When Should My Golden Retriever Puppy Switch To Adult Food? [Explained!]

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A common question that new puppy parents have is “When Should My Golden Retriever Puppy Switch To Adult Food?”

Puppies seem to grow in the blink of an eye, and before you know it your puppy is approaching adulthood.

Naturally, you begin to wonder when you should make the switch to adult food.

Switching your pup to adult food too soon can rob your pup of essential nutrients and cause serious health issues later on.

But, switching too late is not good for your pup’s health either!

So, when is the right time?

I’ll answer this question in detail below, as well as give you tips on how to make the transition to adult food as smooth as possible for your pup.

Plus, discover the tell-tale signs indicating that your Golden Retriever puppy is ready for adult food.

When Should My Golden Retriever Puppy Switch To Adult Food?

The general rule is to switch your Golden Retriever puppy to adult food once they reach physical maturity. For Golden Retrievers this is between the age of 12 to 18 months. Puppies have different nutritional needs than adults and need to stay on puppy food until they stop growing. Switching too early can have a negative effect on the growth and development of your pup. But, you also don’t want to switch to adult food too late as it can cause obesity.

When Should My Golden Retriever Puppy Switch To Adult Food - A Golden Retriever puppy wearing a red collar, standing beside a blue dog food bowl.

Golden Retrievers are considered a large breed and reach their physical maturity much later than small breeds do.

All dogs differ as to when they reach maturity, which is why there is no one size fits all answer to this question.

Let’s look at the general guidelines:

Small Breeds:

  • 20Lbs. or less when fully grown.
  • Can switch to adult food at 9 to 12 months.

Medium Breeds:

  • 20 to 50Lbs. when fully grown.
  • Can switch to adult food at 12 to 14 months.

Large and Giant Breeds:

  • Weigh more than 50Lbs. when fully grown.
  • Can switch to adult food at 12 to 24 months.

At the age of 1, your Golden Retriever will have reached his adult height, but he’s not done growing. He will continue to fill out until the age of 2 when he reaches his adult weight.

Keeping your Golden Retriever pup on puppy food until the age of 12 to 18 months is a good guideline to follow. But, there are other ways to tell if your Golden is ready to make the transition.

Signs That Your Golden Retriever Puppy Is Ready For Adult Food

A Golden Retriever laying in the grass looking straight ahead.

The age and size of your Golden Retriever pup is a good indication of when to switch over to adult food, but it’s not always the best approach.

Here are some other signs that will let you know your pup is ready for adult food:

Skipping Meals or Leftover Food

Puppy food is designed specifically for growing puppies. It is higher in fat, calories, protein and nutrients to help support growth and development.

Once your puppy reaches adulthood, he no longer needs as many calories.

You may notice that your puppy is skipping meals or leaving food in his food bowl because he is still full.

This is a good indication that your puppy is ready to make the switch.

Puppies typically eat 3 meals a day, when you make the switch to adult food, you can also reduce the number of meals per day down to 2.

Decreased Activity Level

We all know that puppies have a ton of energy, and Golden Retriever puppies seem to have even more!

But, with age comes a decrease in activity level. Once your puppy starts to mature, you will notice they also start to calm down.

If you notice that your Golden pup isn’t as wild and crazy as he used to be (less energetic), then it may be time to switch to adult food.

Adult dogs don’t require as many calories as puppies do, because they are less active.

RELATED ===> When Do Golden Retrievers Mature?

Weight Gain

Once your Golden Retriever puppy is fully grown, they no longer need high-calorie food.

If you continue feeding puppy food to your adult Golden Retriever, you may notice excessive weight gain.

Weight gain is a clear indication that your Golden Retriever is past the puberty stage and is ready to switch to adult food.

The transition to adult food is important, as puppy food can quickly pack on the pounds. You do not want to wait until you notice weight gain, it’s best to be proactive.


Golden Retrievers who are spayed or neutered do not require the same amount of food and calories as they did prior to being altered.

Weight gain is usually seen in Golden Retrievers who are spayed or neutered because owners continue feeding them the same amount of food as before.

Spaying or neutering lowers your dog’s energy requirements.

The age of spay or neuter lines up to around the time your Golden Retriever should transition to adult food, which is when they are finished growing.

RELATED ===> When To Spay A Golden Retriever?

The Importance Of Feeding Your Golden Retriever Puppy Food

Five Golden Retriever puppies gathered near a stainless steel feeder bowl.  Three puppies are eating, while two are standing and looking off to the side.

Your Golden Retriever puppy is growing fast, building bone and muscle, and developing organs.

Puppies require a higher amount of calories, protein, nutrients and fats in order to fuel their growth.

While puppies need the proper food to grow and develop, adult Golden Retrievers require food to maintain their bodies.

Puppy food and adult food are two very different formulas, and feeding your puppy adult food too soon, or not at all, could be very damaging to your pup’s health and development.

Puppy food is:

  • Smaller in size, making it safer to chew and swallow.
  • Softer in texture, catering to the softer and smaller teeth of a puppy.
  • Contains nutrients and fats essential for bone growth, muscle development, and energy.
  • Carefully balanced for growing puppies.

Feeding properly balanced puppy food is important, and large breeds like Golden Retrievers benefit from specially formulated large-breed puppy food.

Large Breed Puppy Food

Should your Golden Retriever puppy be fed large breed puppy food?

Ideally, it’s a good idea, as large breed puppy food differs slightly from regular puppy food.

Most vets and nutritionists consider a pup a large breed if they weigh between 55 to 100 Lbs when fully grown.

Large breed puppy food is lower in fat and calories than regular puppy food, and it has a carefully balanced ratio of calcium to phosphorus.

This allows for slow and steady growth, supporting joints and bones.

For more information on large breed puppy food, check out this article from PetMD.

The Importance Of Switching Your Golden Retriever Puppy To Adult Food

A dog food bowl filled with kibble placed on a wooden floor, next to a dog's white paws.

It’s so important to feed puppy food to your Golden Retriever pup, but, it’s just as important to transition them to adult food once they are ready.

According to the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), dog food should supply a complete and balanced diet for your dog’s life stage and condition.

Different quantities and ratios of nutrients are ideal for different life stages.

Keeping your adult Golden Retriever on puppy food can lead to obesity and other health issues such as faster growth, which can lead to hip and elbow dysplasia.

Puppy food is too rich and dense in nutrients which not only causes significant weight gain in adults but could result in stomach upset and diarrhea.

It could also lead to an overdose of vitamins and minerals.

Adult dog food contains nutrients that are suited for dogs who are passed their growth stage.

Adult Golden Retrievers need food that helps them maintain their optimal health and weight.

RELATED ===> What Is A Healthy Weight For A Golden Retriever?

How To Switch Your Golden Retriever Puppy To Adult Food

Once your Golden Retriever has reached physical maturity, you can make the switch to adult food.

The switch to adult food needs to be gradual, over a period of 7 to 10 days. This will prevent any stomach upset in your pup.

This short video explains the transition process, and it works for any type of food whether you’re switching to adult food, or wanting to switch to a new food altogether.

I’ll break down the video for you, in case you prefer reading over watching a video:

Day 1: Feed 20% of the new adult food, and 80% of the puppy food.

Day 3: Feed 40% of the new adult food, and 60% of the puppy food.

Day 5: Feed 60% of the new adult food, and 40% of the puppy food.

Day 7: Feed 80% of the new adult food, and 20% of the puppy food.

Day 9: Feed 100% of the new adult dog food.

Basically, the best way to transition your puppy to adult food is to buy a bag of adult food when you purchase the last bag of puppy food.

Gradually mix the two foods together, increasing the amount of new food over a period of 7 to 10 days.

By day 9 or 10 your Golden Retriever should be eating his new adult food.

If at any time during the transition period your Golden Retriever experiences an upset stomach or diarrhea, or simply resists the adult food, you can extend the transition time as needed.

Final Thoughts

So, as you can see there is a right time and a wrong time when you should switch your Golden Retriever puppy to adult food.

Golden Retrievers grow and mature at a slower pace than smaller breeds do, and require the essential nutrients found in puppy food for much longer.

It is recommended to keep your Golden Retriever puppy on puppy food until the age of 12 to 18 months.

Age and size are the best guidelines to follow, but you may notice other signs in your pup that indicate it’s time to feed adult food.

It is always best to consult your vet when making any changes in your dog’s diet.

Don’t rush the process of switching your pup to adult food too soon. You want to gradually introduce the new food in order to avoid any stomach upset.

Is your Golden Retriever puppy ready for adult food? At what age did your Golden Retriever start eating adult food?

Share your thoughts and comments below. I would love to hear from you!

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I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Stirling, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.

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4 thoughts on “When Should My Golden Retriever Puppy Switch To Adult Food? [Explained!]”

  1. This post has some really great information that applies especially to me!  I am a huge dog lover, I currently have two labradors.

    My one lab is 13 months old now, and my vet has informed me that it is a good time to switch him over to adult food.  I will use your suggestion to buy a bag of adult food and gradually add the new food to his puppy food.  I will take it slow, and see how he likes it.  

    Thanks for sharing your helpful advice.

    • Hi Pasindu,

      I am sure your labrador will do just fine as you transition him over to adult food.  As long as you take it slow, only adding a small amount of the new adult food to his puppy food, then increasing the amount over a period of 7-10 days.  Be sure to monitor him closely, and if you notice any stomach upset or diarrhea, you can slow down the process further.  

      I’m glad this article was helpful to you.


  2. I absolutely love dogs and had the pleasure of looking after a Labrador (3-year-old) last year for three months. One thing I learnt is that they love food and will constantly eat if you allow them to.

    This one was like a hoover! Less than a minute and the bowl of food was gone!

    I never knew that feeding a golden retriever puppy food when they were no longer a puppy would put weight on. 

    Is there a reason why some dogs are fed once a day and some twice or three times?

    Is it a breed thing or the size perhaps?

    I owned a terrier several years ago who was fed twice a day but the Labrador being bigger, was fed once a day.

    This is a great article for those who have a GR puppy and something that they can refer back to as a guide.

    Thanks for sharing,


    • Hi Louise,

      Both Labradors and Golden Retrievers are known to eat anything and everything!  Yes, they are like a hoover!  LOL!  You really need to be careful and watch them like a hawk!

      Puppy food is not good for adult dogs to eat because it is much higher in fat, calories, protein and nutrients.  Adult dogs quickly pack on the weight, may experience diarrhea and could overdose on too many vitamins and minerals.  That’s why it’s so important to switch to adult food when the time is right.

      As far as why some dogs are fed once a day, versus two or three times a day, is really a personal decision.  Puppies have more energy, which is why it’s best to feed them 3x a day.  This helps to balance their meals out and helps fuel their growth and energy.

      Most adult dogs are fed two times a day, having their required meals split up in the morning and then at night.  Some owners prefer to feed their dogs their complete meal only once a day.  I think it’s more of a convenience factor.  

      Personally, I favour feeding your dog 2x a day because it helps your dog digest his meals better.  It also prevents your dog from being hungry later in the day, as the food is spread out and helps fuel your dog’s energy throughout the day.

      I hope this has answered your question.  Feeding your dog once, twice, or three times a day is not dependent on breed, it comes down to what you prefer to do.  With the exception of puppies, who should be fed 3x a day.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.



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