Any dog parent must take the time to understand the nutritional needs of their pooch. While we are happy to provide general information on nutrition requirements for most Bernedoodles, remember that each dog’s needs can vary. Remember that some dogs are allergic to wheat, chicken, and other common ingredients in puppy and dog food. The good news is that these allergies are rarely severe, but they do require adjustments.
The following nutrition requirements for Bernedoodles are suggested for most dogs. If you believe your dog is more or less active than the average Bernedoodle, or if your dog develops an allergy to any food or treat, talk to your vet to see how you can best meet their nutritional needs.
Bernedoodle Puppy Nutrition
Puppies need more calories than adult dogs. Why? Because growing takes a lot of energy! Higher calories, smaller sizes, and unique nutrition are the factors that put puppy food apart from dog food. As you choose a food, you will need to consider quality, ingredients, access, and cost. Most puppies should eat kibble versus soft food because it is better for their teeth and digestion.
To determine the quality of a particular food, work with third-party, unbiased rating systems such as Dog Food Advisor. They have reviewed more than 5,000 dog foods and provide a rating. The breeder from whom we got our Bernedoodle made us sign a contract that we would only feed her four- or five-star rated foods (out of five stars). The good news is that many foods fit that bill. The bad news is that it can be hard to narrow down the options.
This is where you start to look at ingredients. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the key is to ensure that the essential ingredients are included in appropriate percentages. They have determined that the right puppy food should include:
- 21-26% protein
- ~42% carbohydrates
- 15-20% fats and preservatives
- 1% vitamins
While that cheat sheet can be helpful, let’s breakdown each element to discuss its importance.
Protein is vital to every part of the puppy’s life, from their growth to their development to their immune system. This is important for all dogs but especially for a growing puppy. Protein is what essentially determines the quality of dog food. When you read the label, you will see one or more of the following protein types:
- Meat protein. As the name implies, this type of protein comes from other animals. It is usually made up of muscle or organ meat and is the closest protein to human quality. It is superior to other types of protein for dogs.
- Animal by-products. This protein type is made up of the parts of the animal that are not included in meat protein. It can be made of hair, hoofs, lips, and even eyelashes.
- Vegetable and grain proteins. These are mostly soy- or corn-based. They can be of high quality, but they contain many fewer calories than meat protein, which means you will have to feed a lot more to meet your puppy’s daily requirements.
The goal is to provide a diet with more animal protein than veggie protein, which you can do by choosing a food with at least two animal sources of protein listed within the first five ingredients on the bag.
Just like humans, Bernedoodle puppies get energy and dietary fiber from carbs. Many different types of carbs can be found within puppy food. High-quality carbs include rice, barley, and oats, while lower-quality carbs include corn or wheat. The sweet spot for carb inclusion is around 42% of the makeup of the food.
Fats and Preservatives
Of all the ingredients in puppy food, fats are the most expensive. Why? Because they are harder to extract and more challenging to preserve. Fats are necessary to provide stable energy, keep your Bernedoodle’s skin and coat healthy, mobilize digestion, and keep their temperature regulated.
Fats, and the preservatives they necessitate, should make up between 15-20% of their calories. The best usable fats for puppies are those from chicken, sunflower, or canola oil. Other fats you might see include fish oil and lactose-free dairy fats.
Many people are surprised to learn that vitamins should make up just 1% of a puppy’s caloric intake. Remember that vitamins are nothing more than organic additives that help give the puppy anything it needs that it is not getting from its food. If the food is of high quality, then there should not be a need for a significant amount of calories coming from vitamins.
That said, some vitamins should be included within the food to allow your Bernedoodle puppy to digest it properly. There are two main types of vitamins:
- Fat-Soluble. Examples include A, D, E, and K, and these types of vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissue.
- Water Soluble. Examples include B and C. Whatever is not used daily is flushed through the puppy’s body – not stored.
You will find plenty of foods with long lists of added vitamins. This might look impressive, but, again, if the food is of high quality, then less is more when it comes to vitamin additives.
Consider the Ease of Obtaining Puppy Food
Another factor to consider is how easily you can get a food. It’s true that in today’s world, you can order just about anything you need from the Internet, but it is also true that not everyone has access to the same nearby pet stores or options. When it comes to ease of access, you will find three main options:
- Brands you can find anywhere. These are the most popular brands you have likely heard of, and they can be found at just about any grocery store, big-box store, and even some drug stores. These are also generally the least expensive options. However, they often choose meat from 4-D categories, which means the animals that make up the protein are dead, dying, or diseased. It is also common for the fats used in these brands to be of lower quality and not as easily digestible, which might require your Bernedoodle puppy to eat more to get the nutrients they need.
- Premium brands. As more people become conscious of what makes up their puppy’s food, more premium label brands are becoming available at grocery stores. Historically, they were found in specialty pet stores and animal hospitals. They generally use a higher grade of meat and higher quality fats, which means that puppies generally need less of these foods than those that are more commercially available.
- Holistic foods. These are only found in specialty pet stores or online. These are the cream of the crop and generally have human-grade meats and highly digestible fats. Even the grain carb mix will be made from high-quality foods. You will find many of these to be free from hormones and steroids. Of course, this quality comes with a high price, and they can be harder to find. Once again, the high quality means less food is needed compared to lower-priced options.
Balancing Cost and Quality
Not everyone can effort to pay for holistic food. The key is to find the best quality you can for the price you can afford. While higher-quality foods can give your Bernedoodle the highest quality of life, super-premium brands can cost as much as $400 per month. You do not need to spend that much money to keep your puppy in good health.
Adult Bernedoodle Nutrition
As your Bernedoodle ages, it no longer needs the extra calories for growth. Most dogs will become less active once they leave the puppy stage between 18 months and two years, which further reduces their need for calories.
When your dog reaches 90% of its expected adult weight, then it is considered an adult as far as feeding goes. The type of Bernedoodle affects its total expected weight:
- Standard Bernedoodles get to 70-90 pounds
- Miniature Bernedoodles get to 25-49 pounds
- Tiny Bernedoodles get to 10 – 24 pounds
If you are not sure how much your particular dog is likely to end up weighing, you can talk to your vet. Smaller Bernedoodles might be at their adult weight by six or seven months old, while standard Bernedoodles often grow well beyond 12 months of age.
Choosing the right adult food requires following the same advice as listed above for puppy food, but you will look for food designed for your dog’s life cycle. Once again, look at the package for its breakdown of nutrients. Look for foods that note they meet nutrient profiles established by the AAFCO.
The two main options for adult dogs are adult maintenance all-stages. Adult maintenance is generally the better choice for dogs that are overweight or not as active, while all-stage food contains extra nutrients for more active dogs.
Senior Bernedoodle Nutrition
As your Bernedoodle becomes a senior dog, its nutritional requirements will change. Many senior dogs deal with a wealth of health issues, including obesity, arthritis, and cognitive issues. Meanwhile, they can also suffer from appetite loss. Every senior dog’s nutritional needs will be unique based on their health, but some general factors are true for most senior Bernedoodles.
Increase Protein by 50%
It was once widely believed that senior dogs need less protein than puppies or adult dogs. The opposite is actually true. A healthy senior Bernedoodle will need more protein to fuel their muscle. As dogs age, they begin to lose muscle mass – sometimes so much that they cannot move around with assistance.
The most recent data as released by the American Kennel Club is that older dogs need about 50% more protein to maintain muscle mass than they did when they were younger. If weight loss is needed, then a 28% – 32% increase is recommended.
Find the Right Calorie Balance
Younger senior Bernedoodles are often overweight, but as they get older, they tend to become underweight. Dog Advisor has found that senior foods’ calorie content can vary hugely – from 246 to more than 400 calories per cup. You will need to know the calorie content of the food you are feeding and adjust it accordingly if your dog gains or loses weight when you do not want them to.
A Prescription Diet Might Be Needed
If your Bernedoodle has specific health issues, then they might need a prescription diet. Why? Because many of the elements that you want a lot of – or none of – vary widely or are not listed at all on regular senior dog food. For example, a dog with heart or kidney disease should have low sodium food, but the amount of sodium on the most popular senior dog food brands ranges from 33 to 412 mg per 100kcal.
Likewise, a dog with kidney disease would need a diet that is low in phosphorous, but no dog food label notes how much phosphorous is in a diet. If your senior Bernedoodle develops a health condition that requires strict control over specific elements of their diet, a prescription diet might be the only place to achieve that goal.
You Will Need to Find a Food That Your Dog Likes
When it comes to feeding younger Bernedoodles, unless your dog is particularly picky, you can likely feed them whatever is healthiest, and they will be happy to eat it. The same cannot be said for senior dogs, who often do not have a healthy appetite.
In addition to loss of appetite, senior Bernedoodles might have dental issues that make it hard to chew their food, or digestive issues that make them uncomfortable after eating certain food types. At this stage, you might choose canned or soft food that they enjoy eating more. You can also help your dog eat more easily by feeding them on a raised platform or while they are lying down so that they do not have to bend down.
When your Bernedoodle is still a puppy, you will need treats for training. You can complete much of your training by using your puppy’s regular kibble. However, for tougher training, it is wise to have what’s known as a “high-value treat,” which essentially just means that it’s something your pooch really loves.
You will need to experiment to determine what this is for your puppy. One of the most popular options is freeze-dried liver. Your dog might prefer small pieces of chicken or other proteins. For training, treats should be very small so that your dog can quickly eat them and move on to the next part of the training. If you are training for an extended period and offering a significant number of treats, then you should reduce the amount of kibble you give your puppy to balance the calories they received via treats.
As your dog grows, you might still want to treat them from time to time, but you will not be offering them as many treats as you did when they were training.
When choosing treats, avoid treats that have:
- Artificial colors, sugars, flavors, or preservatives
- Low-quality ingredients such as meat by-products
- Salt, syrups, or molasses
You should instead choose treats that include:
- Whole meats
You might have to experiment to find the treats that your pooch craves, but once you find them, don’t worry: your Bernedoodle will let you know what they love.
Feeding Schedules for Bernedoodles
The amount of food you feed your Bernedoodle will depend on the food you choose for them. Look at the bag to see the recommended number of cups. If you have a puppy, there will be a chart with weeks or months of age along with weight. Find where your puppy fits and feed based on that amount. If you have an adult or senior dog, the amount will be based solely on your Bernedoodle’s weight.
Note that these are just starting places. Your food might suggest 3 cups of food, but if you find that your puppy is constantly hungry and not gaining weight as quickly as they should, then they might need more.
Until six months of age, puppies should eat three times per day. After they reach this mark, feeding them twice per day is recommended for the rest of their life. However, if you cannot feed your puppy three times per day, trust that your puppy will adapt. The number of times you feed them is not nearly as important as feeding them the correct amount.
If your lifestyle allows for it, feed your puppy or dog at the same time every day. This helps comfort the pup because it will learn that food is coming. It also helps keep their digestion regular and makes it easier for you to notice if your dog is eating more or less than they usually do.
If their appetite varies slightly from day to day, there is likely nothing wrong. However, if your Bernedoodle suddenly loses its appetite or changes its diet preferences for several weeks, it is time to call the vet.