Note: Every dog is a unique individual—please consult with your vet before changing their diet!
Besides choosing the best dog suited to your family and lifestyle, picking their food is one of the most important (and tricky) choices you’ll make as a pup parent. Your dog eats the same meal every day—they deserve to love it with reckless abandon.
My own dog has been on four different foods until we found one that stuck. For us, that means ingredients are king—dog people care what they put in their family members’ tummies, and subpar kibble just isn’t going to cut it. It also means that the price has to be right at that sweet spot; you know what you’re getting, and the cost is fair. In that spirit, here are 7 foods paw-picked by yours truly, and sometimes my dog.
Best For Most Pups & Parents:
Lesser known, but a shining star above the rest in both quality and cost. Fromm is family-owned and operated out of Wisconsin, and includes three lines of dry foods to satisfy the pickiest eaters (you know, the ones that will eat dirty socks and toilet paper rolls, but not their food). The standout collection? Fromm’s Four-Star Nutritionals containing thirteen different recipes, each of which is made with fresh meats, veggies, and fruits.
Every ingredient list begins with the meat for which the recipe is named, plus a host of other familiar and pronounce-able delicacies. The absolute best part about the Four-Star line for my dog is that you can switch it up with different recipes without going through the tedious process of switching foods. Salmon Tunalini this week—Duck and Sweet Potato the next. My darling doge demands a rotating menu, and Fromm knows variety truly is the spice of life. Does your pup have food allergies? You’ll find less common main ingredients here, like lamb, pork, and whitefish (chicken is a common allergy-causing food in dogs) to ease those skin and tummy troubles too.
WHY WE LOVE IT:
- – Great price for the quality (and a supporter of mom & pop pet supply shops—you won’t find this brand in big box pet stores)
- – Awesome ingredients and grain-free options
- – A VAST array of recipes
DEVOURED BY: Cory the Golden Retriever
BUY HERE, $21.99–100+
Best For The Savvy Shopper On A Budget:
Let me preface this by saying any high quality, grain-free dog food will cost what it’s worth. Most brands have awesome whole grain recipes that still contain all the good stuff we love (along with some rice, barley, or oatmeal), but with a more digestible price tag (heh). For the purposes of this post, I’m sticking to grain-free foods. Here’s what I get with the Earthborn Holistic Primitive Natural recipe: turkey meal and chicken meal as the first two ingredients (meat “meals” are essentially concentrated versions of whole meats with a higher percentage of protein), no grains, no glutens, and fruits & veggies baked right in.
Here’s what I don’t get: sticker shock. Depending on where you buy, many grain-free, protein-rich foods will run you easily into the $60–$100 range. I chose the recipe I’d feed my dog based on ingredients alone and faced a $51.99 price tag for a 28-pound bag from Amazon. That’s definitely something I can get excited about for a food my dog would no doubt do zoomies for. Oh, and for the environmental activist in you: collect the UPCs from these bags, mail them in, and Earthborn will plant a tree. Perhaps one day your dog can pee on it.
WHY WE LOVE IT:
- – Very reasonable price
- – Grain & gluten-free, protein-rich
- – A brand that cares about the planet
DEVOURED BY: Coco the Sheltie
BUY HERE, $17.44–51.99
Best For Dog Parents Who Want To Feed Raw But Hate The Mess
Just the idea of feeding raw is intimidating. I give major props to the humans that feed raw on a daily basis, and I’m sure their dogs do too! But there is a price associated with that, both in dollar signs, time, and effort. Instinct combines the best of both worlds—it’s a dry food with the raw mixed in, and requires no elbow grease to prepare.
These raw experts use what they call Cold Pressure technology to remove all the moisture from their frozen raw foods and then crumble it up and mix with their dry kibble. There’s no heat used, no defrosting or refrigeration required, and all the nutritional benefits of good ol’ raw meat. Plus, in my experience, the addition of dehydrated raw food ALWAYS bumps up tail wags to full-on butt wiggles. Doesn’t get much better than that.
WHY WE LOVE IT:
- – Nutritional benefits (and high value taste) of dehydrated raw food
- – High in protein–great for active pups
- – Absolutely no mess or work involved
DEVOURED BY: Indy the Jack Russell Terrier
BUY HERE, $25.86–61.12
Other Foods We Love:
You can serve this dog food to your human family. No, I’m totally serious. Everything about The Honest Kitchen (THK) is human grade, and that’s exactly what sets them apart. Among a plethora of grain-free and whole-grain recipes with proteins like turkey, fish, and duck, these guys provide a base mix food to which YOU can add the meat. Here’s how THK works: you purchase it in a box containing ~human grade~ dehydrated ingredients (think apples, spinach, pumpkin, and bananas—even coconut!). Follow the feeding guidelines based on your dog’s weight, mix with warm water and wait for the food to hydrate, add your own protein, and bon appétit. A 7-pound box re-hydrated produces 29-pounds of food.
BUY HERE, $30.37–58.79
This brand is big on whole, non-meal meats with lots of good proteins and a lot fewer carbohydrates. The great thing about high-quality foods like Orijen is that you don’t need to feed as much to get the recommended amount of daily calories & nutrients, and that means a bag lasts longer compared to some of the super-sized bags you find in the supermarket pet aisle. To give you an idea of a typical ingredient list for any recipe of this food, the Original formula contains: deboned chicken, deboned turkey, yellowtail flounder, whole eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel, chicken liver, turkey liver, chicken heart, turkey heart, whole Atlantic herring, dehydrated chicken dehyr—oh look I’m out of room, and the list still goes on. These dog-lovers feed your wolf-at-heart, and they don’t mess around.
BUY HERE, $55.90–88.99
It’s no surprise Wellness taps into your dog’s wild ancestral heritage with chiefly protein-rich recipes, though I suspect my dog is part cat based on her love for lying across the top of our couch cushions and being generally aloof. Omega fatty acids keep your fuzzy kid nice and soft, fiber and probiotics keep their digestion in check (and their gas at bay), and glucosamine and chondroitin make sure their joints are always jump-on-the-bed ready.
BUY HERE, $9.74–58.48
Even More Foods Worth Considering…
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dry Food gets our vote for a great line with options for sensitive stomachs and/or certain protein allergies. Each bag contains a single protein, including less common options like bison and venison, and makes it much easier for pup parents to provide a simple, easy-to-digest diet.
BUY HERE, $15.15–58.49
Nutro Grain Free is a good choice for a no-fuss food with zero grains, chicken by-product meal, wheat, soy, or corn, and a higher protein content so your dog gets what he needs without all the filler.
BUY HERE, $13.19–$52.19
Zignature can claim what many dog foods cannot—in addition to containing no grains, corn, wheat, or soy, their formulas contain absolutely no chicken or chicken by-products in an effort to eliminate the most common protein-causing allergen.
BUY HERE, $13.26–57.99
Victor grain-free foods are perfect if your dog’s got a job to do—the high protein content (and sweet potatoes and peas as a grain-substitute) provides the long-lasting energy needed for working canines.
BUY HERE, $22.64–68.83
Blue Buffalo grain-free food sets itself apart in one specific way: the addition of their “LifeSource Bits adds a burst of nutrients to each bowl. These small dark marble-shaped pieces are actually “cold-formed” rather than heat-formed, so the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals retain their potency. The grain-free formula is free of any potential grain or gluten allergens, and does away with corn, wheat, soy, artificial preservatives, and poultry by-products.
BUY HERE, $18.99-29.99
Doesn’t have to be such a difficult decision, does it? The true test is whether your pup wants to come up for air when you serve dinner, and we all know that yumminess is measured in butt wiggles.
Don’t forget! Before switching foods, be sure to talk to your vet about a gradual transition schedule to prevent upset stomachs.
Featured Image via @deanthebasset/Instagram