Great pet parents know that puppy health begins with a healthy diet: nutritious kibble fuels your pup’s body and mind, helping her develop a healthy brain, lean muscles, shiny coat, and good vision. It also gives her the energy she needs to grow up strong and happy. When you’re looking for your puppy’s first dry food, you’re looking for quality. You’re looking for real ingredients, similar to what you’d use in your home kitchen. What you’re not looking for: poultry by-products, artificial colors, preservatives, or flavors. And if your pup has dog food allergies and/or sensitivities, you’re also looking to avoid grains, soy, corn, and other allergens.

We reviewed dozens of dog food for puppies to identify the best of the best. These kibbles offer well-balanced nutrition – plenty of lean protein, fat and calories – from high-quality ingredients, so you can feel good about filling your pup’s bowl every day.

Looking for some different food and treat options? Make sure to check out our pet food and treats articles.

Top Pick

Wag Dry Dog Food for Puppies

For the best dog food you can buy for your puppy, look no further than Wag Dry Dog Food. Special Offer: 40% off first purchase

While we researched to find our top pick, Wag Dry Dog Food for Puppies became the front runner and never left that spot. This delicious option is not only containing no added grains, but also being protein-rich so your pup can prosper.

The 5 Top-Rated Dog Foods for Puppies

Editor PicksBrandRating
Best OverallWag Dry Dog Food for Puppies4.2
Runner UpThe Farmer’s Dog Pet Food4.9
Best Budget BuyIAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Puppy Dry Dog Food4.6
Best Grain-Free Puppy FoodBlue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Puppy Food4.6
Best Dog Food for Puppies with SuperfoodsNutro Ultra Superfood Plate Puppy Food4.7

*Ratings are from Amazon or Google at the time of publication and can change

Best Dog Foods for Puppies Overall: Wag Dry Dog Food for Puppies

Take care of your puppy from the inside out, with Wag Dry Dog Food for Puppies. Crafted with an eye-boggling 36% protein, this kibble is formulated to help your pup’s development. The formula features real American chicken as its #1 ingredient and contains no added grains, corn, or wheat. It’s also free from added artificial colors, flavors, or chemical preservatives.

In addition to chicken, you’ll find that Wag Dry Dog Food for Puppies is also packed with vitamin- and mineral-rich veggies like lentils and peas. This option will also give your pup a boost in omega-3 fatty acids thanks to the inclusion of both salmon oil and flaxseed.

If you haven’t come across Wag, here’s a little rundown: Wag is an Amazon brand of pet foods that exclusively use high-quality ingredients. The entire range has been formulated with pets’ needs in mind, as well as that of their owners.

There’s never been a better time to try Wag, as right now you can get 40% off your first purchase for a limited time.

Wag Dry Dog Food for Puppies Key Features:

  • 36% protein
  • Chicken is the #1 ingredient
  • Rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids

Our Runner Up Pick: The Farmer’s Dog Pet Food

Our Runner Up Pick

The Farmer’s Dog Pet Food

Nutritious pet food custom made to your puppy’s unique needs.

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If you’re sick of burnt brown balls, extreme processing, or mystery ingredients, The Farmer’s Dog Pet Food is well worth looking into. Each recipe is made in human-food kitchens and contains all natural, 100% human-grade ingredients. The recipes come in three different flavors: beef, turkey, and pork. Other ingredients include parsnips, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and spinach, sunflower seeds and fish oil, which helps keep your puppy’s coat healthy and shiny. Ingredients may vary by recipe, so make sure to check labeling.

With an expertly formulated nutrition blend, The Farmer’s Dog Pet Food exceeds AAFCO standards. Meals are perfectly pre-portioned into personalized meals designed for your dog’s specific weight, breed, activity level and more. The Farmer’s Dog all-natural pet food is suitable for dogs of all shapes and sizes. Thanks to the human-grade ingredients that are good enough for you to eat, it’s no surprise that dogs love this delicious blend. In addition to being great for your dog’s health, The Farmer’s Dog conveniently delivers directly to your door.

The Farmer’s Dog Pet Food Key Features:

  • High protein recipes in three different flavors
  • Expertly formulated nutrition blend
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals

Best Budget Pick: IAMS Proactive Health Dry Puppy Food

Best for Budget

IAMS Proactive Health Puppy Dry Dog Food

To give your puppy the kind of food that will address his needs without disregarding your budget, check out IAMS Proactive Health Puppy Dry Dog Food.

Puppies from 1- to 12-months-old have very specific, very special nutritional needs, and IAMS Proactive Health Dry Puppy Food has created a food just for them. Every bag is packed full of just the right balance of real ingredients, to nurture your pup’s developing muscles, brain, eyes, and coat. You’ll love that there are no fillers, wheat, soy, or artificial dyes or preservatives; IAMS is all real chicken, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

You’ll also love that for each of those first 12 months, you’ll be able to Subscribe and Save with Amazon making it all the easier for you to feed your fur baby. No more will you run out of food for your puppy and have to make an unexpected trip to the store. And if you’ve ever had a hungry puppy, you know it’s best for your possessions that you keep your puppy fed appropriately.

There are right around 650 customer reviews on Amazon for this puppy food, and it has an overall rating of 4.1 stars, making it a solid buy for your pup. But the best part is that you can pick up a 15-pound bag for just under $20.

IAMS Proactive Health Dry Puppy Food Key Features:

  • 7 presentations available: 3.3 lbs., 6 lbs., 7 lbs., 12.5 lbs., 15 lbs., 30 lbs., and 30.6 lbs.
  • 3 flavors available: Small & Toy Breed, Medium Breed, and Large Breed
  • Enriched with antioxidants to strengthen a puppy’s immune system

Best Best Grain-Free Dog Food for Puppies: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Puppy Food

Best Grain-Free Puppy Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Puppy Food

If you want to give your dog the kind of food his ancestors would probably have loved, consider Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Puppy Food.

If your puppy embodies the spirit of a wolf, then you’ll love Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Puppy Food. Chock full of lean protein, fatty acids (including brain-necessity DHA), and other goodies, this back-to-the-wild diet is specially formulated with a young dog’s needs in mind. The first ingredient on this food’s list is real chicken and it includes no chicken by-product, corn, wheat, soy or artificial flavors or preservatives.

Lean, high-quality protein joins sweet potatoes, peas, blueberries, cranberries and other ingredients to deliver much-needed carbs, antioxidants, and the other nutrients necessary to support the dietary needs of growing pups. In fact, these ingredients are so crucial to the growth and development of your dog, Blue Buffalo has dubbed them “Lifesource Bits.”

This puppy food is listed on Amazon with nearly 500 customer reviews earning it an overall rating of 4.3 stars. That is more than enough to make it appealing but a perusal of those ratings will seal the deal for you.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Puppy Food Key Features:

  • 3 presentations available: 4.5 lbs., 11 lbs., and 24 lbs.
  • 2 flavors available: Chicken Formula Grain Free and Chicken Formula Large Breed Grain Free
  • Grain-free, derived from deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal, with the addition of fresh produce

Best Dog Food for Puppies with Superfoods: Nutro Ultra Superfood Plate Puppy Food

Best Dog Food for Puppies with Superfoods

Nutro Ultra Superfood Plate Puppy Food

For high-quality puppy food that’s packed with superfoods, try Nutro Ultra Superfood Plate Puppy Food.

Born from a promise of the highest quality ingredients, Nutro Ultra Superfood Plate Puppy Food offers kibble with a delicious combination of chicken, lamb, and salmon. The #1 ingredient is real chicken, which is great news if you only want to give your pup the best of the best ingredients.

The recipe is free of any by-product meal, corn, soy, or wheat. You also won’t find any artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or GMOs in it. What makes this option particularly stand out is that it is jam-packed with superfoods. It contains 15 powerful ones, including kale, blueberries, chia, and coconut.

With an overall rating on Amazon of 4.7 stars, you can feel that Nutro Ultra Superfood Plate Puppy Food has the tick of approval from other pup parents. But really, after reading these ingredients, do you need more to build your confidence in the food’s quality?

Nutro Ultra Superfood Plate Puppy Food Key Features:

  • 2 presentations available: 15 lbs. and 30 lbs.
  • One flavor: Puppy Formula with superfoods and proteins from chicken, lamb, and salmon
  • Real chicken is the #1 ingredient

Who Should Buy Dog Food for Puppies

Despite how much you love your new dog, we know that of course a puppy isn’t the same as having a baby. A human baby and a dog puppy are clearly entirely difference species, but just as the human baby has different nutritional needs to an adult (or even child), such is the same for a puppy versus an adult dog. Puppies do get their teeth relatively early, but those teeth are better suited for softer foods right after the puppy is weaned and you’ll need to slowly transition to harder foods as he ages.

When your dog is in need of developmental nutrition, a puppy food will be just what the doctor orders, literally. Your veterinarian will likely give you specific puppy food recommendations but the one thing for sure is that he will definitely recommend you feed him food that is specifically formulated to meet a growing puppy’s needs. Your puppy requires a higher calorie and more protein intensive diet to make sure he’s reaching his growth potential. You’ll be able to make the switch to the less specific diet of “adult” dog food after he’s reached adulthood, but you’ll need to make sure you’re keeping him on his puppy food diet for as long as he needs. Transitioning to adult food too early could have a lifelong negative impact on his development.

When it’s time to make the transition, check out our reviews of the best organic dog foods, the best dog foods for allergies, and the best canned dog foods to find the perfect diet for your furry friend. You should also check out our review of the best dog food storage containers to find a storage solution to keep your puppy’s food fresh.

Best Dog Foods for Puppies Overall

Wag Dry Dog Food for Puppies

For the best dog food you can buy for your puppy, look no further than Wag Dry Dog Food. Special Offer: 40% off first purchase

Important Features to Consider

Dog food for puppies should have a few important features. Here’s what to consider when selecting a dog food for your puppy:

  • Wet vs. dry food. For a young puppy, soft food may be necessary when he first makes the transition away from mama’s milk. A newly weaned puppy will struggle to eat anything solid, so a particularly hard dog food may not be the best idea when the puppy is under a few months old. After that, his dietary needs begin to make a big change for him. Your puppy may not have his adult teeth yet, but he does need the hard dog food to teethe. So around the 3-month mark, you’ll probably want to make sure he’s eating soft, but dry food and when he’s ready, transition to dryer and harder foods to help him along.
  • Grain free. While it’s true that a domesticated dog’s stomach has evolved to be capable of digesting grains over hundreds and hundreds of years, it’s also true that his stomach wasn’t meant to process them. Grains can offer some nutritional value, it’s true, but they are primarily used in dog foods as filler because they’re the least expensive ingredient. Whole grains do have some calcium and a few vitamins, some iron and potassium but for the most part, they’re just carbs. A diet of fruits, vegetables, and meat will have higher percentages of the nutrients he needs and is much more preferred for your dog’s developing body.
  • Omega-3s. Babies need omega-3 fatty acids, fur or otherwise. This is most often found in fish oil, and in your dogs food it will go a long way in helping brain development. As much as they help brain and heart (and they help in a big way), they’re even more beneficial to your pup’s vision development. The Docosahexaenoic Acids (DHAs) in Omega-3s make up a large percentage of the brain, heart, and retina tissue and making sure they get it in regular quantities through their diets will help improve their development, health, and overall intelligence. Make sure you’re weighing the benefits and checking the ingredient list to see if your puppy’s food has it.
  • Serving size. Keep in mind your puppy’s personal relationship with food. You may need time to learn it, but you will learn pretty quickly if your dog can be left to self-regulate eating. If he is able, you can consider the luxury of keeping his dog dish full and allowing him to eat as he chooses. (But don’t expect that with a puppy, it’s pretty rare.) If he isn’t great at self regulating, then you may need to rely more on a schedule than on his begging for more food. No matter how much energy he has, you won’t be able to keep your pup healthy if he’s constantly eating his weight in his high-calorie puppy food. So take a good look at the bag and make sure that you’re not over-feeding him and that your dog food isn’t so high calorie that reaching his calorie requirements won’t provide enough kibble to physically fill his tummy.
  • Transition food. There’s a large window between puppy and adult, and a lot of smaller steps in between. Some dogs are vastly different than others, as well. If your pup is still high energy, you’ll still need to find him a high calorie food to eat to compensate and give him adequate fuel for his day. But if you have a laid back dog that out grows the wild puppy stage early on, you’ll want to ease off on his high calorie diet, and still find something with the ingredients necessary for his development. Look for the food that has what your puppy needs and meets his specific needs. There are dog foods that are designed with “Young adult” or “Older Puppy” diets in mind, and finding those may just make the transition easier and more effective for you and your dog.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is dog food for a puppy and how is it different?

Dog food for a puppy is food that is designed to address the special dietary needs of a puppy from the time he is weaned from his mother’s milk to the time he can safely eat adult dog food. The biggest difference in adult and puppy food is the protein content. With an adult dog, the percentage of protein in his food is less than a puppy. The protein is a fundamental building block for a dog’s growth. When the dog has already achieved his full growing potential, he requires less protein. The single most distinguishable trait of a puppy is its high energy. And, as you probably know from your own life, the more energy you burn, the more calories you need to consume. The other notable difference in foods is the higher calorie content of puppy food. High energy requires more fuel for the fire, so to speak and for a puppy that means he needs a higher caloric intake.

Can a puppy eat regular dog food?

Without being too particular about the wording of this question, the answer is yes. A puppy probably can eat regular food (baring any allergies or sensitivities); But it also probably shouldn’t. Regular dog food won’t hurt your dog, particularly considering “puppy food” is a relatively new-ish product in relation to how long man has kept dogs as pets. Adult dog food has all the nutrients your dog needs to survive. But a puppy won’t thrive on an adult food diet. Most adult dog foods have a higher concentration of empty calories that offer little to no nutritional value and your pup may not develop as well by consuming dog food meant for only adult dogs. Skipping puppy food may lead to poorly developed adult dogs.

When should you switch your puppy to dog food?

You’ll want to make sure you’re giving your dog age-appropriate foods to make sure you’re meeting his dietary needs. Small dogs will reach “adulthood” slightly earlier than large breed dogs, so you’ll also want to keep that in mind while you’re picking your dog’s puppy food. As a general rule, small breed dogs will reach adulthood around 18 months and larger breeds won’t reach it until around two years. After your pup reaches adulthood, the options do narrow somewhat, but there are still enough choices that you’ll be able to customize your dog’s diet to fit his specific needs even as an adult. There are transitional foods that will help you make sure your dog is getting the best food for every age he is, all through his life.

What are the best times to feed a puppy?

Puppies will likely eat more frequently than adult dogs. While you’ll probably settle on an adult dog feeding schedule of once in the morning and once in the evening, when your dog is a puppy, he’ll need to eat three to four times a day to compensate for all that energy he’s expending. That means breakfast, lunch, and dinner for him, just as you would have. And if needed, go for a late afternoon snack, as well. You can, of course, make allowances for your own schedule and for house training your dog, but as a rule, let him eat while you do. You may want to make sure your pup is using the bathroom first thing when you wake, but then give him his first meal right after, maybe around 7 am. Midday meal would then be around 11 am, an afternoon snack around 3 pm, with dinner around 6 pm. When you cut the afternoon snack, and only feed three times a day, just stretch the lunch and bring forward the dinner times. When you move to two meals, feed him right before you go to work and again as soon as you get back. Your dogs personality may have more to do with your schedule than his dietary needs, but make sure you’re not under or over feeding him.
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