Dog Food Basics

Tips on Feeding Your Dog

Dog holding food bowl in mouth
GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Photodisc/Getty Images

When it comes to feeding your dog, there are several decisions a dog owner must make. Proper nutrition is one of your dog's basic needs, and it's about more that just the type of dog food. Here are the answers to some basic questions you may have about dog feeding: 

What Type of Dog Food is Best for My Dog?

Because there are so many commercial dog food brands available, choosing a dog food can be overwhelming. All commercial diets with the AAFCO label are considered "complete and balanced" for dogs. This means that foods sustain life and meet dogs' basic nutritional needs. However, not all food are created equal. Most experts agree that the quality of ingredients plays a major role in a dog's health and well-being. 

When you are choosing the type of food to feed your dog, first narrow down your priorities:

  • Is finding the most natural, healthiest ingredients the most important factor? If so, look into natural/holistic foods or veterinary diets. Better yet, consider a home-prepared diet.
  • How much does cost factor into your decision? Most natural/holistic diets are in the higher price range. However, economy diets are often made with lower quality ingredients.
  • How much time are you willing to spend preparing the food? If you want to save money and have the time, a home-prepared dietmay be the healthiest option.

Then, consider your dog: 

  • Picky dogs might do best with canned food or home-cooked diets. 
  • Overweight dogs or those with health conditions may benefit from special veterinary diets or home-cooked diets. 

Choosing Commercial Diets: To compare foods and determine which is best for your dog, visit When in doubt, ask your vet for advice. Remember that opinions may vary greatly.

Choosing Home-Prepared Diets: Rather than choosing a commercial diet, some owners opt to go for homemade diets. If you try this option, make sure you work with your veterinarian to create a complete and balanced diet that is customized for your dog's needs. To begin developing a home-prepared diet for your dog, check out and/or

How Much Food Should I Feed My Dog?

The amount of food to feed your dog depends on a few factors:

  • Your dog's age (puppy vs. adult)
  • Your dog's body condition
  • Your dog's activity level
  • The calorie and nutrient content of the diet

A dog food calculator can tell you approximately how many calories per day your dog needs. Talk to your vet about your dog's body condition and ideal weight.

How Often Does My Dog Need to Eat?

Most experts agree that twice-daily feeding is best for most adult dogs. Once-a-day is a long time for a dog to go between meals. Puppies should be fed 3-6 times per day (small puppies need food more often to prevent blood sugar drops). Talk to your vet about an appropriate feeding schedule for your dog.

What Type of Dog Bowl Is Best?

Experts recommend avoiding plastic bowls for a dog's food and water. This is because your dog can develop an allergic reaction or sensitivity, resulting in a rash or type of acne on the chin and face. Not only is the plastic a potential irritant, but the bowl may harbor bacteria or other microbes that affect your dog (plastic bowls are harder to keep clean). It's best to use metal or ceramic bowls for dog food and water.

What About Treats?

There are plenty of options for yummy dog treats and dog chews. Make sure you choose safe options for your dog. Also, remember that treats and chews are supplements to your dog's diet and should never make up more than about 10% of your dog's daily caloric intake.

What Foods Should I Avoid Feeding?

Most dogs love food and will eat just about anything they can find. Avoid the following harmful or even toxic foods for dogs:

  • Chocolate
  • Grapes/Raisins
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pits and seeds from fruits/vegetables
  • Alcoholic drinks or foods
  • Caffeinated drinks or foods
  • Xylitol (found in sugar-free or reduced-sugar gum and candy)
  • Yeast dough
  • Moldy or rotten food
  • Fatty foods
  • Bones, antlers and animal hooves