When To Switch From Puppy To Adult Food

Written by Wen Duan

Knowing when to switch from puppy food to adult food can sometimes be a tough decision.

There is so much conflicting information out there and it makes it very confusing for the new puppy owner. That's why we decided to write this article in the hopes of helping.

For golden retrievers in specific, it’s best to switch from puppy food to adult food anywhere from 12-18 months.

You switch over to adult food when the dog is nearing their adult height. Different dogs mature at different rates due to the large number of breeds. The larger the dog the longer it takes for them to mature to full size. 


Larger breeds of puppies take a bit longer to reach maturity. Medium breads such as the golden retriever, mature between 12-18 months of age.  The ages can be used as a good guideline. 

More energetic dogs that are more active may need to rely on the puppy food until they are closer to their adult size, while less active dogs can switch to the adult food sooner. 

Some signs your dog is ready to transition. Your dog may not have any of these signs and still be ready to transition to adult food. 

  • If they are sleeping a bit more 
  • If they are eating less puppy food or leaving food in their bowl.
  • Less energetic than their puppy selves.
  • Consistently soft stool.

Why Transition From Puppy Food To Adult Food? 

A puppy is super active and growing. When a puppy is growing, they need more nutrients and calories than an adult dog. Puppy foods have higher levels of fat and protein to help your dog grow and nutrients found in mother’s milk. Puppy food is a bit like formula for babies. 

Puppy food is nutritionally dense with more calories and protein per cup. 

Proteins are the foundation for your puppy's growth and are necessary for daily growth. Puppies need more protein than adult dogs because they are constantly growing and are generally more active.

Puppy foods also contain higher calories than adult food to compensate for the energy puppies use playing and growing. About half their calories they consume are spent on tissue growth. 

Rich puppy food can lead to excessive weight gain for adult dogs so it’s important to transition when the dog is an adult.

Rich puppy food can also lead to soft stools for an adult dog who no longer needs the extra proteins they once did.


How to transition your dog from puppy food to adult food


Once you’ve determined it is time to switch from puppy food to adult food, you need to slowly transition by slowly introducing adult food to your dog. 



Never switch your dog's food all at once. It’s good to transition over a 7-10 day period by gradually mixing in more adult food to puppy food. Each day slowly transitioning the food over, expect a mild amount of stomach discomfort as your dog gets used to the new food. 

Each day feed a little less of the puppy food and a little more of the adult food until you are exclusively feeding the adult food. This gradual transition over a period of 7-10 days will help you avoid unnecessary stomach upsets or extra soft stools that could cause accidents in the home.

For example - On the first day replace 1/8 of the puppy food portion with 1/8 of the adult food. Continue to add your dog’s adult food and remove the puppy food over the next 7-10 days. At the end of the 7-10 days you should have fully transition to adult dog food.

Other Great Treat Ideas for Your Golden Retriever

If you're looking for other great treat ideas for your golden retriever, check out our new book! It's filled with easy homemade treats that are good for you dog and your dog will love them.

About the author

Wen Duan

Wen is a proud dog mom and a frequent contributor to our GoldenRetrieverLove.com blog.

  • Lorelei Engracia says:

    Thank you for this article!

    My male golden retriever is 11 months old and is already 76lbs! My vet advised that I switch to adult food, but I began to question it as to my understanding, large breed dogs don’t stop growing until 15 months to 2 years.

    My thought process is that if he has the potential to grow bigger overall (like taller and longer), why not keep feeding him puppy food? But the signs they’re ready to switch is making me lean more towards feeding him adult food! He has been having soft stools consistently, and he also leaves food in the bowl! So i may give it a try!

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