The food you choose for your Labrador puppy together with the portions you provide, and the feeding schedule you set up, are important decisions for your new puppy’s health.
A puppy’s growth and development is rapid in those first weeks, and your little pup needs to eat frequent, small, nutritious meals. Our Labrador feeding chart by age gives you examples to follow as your puppy grows.
Puppy Feeding Guide
- Four ways to feed your puppy
- Portion control!
- Feeding schedules
- Raw diet Vs kibble
- Best puppy food for your Lab
I will show you the best puppy foods, whether dry, wet, or raw, and look at food safety, together with schedules, quantities and even a handy puppy diet chart. Finally, I’ll include some reviews of the various brands, and will help you cope with the all-important transition to feeding an adult dog.
Ways of Feeding Your Labrador Puppy
The main Labrador puppy food types are:
- Puppy kibble dried food
- BARF or raw feed
- Wet food in cans or pouches
- Home cooked puppy food
Experts Disagree on Puppy Feeding
Experts disagree on the best way to feed your puppy. People often feel very strongly that one way of feeding is better than another, and you can always find evidence to support your view. Dog breeders, veterinarians and even nutritionists have their own strong views. The dire consequences they list for not listening to them can have puppy owners very worried.
The truth is that there is no good quality evidence showing that kibble is better for the long term health of your dog, or that raw feeding is better. There are risks and benefits to both, and the main thing is to ensure that your dog has good quality food to eat.
Choosing The Best Puppy Food For Labs
Different puppy feeding suit different families. Puppy kibble suits some better, and raw puppy food is better for others.
Puppy Kibble for your Labrador
Good puppy kibble will contain all the nutrients your Labrador puppy needs in order to grow and remain healthy. Puppy kibble stores well provided that you don’t get the food become damp. An airtight plastic container or tin will do the job, although you should make sure it is food grade quality.
Most breeders start their puppies off on kibble and your veterinarian is most likely to support this method of feeding.
What Other Food Should You Feed With Puppy Kibble?
Labrador puppy kibble only needs to be fed next to water. Puppy kibble from a reputable manufacturer is intended to be a complete and balanced food. But some owners like to mix in canned dog food or even scraps of raw food with kibble.
What About Feeding Puppies On Raw Food?
Feeding your Labrador puppy raw food has its benefits and drawbacks. One of the downsides is that there is a lot to learn.
Do Plenty of Research
Puppy nutrition research is a huge area you’ll need to dive into to make sure they have a balanced diet during 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 to Feed your Labrador Puppy?
People often tell me how much their puppy weighs, and ask how much puppy food they should give him. In fact, one of the most common questions we hear is “how much should I feed my Labrador puppy?”
Labrador puppy food quantities can be measured in weight, but you can also do it by eye. Your puppy’s physical shape is a big giveaway.
Risks Of Overfeeding Your Puppy
Rapid growth doesn’t just put weight on your puppy, but leads to larger but less dense bones and associated skeletal abnormalities. Your Labrador is particularly at risk if they grow too quickly.
Lab Puppy Feeding Chart
Choosing Best Brand of Puppy Food
The best brands of dog food will provide all your puppy’s nutrients and keep him healthy without costing you a small mortgage each week.
It’s important to give your little one food specifically designed for your puppy, because they have different nutritional needs.
Labrador puppy food must be aimed at medium to large breed dogs. Check the pack carefully and look at the dietary charts. Ideally, you want the optimal protein content and the lowest amount of additives.
Part of this always comes down to the cost. The healthiest puppy food is usually the most expensive and may not be affordable for some families.
The Cost Of Puppy Food
Some puppy food brands are more concentrated than and contain a higher proportion of proteins, essential oils, and other nutrients. The cheaper brands may contain more ‘fillers’ in the form of extra carbohydrates, usually made from grain. The absence of these fillers means that you can often feed lower quantities of more costly food, making them less expensive than they first seem.
You might also find that cheaper brands make your puppy poop more due to those extra fillers going straight through him. While some brands are beyond the budget of many families, it is usually good to buy a premium brand.
High Quality Brands of Puppy Food
Some brands of puppy food have developed a reputation for producing 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:
One of our favourites is Orijen Large Breed Puppy Formula.*
Orijen and Nature’s Variety (and some of the other more expensive brands), rely on legumes like lentils and chickpeas as a source of carbs.
These are much gentler on your dog’s stomach than grain, which can cause bowel irritation.
Puppy Food Availability
The big brands are widely available in many parts of the world, and they have a valuable reputation to maintain. So, the chances are, your puppy will be eating a good quality product if you choose one of these.
Your puppy food should give you the manufacturers quantity guidelines for that brand on the packet.
Following Puppy Feeding Quantity Guidelines
Just to complicate things, not every puppy in each age group will fall within the weights displayed on the chart above. Some owners may worry that there is something wrong with their puppy. However, don’t worry, because our cuddly Labrador pups vary so much.
Quite simply, puppies of the same age vary in weight and size, so that means the amount of food you need to feed them will be different. Use the guidelines on the packet as a guide, then observe and feel your puppy to check how he is doing. You can always chat to your vet if you have any concerns.
Keeping Your Puppy At The Right Weight
It is important that your dog does not get too fat or too thin. However, you have some leeway, and you should increase or decrease his rations accordingly as he grows.
The most common problem is puppies that get too fat. Although we all love cuddly Labrador puppies, they 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.
Of course, the other side of the weight issue is puppies that look too thin. That can be another important issue.
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. Sometimes, it is just a matter of increasing the amount of food or changing the brand to a more nutritious option with fewer fillers.
How Often Should you Feed Your Labrador Puppy?
Like most baby animals, your puppy needs 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 entire day’s ration in one go, his digestive system will be overwhelmed and he’ll end up with diarrhea. 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 your Labrador puppy little and often is a great way of preventing tummy upsets. 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
This is all part of getting your puppy used to the feeding routine. Puppies tend to like predictability and feeding at set times.
Mealtimes and Schedules: Or When to Feed Your Puppy
Your puppy’s feeding schedule can fit in with your preferences up to a point. But don’t try and cram all his meals into the evening. 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 your puppy’s food ration for the day down, because he’ll eat it all at once and this may upset his tummy.
First Meal of the Day
Puppies love food, and crave the attention that comes with feeding time. If you’re feeding your Labrador puppy at 6am, because he has woken you and was hungry, the chances are he’ll wake you 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 coffee and wake up before filling the bowl.
Have a set time for breakfast and don’t feed her before then, even if she has been awake for two hours. She won’t starve in that short period of time, although she might make you feel like she is! Be firm and resist the temptation.
Last Meal Before Bed
Try to space your puppy’s meals out fairly evenly throughout the day. Most importantly, don’t feed your puppy just before you put her to bed for the night.
I like to leave at least a four-hour gap between the puppy’s last meal and her bedtime. This helps to reduce the risk that she will want to use the bathroom at 2 am.
Example Puppy Feeding Schedule
Just to help you on the way, here is an example puppy feeding schedule. Of course, you can adapt this to suit your own routine as long as you pay attention to the above advice.
My puppy feeding times for 8-week-old puppies tend to be something like this:
You don’t need to be a slave to the clock, but this is just to give you an idea. A few minutes or even half an hour earlier or later won’t cause problems.
12 Weeks Old
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 My Puppy Is Still Hungry?
One of the things people most often ask is, “what if my puppy is still hungry?” They have followed the guidelines on the packet, but the food doesn’t seem to be enough to satisfy the puppy.
If your puppy clears up his food in a few seconds and begs for more, don’t panic. This is perfectly common and perfectly normal.
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!
And, your puppy will be very good at using every trick in the book to win you round.
What if My Puppy Won’t Eat?
As most experienced Labrador owners know, not all puppies are greedy. And studies have shown that puppies in general eat more when they are fed in a group with other puppies
Your puppy might go off their food for the first few days they spend at home. They eat a few bits of kibble then refuse any more. The puppy may eat from your hand but not their bowl. If your puppy won’t eat at all for more than four hours, then call your vet for advice. Call sooner if the pup is listless or showing any signs of being unwell.
Otherwise, a somewhat reduced appetite, to begin with, is probably nothing to worry about. Just mention it to your vet when you take the pup for his first check up, or in the next day or two.
Changing From Puppy To Adult Food
Puppy kibble manufacturers often recommend feeding your Labrador puppy kibble for puppies up to 12 months of age, before changing to adult kibble.
Some breeders and experienced dog owners do switch their lab puppies on to adult food before this, but not usually before they reach six months of age.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website