Have you heard conflicting advice on how often to feed your German Shepherd? Feeding your dog doesn’t have to be complicated – but you want to get it right. So, how many times a day should you feed your German Shepherd?
German Shepherds should be fed at least twice a day. For puppies, feed four meals a day up to three months old, then three meals a day up to six months old, before finally reducing to two meals a day.
It is essential to stick to food schedules that are consistent for the long-term health of your German Shepherd, especially as the breed is prone to the life-threatening condition, Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), commonly known as bloat.
This article will cover how often to feed a German Shepherd (whether puppy or adult) and how much to give your dog to keep him healthy and happy.
You’ll also learn how to handle situations when your pooch doesn’t want to eat on schedule or won’t finish his meal.
Let’s start with the basics!
How Often Should You Feed a German Shepherd? Best Practices From an Owner
German Shepherds are large, powerful, athletic, and active dogs. As a working breed raised to herd and protect sheep, they are typically energetic, enjoy physical activity, and love having a job to do.
Due to their dynamic character, they demand a high-energy diet. However, as large, deep-chested dogs, they are one of the breeds prone to bloat (GDV), and vets advise against feeding one large meal a day.
Twice per day is the standard, with a good few hours in between, as it allows your GSD to eat and digest his food properly. German Shepherds, like most dogs, work well when fed on a schedule.
Your dog shouldn’t go more than 12 hours without food to avoid nausea, and his age, size, and the meal’s nutritional content should determine the amount of food given.
You may have seen the results of a recent study suggesting that dogs may benefit from certain health benefits if they’re fed one meal a day.
However, scientists are not recommending owners change their dogs’ feeding agenda as more research is needed on breed-specific feeding schedules.
I absolutely agree with this, especially as the German Shepherd is susceptible to a sensitive stomach and is known to have more digestive problems than other breeds. However, if you have any concerns, you should speak to your vet.
If you have a high-energy or working German Shepherd, such as a guard dog, assistance dog, or Police or Military dog that gets a lot of exercise, you may consider feeding little and often to prevent hunger.
Puppy Feeding Schedule
German Shepherd puppies will require more frequent feedings as they expend far more energy and have smaller stomachs to hold their food.
You should feed a German Shepherd puppy four meals daily between 6 and 12 weeks old. Puppies aged between 12 and 24 weeks should have three meals a day, and from 24 weeks onwards, German Shepherd puppies should be fed twice daily.
|Age of Puppy||Number of Daily Meals|
|6 to 12 weeks||4 Meals|
|12 to 24 weeks||3 Meals|
|24 weeks onwards||2 Meals|
Whatever the frequency, your puppy needs to have a regular feeding schedule, preferably at the same time every day. Drastic changes to the feeding routine can cause an upset stomach, including vomiting and diarrhea.
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 any other changes that may occur within the household.
When you first bring home your puppy (usually at the 8-week mark), you should feed him four meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper, until he is three months old.
Space the meals out equally throughout the day and ensure supper is at least 2-3 hours before bedtime to allow him to potty before settling down.
At 12 weeks old, when you reduce mealtimes to three per day, feed breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but again, divide the food equally throughout the day.
For example, you could feed at 7 am, 1 pm, and 7 pm. Your German Shepherd will do fine with breakfast and dinner at six months old.
Pro-Tip! Use the kibble from your pup’s meal to use as training treats. That way, you won’t overfeed when training.
What To Do If Your GSD Won’t Finish His Meal
If you find that your German Shepherd repeatedly doesn’t finish all of his meals, there are a couple of things you can do.
- Feed little and often – If your German Shepherd isn’t interested in eating the entire meal in a single sitting, try feeding more frequently throughout the day. You should take the whole day’s meal allowance and divide it into the desired number of meals. So, increase two meals to 3, dividing your dog’s daily portion equally.
- Use interactive food dispensers – These are an excellent way to keep your dog’s attention at mealtimes – especially if he’s easily distracted. I love the Outward Hound’s Dog Brick Puzzle Toy from Amazon. It’s a fun way to hide kibble and provides lots of mental stimulation that this breed needs. You can choose different levels from easy, intermediate, advanced, and expert. Once your GSD has mastered the brick puzzle, there are another 20 toys to choose so he’ll never be bored!
Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
Because dogs are so routine-oriented, a sudden change in your German Shepherd’s daily eating habits can signify that something isn’t right. In that case, you should contact your veterinarian to ensure that there isn’t an underlying cause.
Portion Sizes (Adults)
When considering the best diet for your dog, I recommend good-quality dry food as it’s more practical, costs less, and is convenient.
“How many cups of dog food should I give my German Shepherd?” is a question that has no definitive solution because it depends on many variables. Your German Shepherd’s portion size at each meal will depend on:
- Age (puppy, adult, or senior dog)
- Activity level
- Pregnancy or lactating
- Serious illness
An average size adult German Shepherd, weighing 75 lbs, should eat between 4 and 6 cups of dry food daily, depending on their activity level.
Check the next section for a rough meal plan, although you should check the manufacturer’s packaging for specific feeding instructions.
German Shepherd Meal Plan
To give you an idea of a typical feeding schedule and meal plan, here’s a table based on the feeding recommendations from Royal Canin’s Adult German Shepherd Dry Food according to the dog’s weight and activity level.
This kibble is formulated for purebred German Shepherds 15 months and older.
|57 lbs||3 1⁄4||4 ⅜||5|
|66 lbs||3 ⅝||4 ⅞||5 ⅝|
|75 lbs||4||5 1⁄4||6 ⅛|
|84 lbs||4 ⅜||5 ¾||6 ⅝|
|97 lbs||4 ⅞||6 ⅜||7 ½|
The table shows that an adult German Shepherd weighing 84lbs (38kg) will need between 4 ⅜ and 6 ⅝ cups of kibble depending on its activity level. You would then divide this amount between the recommended two meals.
Read more here: How Much To Feed Your German Shepherd
Portion Sizes (Puppies)
Puppies need more calories due to rapid growth. For example, here’s how much to feed your GSD puppy with Royal Canin German Shepherd Puppy Dry Food. Please remember, though, that these are rough guidelines.
|Puppy Age||57 lbs |
|2 months||2 ⅞||3 ⅛||3 ⅜|
|3 months||3 ½||4||4 ⅜|
|4 months||3 ⅞||4 ⅜||4 ⅞|
|6 months||4 ⅜||5 ½||6 ½|
|12 months||3 ⅝||4 ½||5 ½|
As all puppy feeding guidelines depend on many variables, I can give you one tip: take your Puppy to the vet every month to be weighed and get a quick health check. I loved taking Willow and popping her on the scales – plus, it helped with socialization while in the waiting room!
Breed Specific Food
If the thought of breed-specific dog foods appeals to you, I highly recommend a brand like Royal Canin above. Their foods are specially made for the nutritional demands of purebred German Shepherds.
The unique-shaped kibble is designed to promote chewing so that your dog doesn’t gulp his food.
If you prefer to feed your best friend a mix of dry and wet food, you will find recommended feeding guidelines on their packaging.
Or, you can add toppings such as meat, fish, unsalted chicken broth, fruit, veggies, or yogurt. It changes the texture of the food and mixes things up for your dog, and it’s what I do when feeding my German Shepherd.
Can I free-feed my German Shepherd?
It’s generally not recommended to free-feed your German Shepherd, as they tend to overeat if food is constantly available.
Without structure, they may develop weight issues or picky eating habits. Instead, provide two meals per day of high-quality kibble at set times. This approach prevents bingeing and helps regulate their digestive system.
Should I stick to a fixed mealtime routine for my German Shepherd?
Yes, sticking to a fixed mealtime routine is best for your German Shepherd’s health and training. Their body will learn to anticipate breakfast and dinner, so fewer undesirable behaviors occur out of hunger.
Consistency also makes it easier to monitor intake and watch for changes. Aim to feed at roughly the same time each morning and evening.
Should I adjust the feeding frequency based on my German Shepherd’s activity level?
It can be a good idea to adjust your German Shepherd’s feeding frequency based on activity levels.
More active dogs may do better with three smaller meals daily than two larger ones. This provides steady energy while supporting joints. Less active senior dogs can do fine just once a day. Pay attention to your dog’s body condition and adjust the schedule.
Most adult German Shepherds should eat twice daily, while puppies will eat more frequently until they are six months old.
Make sure to follow the instructions on the dog food packaging you’re serving. Each dog food has its own set of ingredients and advised serving sizes.
If you are unsure how much to feed your German Shepherd, consult your vet or a pet nutritionist for appropriate guidance, or check out this guide on your dog’s nutritional needs.