Do You Know How Long to Feed Puppy Food?

To celebrate National Dog Day, Purina is hosting a livestream spotlighting adoptable puppies from North Shore Animal League America, tips on puppy behavior and the importance of puppy nutrition to ensure a healthy transition from puppy to adult dog. Pet lovers can tune into the livestream event on Purina’s Facebook page ( on August 26 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST.

While most puppy owners know dogs under a year old are considered puppies, the majority don’t realize breed size determines how long their dog is considered a puppy and ultimately how long they need to eat puppy food, according to a new survey by Nestlé Purina PetCare in St. Louis.

"Puppies have specific nutritional requirements to help support their rapid growth and development," said Callie Harris, DVM, at Purina. "Similar to babies, puppies’ bodies are fast-growing, but unlike babies, puppies pack all their growth into one to two short years. It’s important to feed a high-quality puppy food formula for at least the first 12 months and up to 24 months for large breeds. If you have a mixed breed or aren’t sure where your dog falls in terms of breed size, it’s best to consult your veterinarian. They can let you know when it’s time to switch and help make it a successful transition."

As a general rule, according to company officials, dogs less than one year of age are considered puppies, but different breeds mature at different rates. Here’s how long you can expect to feed your dog puppy food based on his breed size:

  • Toy and small breed dogs weighing less than 30 pounds may reach full maturity between nine and 12 months of age
  • Dogs weighing between 30 and 80 pounds, or medium breeds, take 12 to 16 months to fully mature
  • Large and giant breeds more than 80 pounds can take up to 24 months to reach full maturity

The 2020 Puppy Owner Survey of 1,000 puppy owners revealed the following:

  • More than half (54 percent) of puppy owners in the U.S. currently have a puppy between 6-12 months
  • While 41 percent of puppy owners are aware that dogs up to a year old are considered puppies, very few realize breed size affects the length of time a dog is considered a puppy
  • 47 percent of small breed owners didn’t realize their dog needs to be fed puppy food for up to a year, and 92 percent of large breed owners didn’t realize their dog needs to fed puppy food for up to two years
  • Nearly half (46 percent) of puppy owners consider their puppy’s current size when finding the right food, despite the fact that breed—not current—size dictates the length of time a dog is considered to be a puppy
  • For puppy owners who have stopped feeding puppy food, the main reason is a belief that their puppy has already reached adult size (36 percent)

The survey also found that, even when they’re not eating, puppies keep their little mouths busy while they wait for the next meal:

  • 77 percent of puppy owners agree their puppy is always chewing on something
  • 74 percent of puppy owners agree their puppy will eat anything that gets too close to their mouths
  • 75 percent of puppy owners agree their puppy is always on the lookout for scraps of food

"Puppies like to chew," said Annie Valuska, Ph.D., senior feeding behavior professional at Purina. "It’s what they do. Although it may seem that they’re more inclined to eat our slippers or furniture, it’s our job to make sure we’re helping them get the essential nutrients they need. A few ways puppy owners can do this is by establishing a quiet feeding area away from distractions and temptations, like food prep areas and dining tables, and setting up a feeding routine or schedule by feeding him the same amount of food at the same times each day. Doing so will help keep his digestive system regular, make housetraining easier and keep him happy and healthy. And, while adult dogs should be fed twice a day, puppies require more frequent feedings, ideally three times a day."