This is another question that receives a lot of controversial opinions and it’s really down the owners discretion/the individual dog.
A Dogs’ nutritional intake alters throughout their life stages, many dog owners will notice phased of dogs “going off their food” and they panic and switch out foods or add things in to entice their dog to eat but these phases are perfectly natural, as a dog grows and develops through life they will go through numerous stages where they will self fast/reduce their calorie intake to regulate their metabolism, it’s perfectly normal stop panicking!
Regardless of diet, many owners feed dogs two or three times a day plus treats and that's because we treat dogs like family, well more like children so we adapt that same logic of rearing, however this a big factor why canine obesity and/or diabetes is such a pandemic right now, as current statistics show 50%+ of Dogs globally are obese/overweight!
The common rule of thumb for feeding Dogs throughout their life stage would be this:
Meals Per Day
4 Weeks -4 Months - 4
4-6 Months - 3
6+ Months - 2
However ideally it should look more like this:
Meals Per Day
4 Weeks -4 Months - 4
4-6 Months - 2
6+ Months - 1
The optimum frequency of food for healthy dogs 6 months plus would one meal a day, this puts the body into a fasted state and lets the body put energy into growth and development rather than digest an abundance of food.
Intermittent fasting also helps regulate their metabolism, reduces inflammation and strengthens the immune system as the Gut is allowed to function at an optimum level which has been shown to contribute to the improvement of their behaviour and ability to train according to behaviourists and trainers that have noticed a significant difference!
Some dogs simply cannot be fed once a day as they may suffer from “Bilious Vomiting Syndrome” (Hunger Pukes) but this typically occurs when their caloric needs aren’t being met in the meal that's being fed or their metabolism burns through calories quicker than the average dog, however this doesn’t mean they can’t go into a fasted state, these dog‘s can still be fed twice a day and still intermittent fast, they just need a minimum of a 16 hour gap before the last and first meal, Example:
Monday - 8am
Monday - 4pm
Tuesday - 8am
Tuesday - 4pm
You’ll see here they get a 16 hour gap between 4pm and 8am the following day, this window can be altered to change your needs, such as work commitments but this is sufficient to support their immune system too!
Between the hours of 8am and 4pm you can feed their meals and any training treats between. Remember this applies to healthy dogs 6 months +!
This will be surprising to read but the evidence of intermittent fasting to support dogs on a cellular level is overwhelming , it’s also biologically appropriate to them.
Let me explain, Although they aren’t Wolves , Dogs do share 98%+ of their DNA with them, they are anatomically similar and their nutrient requirements are the same. Even the modern wild canids like Wolves, Foxes, Dingoes and Coyotes are also natural fasters, they have the ability to go without food for several days, it’s a feast or famine survival metabolism but if prey isn’t sparse they’d naturally intermittent fast they’d never over eat just because they could.
Fun Facts: Wild Canids are very well connected and in control of eco management of their environment and know the repercussions of over hunting the lands, I’m sure you’ve seen the pride lands after the Hyenas over hunt when Scar takes over? This is what can happen when lands are over hunted, a brilliant message by the creators.
This is exactly why Wild Canids are being reintroduced to areas following the success of introducing Wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, it was clear to see we humans simply cannot replicate the management of the lands that Wild Canids like Wolves can provide. They even changed the behaviour of Rivers, many species would become extinct if it wasn’t for the contribution of Wild Canids and their eating patterns!
Anyway, I've digressed.
This just shows how we don’t give Dog’s the credit they deserve, they don’t need to be fed multiple times a day and we can actually do more harm than good by allowing them to.
This brings me to another common method “free feeding” , this is similar to cows grazing. Some people just put a week's worth of dry foods in a trough-like holder and their dog(s) can help themselves whenever they like.
For those out there that “free feed” , it’s really not ideal especially if you’re feeding dry foods because the longer dry foods are sat in the bowl oxidising, fungi like aflatoxins can begin to fester and this can be toxic/fatal to your dog if consumed, i’m sure you’ve seen the recent pet food recalls due to this being present in some foods and killing 70+ dogs in America/Canada.
Free feeding also makes you unable to know if your dog has lost their appetite, this can be an alarm that something may be wrong with them and if there was something up with them, the earlier you seek Veterinary attention the better!
This is just one of the ways we should be tackling canine obesity, we need to stop overfeeding out of love, as Dr Richard Patton says pets can be “ruined by excess and perfected by lack!”
We hope this answers your question, remember if you’re ever unsure then please consult with your Veterinarian.