Whether you’ve got yourself a gorgeous Sheepdog, a brave German Shepherd, or an adorable Boxer, you’re in for a whole lot of doggy love. Large breed dogs are by far the most popular canine companions in the US, with Labrador Retrievers having captured the most hearts for almost three decades in a row.
So, of course, we want to ensure that our loveable companions receive the best possible start and have the healthiest possible lives we can give them. It’s important to give your dog lots of love, sufficient exercise, and not least — the yummiest, most nutritious food you can get your paws on.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what makes the best large breed puppy food, starting with why it’s worth getting a large breed food in the first place. We’ll highlight the best large breed dog food brands and whether they prefer wet chow or dry kibble, then dive right into our reviews of the best products out there!
- Quick Review: Top-3 Dog Foods For Large Breed Dogs
- What Makes Large Breed Puppy Food Unique?
- What To Look For: The Best Large Breed Puppy Food
- What Minerals and Vitamins Does My Large Breed Puppy Need?
- How Many Calories Does The Best Large Breed Puppy Food Contain?
- All Grown Up: Transitioning To Large Breed Dog Food
- The Best Large Breed Puppy Food: Reviews
- Best Large Breed Dog Food
- Why does my small breed Terrier need more fat than my large breed Retriever?
- I’m getting my very first puppy, a 6-month-old Lab Retriever. How do I prepare?
- Helpful links
Quick Review: Top-3 Dog Foods For Large Breed Dogs
What Makes Large Breed Puppy Food Unique?
If you have a large breed dog, you’ll already be aware of several things. First, they need more exercise than smaller dogs. Second, ‘large breed’ covers a huge range of doggy shapes and types!
So to be clear, we’ll be using the term to refer to dogs who grow up to be between 60 and 100 pounds. This rough figure applies whether you’ve got a purebred dog or a mixed breed, so if you’ve got a much larger canine companion, check out our article on the best giant breed dog food.
The unique aspects of our large breed friends influence the way that manufacturers craft their large breed puppy food. Here are the main takeaways, and how you can pick out a large breed dog food to best suit their characteristics.
- Large breed doggies take longer to develop. As most Lab and Retriever owners will know, our larger best friends don’t turn into puppies overnight. They will usually require a large breed puppy food — with all the requisite nutrients for development — for up to two years.
- Large breed pups require glucosamine. So, they need food that contains enough of this food supplement to maintain proper joint health. If they don’t get enough from their chow or kibble, they may be more susceptible to developing difficulties later in life. These include arthritis, dysplasia, and more general joint pain. Sure, you can feed your dog with supplements, but find a good enough dog food and you shouldn’t need to.
- Bigger puppies often wolf down their food! Yep — if you haven’t been a large breed dog owner before, it can be funny and surprising at first! But of course, it’s best practice to try and discourage your dog from gulping down their food too fast, as this can lead to trapped air in their stomachs. In turn, they may end up bringing their kibble back up or suffer from indigestion. Or even flatulence — that tends to sober up a room! In short, the best large breed puppy food will have specially designed kibble that they are more likely to crunch than simply wolf down.
What To Look For: The Best Large Breed Puppy Food
First up, let’s look for a puppy food that provides your dog with 26-30% protein at least per serving. Our best friends are natural omnivores, so rely on being able to get certain amino acids from their food. While you’re shopping online and browsing the ingredients for different large breed puppy foods, try to spot something which has both meat as the very top ingredient and a reliable brand name. Some of the best large breed puppy dog food comes from the following brands. We’ve included a little about them so you can make the best decision for your unique puppy:
- Orijen – Real meat is a big deal for Orijen. Here’s a brand to turn to when you’re looking for nothing but the highest quality ‘prey’ on the menu! A top-shelf brand, you can expect upwards of 6 different fish and animal ingredients in most bags.
- Blue Buffalo – It’s hard not to adore USA-made dog food from Blue Buffalo. They made some of the best large breed puppy food out there, thanks to super-strict quality measures and real, lip-smackingly nommy meat ingredients.
- Nature’s Recipe – With Nature’s Recipe, you can rely on expertly crafted dog food. The brand has been manufacturing puppy and adult kibble and canned food for 35 years, and they use easily digestible non-meat ingredients to provide natural fiber and vitamins to your little one.
- Fromm Gold – This puppy food is one ‘Gold’ brand amongst the many great options by Fromm. If you’re after a lot of different flavors and ‘categories’ (grain-free, sensitive dog stomachs, etc.) then you’ll probably find something at Fromm—they have so many great choices.
- Taste of the Wild – Here’s another brand that provides interesting flavors. Taste of the Wild is known for both grain-free blends and foods with unique tastes. For example, you’ll find venison, salmon, and even smoked salmon for those pups with refined taste!
What Minerals and Vitamins Does My Large Breed Puppy Need?
Before he or she was weaned, your little one was receiving DHA from his mom’s milk. This nutrient is one of the most vital ingredients for good visual and cerebral function, so the best puppy food for large breed dogs will definitely include it. It’s typically found in fish products such as salmon oil and Menhaden meal, although sometimes it may be labeled just as Omega 3.
Omega acids also help your growing little pup’s skin and coat healthy, alongside Omega 6. It’s not unusual to find that with the right (Omega acid-containing) puppy food, sensitive skin issues can go away in a short period of time. Other sources include more common animal fats, such as naturally-preserved chicken lipids. On this note, you’ll be looking out for large breed puppy foods with around 14-15% fat for an ideal daily dose.
Vitamin-wise, the AAFCO recommends you pick out a large breed dog food that offers A, E, K, and D vitamins, as well as B12, amongst others.
If you’re still not sure, or if you didn’t sign up for all this reading when you got a puppy, here’s the takeaway! If you pick out an AAFCO-approved food for Developmentor Growth, all of the minimum vitamin and mineral requirements have already been approved. That includes biotin, choline, and all the other scientific-sounding nutrients!
In a nutshell, the key things to look at while searching for the best large breed puppy food are:
- minerals (most importantly iron, copper, zinc, and calcium and phosphorus in a 1:1.3 ratio);
- fat; and
- glucosamine, which goes hand-in-hand with
How Many Calories Does The Best Large Breed Puppy Food Contain?
Roughly, you will find between 360kCal and 415k/Cal per cup in the best large breed puppy foods. What matters more is how much you feed your little one—why not use our calculator to get a more specific figure?
One note: don’t be overly specific and take these recommended figures as a hard-and-fast rule. Your more active puppies will generally require more calories in general, because they are burning a lot more while they’re out and about. Sedentary, ‘love to lounge’ doggies will require less to avoid becoming overweight.
All Grown Up: Transitioning To Large Breed Dog Food
Once they reach around 24 months young, your large breed doggy will require less protein (around 23% is a good minimum) and less fat (11-14% per serving). Daily recommended calories will fall within a large range again, based on what your dog’s doing exercise-wise, and his overall body mass. A very sedentary (inactive) large breed dog may not be using much more than 20k/Cal daily per lb of his or her body weight, but fun-loving, active pooches may require more!
Here are some of the top names that we recommend when you’re shopping for the best large breed dog food:
- Diamond Naturals – Manufactured in America to meet super-high quality standards, this is a brand of doggy dinner that you can trust. Diamond Naturals creates wet food and kibble from wholesome ingredients and often adds in superfoods for a nice immune boost.
- Blue Wilderness – This is another Blue Buffalo brand. We can’t help it, they make awesome large breed dog food. If you’re after something that’s been based on what our doggy’s ancestors used to eat, they create Wilderness recipes which are super protein-rich.
- Halo Natural – Halo makes holistic pet food minus any ambiguous meat meals. The brand started using non-GMO veggies and whole meat proteins to help one poor doggy overcome his bad reactions to other premium foods.
- Nutro Ultra – Nutro stands for nutrition, or at least informally. These manufacturers meet the AAFCO requirements to make the best large breed puppy food for our growing best buddies.
- Canidae – This independent pet food company began trading in 1996. Their large breed dog food is cooked in Texas plant, and the brand supports other family-owned companies by sourcing ingredients from smaller businesses. This includes farmers, ranchers, sellers, and more.
Let’s head straight to the reviews!
The Best Large Breed Puppy Food: Reviews
In this large breed puppy food comparison, we’ll introduce and review the best food from the brands above. We’ve included grain free puppy food for large breeds, as well as some with varied proteins. Which one’s the best for your pup?
- Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food Puppy
- 27% protein, which comes predominantly from salmon—a tasty change;
- Peas and chickpeas provide non-meat protein, too;
- 14% fat from naturally preserved, real poultry sources;
- Contains guilt-free vitamin goodness from pumpkins, apples, and sweet potatoes; and
- Made with 3 and 6 Omega acids for luxurious healthy doggy coats.
- Nada, it’s great all-around dog food, AAFCO approved and at a really good price.
- Fromm Family Foods Gold Large Breed Puppy
- Menhaden fish and egg both supplement the protein from chicken in this dish;
- Immuno-boosting antioxidants from flaxseed;
- You’ll also find duck, lamb, and DHA-rich salmon oil in here;
- Plus celery, carrots, and sweet potatoes to provide fiber for gentle and smooth doggy digestion; and
- At 14% fat, it provides an optimal serving for growing puppies.
- You might find this a little bit pricey, but it’s definitely one of the best large breed puppy foods when it comes to nutrition.
- Taste of The Wild Grain-Free Premium
- There’s real smoked salmon in this recipe, something we rarely—if ever—see in puppy foods!
- Raspberries, tomatoes, and blueberries give your growing large-breed a great dose of vitamins;
- Made with DHA-rich salmon oil;
- At least 27% protein in each bowl; and
- 15% fat, a great figure for those active, energetic puppies.
- Nope, we are happy as always with Taste of the Wild. And so are our large-breed puppies!
- Orijen Puppy Food Whole Prey Large Breed
- Real meats make up the key protein ingredients, to a very large total figure of 38%;
- Animal cartilage provides ample glucosamine;
- The majority of animal ingredients in Orijen Whole Prey are preserved naturally, using flash-freezing methods or just…fresh!;
- Genuine liver is used for a tasty touch, instead of fake flavors; and
- There are six different meats from the same number of ‘prey’ animals in here — awesome variety.
- You’ll have to shell out a little more dough for this one, with up to 85% inclusions from meat in here.
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Large Breed
- This is a blend that promotes healthy blood function and muscle growth through the inclusion of L-Carnitine;
- Your puppy’s going to adore the tasty boneless chicken in this US-made dinner;
- If you’re the owner of a gluten-free puppy, this is a happily no-grain recipe—zero ingredients from wheat or from maize;
- Super-rich in delicious antioxidants thanks to vitamin-rich blueberries, plus carrots and yummy cranberries; and
- Soft digestion is encouraged, as Blue Buffalo have included probiotics and natural fiber in this formula.
- Nothing to worry about with this recipe, which has zero fake preserving agents, colors, or flavors.
Best Large Breed Dog Food
In this review, you’ll find our picks for the best large breed dog food. And for those with gluten-intolerant dogs, we’ve made sure to look at some grain-free large breed dog foods. Woof, woof!
- Diamond Naturals Adult Large Breed Real Meat Recipe Premium
- Flaxseed, kelp, pumpkin, and spinach provide antioxidants to fight disease—along with loads of other yummy non-meat ingredients;
- 23% protein from real, delicious, chicken, plus quinoa and some egg;
- It has a good amount of glucosamine;
- 1% calcium for strong and resilient bones; and
- Has Omega acids for lovely, strong skin, alongside L-Carnitine to help maintain muscle mass.
- 23% is at the lower end of the recommended protein range for large breed dogs. While fine for most animals, those dogs which are training or working very often will require higher levels.
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Large Breed
- Zero fake preserving or flavoring chemicals;
- Zero wheat, maize, and no soy—this is as grain-free as they come;
- Contains L-Carnitine, one of the important muscle-building nutrients;
- Carrots, blueberries, and also cranberries will give your best friend both antioxidants and vitamins; and
- A whopping 32% protein!
- Nope, this is formulated especially to keep our prized large breed friends happy and healthy. And does the job nicely!
- NUTRO Ultra Adult Large Breed
- American-made, featuring real milled chicken, salmon, and lamb as our key ingredients;
- AAFCO-approved for large breed adult maintenance;
- Recommended levels of chondroitin and glucosamine to help keep those skeletons strong and well;
- Made with a blend of superfoods for a healthy boost, including blueberries, chia, kale, and more; and
- Contains zero maize, wheat ingredients, or soy protein
- As a premium brand within the Nutro range, some owners may find this a little pricey.
- Halo Natural
- With zero rendered meats involved, this recipe is made using genuine chicken and liver;
- Lovely fruits and veggies in here—all non-GMO and full of healthy fiber;
- These include carrots, sweet potato, blueberry, and tasty cranberries;
- Uses bio-available ingredients, meaning this large breed dog food is made for maximum nutrient absorption and less waste; and
- Contains those Omega acids that keep our doggy coats beautiful and shiny!
- There is some soy protein to be found in this particular recipe, so sensitive dogs may not be able to eat this.
- CANIDAE Under The Sun Grain-Free
- 11% fat to help prevent obesity—but still, provide enough energy for daily activities;
- Contains both glucosamine and E Vitamins for great joints and skin;
- Made with probiotics for easier doggy digestion;
- There are so many delicious vegetables in here, plus Vitamin supplements (E, B12, D3, and more); and
- You won’t find any by-products from chicken in here.
- 25% protein is usually sufficient for large breed adults. Nonetheless, working dogs or super muscly breeds such as Pit Bulls may often require more.
Why does my small breed Terrier need more fat than my large breed Retriever?
It’s true, it does seem a little strange — if you haven’t been a dog person for long, you might expect the larger animal to need more fat.
Here’s how it goes in practice — large breed dogs will definitely require more energy than smaller breeds. So in one day, Jumbo the Retriever will be eating more calories in total than Mini the Terrier. But small breeds have faster metabolisms than larger dogs— and this applies to puppyhood, too. They burn energy faster, that is, and they need food which gives them a higher proportion of both protein and fat. This prevents your small breed Terrier from running out of energy between mealtimes and feeling a little faint.
It’s also worth noting that despite their bigger size, we can’t free feed our large breeds. In fact, we need to be a little careful that these pets don’t overeat. Why not try our calorie calculator to have a look at how much you should be feeding each of your dogs?
I’m getting my very first puppy, a 6-month-old Lab Retriever. How do I prepare?
We’re totally psyched for you! Getting your first puppy can be a very exciting time, and preparing is tons of fun. A few of the basics you’ll need to include a puppy bed, bowls for large breed puppy food and water, a leash and collar for walkies, and a name tag.
Even if you’re getting yourself a short-haired Lab, it’s super-nice to have a brush for your little one. This is not only a great way to keep stray hair off your furniture (or try to, at least!), but a beautiful way to bond with your new best friend. And don’t forget toys, either — we’ve prepared some lovely tips about how you and puppy can play together with them.
Last, but certainly not least, a six-month-old puppy will already have been on solid puppy food for a while. So stock up on some of the best large breed puppy food, some of what they’re already eating, and get ready to gradually transition them over a week.
Welcome to your newest family member!
Last update on 2019-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API