How Often Should You Feed a Lab? Why Feeding Routines Matter

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When Molly started to grow from her puppy self into an adult, her food needs changed dramatically. In the beginning, I worried that I was feeding her too little. As she grew older, I became concerned that I was feeding her too much. So, how many times a day should you feed a Labrador?

Most vets agree that you should feed an adult Labrador two meals per day. For Labrador puppies, three meals per day is recommended unless otherwise stated on the food packaging.

It is essential to adhere to food schedules that are consistent for the long term health of your Lab. You should also be aware of how to handle situations when your dog doesn’t want to eat on schedule or doesn’t finish it’s meal.

Labrador approaching dog food bowl to eat.

Labrador Feeding Schedules

Labrador adults, like most dogs, work well when fed on a schedule. Twice per day is the standard as it allows the dog to eat and digest properly. 

Puppies will require more frequent feedings, though, as they expend far more energy and smaller stomachs to hold their needed food.

If you have a Labrador that gets a lot of exercise, you may want to consider feeding them less food more often, as they will likely feel hungry sooner.

Feed Your Labrador At Least Every 12 hours

Remember that your Labrador shouldn’t go more than 12 hours without food to avoid nausea. Age, size, and the food’s nutritional content should determine the amount of food given.

Whatever the frequency, it’s crucial for your puppy or dog to have a regular feeding schedule. Disrupting this can cause digestive problems that are unpleasant for the dog and the owner.

According to Veterinary Centers of America, dogs are creatures of habit that need the security and predictability of their feeding routine. In addition, keeping the feeding schedule consistent helps your pet cope with other changes that may occur within the household.

Lastly, never free-feed a Labrador. While Labradors may not technically eat themselves to death, they can certainly make themselves sick if you let them decide how much and how often to eat.

What to Do If Your Lab Doesn’t Finish Its Meal

Some dogs don’t eat their entire portion during mealtime, which is okay as long as it’s normal behavior for your Lab. This is especially true while you’re trying to establish a set routine for when your Lab will eat its meals. 

Feed Your Lab Less Food More Frequently

If you find that your Labrador isn’t interested in eating the entire meal in a single sitting, you can add more mealtime if it works for your schedule. To do this, you should take the whole day’s meal portion and divide it evenly into the desired number of meals. 

For example, if you feed your dog 1½ cups in the morning and night, that’s three cups total for the day. If you add an extra mealtime, you should serve 1 cup at each of the three meals.

In other words, adding another mealtime doesn’t mean that you add more food intake to the day’s total. 

Use Interactive Food Dispensers

Another option is to use an interactive toy to dispense the food, which may help to keep your dog’s attention for the entire mealtime.

For example, I recommend buying Outward Hound Store’s Nina Ottosson Interactive Puzzle Game. It is an excellent option to hide food or treats. This particular item is perfect for a Labrador because it will allow your pet to use its intelligence to solve a puzzle and problem-solve while being rewarded with the kibble hidden inside. 

Although it isn’t a good option for every Lab’s mealtime, it is an idea for a pup that loses interest in their food before finishing.

Labrador puppy eating out of food bowl.

How Much to Feed a Labrador

Your Lab’s portions at each meal should depend on a few different factors. First of all, you need to know if your pup is currently at a healthy weight

Dogs are typically considered overweight at 15% over their ideal weight and obese if they’re 30% over their ideal weight. So the best thing to do in this case is to ask your veterinarian if your Lab is at a healthy weight.  

If your Lab is not at an ideal weight, you’ll need to talk to your vet and amend the feeding plan. You may also consider a specialized food designed to help your dog reach the appropriate weight. 

Your Labrador’s activity level will also impact how much he needs to eat each day. It’s always a good idea to consult the feeding guide on your dog food and your veterinarian’s advice to make an informed decision.

Labrador Feeding Schedule Examples

To give you an idea of a standard feeding schedule and meal plan, here is a chart based on the feeding recommendation from Royal Canin’s Labrador Retriever dry puppy food

Adult Target Weight:2 months3 months6 months12 months14 months
57 lbs. (26 kg)2 ½ cups3 cups3 ¾ cups3 ⅜ cups3 ⅜ cups
70 lbs. (32 kg)2 ⅝ cups3 ¼ cups4 ⅜ cups3 ⅞ cups3 ⅞ cups
88 lbs. (40 kg)2 ¾ cups3 ⅝ cups5 ⅛ cups4 ⅝ cups4 ⅝ cups
*2-5 months: split into three equal portions per day.
*6-15 months: split into two equal portions per day.

Here are the feeding recommendations for an adult Labrador Retriever with an average activity level:

Dog’s Weight: Amount Per Day (in cups)
57 lbs. (26 kg)4 ⅜ 
66 lbs. (30 kg)4 ⅞ 
75 lbs. (34 kg)5 ⅜ 
84 lbs. (38 kg)5 ¾ 
97 lbs. (44 kg)6 ½ 
*Split the daily amount into two equal feedings, morning and evening.

Food specifically for Labradors

If you like the idea of breed-specific dog food formulas, I highly recommend an adult formula like the Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Adult Breed. For a puppy formula, I recommend Royal Canin Labrador Retriever Puppy Breed. Both are great because they are specially designed for the nutritional demands of a purebred Lab. 

The kibble is shaped to encourage slower eating and more careful chewing. I also like that the food has nutrients to support a healthy coat and joints. 

Owner putting food bowl down for Labrador to eat.

Sudden Changes in a Labrador’s Eating Habits

Because dogs are so routine-oriented, a sudden change in their eating habits can be a warning sign. In that case, you should contact your veterinarian to ensure that there isn’t an underlying issue. 

Conclusion

Most adult Labradors should eat twice per day, while puppies will eat less food more frequently until they are around six months old. Be sure to follow the guidance printed on the package of the food you are feeding your dog. Every dog food has different ingredients and recommended portion sizes.

Only adjust the recommended feeding schedule if your vet advises something different due to medical or dietary reasons. If you are unsure how much to feed your Lab, consult your vet for appropriate guidance.

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