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German Shepherd Feeding Guide (From Puppy to Adult)

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

German Shepherds are intelligent and loyal companions, which is why they’re one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide. If you have a German Shepherd or are thinking of getting one, you probably want to learn more about feeding requirements and recommendations.

Even before getting my German Shepherd Willow, I researched what they eat and how much they need for each nutrient type. Raising a German Shepherd works great when you know the basics.

German Shepherds require a protein-rich diet to remain healthy and have long lives. Therefore, you should choose a high-quality dog food with plenty of protein, fiber, carbs, and fat. Puppies generally need more food per pound (0.45 kg) of body weight because they’re growing.

Interested in learning how to properly feed a German Shepherd from the early years to adulthood? Keep reading to find out more!

German Shepherd Feeding Guide

German Shepherd Feeding Guide

One of the first things to consider when caring for a German Shepherd is its age. Since puppies have a lot of growing to do, they require plenty of calories. You can reduce the amount of food per pound of body weight until they reach standard adult measurements.

The specific amount of food to feed a German Shepherd can vary because different dogs are sized differently and have various needs and levels of athleticism. So, it’s also a matter of determining what’s best for your pooch.

To learn more about specific foods and ingredients, check out this article on the best diet for German Shepherds.

If you’re wondering about the type of nutrients required for your German Shepherd, you can also check the video below:

Next, I’ll discuss general feeding recommendations for German Shepherds of different ages.

1 to 4 Months

A 1–4 month-old German Shepherd has a lot of growing to do, so you must feed yours enough to get through these first few months! Additionally, since their stomachs are small at this point, it’s best to give German Shepherd puppies multiple small meals instead of one large meal.

Three to four meals of puppy food a day is ideal for a 1-4 month-old German Shepherd, as the food will be easily digestible and keep the energy high throughout the day. Feeding a puppy 1–2 large meals might make them feel sick, or they may be unable to finish it all at once.

When it comes to how much food to give a 1–4 month-old German Shepherd, the recommended amount is approximately one cup (227 g) or a little more, depending on activity levels per meal.

Be sure to spread meals evenly throughout the day, and avoid feeding your puppy before bedtime.

The West Greenwich Animal Hospital recommends not feeding a dog three hours before bedtime because they may need to go out for a toilet break at night.

4 to 10 Months

Once your German Shepherd hits the 4-month mark, you’ll notice its body growing rapidly. Since their stomachs and bodies are getting bigger, they can generally handle fewer large meals than more small ones.

So, you can reduce the number of puppy food meals to 2 or 3. Since the number of meals is reduced, increase the amount of food per serving to approximately 1.5 cups (340.5 g). Your pooch might need a little more or less than this if they’re particularly energetic or inactive.

The meals should be spread evenly throughout the day to ensure your German Shepherd has consistent energy levels.

German Shepherd 4 Months Old
My German Shepherd Willow at 4 months old

10 to 12 Months

At 10–12 months, a German Shepherd begins to mature as its body continues growing. Although many smaller breeds are considered fully grown near the 12-month mark, GSDs often take longer to reach their maximum height — many dogs don’t reach their full size until 2.5 years or even later.

So, you won’t need to move your German Shepherd to an adult diet just yet, but you can continue reducing the number of meals throughout the day.

At this point, it’s generally OK to give a German Shepherd 2 puppy food meals a day. Split approximately 4–5 cups (908–1,135 g) of food between two meals. However, this is just a recommendation — as mentioned previously, your dog may require more or less than this, depending on their activity levels.

Adult (1+ Years)

Once a German Shepherd reaches the 1-year milestone, they can continue eating 2 puppy food meals a day

Keeping the amount of food at 4-5 cups (908-1,135 g) per day may be sufficient, or it may be best to start feeding your dog more or less than this. For example, many active or working German Shepherds may benefit from 6 cups (1.4 kg) per day.

Again, the specific amount is circumstantial. You should speak with a vet if unsure how much food to give your 1+ year old German Shepherd. 

Since it can take more than 2 years for a German Shepherd to be fully grown, there’s generally no need to switch to adult food until they’re around 18 months old. However, some dog owners make the switch earlier. Speak with your vet if you’re unsure when to switch from puppy to adult food.

If you’re introducing dry food, I like to add water to it. Here’s why:

German Shepherd Feeding Chart

Eight years ago, when I bought Willow, I found it really hard to find out what a puppy meal plan should be like. Honestly, this is the issue with every new pet parent. Unless someone guides you about ideal dog food and periods to feed, you’re either going to overfeed or underfeed them.

Below is a German Shepherd feeding chart to help you learn more about giving your pooch the right amount of food at the right time.

Remember, the below are simply recommendations, so specific amounts can vary by dog and activity level.

AgeAmount of food per dayAmount of servings per day
1-4 months3–4 cups (681–908 g) (spread across multiple servings)3–4
4-10 months3–4.5 cups (681–1,021 g) (spread across multiple servings)2–3
10-12 months4–5 cups (908–1,135 g) (spread evenly across multiple servings)2
1+ years4–6 cups (908–1,362 g) (spread evenly across multiple servings)2
German Shepherd Feeding Chart

Pro Tip! Always check the packaging of the food you buy for a more detailed analysis. The brand’s website will also generally have a detailed feeding guide.

Best Foods for German Shepherd Puppies

Now that you know a little more about feeding a German Shepherd from puppy to adult, it’s good to think about the best foods for your pooch. There are endless dog food options, so making the right choice can be challenging and stressful. 

I’ve compiled a list of some of the best German Shepherd puppy foods to help you find the right match for your four-legged companion. 

Royal Canin German Shepherd Puppy Food

If you’re looking for food specifically made for purebred German Shepherds, this Royal Canin puppy food is the perfect match. 

It’s full of the nutrients your pooch needs to grow and thrive, and each bag comes with specially shaped kibble, ensuring your German Shepherd can easily chomp on each bite of food.

The main protein source is chicken, and it promotes immune system health and digestive performance. Suitable for puppies up to 15 months, this dog food is the perfect solution for young German Shepherds with lots of growing!

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy Food

The Blue Buffalo dog food is made for large dogs, making it a good choice for a German Shepherd puppy that will eventually grow into a full-size adult! One of the main benefits of this food is that it comes in different sizes, including a 15-pound (6.8 kg) and 30-pound (13.6 kg) bag.

This dog food contains all the nutrients a German Shepherd puppy needs to grow and thrive. Plus, it’s packed with antioxidants and other healthy compounds that boost overall health.

Blue Buffalo dog food has real chicken, fruits, and vegetables, so your pooch will surely enjoy the delicious taste!

Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food

Hill’s Science dog food is made specifically for large breeds, so it’s another excellent choice for a growing German Shepherd. It comes in two flavors — a chicken meal with oats and a lamb meal with brown rice. Either contains enough high-quality protein to ensure your pup can grow as healthily as possible.

Additionally, different bag sizes are available, so feel free to try a smaller one first to ensure it’s the right fit for your dog.

Since veterinarians recommend Hill’s Science Dry dog food, you can be sure it’s a healthy and wise choice for a German Shepherd puppy.

Best Foods for Adult German Shepherds

Once your German Shepherd is older than 1, you can start thinking about switching to adult food. As mentioned previously, changing to adult food isn’t always necessary at the 1-year mark. Medium-sized dog breeds can continue eating puppy food until 18 months. 

If you’ve reached the point where you’re ready to change over, it’s good to know your options. Like with puppy food, there are many adult German Shepherd dog food options, so choosing the right one can be challenging.

Check out some of my below recommendations to make your search a little easier.

Best Breed Dr. Gary’s German Dog Diet

As you may have guessed from the name, this dog food was created by a licensed veterinarian to ensure all dogs receive high-quality ingredients in each meal, reducing the chances of developing health issues.

Best Breed Dog Food aids digestion as it contains a blend of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Additionally, it contains all-natural ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about feeding your German Shepherd by-products or low-quality ingredients.

Victor Super Premium Dog Food

If you have a highly active German Shepherd or one with grain allergies, the Victor Super Premium Food is a good choice. 

According to a study, musculoskeletal disorders and the inability to stand are the two most common causes of death in German Shepherds. As a result, it’s vital to ensure they eat enough protein to keep their bones healthy.

Can You Feed a Puppy German Shepherd Adult Food?

You can feed a puppy German Shepherd food, but it’s not a good idea. Since puppies need specific nutrients to grow, their food differs greatly from adult dog food. Giving adult dog food to a puppy could lead to nutrient deficiencies and other health issues, so it’s best avoided.

Puppies especially need protein because it aids with the growth and development of cells. 

Without adequate protein in the diet, puppies are more susceptible to serious health issues, including:

  • Weight and muscle loss
  • General weakness
  • Chest and abdomen issues

German Shepherds can continue eating puppy food for the first year of life and beyond. Usually, 16–18 months is a good time for a dog to start eating adult food. The most important thing to remember is that adult food is never the right choice for a German Shepherd puppy that still has much growing to do.

Factors To Consider When Feeding a German Shepherd

Thus far, I’ve discussed how much to feed dogs and some of the best dog food choices for adults and puppies. However, there are many other factors to consider when it comes to feeding a German Shepherd, like their general weight and activity levels. 

Let’s discuss these factors in more detail below.

Weight and Size

The weight of your German Shepherd will determine how much to feed it. The general rule of thumb is that the heavier your dog is, the more food it needs to stay fueled. That is unless they’re overweight. 

The average adult German Shepherd is around 26.5–31 inches (67-79 cm) tall, but the specific height can vary from dog to dog. Pay attention to the general height and size of your German Shepherd to determine exactly how much food to feed them. 

I have to say, my German Shepherd is very tall for a female as she stands 31 inches.

You should also consider whether your German Shepherd is over or underweight. For example, an underweight German Shepherd will need extra food to get back to a healthy weight, whereas an overweight one will need less food.

German Shepherd Sat At Front Door
My German Shepherd Willow

Activity/Energy Levels

Another important consideration is how many calories your dog burns in a day through exercise. As you can imagine, a highly energetic dog will need more food than a German Shepherd that lies around all day.

If your German Shepherd is still relatively young, i.e., the first 5–6 years of life, and healthy, it should be highly active and require plenty of food to stay fueled. 


Health issues can affect the way a dog eats. For example, a dog with stomach issues might avoid food altogether. Other health conditions that affect how much a dog can eat include:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Parasites
  • Infections
  • Cancer

Consider whether your dog is experiencing health issues when feeding them. For instance, if your dog is shedding too much, you need to change a diet that minimizes shedding. If you notice they refuse to eat or drink, it’s best to take them to a vet because they can become dehydrated quickly.


The age of a German Shepherd helps determine how much food should be eaten and how often. For example (as mentioned earlier), younger dogs must eat smaller meals spread evenly throughout the day, while older dogs can have 2 larger meals.

Additionally, older dogs often need less food when they become more inactive, as they’re not burning as many calories as they used to. It’s easy for older dogs to become overweight through overeating and lack of exercise, so be careful when feeding an elderly German Shepherd.

Veterinary Recommendations 

While it’s not necessary to go to the vet every other month, it’s good to go semi-frequently (at least once a year) for check-ups and to get dietary recommendations. A vet can weigh your German Shepherd, ask questions, and listen to the heartbeat to determine a healthy diet plan.

As dogs age, their dietary needs may change, so it’s important to get updated advice from a professional occasionally. As Willow is now a senior dog, I like to take her for vet checkups every 6 months.

Can a German Shepherd Puppy Eat Homemade Food?

Homemade German Shepherd Food. A German Shepherd Puppy with a bowl of homemade dog food.

A German Shepherd puppy can eat homemade food, but it’s always best to stick with dry puppy food as it contains all the nutrients it needs to thrive. In many cases, giving puppies homemade food over long periods can cause health issues down the line.

A study by the National Library of Medicine concluded that a homemade diet (given by the owner) caused a puppy to experience various health issues, including vitamin D deficiency and NSH (nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism). 

If you’re adamant you want to feed a homemade diet, then you should consult a dog nutritionist.

So, it’s clear that ad hoc human food doesn’t contain the necessary nutrients for a puppy to grow and thrive. You can give a small treat here and there, but human food should never make up the entire diet of a puppy.

Human Foods That German Shepherds of All Ages Can Eat

Although sticking to dry dog food is best, you can incorporate some human foods into a German Shepherd’s diet. Below are some tasty examples!


Not only are eggs beneficial for humans, but they can also be good for dogs if given in moderation. German Shepherds (puppies and adults) will receive plenty of nutrients from eggs, including protein and fats. The best and easiest way to give a German Shepherd an egg is to hard boil it.

Avoid feeding a German Shepherd (or any dog) fried eggs too often due to the excessive oil. Hard-boiled eggs are usually the easiest for dogs to eat, but you can also try poached or scrambled eggs.


Fruits are excellent treats because they’re healthier than standard sweet treats. Examples of dog-friendly fruits include:

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries

There are some fruits to avoid, which I’ll discuss in the next section.


There are plenty of vegetables that dogs can eat as part of a healthy, balanced diet. If you want to give your pooch a break from a diet that solely consists of dry food, consider adding some fresh veg into the mix!

Examples of vegetables your German Shepherd might enjoy include:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Sweet potatoes

Human Foods German Shepherds of all Ages Should Never Eat

Despite there being many healthy human foods for German Shepherds, there are also plenty of unhealthy or even toxic choices!

Below are some examples:

  • Certain fruits, including grapes, raisins, and cherries
  • Chocolate and other candies
  • Deep fried foods
  • Artificial sweeteners (especially xylitol)
  • Fruit seeds (e.g., apple seeds)
  • Anything spicy or highly seasoned

Can German Shepherds Eat Treats?

German Shepherd with Dog Treats
Willow with some of her favorite treats

German Shepherds can eat treats occasionally, but it’s important not to overfeed them. Since their diets mostly consist of the same dry dog food day in and day out, giving them a treat once in a while is a nice change for them.

The best treats for dogs are specially-made dog treats that are low in calories. Below are some examples of times it’s appropriate to give a German Shepherd a treat:

  • During training sessions.
  • When a reward is warranted (i.e. if they behave well in a particular situation).
  • If it’s been a long time since they’ve had a treat.

You should not give a German Shepherd a treat if they’re misbehaving or begging, as giving in to this behavior reinforces it. 

Do you want to know more about the top treats for German Shepherds? Head over here, Best Treats for German Shepherds.

Why Isn’t My German Shepherd Eating?

Occasionally, you might notice your German Shepherd doesn’t eat their food. If it only happens once in a blue moon, it’s nothing to worry about. However, if it happens frequently, you may want to visit a vet to have them checked for illnesses.

Note that the eating pattern is reduced in older dogs compared to younger ones.

Below are some of the common reasons German Shepherds don’t eat their food:

  • They don’t like it. It may not seem like it, but dogs have different taste preferences. While some might prefer pork, others prefer beef. If you’ve decided to try a new flavor and your pooch isn’t touching their bowl, they probably don’t like the taste.

Try mixing different flavors and it will work wonders, trust me!

  • They aren’t hungry. If you overfeed your German Shepherd, it may turn its nose up at its food. In the same way that humans get full after eating large meals, dogs do, too.
  • Health issue. Many health issues can cause a German Shepherd to leave their food in the bowl, so it’s best to speak with a vet for guidance. 
  • Stress and anxiety. You may already know that stress in humans can affect our appetite, and it works the same for dogs. A German Shepherd that is highly stressed will be less likely to eat its food.

How Do I Know If I’m Feeding My Dog Enough?

If you feed your German Shepherd enough, they should be satisfied and energetic throughout the day. However, if you notice they continue barking or begging for food right after eating, you may need to give them more. 

Always follow the recommended guidelines for your dog’s age and general size. Speak with a vet if you have any questions.

Final Thoughts

Dogs are excellent companions, so we must feed them correctly. After reading this German Shepherd feeding guide, you should better understand how to feed your furry friend correctly.

The main takeaway is to monitor your Shepherd’s weight to ensure it stays in a healthy range as per your vet’s recommendations. Keep an eye on what they eat and also monitor activity levels. It helps in planning their feeding patterns better.

Happy feeding!

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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