Dog Feeding Schedule: How Many Times a Day Should I Feed My Dog?

Wondering, "How often should I feed my dog?" A dog feeding schedule helps you establish a routine around your pup's play, activity and sleep.

A hungry dog looking up from his food and water bowls.
A hungry dog looking up from his food and water bowls. Photography by damedeeso/Thinkstock.

Have you ever thought, “How often should I feed my dog?” Dogs thrive on routine and, though they do not keep track of time like we do, their circadian rhythm, or internal clock, makes it possible for them to tell when it’s close to the time for a routine task. Whether you’ve just adopted a dog (congrats!) or are wondering about how much to truly feed your pup, we bet you’ve thought, “How many times a day should a dog eat?” at some point. We’ve compiled a dog feeding schedule for adult dogs, puppies, senior dogs, active breeds and sedentary breeds, configured around each dog’s play, activity, sleep and water schedules.

Remember: Any dog feeding schedule is just a suggestion. The best way to plan a dog feeding schedule is to consult with a vet, who can configure a dog feeding schedule that’s customized to your dog’s needs.

Sample Dog Feeding Schedule for an Average Day with an Adult Dog

A dog eating out of a bowl.
What is a good sample dog feeding schedule? Photography ©Chalabala | Thinkstock.

Food: A dog feeding schedule for most adult dogs should include time to eat twice a day. This keeps their metabolism stable and aids in digestion. You’ll find they quickly catch on to when feeding time is. A sample dog feeding schedule for adult dogs would be:

  • 7:00 a.m. – Breakfast
  • 6:00 p.m. – Dinner

Water: The next step after establishing a good dog feeding schedule is a having a schedule for offering fresh water to your dog. In general, it is best to leave a fresh bowl of water out for your dog every morning and every evening. Dogs should always have clean water after any activity. If you’re working on housetraining or have a dog who overdrinks, you can schedule the amount and times you provide it. But watch your dog carefully and, if he seems to be thirsty, increase the amount. A sample schedule for monitoring water would be:

  • 7:00 a.m. – Clean and fill bowl half-way.
  • Noon – Rinse out and refill half-way.
  • 6:00 p.m. – Rinse and fill half-way.
  • Bedtime – Clean and fill bowl about 1/4 of the way.

Sleep: An average dog sleeps about 14 hours a day. Unlike humans, they sleep for shorter times more frequently. A dog’s REM cycle is more active than a human’s and may explain the phenomenon of “chasing in their sleep.” If your dog sleeps more than 16 hours a day, it is wise to check for any illness. By scheduling his activities throughout the day, you will naturally create a good sleeping routine.

Play: Play is imperative to keep a dog’s skills honed, to provide stimulation and just to have fun. Play can mean a game of fetch with you, a board game where your dog has to do tricks to earn a turn, a doggie play date, or even interactive toys when you are away. Try to get two play sessions in a day. A sample schedule would be:

  • 8:00 a.m. – Spend at least 15 minutes playing with your dog
  • 4:00 p.m. or Right after work – Schedule a play date or try something creative like a game of hide and seek

Activity: Activity is imperative for a dog’s mental and physical health. Ideally, a dog should be walked twice a day for 30 minutes. An extra walk does no harm and, in fact, will benefit you both. In our hectic society, however, this can be tough, so consider enlisting the help of a dog walker. Also keep in mind activities other than walking such as the dog park. A sample schedule would be:

  • 6:30 a.m. – Walk your dog before his breakfast
  • Noon – Walk your dog (this is where a dog walker could be helpful)
  • 5:00 p.m. – Walk your dog before his dinner

Together Time: A dog feeding schedule isn’t the only thing you should establish. Together time is a bonding experience for you and your dog. This is the easiest thing to schedule as it can be on the couch while watching T.V. or outside reading a book, or on the bed at the end of the night. The key is to focus on your dog and pet and massage him. Dogs love a light massage and many are happy with your foot stroking their back. Even just sitting touching your dog is a bonding activity.

Dog Feeding Schedule for Puppies

Housetraining: With puppies, there is housetraining to consider in your dog feeding schedule. When beginning housetraining, you or someone you trust, such as a dog sitter, really needs to be on hand frequently, so you can catch your pup before or in the act and rush him outside. Older puppies can go between three to four hours between elimination. A sample schedule would be:

  1. Outside upon waking.
  2. Outside after breakfast.
  3. Outside around noon after second feeding.
  4. Outside around 4:00 p.m.
  5. Outside after dinner.
  6. Outside before bed.

Food: A puppy will ideally eat three times a day so schedule in a feeding around noon. Get a dog sitter to help if needed.

See a more comprehensive guide for feeding puppies here >>

Sleep: A puppy sleeps more than an adult dog, averaging about 16 hours a day. But some will sleep for up to 20 hours!

Activity: A puppy will have bursts of energy and then flop down where he is and sleep. Try to get your puppy out as much as you can, starting with short walks and building up to 20 minutes.

Dog Feeding Schedule for Senior Dogs

Food: A good dog feeding schedule for senior dogs is feeding twice a day. Feed senior dogs smaller amounts since their activity is limited.

Water: Older dogs may need more water than their younger counterparts.

Sleep: A senior dog will sleep more than an active adult dog, on average 16 to 18 hours a day. Just like humans, the older a dog gets, the more his needs resemble that of a puppy.

Activity: It’s important for a senior dog to still get walks and mild activity. Ideally, you, or a sitter, could take your dog out three or four times a day for shorter walks. Avoid excessive activity and any rough play such as at dog parks.

Dog Feeding Schedule for Active Breeds

There are a few modifications on a dog feeding schedule for active dog breeds such as the Border Collie, the Vizsla and any Terrier. Sleep for these dogs is often less than an average breed and you will find they are usually running around even when dozing. It can help to feed these breeds three times a day because their metabolisms are higher.

Dog Feeding Schedule for Sedentary Breeds

Breeds that are very large such as the Mastiff and the Great Dane tend to sleep more than an average sized dog. Some of the large breeds, such as the Greyhound and many of the hounds, do as well. A sample dog feeding schedule is also often different with these types of dogs being fed only once a day since they are not burning off as many calories.

The bottom line on figuring out a dog feeding schedule

Every dog is unique and you may have to alter a dog feeding schedule depending on your dog’s activity level. You also may need to adjust your dog’s schedule to meet yours.

The things to keep in mind are that a dog will need something scheduled every two – four hours, whether feeding, activity or playing. And consistency is key to keep you on schedule and your dog happy.

Tell us: What dog feeding schedule do you follow? How does your dog feeding schedule correlate to his activity, sleep and play schedules?

Concerned about your own meal schedules and what to eat? Check out these meal suggestions for boosting energy >>

Thumbnail: Photography by damedeeso/Thinkstock.

This piece was originally published in 2010. 

About the author

Formerly Dog Fancy, Dogster is a dog magazine and dog website where dog lovers come together and get expert advice on everything from dog breeds and dog barking to dog poop issues and dog cancer treatments. Subscribe to our magazine at us here. Or, check out Dogster’s online community.

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46 thoughts on “Dog Feeding Schedule: How Many Times a Day Should I Feed My Dog?”

  1. Home of Quality golden retriever Puppies. Our golden retriever puppies for sale are working breed that is loyal, loving, intelligent, and a confident guardian. Find the perfect golden retriever puppy now !!!!!

  2. Old school K9 books say to feed your dogs one large meal a day (probably same should go for adult humans) in the evening. This makes them happy, healthy and focused. Today we feed dogs multiple times a day and now dogs are fat, stupid, lazy, sick, on meds, etc and won’t give a crap if there owner is in trouble.

    1. We’ve always fed our Shih Tzu dogs once a day in the evening, with only 2 exceptions.
      1. When they are puppies, we free feed the whole day until they reach 3 months
      2. Once they are grown up feed them a boiled egg or some vegetables after even run > 5km

      It’s best to limit the amount you feed, that to overfeed and face issues like hip dysplasia later on in life. This is especially critical with large breed dogs.

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    1. Our Chihuahuas and a small terrier mix whose left front leg never grew since she was a puppy, absolutely HATE going on walks. Actually sit down a refuse to move. While they run like lunatics n our back yard,not ONE of the five wants more outside in the world. 3 dogs are nearly 15 (the Chihuahuas) while Rosie–the And then had her shots updated furbaby we saved as she had been thrown away (Her owner could have died or placed in a care center. We know NOTHING despite checking on prior ownership,YES we did have her scanned for a chip. Had her shots updated,long LONG nails clipped and her teeth cared for Such a tiny mouth,needed 12 removed. It will be 2 years in December since an elderly man in a wheel chair allowed us to take her home. HE had found this poor dog in the street by HIS home. Was moving within a week to Long Beach with HIS service dog) Missing the use of a front leg–DROPS her activity level) While Odie–yet ANOTHER throw away runs like at whirlwind in our home and yard. He was all of 4 months old when tossed out. Had parvo. A simple $15 vaccination would have prevented the misery he went through and the over $1400 we paid to save his life. I came here to find out HOW MUCH food a 7 pound dog should be fed per meal. Still looking

  5. Wow, thank you for pointing out that the activity level of your dog can greatly affect how often you feed them, such as Border Collies might need 3 times a day. I have always wanted a dog; however, my father was allergic so I couldn’t have one as a kid. Now that I have moved out I am picking up a puppy tomorrow! I want to make sure I take good care of this guy so I will have to look at different pet foods and feeding schedules for him!

  6. I don’t know any dog owner who manages to find the time to walk their dog twice a day for 30 minutes… I think that’s a bit excessive to be honest. One walk a day, along with a couple of play/activity workouts in the yard should be sufficient for most breeds.

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  8. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post with us, I have read your post from start to end. The chart to mention in this post for explaining how old is our dog in human years is really excellent. I have really enjoyed to browsing to your post. Please keep sharing like this post.

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  10. Loved this article. Have a beautiful, 7 yr old female Golden Retriever who I’ve been feeding only once a day at 5 PM. She often pants & seems to be regurgitating her food. Starting today, I plan on feeding her half the amount of food 2x a day (as ypu suggest) to see if this calms down her digestion a bit. THANK YOU!!

    1. Our German shepherd was same way when we adoption him at age 18 months. Now we feed twice a day and give only diet wet and dry food from Blue. He has slimmed down 15 pounds, gained muscles by going up/down steps to backyard fenced area.

  11. Sushama Chadalapaka

    I have month old puppy, feeding 2 times about3/4 cup each time.
    Is this good. The instructions say that but I feel he could be hungry.

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  13. This is very resourceful! Thank you for the article! I just got a puppy about a month ago and wanted to make sure he is getting enough food. He is a golden and always finishes his food so fast, I cant help but think he still hungry!

  14. We have a 3 year old mini wire haired dachshund. She is fed appropriate portions of canned food each time we eat. Meaning breakfast lunch and dinner and she is fed a final portion about 9 pm. If she doesn’t eat before bedtime she gets an upset stomach which the vet calls empty stomach syndrome. Our girl stays at a perfect weight and loved being part of the pack (meaning she eats the same time we do)(for the most part,). I think every pup has individual needs and you can figure out what is best for your furniture. Personally I think it is horrible to feed a dog only once a day! Twice I guess is ok. But as pack animals I think a dog feels left out of the pack if you eat and they don’t . But in our case it is best too because of her tummy issues.

  15. My opinion is no dog should be fed only once a day should be twice to three. Please read the back of the packet of dog food to find how much to feed your dog according to weight or age. Only leave treats for the odd occasions never a routine and never daily unless training. Seek medical advice from a vet do not solely base getting your important answers from am online source.

  16. I have 9 week old puppies. I am feeding twice a day consistently. How much is a good amount for my growing girls.

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there Tracy,

      Thanks for reaching out! Here is an article for more information on feeding puppies:

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  18. We have a 12 year old Old English Sheepdog with bad hips. We help him rise up with a towel under his bottom. More and more, he defecates while lying down since he has trouble curving his hips. This creates a major cleanup problem during the night or early morning as he may roll into the mess while sleeping. Should I only feed him once a day, in the morning, to minimize the nighttime defecation? He doesn’t finish eating his morning meal till the afternoon and we then feed him a second time around 6-7PM. I take him out at 10-10:30 PM for his last attempt to go, but he only urinates then.

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  22. We have always fed ours 3 times a day and they seem fine. I don’t think it really matters whether it is twice or three times, as long as they are getting the right amount of food and it’s good food!

  23. I’m feeding my Aussie about 5 A.M. about a cup and half of dry with a little canned, we walk about 3 miles and then I feed her about 4:30, same amount. Dog park around 7 P.M. when it cools off, but she plays really hard chasing the ball for 45 minutes and more if I let her. But last night she threw up most of her 4:30 meal. When would be a better time to feed her so she has digested the meal? Or should I just be feeding her one meal early in the day. This is a rescue dog about 3 years old and I’ve only had her for about 2 weeks.

    1. Hi Ellen,
      Over the years, I found that it is best not to allow dogs to engage in running or extreme play after eating. We have four dogs( all rescue), I feed them and then let them rest for a hour. Sometimes the stomach rebels and the throw up. If you are home throughout the day, divide the food that you normally give your Aussie and break the meals down into three meals. This allows the digestive system to not be overloaded. Feeding intervals, about every 4 to 5 hour for the three meals. My old doggie had really serious tummy problems and I had to customize his food and feeding times. Good luck!

  24. I’ve been feeding my puppy 1/2 cup of food twice a day. If I change it to 3 times a day how much should I give him at each feeding? Thank you in advance for your advice on this subject.

    Suzanne Carr

    1. Depends on the food he’s eating. Look at what is recommended for is weight and/or breed or by your vet. Divide the total by 3.

  25. martin Dewhurst-Walker

    One pure German shepherd, two German Shepherd mixes and two Pitt Terriers (all over 2 1/2 years old). Good article but I think more for a first dog/puppy to where you have a perfect schedule for them. Mine have hard food 24/7 in three 14inch bowls. They are fed soft daily between 11am and noon. They never overeat or gorge and I have yet to have a “food fight”. Snacks are dependant on work or off days, work is 4 times a day, off is around 7 snacks. I dehydrate most of my snacks, chicken paws (they love them), boneless/skinless chicken breast jerky or London Broil jerky. They are high speed and love playing ball. I use Hooves, filled or unfilled for them to chew on as most bones these days splinter to much. All mine are rescues so that could be why they are and always have been so good and appreciative. Very good article and I have bookmarked it for sharing, thank you.

  26. Thank you for sharing the schedule, it was much needed. I really appreciated it and i would love to follow this.

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  28. Mary Rose Campenni

    My dog doesn’t eat much loves her bacon snacks but have cut down trying to get her to eat her food. She doesn’t play she doesn’t bother with chew toys/rope or her little rawhide bone and her breath stinks. I give her dentastix once a day which she loves but appears healthy aside from snoring lol. Also she does choke/honk like a donkey once in a while

  29. Thanks, this is a very nice example on scheduling.

    One tip that I can add is, my dog somehow adapts to my routine. I woke up quite late (9.30-10AM), and the breakfast served around that time works just fine. At first, it was quite a bit messy, but after a few weeks he seems to be understand and wait for me to woke up first without trying to wake me.

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