children

I don’t recommend raw feeding in families with very small children.

This is because raw fed dogs get messy, and it is hard in this situation to keep raw meat juices containing pathogens, away from children too small to understand the importance of hand washing

Here are some reading resources for those considering the switch. You’ll find a list of links at the bottom of this page

The important fact here is that there is no right way to feed a dog. No single ‘best way’ to provide a balanced diet.

Choosing the right method of feeding

There is more to feeding a dog than just the contents of his food bowl.  Your family needs to be considered as a whole, and the feeding method you choose needs to fit in to your lifestyle and current circumstances.

I feed raw now, to my four dogs, but I did not do this and could not have done this, when my kids were little.

Remember, many dogs thrive on kibble, and many dogs thrive on raw.

Here are a few pointers or indicators to help you choose.  Don’t be a slave to them, they are just there to help.

  • If you have a small puppy you may be happier feeding kibble
  • If you have children under five, it may be safer for you to feed kibble
  • If your dog has a close relative that has suffered from bloat, he may be safer eating raw
  • If your dog suffers from allergies, he might do better on raw

Now may be the right time to feed raw for you, or it may be the right time to feed kibble.  Your circumstances are unique so only you can decide.  For those of you (the majority) that will be feeding kibble.  Let’s look at a few more concerns

Choosing which brand of dog food to buy

There are many different brands of dried food to choose from now in most countries around the world where dog ownership is popular.

Choosing the lowest price may not necessarily be the cheapest option as very often, you will need to feed larger quantities of the cheaper food.

It is usually a sensible option to choose a mid-range (in terms of cost) food and see how your dog gets on with that.

Remember that a change in diet can upset a dog’s stomach so if you need to switch brands, do it gradually over the space of a few days by adding a little more of the new food and a little less of the old, each day.

How often to feed your Labrador

Many dog owners continue to feed their dogs twice a day throughout their lives.  Some people feed their dogs once a day after twelve months of age.

We do know that there is an association between bloat and large meals, though this may only apply to kibble

Once daily feeding is  probably  fine if you decide to feed raw meat.  But with kibble it may be too much dry food in one go.  So I recommend that you feed your adult dog morning and evening.

How often to feed puppies

The amount of food that your Labrador puppy needs to eat each day must be divided into several portions.

If you try and give him the whole day’s ration in one go,  he will probably give it his best shot,  but it will almost certainly give him diarrhoea and could damage his stomach as kibble swells after drinking.

From eight to twelve weeks your pupppy will benefit from four meals a day,  breakfast, lunch, tea and supper.  Space the meals at least three hours apart to give him chance to digest them properly.  And make sure the last meal is a two to three hours before his last trip to the toilet at bedtime.

Once your puppy gets to three months old you can divide his daily ration into three portions,  and by six months to two.   Breakfast and supper.

For lots more information on feeding puppies go to this article

How long should a dog take to eat his dinner?

Some people leave food down for their dog’s to ‘graze’ on.  I prefer my dogs to eat their meals up fairly quickly, and have found that some dogs are more likely to be ‘picky’ if they know they can come back to their dinner later on.

So I recommend you take up your dog’s bowl after ten minutes if he hasn’t finished what is in there.

He won’t come to any harm if he hasn’t devoured the lot,  and will eat more enthusiastically at the next meal if he is a little hungry.

Greedy labradors and eating too fast

A much more common problem in Labradors, is the dog that scoffs his dinner in a heartbeat and then begs for more with pleading eyes.

There is an association between bloat and rapid eating, so if you can slow down your dog a little, it is probably good thing.

The best way to do that is by using a slow feed bowl.  Check out this link: how to slow down your dog’s eating  for more information

Feeding household scraps and left overs to dogs

Many people will add household scraps to their dog’s dinner bowl. In theory, there is a risk that this will ‘unbalance’ his diet.

In practice, most adult dogs will come to no harm if they occasionally get some ‘extras’ in their bowl, provided there is nothing in there which is unsuitable.

Make sure that your leftovers don’t contain sugar, onions, cooked bones or any common human foods that are toxic to dogs.

And to keep the diet balanced, unless they are mainly meat, try to make sure that left overs don’t comprise more than 10% of your dog’s dinner.

Giving leftovers to puppies

Puppies need a very well balanced diet to grow up strong and healthy.

Unless you are a very experienced dog owner and knowledgable about nutrition and the dietary needs of a growing animal,  it is not a good idea to feed your puppy on household scraps.

Complete puppy foods contain all the nutrients your pup needs to develop a healthy body.

Feeding Labrador puppies

When you first bring your puppy home,  your breeder should have provided you with a diet sheet, some food, and plenty of information on feeding Labrador puppies .

It is really important to stick with his familiar food for the first few days as moving home is quite traumatic enough for an eight week old pup without giving his tummy a shock too.

If you have not been given any food or any information on how to feed a puppy then I suggest you call in to your local pet store and buy a small sack of (kibble) puppy food that is appropriate for his breed and age.

Read the information on the sack carefully,  as there are lots of different versions of each ‘brand’  and only one version is the right one for your puppy.

Should you feed cows milk to your Lab?

One common mistake made by new Labrador puppy owners is to feed their puppy on cows milk.

Unfortunately cows milk is not well suited to puppies and may give your puppy diarrhoea.  You can buy replacement bitches milk but an eight week old puppy is actually weaned and doesn’t need milk at all.

If you have inadvertently bought a puppy that is too young to leave its mother (less than seven weeks old),  do phone your vet for advice on proper care and feeding, and take the pup for a check up without delay.

Adult animals don’t need milk. With adult Labradors, as with adult humans, many do enjoy drinking milk as a treat, and some tolerate it well.

Others however, will feel uncomfortable or nauseous after drinking milk, or even suffer from diarrhea.  Only you will know how milk affects your dog.  If in doubt, go without.

Giving water to your Labrador

Puppies and older dogs need water available to them at all times during the day.

It is ok to take your puppy’s water away an hour before bedtime to help with housetraining provided that it is at least an hour since his last meal.

Kibble fed dogs drink quite a lot of water, raw fed dogs may drink very little.  This is normal.

Check out this article: how much should my Labrador drink  for more information.

When feeding problems need veterinary help

All puppies need regular veterinary check ups and when you take your puppy to the vet for his vaccinations this is a great time to ask any questions you might have on his diet and welfare generally.

All dogs may eat less in very hot weather.  But changes in appetite, especially sudden changes, can be a sign that a dog is not well.

If your Labrador goes off his food, don’t just put it down to old age.

This information is part of a range of articles in our Diet and Exercise pages.  If you enjoyed this article you might like to read  Labrador Puppy Growth

More information

Check out our Labrador Health section for more help and advice on feeding your Labrador

If you’d like all of our Labrador information together in one place, don’t miss my new book, due to be released in October 2015

The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects of your Labradors life, through daily care and training at each stage of their life.

Click hereto pre-order now from Amazon UK, with Amazon’s pre-order price guarantee


This article was first published in 2012, and has been revised and updated for 2015.



  1. Hi Pippa.

    We have a 6 month old chocolate lab who we feed on dry kibble. She has 3 meals a day of Skinners puppy , bit recently we have found that when out on walks she is partial to seeking out and eating poop. Yuk. I hear it’s common for puppies sometimes. I also read it can because of deficienciesin her diet. We are thinking of changing her kibble. She has the skinners with a little wet food mixed in but the majority is kibble. Can you recommend an alternative brand of kibble that might be more satisfying for her ?she is for a working family from a farm and is very energetic and slim. Any help to reduce her poop intake would be appreciated. Failing all alternative I may just have to put a muzzle on her during our walks.

  2. I give my lab a good feed in the morning with a small treat at the latter part of the day. I feed him brisket bones, meat shank bones, chicken frames, lamb offcuts with some bones along with really good quality kibble(no grains) occasionally..and some offal..not much..about 10% of his feed. He is a big dog naturally. He is happy with one meal a day and his weight is good for his size. He is 2 + years of age. I started his raw meat diet 12 months ago…and it has helped regulate his weight. Happy boy…

  3. Hi,my lab is 3 month old,it’s our 1st lab,we don’t know much about his diet timing,but we give him food whenever he is hungry,plz tell me about the time for giving him his meals

  4. hi me not that much good at english… lab is 3 months old….he loves to eat fish and meat ..but my vet warned me like fish is not good for dogs …is that true?can i feed him raw chicken and beef ?what kind of non veg food can i feed my titoooooooo??plz guide me

  5. i have 45 days old lab puppy i used to feed him milk and other thing which are soft enough problem is he is bitting everyone everywhere what should i do..? another thing is should i put belt on him as if he is so young so m confused whether i should or not

  6. hi pippa.. As evrey 1 know Vaccination shot Given on upper shoulder Skin.. But a vet of my town given 1st vaccine shot to my puppy @age 45 days on his Rear(hind) right leg .. 5day earlier .. I want to know did the Vaccine Shot successful? If it’s not then what I do ?? Plz help

  7. hi pippa!
    am samanth. i have a 4 mnths lab,he does’nt bark on outsiders when he see a new person.
    can u tell me the what the reason for it.

  8. My 10 month old lab has two Weetabix for breakfast and dry food for her tea. She loves the Weetabix but I wonder should I do it with water and not milk?

  9. Hi there!
    I am from India and I have a labrador who is male and six years old. He came last week from our relatives house. He was their dog. But he is well acquainted with me and seems to have adjusted well with us. We are facing a problem with his diet! He used to eat kibble food but from the time he has come here, he had stopped eating it. He drinks a glass of milk in the morning and he likes bread. So we give him bread in the afternoon. At night he has rice and curd. Could you suggest something else …. He is one lazy lab! Doesnt like to run much too…
    Please help! 😉

    • Or maybe, how much an average 12 week old eats? How much did your dog eat when they were 12 weeks?(If they’re there yet).

  10. Hi there, I am getting an 8week old lab next week and the breeder is feeding it bakers puppy food. I have researched this food and have read a lot of negative comments about it, such as full of additives and can affect a dogs health. Is this true and is there a best food brand for a lab and what’s the best way to wean it off it’s old food? Thanks

  11. I have 3 months old pet dog his name is Dozer I have 2nd vaccination few days back, he is not eating any thing since 17 hours he is quite and lazy now please guide me what can I do,


  12. Hi .. we have our second puppy, aged 16 weeks. He is a Fox Red Lab same as our first dog Ollie. The pair couldn’t be so different! The younger one almost inhales his food. His kibble is still being soaked and we only realised we should have him on three meals a day. Will we be okay to do this and how to we cope with the possibility of bloat? We want to introduce it slowly and have also bought the ‘slow bowl’ to feed him now. Aside all this we are having a huge problem with him eating stones regardless of watching him like a hawk. He is so quick and generally it’s outwith the garden .. is he lacking something in his diet? The vet seems to think he will outgrow it. It is worrying as he has brought up stones and also passed them in his faeces. Any advice on any of the above would be great

  13. Hi, i m vithu masurkar from goa and im having 5 months old female.
    she has problem of inching bcz of that see get wound on his body

  14. Hi Pippa, we have a 4year old yellow lab. He eats only dry pellets once a day. We live in South Africa so I am not familiar with most of the brands mentioned. He is really quite overweight and I have tried buying the “light” or “diet” versions of the kibbles but it really didn’t make a difference! He’s quite greedy and would help himself to my children’s plates if unattentded – obviously this doesn’t help!! Of our three dogs, he’s the only overweight doggie and it breaks my heart! Please can you give me some advice. He does get some exercise. I don’t know what to do, I feel sorry for him! Thanks in advance!

  15. Hi I’m from India, I’m facing the problem with my lab hair fall and food.. Can i give her glucose powder (water+glucose)

  16. I have a 8 months labrador of golden colour..i have a problem that he doesnot want to eat veg foods ..when i give him a boiled chicken he eats it very well but when i give him anything else than that he does not show any interest on food..i dewormed him 15 days ago…what can i do .plzzz help me out..

    • Your dog doesn’t want to eat vegetables because he is a carnivore. He wants and needs to eat, either a natural raw meat diet OR a complete commercial dog food with the nutrients he needs in the right proportions.

  17. Hi,i have a labra female of 7 months old i m giving her food twice daily (chapati in morning with milk or curd some time and drolls at evening) but she is not growing not in size and not also in height as in height she looks like 4 or 5 months old i m very sad about it so what should i do so that my puppy me grow very well and her growth my become better as i want to see her like h labra dog which i m not seeing in my labra puppy.

  18. Hi, My wife and i have just agreed to adopt a 2 year old lab, because the previous owners have only fed the dog human buscuits for the past 2 years and the dog is very weak. the dog was taken over by animal services and is coming to us on sunday and we wish to bring it back to life and give it a good home. We have a 2 year old daughter as well so im sure there will be plenty of companionship. Please help me with your advise(any will do)?

  19. Hi Pippa. I have a 22 month old lab. She has been eating Arden Grange and Burns kibble all her life but suddenly stopped. I kept giving her the kibble and she refused it but after 3 days I started to worry and fed her some chicken and rice, which she ate. I have been giving her this in the morning and a can of Butchers dog food with a hand full of Arden Grange adult kibble mixed in at night for the past few weeks. I am worried that this may not be balanced. What do you think I should do?

  20. I have 2 8 months labs…. Before they wer feeding on rice n veggies n meat… Now they dnt eat rice… Is tat ok… They r jst choosing the vegetables n meat out of rice n leave the rice untouched… Wat shall i do
    Pliz suggest…..

  21. Hey there ! I just want to ask one question. My 8 weaks lab dog bites me in my hands alot , is that normal? Do u think he is playing or what? Thanks alot

  22. we have got one year old lanrador female. we have briught the same one year back it is 20days old. the problem is it will eat every thing on earth means own stool, other stools, iron, cloth, wood, cement, dust,meat and liking fioor. as per vet dr. we are giving calcium tbs daily, and our feeding is royal canin dry food, pulkas with curd daily three times, enough food.

    Pl give advise how my pet will stop to eat above things. we are used cap to mouth but no resultes.

  23. my labrador eating every thing on earth i.e it will eat own stool and other stool, eat iron, cloth, wood, gober, dust and liking floor.

    we are giving good food daily four times. we are giving calcium and cadliveroil capsules. good food means pedgree/royal canin food.

    will you please give advise how my pet will not touch those things

  24. We just brought home a 7 week old lab puppy! She still cries a lot, and we were told she eats twice a day-I’m so glad I found your article. I had no idea to feed her 4x a day!! Poor girl!!
    Could you tell me how much dry kibble we should be giving her at each feeding? We do not have the food she was given so we placed her on a grain free kibble.
    Thanks so much!

  25. Good evening,
    we have a 6 months old male lab, we’ve just recently reduced his feeds from 116g 4 times a day to 166g 3 a day, hes on wainwrights puppy found which states he required 470g for his age, however im worried this may be too much of an increase, we have noticed he’s bellys more swollen. the guidelines are very confusing, can you please offer me any advice as we dont want him to get fat and and cause him any discomfort

    kind regards

  26. hey, my partner has nearly 21 month old black lab. he is a typical hyper lab who loves food. However I was wondering what the best dried food to give him is? we have slowed his eating down by using the green thing that you have recommended (even though has learnt that if he knocks it so the food comes out he can try and eat faster) but we are worried that the food we are giving him (james well beloved) has got too much protein in and making him hyper still. hope you can help

    • Hi Rosemary, the only way to find out if a change of food would help, is to try a different brand. The chances are though, that it is not the food which is affecting his temperament.

  27. Hello.
    I have a 3 month old lab name royal. he is very playful which is good. But when i give him food he just eat all of it like he has the last meal of his life. Even he eat his egg in a single go without even chewing it al all. I need your advice.
    Thanks in advance.

  28. Hi Pippa

    We have a 3 month old male lab and we are feeding him Solid Gold Flocken Puppy Dry food. Could you please help me with the quantity and the timings when to feed him?

    Thank you

  29. Hi, We adopted a 2.5-3 year old Black Lab/Shepherd mix. She is absolutely wonderful and doing very well with us. A question on how much to feed her. She currently gets two meals per day, each meal is approx. 1.5 cups of dry food. She weighs approx 65 lbs. Is this the right amount of food? Thank you.

  30. Hi, my sister just received an 8-week old Labrador puppy for her birthday and we named her Gabby. The thing is, Gab doesn’t like to eat from the bowl but instead wants to eat her food on the floor. What should I do? Thank you in advance.