Golden Retrievers are one of the top dog choices in the country. They are incredibly sweet dogs who are easy to train, making them wonderful family pets. These long-haired beauties need a lot of TLC, and it takes a dedicated owner to help them grow into the trusted pup we all know and love.
One vital part of caring for a Golden Retriever, from puppyhood into her senior years, is making sure she has proper, well-balanced nutrition. A little more goes into feeding a Golden than just buying puppy kibble. Owners have many questions about providing their pups with proper nutrition. How much does your puppy need to eat? Will her dietary needs change as she grows up? How can you tell if you are feeding her the right food? Making sure your dog gets proper nutrition from day one is a challenge. Our guide answers these frequent questions and more.
If you are considering a Golden Retriever puppy or have a new furry baby dog already, you have come to the right place. Our guide is here to help you be the best dog owner you can be and keep your pup’s diet on the right track. Let’s get into the details about your Golden Retriever’s feeding needs.
Feeding Chart At A Glance
|Age||Type of Food||Cups a Day||Meals a Day|
|0 – 30 days||Mother’s Milk||n/a||As needed|
|4 – 7 weeks||Mother’s Milk||n/a||As needed|
|8 – 12 weeks||Puppy Kibble||1 1/2 – 2||3 – 4|
|12 weeks – 6 months||Puppy Kibble||2||3|
|6 – 15 months||Puppy Kibble/Adult Dog Food||3 – 4||3|
|Adult||Adult Dog Food||3 – 5||2|
How Much Should A Golden Retriever Puppy Eat?
This is a crucial time for her development, and proper nutrition is pivotal in her health and growth.
Week 1 Through Week 3
Your pup will rely on her mother’s milk only for the first few weeks of her life. Most importantly, puppies need the colostrum their mothers produce. Colostrum is produced in their mother’s first milk right after birth. Colostrum is full of antibodies, hemoglobin, and growth factors pivotal to a puppy’s early development. While puppy formulas can be used if needed, there is no substitute for a mother’s milk. Mother dog should nurse her pups as soon as possible after birth to give puppies this important boost. Colostrum cannot be recreated. It is custom-made for puppies by their mothers.
During these first few weeks, puppies will stick close to their mom. They are born blind and deaf, however, will be able to see and hear by three weeks old. Your pup will start to take small steps but will stick close to mom for now. Always encourage momma dogs to nurse. However, if she rejects the pups or has trouble making enough milk, reach out to your vet for guidance on a replacement formula. Puppies will nurse as needed right now. Do not try and wean a puppy too early. They are far too young for solid food right now.
By four weeks old, your pup will be sturdier and steadier on her feet. She will still be nursing, however, may need a supplement if mom is having trouble keeping up. If you need to start to wean, do so slowly. Introduce a very small mixture of wet puppy food and water. This mixture should be mostly water, about 75%. You can soak kibble in water to soften it and use that instead of wet dog food if necessary. Do not be alarmed if a puppy is not interested in the food right now as long as she is getting enough milk. Her teeth should be growing in.
At five weeks, puppies will have teeth and show more interest in solid puppy food. Continue to allow her to nurse, and supplement with formula if needed. Offer her the water and food mixture a few times a day. She will show more interest in this mix over the next few weeks. Only use puppy chow. It is specially formulated to serve a growing pup’s needs. Adult dog food, or people’s food, will not have the nutrient balance they need for proper development.
Your Golden puppy will be very interested in dog food at six weeks. Continue to allow her to eat the water and food mixture. You can start to increase the food and lessen the water if she is tolerating it well. She will still be nursing from mom but will begin to look for puppy food. She will start weaning soon if it has not happened naturally already.
At seven weeks, your sweet puppy will be ready to begin weaning. She will be eating puppy food, still with at least 1/4 water to food, if not more mixed in. She will have teeth now, so the kibble does not need to be soaked as long. It is good for her to have things to gnaw on, and kibble feels good on her teeth. Mother dogs will be exhausted from nursing and ready for pups to rely on her less. About 1/3 of a cup of puppy kibble a day is a good amount right now.
At eight weeks (about two months), Golden Retriever puppies should be weaned and completely reliant on puppy chow. They should no longer be looking for milk or formula. They need more to sustain them now than just milk. Your pup will start growing rapidly now, and high-quality, balanced puppy food will give them everything they need. Your Golden pup will need 1 and 1/2 cups of food a day. Split this into three or four smaller meals.
At this age, puppies can leave mom and go to new homes. If you bring home a new pup at this age, ask what she has been fed. This way, you can provide her with the same brand and slowly transition her to your preferred brands. Her digestive system is still fragile, you do not want to stress her out or cause discomfort, so consistency is key. A mixture of old kibble and new kibble that slowly phases out the old food is best.
A cup and a half a day are still about the right amount to feed your pup. Space this out to three of four small meals. You do not want her to overeat. It is ok if she feels a little hungry between meals. This helps her learn when to eat. Keep her on as regular of a feeding schedule as you can. Puppy treats here and there are ok. Stick with puppy-formulated treats and kibble. Keep in mind your puppy’s appetite can vary by day, especially when she goes to a new home. If your pup refuses to eat at all, reach out to your vet to discuss different options.
At ten weeks, your Golden pup is a ball of energy. She will be eager for mealtimes. Continue to give her about a cup and a half of food every day. She may need a little more depending on her energy level. Three meals a day is perfect right now. She will need fuel to support her exploration and playing. If she does not want to eat at mealtimes, save it and offer it to her at the next meal. She needs to learn to eat at mealtimes. Do not free feed. This is bad for her because she can over or under-eat.
By eleven weeks, a Golden Retriever puppy should be on a regular feeding and eating three meals a day. She will need 1 and 1/2 cups to 2 cups of food a day. Make sure the puppy chow you choose has a lot of natural protein. Protein is where she gets her energy, and it helps her grow big and strong.
At twelve weeks (three months), your puppy should be entirely on kibble and eating like a pro. Increase her daily food amount to 2 cups and keep her on a three-meal-a-day schedule. A treat or two here and there throughout the day is ok. Do not overdo this. Stick to puppy treats or chew toys if your pup is a chewer.
13 to 16 weeks (4 months)
By four months, your Golden girl will be eating about 2 to 2 and 1/2 cups of food a day. She should still be on three feedings a day until about six months old. She will need this fuel to replace all the energy she is burning throughout the day.
5 to 6 Months
Your Golden will move up to 3 cups of chow every day between five and six months. Try and stick to three meals a day. You can transition to 2 meals a day at around six months if that works better for your pup. Try not to do that before this time. Around seven months, males can move up to 3 and 1/2 or 4 cups of food, depending on size. Females should stay on 3 cups of chow a day. Keep your Golden on puppy formulated chow until she is 10 to 12 months old.
Always discuss switching your puppy from puppy chow to adult food with your veterinarian, as with any other significant change to her diet. Remember, the information we have here is a guideline. Every dog is different and will have specific nutritional needs and growth. When you do make the switch to puppy food, do so gradually. The exact process of mixing the new food with the old and then phasing the puppy chow out should be used here. Start with 3/4 puppy food and 1/4 adult food, then slowly phase out the puppy kibble. Watch your pup for a few days after introducing adult chow to ensure she is not having indigestion or any other kind of intolerance to the new food.
Adult Golden Retrievers
Golden Retrievers continue to grow for about two years. Adult Goldens weigh between 55 and 75-pounds. They live about 12 to 15 years on average. Lifestyle, gender, age, and activity level all continue to play a role. An adult golden retriever will eat between three to five cups of food a day. They should have this split into two meals. Larger dogs will eat more, as will females who are pregnant. Senior dogs will likely need less food and lower calories. You can discuss this with your veterinarian should you have any questions regarding your dog’s nutritional needs throughout her life.
When she reaches the senior stage of her life, you want to start feeding your Golden girl a large breed senior dog formula dog food. Try to stick with dry kibble, with some occasional wet food. The type of chow you feed your senior dog again will depend on her lifestyle, size, and activity level. It is especially important to communicate with your veterinarian when caring for a senior dog. You will want to feed her a steady, reliable, nutritious diet throughout her life.
Golden Retrievers will need a daily intake of calories to keep them going. This amount changes as they age. Puppies will need more calories as they grow and their body weight increases. A 50-pound puppy aged six months or over will need about 1,500 calories. Fixed, active adults need 1,300 to 1,740 calories a day on average. Older, less active dogs should have about 1,000 to 1,300 calories daily. Nursing mothers need 2,000 or more calories every day. Health, age, activity level, and brand will affect how many calories they need. Aim for high-quality calories, not empty ones from too many treats or people’s scraps.
Different Types Of Puppy Food/Dog Chow
There are five main categories of dog food to choose from. Try to avoid grain-free diets. Grain-free diets have been shown to have a link to heart disease in this breed. Try to avoid low-budget dog foods as well. These tend to be exceptionally low in nutritional value and extremely high in fillers. Though these might save a few dollars at the register, they will not entirely give your dog what she needs to support her health and growth. Dry food, wet food, fresh fruit, a home-cooked diet, or a raw diet are the most common categories of food dog owners choose from. Discuss your dog’s diet and nutritional needs with your veterinarian before making any significant changes.
Dry food or kibble is one of the most popular choices to feed a golden retriever. High-quality products will include protein, calcium, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and no fillers to create chow dogs like to eat and support their nutritional health. Semi-moist varieties should be avoided, especially those shaped like bones or meats. These have extraordinarily little dietary value. Though they taste good, they are the equivalent of junk. High-quality kibble is a wonderful choice and can be soaked in water or a diluted broth if it needs to be softened. Remember that kibble is also good for a dog’s teeth as it helps scrape off plaque. Kibble is often sold in high volume amounts, making it an affordable and long-lasting choice.
Wet Food (Canned Or Pouch)
Wet dog food will come in a can or pouch. There are many different varieties to choose from. Again, avoid low-budget options. Those with a lot of gravy can also be high in fats, so make sure to read the ingredients if you want to feed your dog a mix of kibble and wet food. There are different formulas for puppies, middle-aged, and senior dogs. Make sure to read all the ingredients. Many wet options are grain-free, so make sure you are giving your dog a well-balanced kibble as well. Look for labels that say, “meet 100% of your dog’s needs”, as these will likely have a better nutritional balance.
Fresh dog foods are made with human-grade quality ingredients. These can be pricey, and there are programs where food gets delivered every week. Fresh foods may not be affordable for everyday consumption for many dog owners. However, as a supplement or treat once every few weeks, they can add a nice, healthy variety to your dog’s diet.
Home Cooked Diet
Some pet owners may be of the mindset that a home-cooked diet is better for their dog than kibble or wet food. This can be an attempt at make-it-yourself, fresh dog chow. However, this is not usually a good idea unless done under the direct supervision of your vet. You will need extremely specific instructions to ensure a well-balanced diet. Additionally, dogs can be allergic or intolerant to many human foods.
Raw Or BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods)
A raw or BARF diet includes raw foods and bones. Pet owners need to consult with their vet before making this choice for their dog. Avoid these diets for puppies. They can be far too rich and cause digestive issues. Raw diets often will not fully meet their dietary and nutritional needs. Raw diets must include raw muscle meat, raw organs, raw edible bones, as well as vegetables, fruit, grains, seeds, and nuts. Never switch to a raw diet for your Golden without explicitly discussing it with your veterinarian and a pet nutritionist.
The Importance Of High-Quality Food
There are many varied factors that an owner weighs when picking chow for their pup. Steer clear of fillers, artificial ingredients, and dog chows that have low nutritional value. They also rarely satisfy the appetite, leaving dogs looking for more. The best food for your Golden will depend on age, gender, activity level, and overall health. Look for foods that contain meat or meat meal. Beef, lamb, fish, and turkey are good ingredients to look out for, as well as healthy whole grains.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides regulations and guidelines for dog food. Their standards are as follows:
- Protein – 22% for puppies and 18% for adults
- Fat – 8% for puppies and 5% for adult
- Calcium – 1% for puppies and 0.6% for adults
- Phosphorus – 0.8% for puppy and 0.5% for adult
- Sodium – 0.3% for puppies and 0.06% for adult dogs
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Why Is Large Breed Puppy Food Important?
Breed-appropriate chow is essential. Large breed formulas are made to offer enough sustenance, nutrients, and vitamins to a larger dog like a Golden. Smaller dogs have different needs than larger breeds. Smaller breeds tend to reach full growth sooner than larger dogs like the Golden. These bigger breeds need a diet formulated to support growth, boost bone health, build their immune systems, build coats, skin health, and build strong muscles.
What Nutrients Do Golden Retriever Puppies Need?
Protein is the biggest nutritional need for a Golden. It promotes growth, repairs tissue, builds the immune system, and supports the musculoskeletal system. Protein is essential for canines to grow hair and build healthy skin and muscles. They need a lot. Puppies and older dogs need different amounts. A puppy should have at least 22% protein in their diet. Older dogs need at least 18%. Bigger, more active dogs should have about 30% protein in their diet.
Calcium helps puppies grow strong bones and supports your Golden’s bone health throughout her life. Dog chow should contain 1.25 grams of calcium for every 1,000 calories per AAFCO. Dogs that are not getting enough calcium may need supplements like bone powder.
Carbohydrates help fuel a dog’s body and give energy to their tissues, muscles, and intestinal health. Sugars, starches, and fiber are all plant materials that provide the carbohydrates your dog needs. High-quality foods should contain at least 30% to 35% carbohydrates.
Fiber is an essential element of your dog’s diet. Healthy fiber comes from fruits and vegetables and helps regulate a pup’s digestive system. Keep an eye on your pup’s bowel movements. Poop that is runny or frequent diarrhea can be a sign of too little fiber. Hard, small stools that are difficult to pass can signify low fiber. Adding fiber supplements like bran flakes or cooked oatmeal can help. Green beans, canned pumpkins, and sweet potatoes are healthy sources of natural fiber for dogs.
Fats And Omega Fatty Acids
Golden Receivers are known for their luxurious long coats. They need a good amount of high-quality fat in their food to keep their skin and coat healthy. Adults need food that has 12% to 18% healthy fats. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, in particular, are good for skin and coat health and help boost the immune system.
Vitamins And Minerals
Golden Retrievers will need a variety of vitamins and minerals throughout their lives to promote health and proper growth. These include Vitamins A, D, E, K, and B and calcium, glucosamine, chondroitin, and phosphorus. Discuss with your vet if you want to add supplements or have trouble finding a kibble that provides a complete balance of vitamins and minerals.
How Much Do Golden Retriever Puppies Grow Each Week?
Goldens will gain about two pounds a week on average from 2 months until they reach about six months. They will start to put on about one pound a week for the next few months. There will be times when they gain weight rapidly and then weeks when they seem to plateau. Continue to feed them a consistent amount and adhere to a regular feeding schedule. This helps you monitor how much a pup is or is not eating. If your golden is not eating or seems to be constantly hungry, it Is best to consult with your vet. Do not offer them human snacks or a lot of treats as a substitute for well-balanced dog chow.
Keeping Your Golden Retriever At The Right Weight
Golden Retrievers love to eat. They are very food motivated and often seek out treats, scraps, and ways to sneak a snack. It is up to their owners to make sure they stay at a healthy weight and not get into things like people’s food, cat kibble, or eat the whole bag of dog food (we have seen it happen!) Owners need to make sure Goldens eat the right amount of healthy, well-balanced dog food. Feeding a Golden from puppyhood to her senior years is not a small task. Her nutrition needs the same care and attention as ours does.
Keeping up with your dog’s regular vet appointments and always providing a high-quality diet can go a long way to her overall health. Make sure to change her diet as her needs change. This is not an area to try and go the cheap route. These foods rarely have the right nutritional balance to keep your dog healthy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Foods Should Golden Retrievers Not Eat?
Try not to feed your Golden too many people snacks. There are many things we eat that can make dogs sick. Golden Retrievers should not eat grapes, chocolate, onions, garlic, chives, avocado, wild mushrooms, caffeine, nutmeg, tomatoes, or cherries, just to name a few. Always contact your vet if you think your pup has eaten something poisonous.
How Often Should You Feed A Golden Retriever?
Feed your Golden Retriever according to age. Try to stick to a consistent feeding schedule. Puppies will eat about four times a day. Adult dogs will eat two or three times a day. Senior dogs eat once or twice a day.
Should I free-feed my Golden Retriever?
It is not advisable to free-feed your Golden or any dog. This allows for a lot of overeating and can lead to obesity. Obesity leads to a whole list of problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and a short lifespan.
Feeding a Golden Retriever is a big responsibility. We have provided the basics for you to feed your Golden from puppy to adulthood. It is a big task to ensure your dog gets everything she needs to grow and develop into the fluffy goofball we all love. Goldens are large dogs, so they will need more protein and other nutrients to support bone and muscle health.
What you feed your Golden, how much you feed her, and when you feed her are all part of keeping her nutritional needs met. Pay close attention to her growth and how much she is eating. Resist her sweet longing eyes when you eat something tasty. Dogs have different nutritional needs than we do. Stick to natural, well-balanced dog chow to keep her healthy from a tiny pup to a sweet mature dog. Our guide has given guidelines to follow but is not a substitute for consulting with your vet. Here’s to many years of healthy, happy feeding for your Golden Retriever.
October 17, 2022 at 10:11 am
It would be nice to have advice for those of us that have a job that requires us to be away from our house for 8-9 hours and cannot afford to go back for lunch. How can we feed our puppy 3-4 times per day? Or any advice for us with this type of lifestyle and that want or have a dog. It seems that most articles assume people’s life revolves around the dog instead of the dog being part of the human’s life.
October 17, 2022 at 12:35 pm
3-4 times per day is only when they are a puppy and also need regular walking since they are not yet potty trained. One they are 8-12 months, you should be okay to switch to twice per day but check with your vet to get specific guidelines for your dog and situation.