Best Puppy Food For Large Breeds, Small Breeds, Canned, Grain-Free, & More

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If I asked you where your pup’s food is from or some of the key ingredients, would you know? We owners focus so much on what we put in our bodies that we sometimes forget how vital nourishment is to our furry friends. This concern is why I wondered, “What is the best puppy food?” I did the research and want to share my findings and top picks with you.

CannedGrain-FreeSmall BreedMedium BreedLarge Breed
Wellness Complete Health Natural Wet Dog FoodOrijen Grain-Free Puppy FoodBlue Buffalo Life Protection FormulaTaste Of The Wild Grain-Free Dry Puppy FoodHolistic Select Natural Puppy Food
Wellness CompleteOrijenBlue BuffaloTaste of the WildHolistic Select
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Puppy Food Requirements

Feeding your puppy food formulated for their current life stage is important. Puppies do not have the same nutritional needs as adult or senior dogs. while they can survive on adult kibble, it does not have the appropriate nutrient balance to support proper growth and development.

Puppyhood is a pivotal time for brain development and physical growth. Puppies need nutrient-dense nutrition with plenty of calories to produce energy.

The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets the nutritional requirements for puppies. Each day, puppies need 21% to 22.5% protein, 8% to 8.5% fat, and a maximum of 4% fiber. Labels can be confusing when you’re trying to find out the nutritional value of puppy food. I recommend understanding the need for protein, calcium, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals.


Protein is the key to healthy muscle development, and constantly growing puppies require more protein than adult dogs. Talk to your vet about the right amount of protein for your pup because over or under-consumption of protein can have a negative effect. While too much protein can cause a puppy to be hyper or aggressive, too little can limit energy and stunt the development of muscles, bones, and joints.


Calcium is necessary to support the development of strong teeth and bones. Chicken and fish are good sources of both protein and calcium.


Carbs are a source of energy for puppies. However, without enough exercise to balance it out, overconsumption can cause weight concerns like obesity and can lead to serious health problems.


Puppies need healthy fats to support their brain development and physical growth, absorb fat-soluble vitamins, keep the nervous system healthy, promote healthy skin and coat, and regulate body temperature. It’s essential to be mindful that too much fat can be harmful, causing concerns with the pancreas and affecting digestive health.

Other Vitamins and Minerals

Puppies are constantly growing, and it’s essential to give them the vitamins and minerals they need to support that growth. Most puppy foods have a complete nutritional package and do not require supplements. However, it’s vital to talk to your vet about your pup’s food to ensure she gets everything she needs.

Best Dog Food For Puppies

I chose the best puppy food for each category: canned, grain-free, and dry puppy dog food. I also give you our top picks for small, medium, and large breeds in the dry food category. On top of that, all of these fit the “natural puppy food” classification, so you know you’re giving your pup a good meal and a balanced diet.

Best Canned Puppy Food: Wellness Complete Health Natural Wet Review

Wellness Complete Health Natural Wet Dog Food

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Whether you want to treat your dog to a topping on her dry dog food or give her wet food only, Wellness Complete Health Natural puppy food is a great solution and one of the most popular puppy food brands. Wellness puppy food does not have any added grains, wheat, soy, or corn. Nor does it use any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

Wellness puppy food has 9% protein, 6% fat, and 1% fiber. This puppy pate’s main ingredients include chicken, chicken liver, salmon, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, pears, and more.

The inclusion of organ meats stands out, as these offer premium sources of minerals, including iron, copper, zinc, and selenium. Organ meats like chicken livers also offer plenty of vitamins, including A, B, D, and E. The packaging may vary, but both have the same top-notch recipe.

Contains only natural ingredientsOnly one flavor for puppies
Made in North America
Can be eaten on its own or in combination with dry food
Wheat, corn, grain, and soy-free


Best Grain-Free: Orijen Grain-Free Puppy Food Review

Orijen Grain-Free Puppy Food

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If your pup needs a grain-free diet, Orijen dry puppy food is what I recommend. Customers know this is a higher-priced dog food but say it’s worth every penny. Pet parents are pleased with their dog’s bowels, lack of gas, and overall puppy health.

Orijen’s puppy recipe is made up of 85% poultry, fish, and egg and 15% fruits, vegetables, and botanicals. This kibble is 38% protein, 20% fat, and 6% fiber. The first five ingredients are chicken, turkey, chicken liver, salmon, and whole herring. Those are followed by dehydrated chicken, dehydrated turkey, dehydrated salmon, dehydrated chicken liver, and dehydrated egg. That’s a lot of quality animal protein, fat, and calcium.

The recipe also contains chicken fat, pollock oil, pumpkin, pinto beans, butternut squash, collard greens, and other fruits and veggies. Orijen puppy food can be used for all breeds, including larger breed puppies.

No artificial colors or flavorsExpensive
Made in the USA
Organ meats
Uses fresh and raw animal ingredients
Nutrient-dense to support brain development and growth


Best Dry Puppy Food

Are you looking for some dry puppy food for your dog’s size? Check out my top picks for small, medium, and large breed puppies below.

Best Small Breed: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy Formula Review

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula

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This Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural for small breeds was made especially for pint-sized pups. It’s my pick for the best puppy food for small breeds. This specially formulated chow for small breeds also has products for adults and seniors in this line, so you can easily adapt to your growing dog’s nutritional needs.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection puppy formula uses deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, oatmeal barley, chicken fat, sweet potatoes, carrots, cranberries, and more. It has plenty of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids for skin and coat health, DHA and ARA for brain and eye health, and vitamins, chelated minerals, and antioxidants to support the immune system.

This puppy kibble contains 29% crude protein, 17% crude fat, and 5% crude fiber. An added bonus is that this recipe contains no corn, wheat, or soy.

No artificial colors, flavors, or preservativesSome complaints of digestive issues when switching to this food
Contains whole grains, real meat, fruits, and vegetables
Made in the USA
No corn, wheat, or soy


Best Medium Breed Puppy Food: Taste Of The Wild Grain-Free Dry Puppy Formula Review

Taste Of The Wild Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food

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This Taste of the Wild dog food is excellent for your medium-sized breed puppy. This grain-free puppy food has 28% protein, 17% fat, and up to 5% fiber. It includes species-specific probiotics to boost healthy digestion.

Some key ingredients include water buffalo, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, bison, chicken fat, beef, roasted venison, tomatoes, salmon oil, and blueberries. The combination of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and meats helps provide a well-rounded and balanced diet for your medium-sized puppy.

No artificial colors or flavorsA few people have received moldy products
Made in the USA
Novel proteins


Best Large Breed Puppy Food: Holistic Select Natural Puppy Review

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I looked at several puppy kibbles and found Holistic Select to have the best dry puppy food for large breed puppies. This kibble includes probiotics, healthy fiber, digestive enzymes, and more to help your heftier-sized pup feel her best from the inside out. With 25% protein, 16% fat, and 4.5% fiber, this is a protein-packed option for your large-breed puppy.

Some key ingredients include apples, beef, blueberries, chicken, lamb, potatoes, pumpkin, and tomatoes. The recipe also contains chicken fat, flaxseed, salmon oil, dried kelp, and other healthy additions. This is formulated for puppies and nursing moms but can be used for any life stage. It is packed with flavor and contains a proprietary probiotic blend.

No artificial colors or flavorsOnly one flavor for large puppy breed
Grain-free recipe
Probiotic blend
Made in the USA


Frequently Asked Questions

Three puppies eating dog food out of bowls on the floor

Feeding your puppy can be overwhelming for a new pet parent. Here are some frequently asked questions I think our readers might want to know more about. If I missed yours, let me know in the comments.

Can Puppies Have Adult Dog Food?

Puppy food formulas support the needs of a growing pup, which is why it’s a better choice than adult food for your puppy. You can consider fresh or human-grade dog food, which is often formulated for all ages.

How Often Do Puppies Need To Eat?

Depending on the breed, growing puppies need to eat between three and six times per day for the first three months of their life. Miniature and toy breeds need four to six meals, while larger breeds only need three to four. In months four to six, puppies need to eat about three times a day, and after six months, you can reduce that to two times per day.

While it might be convenient to feed your pup once a day, that generally isn’t enough. A dog’s stomach will be empty around six to eight hours after eating, so if you only feed her in the morning, she will almost definitely be hungry in the evening.

Why Is My Puppy So Hungry All The Time?

Puppies are so hungry because they grow a lot, and food helps support that growth. The other reason is that dogs have a feast-or-famine mentality embedded in them from their ancestors who were wild. When a wild dog had the opportunity to eat, he ate as much as possible, not knowing when he would eat again. This translates to domesticated dogs as an urge to eat, whether hungry or not.

How Much Food Does My Puppy Need?

Every puppy is different, and the amount of food needed depends on weight, breed, and activity level. While you can find serving-size suggestions on food labels, talk to your vet to ensure you know what’s best for your pup and her specific needs.

How Will I Know If My Puppy Is Getting Enough Food?

If your puppy is growing, seems happy, and is playful, chances are she’s eating enough. If you aren’t sure, you can weigh your pup to ensure she is gaining weight.

What If I Overfeed My Puppy?

Puppies, like humans, can have bad habits when it comes to eating. Be mindful of following a healthy eating schedule and limiting treats so you don’t end up dealing with health concerns like obesity. This is true for all life stages. You never want to overfeed your dog and cause excess weight gain.

Should My Dog’s Diet Be Grain-Free?

Grain-free diets aren’t necessary for every dog but can be helpful if your pup has allergies or digestive concerns. You may not need to go completely grain-free, but purchasing high-quality puppy food that has smaller amounts of grains may be a healthier choice.

Can Puppies Have Treats?

Treats are beneficial when it comes to training your puppy. However, treats are essentially “junk food” for dogs. Use them in moderation to reward behavior and avoid giving them all day and forming bad habits. Consider vegan dog treats and low-calorie dog treats as healthier options.

Why Won’t My Puppy Eat?

It can be concerning if your puppy won’t eat. If you notice a loss of appetite, it could be anything from stress to sickness. As long as your pup has an average energy level, it’s okay if she misses one meal. If it turns into multiple meals and your puppy becomes lethargic, you may want to visit your vet.

When Should Puppies Switch To Adult Food?

The answer to this question can vary depending on the dog. A dog is ready for adult food when they reach maturity. Small breed dogs can mature as early as nine months, and large breeds can take up to eighteen months to reach adulthood. Learn more about switching your puppy to adult food.

Can My Puppy Have Table Scraps?

Table scraps are not nutritionally balanced to meet your puppy’s dietary needs. Also, some human foods can make your dog sick to his stomach.

Can I Moisten Dry Puppy Food?

It’s perfectly fine to add a small amount of hot water to dry kibble to soften the food a bit. Be sure to let the food absorb the water before giving it to your pup. Adding bone broth or a little yogurt can also boost moisture and nutrition.

Because puppies eating is also adorable, I’d like to share this darling video of puppies eating their first meal.

New Dog Food Is A Learning Process

Remember to be patient with your pup when trying out new foods and establishing a feeding routine. Like anything, trying something new the first time is never easy. Your dog may make a mess or need to try it a couple of times to get the hang of eating kibble, but they’ll eventually pick it up.

When you transition them to adult food or to a new brand, make sure to do so gradually. Switching too quickly can cause stomach pain and even blood in their stool. Mix in a little of the old food with the new food, and eventually transfer them fully to the new chow.

Caring For All Your Puppy’s Needs

Caring for a new pup requires a lot of time and energy. Be sure to get all the information you need to help you keep it simple for you and your new puppy. Check out our complete guide to bringing home your puppy to learn more about what you need to have, know, and do. We also cover the basics of potty training your puppy. If you are a first-time dog owner, you may want to consider a lower-maintenance breed.

Our Methodology

We analyze hundreds of dog food brands and individual formulas to provide our recommendations for the best nutrition. Each of the following elements helps us determine the best dog food for any dietary need. Our in-depth research includes:

  • Scrutinizing all ingredients included in every formula
  • Having firsthand experience with our dogs for many of the foods we recommend
  • Assessing the guaranteed analysis for every formula, including protein, fat, fiber, and caloric content
  • Investigating the latest scientific studies on dogs’ nutritional needs and benefits of ingredients
  • Researching the specific dietary needs for breed sizes and health conditions
  • Reading hundreds of customer reviews
  • Staying informed on every dog food recall
  • Diving into every pet food brand’s history and reputation
  • Keeping on top of pet food trends

Unlike many other review sites, we give unbiased reviews based on countless hours of research. Our goal is to provide our readers with the healthiest options for their pups.

Why Trust Canine Journal?

Danielle has had a special bond with dogs since she was a young child. She has over 30 years of pet care experience, including both large and small breed dogs. Danielle has worked as a professional writer for many years and spends countless hours researching the latest science and data-backed studies on pet care, health, nutrition, and training developments. She has tested and researched over 100 brands of dog food and counting with the help of her two dogs, Daisy and Falkor. She works alongside a professional and experienced team to bring the best, most accurate, and up-to-date information to our readers.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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