Perhaps one of the most popular dog breeds for the family today is the Labrador Retriever, simply known as the lab. They are known for being outgoing, agile, trustworthy, kind, intelligent, and have a steady temperament, which makes them excellent pets.
However, before they grow up to this cool family dog that everyone loves, they start as puppies. So what exactly do you feed a lab puppy and how much? What are the considerations when feeding your lab puppy?
After all, the health of your Labrador Retriever begins at birth and puppyhood, so it pays to invest in quality puppy food and set the right schedule for feeding to build their habit.
At different stages of growth, lab puppies will require different levels of nutrition and therefore, you should feed them differently. The lack of proper nutrition could lead to serious health problems in the future, which is why you’ll want to begin the proper feeding to your lab pup right away.
How much to feed a Lab puppy?
A lab puppy will do well on a daily diet with 2 to 3 cups of dog/puppy food, but it still depends on their age and weight. All puppies grow differently so it’s difficult to find the exact number of cups or calories for a lab puppy. However, since each cup of dry dog food is around 327 calories, expect around 654 to 981 calories for your lab puppy since it is a large breed.
The different stages of the life of your lab puppy dictate just how much you need to feed your pup. After all, they have varying nutritional needs during such times. Here are tips on how to feed them per stage of life or age:
Birth to 3 weeks old
At birth, a lab puppy depends on its mother’s milk. At 2 weeks old, a lab puppy will open their eyes and will depend on being nursed by its mother. If you have a large litter, look for lab puppies that are underweight or aren’t getting enough chances of being fed by the mom dog.
Lab puppies that are seriously underweight (see our growth chart below) should be taken to a vet for advice on what kind of milk replacer or supplement they should be given. The mother Labrador Retriever might not be able to accommodate all of the puppies all the time so there’s always a likelihood of inequality in nursing the pups. That’s where milk replacer or puppy formulas work well.
By 3 weeks old, a lab puppy will start to move around but will still need to be nursed as their main source of food. During this time, their mother’s milk is much more needed since they will have to burn calories from standing up and moving around.
Lab puppies by this age will also start to develop their milk teeth. Some breeders might give a taste test to the puppies but it depends on your case. This is a step that you can do already if the mother doesn’t have enough milk for the puppies. This also means that you will have to start the weaning process much earlier.
4 to 6 weeks old
When your pup turns 4 weeks old, they can already be introduced to solid food. Although full weaning is not recommended at this stage yet, a mix of water and puppy food should be tried. By slowly introducing them to this kind of food, they will have a smoother weaning process.
To create food to offer your lab puppy, simply mix a 1:3 ratio of puppy food and water (always use water from a clean source). Don’t add a lot of puppy food at first because your lab puppy might not eat it or it might shock their digestive system at first.
Puppy food that is mixed with water is likely to spoil after 20 minutes so be sure to only put a little amount of the mixture to avoid sitting there and being wasted. There’s always a chance that the lab puppy might not eat it at first but always leaving it in their quarters will help them try to get used to it or become curious of its taste.
It is important to know that you shouldn’t force-feed your puppy just because they are underweight or they are lagging behind other puppies. Don’t overdo it because it will just lead to problematic behaviors. Always keep in mind that weaning isn’t done overnight and you’ll need a ton of patience to complete it. Simply wait the next day and give it another go.
By 5 weeks of age, lab puppies are most likely going to eat their puppy food and water mix. This is because they will be nursed less due to their mother slowly letting them go. The mother might not lay down with the puppies and instead, nurse them only in a shorter time while standing up.
When your puppies reach 6 weeks old, you can reduce the water content so the ratio is now 3:1 with less water. That’s because a lab puppy, at this point, will most likely chow down on the puppy food and less on their mother’s milk.
Puppies that are 6 weeks old develop a sense of independence from their mother and will start to explore the world even more.
7 to 12 weeks old
During this time, you can already set a feeding schedule for your lab puppy. The rule of thumb is around 3 to 4 separate meals a day and should be around 2 to 3 cups of food, which translates to 981 calories.
When choosing puppy food for your lab puppy, make sure that it has sufficient protein. It’s more advisable to give them dry kibble instead of wet food to avoid weight gain issues. However, try to balance if they are underweight or skinny. Be sure to read the labels and look for a healthy protein source, such as foods with chicken as the first ingredient.
With that said, a 7-week-old lab puppy might not be fully weaned yet since they might still drink from their mother’s milk. However, they won’t completely depend on it as they are more used to the puppy food mixture.
By 8 weeks of age, your puppy is most likely fully weaned. Puppies from a breeder’s quarters can be re-homed. With that said, lab puppies should not be free-fed by this time since there is a risk of overfeeding them.
When they turn 9 weeks old, a lab puppy can also be given cooked meats but make sure they are properly handled to avoid bacterial contamination. Never give them food scraps or leftovers as they are considered human food and have a different nutritional value that might not be ideal for dogs (or puppies).
If you do need to change the lab puppy’s staple food (such as if the breeder used a different brand), you should do so gradually. As mentioned above, putting small amounts of the new food is important at first and then gradually shifting up until your lab puppy adjusts to the new food.
When your pup reaches 10 weeks old, keep feeding them at least 2 to 3 cups of food a day. Always remember to watch over the food and take it out if it hasn’t been eaten after 10 to 20 minutes.
At 11 weeks of age, your puppy will need to have 3 to 4 meals a day because this is their hungry period. They are most likely to gobble down food so increase your puppy food but don’t break the schedule as much as possible. About 3 cups of food a day are recommended.
When your lab pup turns 12 weeks old, you can narrow it down to only 3 meals a day and 2 cups of food a day. If you are busy at work or are outside, you can invest in an automatic or scheduled feeder (dog food dispenser) or you can ask someone at home to feed them according to schedule.
13 weeks to 6 months old
Within this period, you can reduce the puppy food schedule to only 2 to 3 times a day. Always keep in mind that the puppy food should be measured accurately and divided evenly.
By 13 weeks of age, they tend to have more curious personalities and they might even try to pick up items on the floor and mistake them for food. Therefore, it pays to keep your floors clean. Lab puppies, by this time, might also express hunger even if they aren’t hungry, so still, stick to the regular schedule.
Your lab puppy will lose their milk teeth by 14 weeks of age so they will need a chew toy, as well as hard treats and dry kibble.
7 to 15 months old
Simply continue your routine for your puppy but you can just stick to 2 meals a day with equal amounts. If you do ever want to switch brands, always do it gradually by mixing small portions of the new food at first and work your way up until the new food is all that’s left in the lab puppy’s food bowl.
Sticking to a feeding schedule is very important for a lab puppy, just like with most breeds. To help you out, here’s a lab puppy feeding chart to help you figure out how much to give to your pup daily based on their age and weight:
|Age of lab puppy||2 months||3 months||6 months|
|Weight||15 to 18 lbs.||24 to 26 lbs.||50 to 60 lbs.|
|Suggested meals per day||4||3||2|
|Amount of food||Per day||7 to 9 oz
200 to 250 g
|9 to 11 oz
250 to 300 g
|12 to 16 oz
350 to 450 g
|Per meal||2 oz
50 to 55 g
|3 to 3.5 oz
80 to 100 g
|6 to 8 oz
175 to 225 g
If your puppy is advised by the vet to go on a hypoallergenic diet, here’s a helpful chart to help you out:
|Weight of the puppy|
|Age||11 to 17 lbs.||17 to 33 lbs.||33 to 55 lbs.|
|2 to 3 months||275 to 400 g||400 to 475 g||–|
|3 to 6 months||250 to 375 g||375 to 575 g||575 to 725 g|
|6 to 8 months||–||250 to 400 g||400 to 750 g|
|9 months and above||–||Adult food||Adult food|
To help you understand how a lab puppy grows based on their age and weight, here’s a helpful growth chart for your reference:
|Birth||8 weeks old||16 weeks old||30 weeks old||40 weeks old||1 year old|
|The typical weight of a lab puppy||1 to 15 lbs.||10 to 15 lbs.||30 lbs.||50 lbs.||60 lbs.||70 to 80 lbs. (male)
70 lbs. (female)
If you want a more detailed chart that differentiates weights per pup (as not all pups are born with the same weight), here’s one that’s measured per monthly milestone of the lab puppy:
|Age of lab puppy||Typical weight (lbs.)|
FAQs on Feeding a Lab Puppy
If you want to know about some specifics on feeding your lab puppy properly, here are some frequently asked questions that will hopefully help you out:
How do I choose the best lab puppy food?
When choosing any puppy food, you should always know about the different factors, as well as nutrients, in the product you pick. Here are some pointers and considerations when looking for the best lab puppy food:
1. Rich in protein
Protein is important for lab puppies to build muscle. Because the lab puppy will be an active dog when they grow up, it is important to give them the right amount of protein.
Labrador pups work well with most protein sources that are meant for dogs, such as chicken, turkey, fish, and sometimes duck, beef, and pork. You can also include animal liver and organs if your pup likes them.
2. Quality ingredients
When we say quality ingredients, we mean meat that is sourced from well-kept farms and livestock. For instance, cage-free chickens and grass-fed cows are good examples of quality meat sources, as well as wild-caught fish. Sustainable fishing and livestock raising are good practices for the animals, hence, they provide better nutritional value for your puppy food.
When looking for a lab puppy food product, look for words like “chicken is the first ingredient”. There are a plethora of puppy food brands out there but only a select few have quality ingredients. Aside from the meat, veggies such as peas and carrots should be sourced from organic farms as well.
3. No fillers or by-products
Unfortunately, most commercial brands have fillers in their dog food. This is bad for your puppy because they have little to no nutritional value. Although dogs are usually okay with corn, sometimes, corn is used as a filler and doesn’t exactly help your lab puppy to grow healthier.
If you want to find lab puppy food that doesn’t contain by-products or fillers, consider looking for brands online instead of going to the supermarket. Organic dog food is usually more expensive but with fewer fillers, they are healthier in the long run.
4. Reduced fats
Labrador Retrievers are more likely to get overweight due to being prone to bloating and overeating. Therefore, it makes sense to choose a puppy food that has less fat, especially if your puppy won’t be going outside too often.
Unless you have a very active and workaholic puppy or dog in the future, keep the puppy food’s fat content to a minimum. While wet food is oaky to feed for your lab puppy, we recommend dry kibble much more for a lab puppy because of less fat content and more benefits to their teeth when they crunch it.
5. Additional vitamins and minerals
Lab puppies will benefit from food that has glucosamine and chondroitin, which will help them to get less likelihood of arthritis and elbow dysplasia. Also, having omega fatty acids in their food (such as meat from fish) will maintain their heart health. That’s because lab puppies could be prone to heart diseases when they get older.
Which nutrients do lab puppies need?
Glucosamine and chondroitin are very important to look for if you want your lab puppy to get the right nutrition. Elbow dysplasia and arthritis are most likely to develop in a Labrador Retriever so, from puppyhood, they should already get their dose of glucosamine and chondroitin.
As every puppy food is already rich in protein and fats, these two are joint-helping nutrients that your lab puppy will benefit from when they grow and develop into adult dogs. If your lab puppy came from a breeder, talk to them for any medical history of the puppy’s parents regarding joint problems such as elbow dysplasia or even arthritis – and what the breeder did to help lessen their occurrence.
Omega fatty acids are also great nutrients to consider for your lab puppy. You will find these in fish and fish oil, which is common in most of today’s organic dog food brands. These fatty acids are helpful for your puppy’s coat health, as well as their heart health.
If you can’t find puppy food in the grocery store that has fish or fish oil, you can just buy fish from the wet market and either feed it to them in BARF style (mentioned below) or as a home-cooked meal. Just make sure to take out any indigestible parts, such as fish bones.
Is it safe to feed my lab puppy food supplements?
That depends on the advice of your vet – most lab puppies are usually healthy and don’t need a lot of food supplements unless otherwise stated by your veterinarian. If your vet says that your lab pup is lacking certain nutrients that’s when they might advise you to buy some puppy supplements.
Additionally, supplements are also useful in case your pup wasn’t in the right weight during their early puppy stages or during the nursing period. If you have a sickly lab puppy, that’s when supplements could come in handy. However, in general, if your puppy looks healthy and strong, just sticking to the regular puppy food for them is okay.
Can I feed my lab puppy with home-made or raw food?
Yes, raw food and home-made diets are okay for your pet – so long as they are managed and handled properly.
Raw feeding, also known as BARF or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, is a common feeding method wherein you feed your dog with raw (uncooked) food, which includes meat from the wet market, as well as organs. This is what a dog would probably eat in the wild, hence most people and pet enthusiasts believe that it’s a great way to feed your puppy.
Aside from raw food, you can also feed them with home-cooked meals, which is okay, so long as they are not leftovers from the dinner table. You can also complement it with a couple of fruits and vegetables that are deemed safe for labs (and dogs, in general).
However, when you do want to feed your lab puppy with either BARF or homemade foods, you have to make sure that the nutritional value is just right for them. For more information, you can talk to your vet or ask other pet owners, especially lab puppy owners or breeders, for information on how to feed them with raw or homemade food.
When should I switch from puppy to adult food?
The best time to switch from your lab puppy food to adult food is when they turn 1 year old (12 months). However, as with what we mentioned above, always do a gradual transition to avoid digestive upsets.
Start by adding a little bit of the adult food into the mix and then slowly increase it while decreasing the amount of puppy food. This is also very important if you will feed your lab pup with a different brand. This can take place in a few days or weeks – whenever it is more convenient for your pup. Don’t force them to adapt right away and be patient with it.
Help! My puppy overeats! What should I do?
Labrador puppies tend to graze over their food a lot, which is a common problem faced by pet owners. Lab puppies are, therefore, more prone to obesity than most breeds due to this typical behavior. Bloating is also a problem that occurs from overeating.
If your puppy tends to overeat, here are some possible solutions for you and your pup:
- Lessen snacks and treats. A common problem and mistake that most pet owners make are that they feed their puppy with a lot of snacks and treats, which leads them to want more other than their set meals. That’s why you should slowly cut down on the treats, especially during training, and don’t spoil them that much to avoid weight issues.
- Always stick to a feeding schedule. Don’t starve your pup too much or else they would eat voraciously. By maintaining a schedule with proper intervals, you are not only training your dog’s instinct during puppyhood in terms of wanting food – but you are also training them to do their business in a timed manner (meaning fewer clean-ups).
Don’t put the intervals far away from each other when it comes to feeding them daily. A good schedule would be 7 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon, and 5 or 6 pm. If you need to lessen the feeding times per day to only 2, you can do something like 10 in the morning and then 3 pm.
Also, if you can’t attend to your lab pup at all times, have someone take the role and monitor the puppy’s feeding schedule. You can ask your family members or housekeepers for the job.
- Invest in a slow-feeding bowl. For voracious eaters, the main benefit of a slow-feeding bowl is to lessen their food intake and also to keep them away from getting bloated. Lab puppies are very prone to both bloat and obesity, which is why you’ll likely find pet owners with lab puppies that are being fed from a slow-feeding bowl.
- If you’re busy, try an automatic or scheduled feeder. We know that in a busy world, not everyone can monitor Fido’s eating schedule and you’re bound to make a mistake or two due to a hectic schedule, whether it’s work, school, or any other career. If this happens to you often, invest in an automatic or scheduled feeder.
- Try puzzle feeders. A puzzle feeder requires a lot of work for your lab puppy to feed on. This will act like a slow-feeding bowl but will also become a fun toy for your pup to work on. It stimulates their coordination skills and they will also have to work for their food, resulting in less likelihood of obesity and bloating.
My puppy won’t eat. What should I do?
Although most lab puppies are voracious eaters and will gobble up everything, some select few are either picky eaters or are just timid. If your lab pup is one of those (which is usually a puppy that didn’t belong to a large litter), a reduced appetite could lead to health concerns.
A lab puppy that hasn’t been eating for more than 4 hours is a sign of trouble so you need to contact your vet right away. However, if they are just not that enthusiastic about eating, just be patient and observant, but don’t forget to talk about it to your vet on the next visit.
How do I ensure my lab puppy has a healthy weight?
Knowing the differences between underweight, ideal, and overweight can be tricky. Therefore, here are guidelines to help you (and your vet) notice and make a quick judgment whether your lab pulpy needs to eat more or less:
If your dog is underweight: you can see the hip bones and the ribs. The waist is very defined and you won’t see a lot of fat around the stomach area. They have a more hourglass shape when viewed from above.
If your dog is overweight: you will not see any waist whatsoever and their stomach might protrude and become rounded. From the top, the dog appears to be either straight or slightly rounded instead of an hourglass shape.
The ideal weight of your lab puppy: the ribs could still be visible but not as defined. The belly is curved upward when viewed from the side and the top, the waist is just right and not very inward curved.
Can I feed human food to a lab puppy?
We strongly discourage feeding table food to lab puppies because they have a different nutritional value. What’s good for humans might not be so good for dogs. Many foods are also toxic to our canine friends so to be on the safe side, keep them off the table scraps and cook or prepare them separate meals.
Just stick to your usual wet or kibble food. If you want to try raw feeding or home-cooked meals, ask your vet about it to make sure that you’re giving them the right kind of food.
To wrap it up, if you want to maintain a lab puppy’s health, you have to ensure that they get the right amount of food with proper feeding schedules. Since the Labrador Retriever is a breed that is prone to bloating and obesity, they should be watched over at times to avoid eating too much food.
When in doubt, always consult your vet on the best ways to feed your lab puppy based on their medical history, health condition, weight, and other factors. We hope that this guide on feeding your Labrador puppy helped you to raise a loving pup to adulthood!