set meals versus free feeding

Feeding Schedule for Your Shihpoo

When to Feed Your Shih Tzu Poodle Mix  It may not amount to a full-blown debate, but Shihpoo families seem to be split about whether to feed their little doodle puppies on a schedule or allow them to eat anytime they want (called free feeding).  For this post, I’m not going to argue the benefits…

When to Feed Your Shih Tzu Poodle Mix 

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It may not amount to a full-blown debate, but Shihpoo families seem to be split about whether to feed their little doodle puppies on a schedule or allow them to eat anytime they want (called free feeding).  For this post, I’m not going to argue the benefits of one method over the other, but for those who choose or consider a scheduled feeding approach, let’s look at the pros and cons.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of feeding your Shihpoo according to a set schedule?

While much less convenient than free feeding and also requiring greater discipline on the part of the family, offering your Shih Tzu-Poodle mix meals at set times can provide you invaluable information about their health, help with potty training, and minimize alpha dog behaviors at mealtime.

Feeding your Shihpoo on a set schedule requires discipline on your part. Additionally, at moments like the puppy’s transition to adolescence around six to nine months, your Shihpoo may become extremely picky about food she or he had been eating fine its entire life. Such times require extra discipline and patience to see your puppy through and help them develop healthy eating habits.

Meal Times for Potty Training a Young Shihpoo Puppy

For young puppies new to your home (typically two months old), creating a routine mealtime will be crucial to help potty train your puppy. Set alarms on your phone, Alexa, or elsewhere to remind you to offer your puppy a small meal and water four to six times a day.

Why is this so helpful in potty training? Within five to ten minutes of eating and drinking, your puppy’s bowels and bladder will be ready to move. Rain or shine, whether your puppy wants to or not, take them outside (or, if absolutely necessary because you have no outdoor option, to a pee pad) within those five to ten minutes after mealtime.

If you hang a bell from your door handle or attach it to the floorboard, help your puppy jingle the bell with a paw, and then open the door to head outside. Take a training treat with you and stand next to your puppy on the grass. The moment he or she pees or poops, offer praise with the treat. Your Shihpoo will quickly associate going potty with positive rewards.

If you monitor your puppy’s meals and consistently help them ring the bell within five minutes before heading outside for potty, you will be surprised how quickly your young puppy begins to ring the bell without your prompting.

Monitor Your Shihpoo’ s Eating Habits for Proper Health

Perhaps the best reason to feed your Shihpoo on a meal schedule involves their health. A dog’s eating behavior provides one of the best indicators as to their overall physical wellness.

By feeding your adult Shihpoo on a regular two-meal-a-day schedule, placing the food bowl out of reach the rest of the time, you will see how much your down is eating or not eating.

When dogs stop eating, it could indicate an illness, although not always. If your Shihpoo stops eating for a day (or two or even three) around age 6 to 9 months, it could just indicate their transition from puppyhood to adolescence. See more below.

Otherwise, when you notice your Shihpoo has stopped eating, consider other factors like physical activity and whether she or he acts lethargic. You might feel your puppy’s stomach for signs of tenderness, lumps, or swelling. Of course, you should contact your puppy’s veterinarian with such concerns.

Feeding Time Table by Your Shihpoo’s Age

Set meal times for Shihpoo Breed


When you bring your puppy home, typically around 8-9 weeks of age (please, not earlier for your puppy’s sake), you should expect to feed them between three and four meals per day. Their tummies are tiny and will empty quickly, so they need their food bowl refilled more often.

When determining how much to feed your young Shihpoo, you can find lots of recommendations online that recommend specific amounts, but I like how the AKC puts it: “Watch the dog, not the dish.”

Your dog will have a higher or lower metabolism than others. While you might start with a half cup a day, some puppies might need twice that amount. Every two months or so until they hit adolescence, you might need to increase their food by a quarter cup.

Be sure to feed your dog a food formulated specifically for puppies. Our Shihpoos and we preferred Iams. It’s first ingredient was meat, and it didn’t break the bank.


Around age 6-9 months, most Shihpoos enter their adolescent phase. Besides being ready for neutering, your Shihpoo will likely change their feeding behaviors naturally. Most Shihpoo families find this period opportune to move from three to four meals a day down to two to three.

Some adolescent Shihpoos worry their families because they can suddenly stop eating for a day or two. While it would not hurt to talk to your veterinarian, think of your Shihpoo as a fussy child at this age. She or he is beginning to develop preferences and changing tastes. Don’t feed your Shihpoo from the table during the transition. He or she needs the special nutrition that dog food offers rather than the fatty, salty, and sugary food many humans eat.


As your Shihpoo reaches adulthood, sometime between 9 and 15 months, you should definitely switch out the puppy food for adult dog food. Again, we prefer Iams, but we’ve fed our Shihpoos other healthy dry foods as well.

As an adult, your Shihpoo will likely eat just one or two meals per day. We have done free feeding in the past with our dogs, and we notice that they eat just twice a day: briefly after we have our own breakfast, and then a little more heartily while we’re eating our dinner.

Time Your Shihpoo’s Meals

If you’re going to serve your puppy’s meals, give them a set time within which to do so. And stick to it. If the dog walks away after five minutes without having eaten anything, pick up the bowl and put it away. Don’t give in to the whining or to the puppy-dog eyes at your own mealtime. Give in, and you’ve lost both the battle and the war.

By setting a timer and sticking with the set time, your Shihpoo will keep her or his attention on the food. You don’t want a rushed eater, but you do want an intent eater.

If you notice that your puppy eats too quickly, you can try the same type of slow feeder that we used for our youngest. It really worked to slow his scarfing down. If it takes your puppy a little longer than five minutes, then so be it.

After walking away once or perhaps twice and coming back to an empty floor, your Shihpoo will quickly learn to eat during mealtime.

Table Manners for Shihpoos Living in Multi-dog Homes

In homes with more than one dog, serving meals in separate bowls can provide another benefit. We have noticed that when we free feed our two Shihpoos with just a single bowl, they exhibit very defined pack behaviors. Our oldest eats first in the utility room where the food bowl and the water bowl are located. The youngest Shihpoo patiently waits outside the utility room, laying down, until his older brother finishes eating.

Oddly enough, at almost all other times, the youngest tries to act like the dominant dog, during wrestling, tug-of-war, and when finding the most comfortable spot on the couch with the rest of the family.

Don’t Let Ants Get into Your Shihpoo’s Food!

For our family, one of the biggest advantages to providing food during set meal times other than free feed involves pesky critters in the home. Fortunately, we keep a tidy home, so even with free feeding, we’ve never had ants or mice (knock on wood, right)?

Only serving what is eaten during meal times can minimize the chances of ants and rodents finding your dog’s food bowl. Not even dogs like the feeling of ants on their tongues. Bleck!

Feeding Schedules and Their Potential Effect on Training Your Shih-poo

meal time helps training

Some experts believe, although I’m not completely convinced, that offering food at mealtimes rather than free feeding can increase your puppy’s ability to learn during any type of training.

The theory goes like this: If your dog can control his or her impulse to eat at any time of the day, then they can exercise greater mental faculties to learn tricks and commands.

Hand feeding Shihpoos that Are Picky Eaters

As Shihpoos and other breeds hit adolescence, many become extremely picky, just like their human counterparts. Families who turn to hand-feeding their Shihpoos or who feed them table scraps don’t help them through this phase. Instead, the puppy becomes habituated to human food. 

Shihpoos will not starve themselves. They will eventually start eating again, usually after one or two days. If they go a third day, give your veterinarian a call.

Delivery Services of Custom, Nutritional Meals for Your Mixed Breed

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If you worry about knowing how much to feed your puppy, what type of food to feed your Shihpoo, or even where to shop, you might consider using a delivery service. 

I like the idea MyOllie has of sending you a box of fresh, customized meals designed with your dog’s health in mind. If the idea appeals to you of not having to worry about what to fix your dog or about whether you’re feeding him or her the right food, you might try it.

With this link, you can get 50% off your first box. If you try it, let me know in the comments section below how your experience goes. I’m interested to learn what others think as well. Here are just a few benefits of such services:

  • Convenience: freeze, thaw, feed
  • Variety: beef, chicken, turkey, or lamb
  • Portion control: personalized to your puppies age and size
  • Appropriate nutrition: proteins, fats, and fiber
  • Fresh ingredients: meats first
  • No fillers or artificial flavors
  • Customizable: order two meals a day, one a day, three a week or any other combination

Honestly, food delivery is not the most affordable way to go. Not even close. But if you can afford it, food delivery sure makes feeding your Shihpoo a whole lot more convenient.

Related Questions

Is it okay not to feed your Shih Tzu-Poodle mixed breed for a day?

As a daily approach to feeding, a single meal a day can lead to anxiety and aggression in dogs due to hunger since their stomachs typically empty themselves within a matter of six to eight hours. Additionally, a single meal a day can increase the chances of hypoglycemia in small breeds like Shihpoos.  

Can I feed my Shihpoo three times a day?

Young Shihpoos just two to three months old will benefit from four to even six small meals a day as their stomachs adjust from mother’s milk to solid food. However, most dogs, including Shihpos, will thrive on two meals a day with proper portions as a general rule.

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