You waited until your puppy was at least 8 weeks old before you brought her home. You have plenty of toys and treats. She never misses a veterinary appointment and has been fed the proper puppy diet. Now, the question is, when do you begin switching to adult dog food?
Growing puppies should only be fed a high quality growth-type diet. But the amount of food the puppy eats is also important. Pups should not be able to eat at will, so don’t keep his bowl filled all the time. Overeating as the puppy grows can lead to devastating skeletal and nutritional disorders, as well as obesity. Also, supplementing his diet with vitamins and minerals can cause serious illness and should only be done on the advice of your veterinarian.
For most breeds, offer food twice a day for 20 minutes. If your puppy does not eat in that 20 minutes, remove the food and wait to feed the evening meal. Your puppy will quickly learn that food is not always available and he will eat when it is offered. For toy breeds, food should be offered three times a day. This feeding schedule can continue throughout the pup’s life. If you prefer free-choice feeding, wait until the pet is at least 12 months of age. For giant breed dogs, wait until about 18 months of age.
Once you have chosen a good quality puppy food, continue feeding this diet until your dog reaches 80 to 90 percent of his anticipated adult weight. For most dogs, this occurs around 9 months of age.
Giant breed dogs pose a special problem. These breeds are prone to skeletal problems if not fed properly during their growing phase. There are now special diets for giant breed puppies. For optimal health, feed your giant breed pup this special diet until he is 12 to 18 months of age.
Once your puppy has reached the age for a diet change, gradually begin changing his diet by feeding ¼ adult food and ¾ puppy food for a few days. Then add ½ adult food and ½ puppy food. After a few more days, feed ¾ adult food and ¼ puppy food. Then, you can feed straight adult food.
If you have any concerns about changing your puppy’s diet, consult your veterinarian for advice.