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.
While we researched to find our top pick, the Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Dry Dog Food became the front runner and never left that spot. With a variety of choices in flavor, size of bag and breed specialization, there’s virtually no chance this dog food can’t be customized to fit your puppy’s individual needs.
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Dog Foods for Puppies
|Best Overall||Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Dry Dog Food||4.8|
|Runner Up||NomNomNow Heartland Beef Mash||n/a|
|Best Budget Buy||IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Puppy Dry Dog Food||4.1|
|Best Grain-Free Puppy Food||Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Puppy Food||4.3|
|Best Organic Dog Food for Puppies||Organix Organic Puppy Recipe||4.2|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Our Vet’s Top Pick: Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Dry Dog Food
Take care of your puppy from the inside out, with Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Dry Dog Food. Crafted from high-quality protein sources – chicken is the first ingredient – this kibble helps your pup develop healthy muscles, grow healthy teeth and bones, and support an active lifestyle, with antioxidant-rich ingredients that not only taste great but fuel your puppy with all the nutrients he needs as he grows.
This type is ideal for puppies up to one year old and it won’t just take care of your pup’s physical development, but his brain, too. With an omega-rich recipe heavy in DHAs, this puppy food is just what a dog needs to stimulate extra brain development. That fish oil will also go a long way towards nurturing his vision.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Dry Dog Food Key Features:
- 3 presentations available: 6 lbs., 18 lbs., and 34 lbs.
- 2 flavors available: Chicken & Rice Formula and Lamb & Rice Formula
- Nutrient-rich formula supports a puppy’s developing immune system, muscle growth, brain function, and other necessities.
Our Runner Up Pick: NomNomNow Heartland Beef Mash
Complete nutrition customized to your puppy’s unique needs.Check Price
NomNomNow Heartland Beef Mash is a tasty beef recipe that contains all natural ingredients that are high in protein. Ingredients include ground beef, potatoes, carrots, peas and eggs. This recipe also contains fish oil, which helps keep your puppy’s coat healthy and shiny.
With an expertly formulated nutrition blend, NomNomNow Heartland Beef Mash exceeds AAFCO standards and uses only real, whole food ingredients. Meals are perfectly portioned into personalized meals designed for your dog’s specific weight goals and other needs. All-natural and gluten-free, NomNomNow’s Heartland Beef Mash is suitable for dogs of all shapes and sizes. Thanks to the top-quality ingredients that are good enough for you to eat, it’s no surprise that dogs love this delicious blend.
NomNomNow Heartland Beef Mash Key Features:
- High protein recipe
- Expertly formulated nutrition blend
- Rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber
Best Budget Pick: IAMS Proactive Health Dry Puppy 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
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 Organic Dog Food for Puppies: Merrick Grain Free Dry Puppy Food
For an organic food that will leave you feeling like you’ve given your dog the same kind of food you would eat, try Merrick Grain Free Dry Puppy Food.
Born from a promise of the highest quality ingredients, Organix Organic Puppy Recipe offers organic dry kibble with absolutely no corn, soy, or wheat products. What you also won’t find: antibiotics, growth hormones, artificial preservatives, chemical pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers. And what you will: free-range chicken and plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits to provide the soluble fiber necessary for a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
You can also take comfort that what you’re giving your puppy is legitimately organic; this puppy food is USDA certified organic, and you can see that clearly on the label so you won’t need to wonder if what you’re getting is what you wanted. It’s even made within the USA, so you know it’s relatively local, too.
With an overall rating on Amazon of 4.2 stars, that’s certainly a confidence builder. But really, after reading these ingredients, do you need more to build your confidence in the food’s quality?
Organix Organic Puppy Recipe Key Features:
- 2 presentations available: 5.25 lbs. and 14.5 lbs.
- One flavor: Puppy formula, with chicken, brown rice, and flax seed
- Product of the USA
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.
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?
Can a puppy eat regular dog food?
When should you switch your puppy to dog food?
What are the best times to feed a puppy?
Other Dog Food for Puppies We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other dog foods for puppies. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best dog food for puppies list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for your puppy. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.
- Dog Food for Large Breed Puppies
- Dog Food for Small Breed Puppies
- Grain Free Dog Food for Puppies
- Other Dry Dog Food for Puppies
Dog Food for Large Breed Puppies
Diamond Naturals works hard to deliver the ideal balance of protein, fat, and calories to fuel your puppy’s growing body. In addition to high-quality ingredients, including lamb and rice, this dry puppy kibble offers up phosphorus and calcium (for bone and joint development), DHA (for brain and eye development), and L-carnitine (to help convert fat to energy, thus nurturing a lean body and strong bones).
- 4 presentations available: 6 lbs., 18 lbs., 20 lbs., and 40 lbs.
- 2 flavors available: Large Breed Lamb & Rice and Small Breed Chicken
- Enriched with DHA, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants for overall well-being
Created for large-breed puppies in mind, Eagle Pack worked with trainers to create a food that will fuel your big (and growing) pup, every day. The result is a healthy chow that delivers the perfect caloric balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, not to mention all the antioxidants, omega fatty acids (including DHA), vitamins and minerals that your growing pup needs for energy, healthy eyes, a shiny coat, and good digestion.
- 2 presentations available: 15 lbs. and 30 lbs.
- All-natural ingredients include NO meat by-products, corn, wheat, or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
- Proudly made in the USA
Designed for small and large breeds alike, Eukanuba’s puppy food offers a 100% complete and balanced diet for growing dogs. High-quality recipes rely on muscle-fueling proteins, bone-supporting calcium, optimal levels of DHA and other omega-3s, and other important nutrients necessary for bone strength, healthy brain development, skin and coat health, eye health, and other developing needs, as well as to keep up with your pup’s pell-mell growth and activity levels.
- 6 presentations available: 5 lbs., 15 lbs., 16 lbs., 30 lbs., 33 lbs., and 40 lbs.
- 4 flavors available: Chicken, Chicken – Large Breed, Chicken – Small Breed, and Lamb & Rice
- Made from high-quality, animal-based proteins
Hill’s Science diet knows that large breeds don’t just grow up big; they start out big! That means your large-breed puppy has big needs, as far as her nutrition is concerned. And that’s where the brand’s Large Breed puppy food comes into play – with precisely balanced “big puppy” nutrients, including natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin (for healthy joints), high-quality ingredients, and absolutely no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
- 2 presentations available: 15.5 lbs. and 33 lbs.
- 2 flavors available: Chicken Meal & Oats and Lamb Meal & Rice
- Recommended for large-breed puppies (55+ lbs. when fully grown), up to 1-year-old
Dog Food for Small Breed Puppies
Nutro Wholesome is true to name, offering a puppy food of the highest quality. Sourced from non-GMO ingredients and with high-quality protein as the #1 ingredient, this healthy food includes no chicken by-product meal, wheat, corn, or soy protein. You’ll also find no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. What you will find: omega-3 fatty acids (including DHA), calcium, and other must-eat ingredients. In other words, this is clean eating for the canine world, puppy-sized.
- 3 presentations available: 5 lbs., 15 lbs., and 30 lbs.
- 5 flavors available: Chicken – Small Breed, Lamb, Chicken, Chicken – Large Breed, and Lamb – Large Breed
- Non-GMO ingredients with an easy-to-read, recognizable ingredient list
Small pups have their special nutritional needs, too, and that’s why Wellness Complete offers a special puppy chow for small breeds. Offering everything you want – the ideal balance of protein, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals – without the things you don’t (like fillers, artificial preservatives, and meat by-products), you can feel great about feeding this kibble to your growing puppy.
- 2 presentations available: 4 lbs. and 12 lb.s
- Contains salmon, turkey, and oatmeal, plus added DHA for healthy brain and eye development
- Proudly made in the USA
Grain-Free Dog Food for Puppies
If your puppy thrives on grain-free kibble, Blue Buffalo has one of the best. BLUE Freedom dry puppy food has no gluten and no grains, to help avoid any allergic reactions, and instead replaces typical fillers with high-quality ingredients, including deboned chicken as the first ingredient, and also whole carrots, peas, blueberries, and cranberries. Fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals round out your puppy’s nutritional needs.
- 3 presentations available: 4 lbs., 11 lbs., and 24 lbs.
- 3 flavors available: Chicken Recipe Grain Free, Chicken Recipe Small Breed Grain Free, and Chicken Recipe Large Breed Grain Free
- Absolutely no chicken/poultry by-product meals, and no wheat, corn, soy, or artificial ingredients
If you’re looking for a grain-free, all-natural food based on your puppy’s ancestral diet, give Merrick a chance. This protein-rich puppy kibble is totally grain-free, filled with whole pieces (yep!) of freeze-dried, raw poultry (chicken and turkey) and other protein sources (salmon and chicken liver), for at least 30% protein in each bite. Rounding out every bag: farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, including sweet potatoes, peas, apples, and blueberries.
- 3 presentations available: 4 lbs., 12 lbs., and 22 lbs.
- One flavor available: Puppy recipe (with raw poultry)
- Made in the USA with no ingredients from China
Looking for a grain-free option for your favorite puppy? Good news: Not only does Nature’s Recipe Grain Free contain no grain (surprise!), but this high-quality food incorporates real chicken, sweet potatoes, and perennial dog-favorite pumpkin to fuel your pup, keep skin healthy, and promote a shiny coat, thanks to ample fatty acids. Added nutrients, vitamins and minerals ensure your puppy has plenty of energy, too.
- 2 presentations available: 4 lbs. and 12 lbs.
- Grain-free chow with real chicken as the first ingredient
- Suitable for most food sensitivities, including sensitivities to corn and beef
Pulling inspiration (and ingredients) from a dog’s instinctual diet, Nature’s Variety Instinct offers a grain-free, natural, freeze-dried raw puppy food full of everything you’ve ever wanted to feed your four-legged baby. The very first ingredient is cage-free chicken, followed by other healthy proteins (from poultry, fish, and meat source), chickpeas, eggs, butternut squash, and other tasty additions. What you won’t find: no grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meal, artificial colors or preservatives.
- 3 presentations available: 4 lbs., 5 lbs. and 20 lbs.
- 2 flavors available: Puppy Chicken and Large Breed Puppy Chicken
- Proudly made in the USA
Nulo offers a great nutritional start for you beloved puppy. This dry puppy kibble is high protein (80% animal-based protein) and low carb, filled with high-quality animal proteins, as well as other essential nutrients like probiotics, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals. What’s happily absent from this food: wheat, soy, and corn, as well as all traces of artificial preservatives, coloring, and flavoring.
- 3 presentations available: 4.5 lbs., 11 lbs. and 24 lbs.
- 2 flavors available: Salmon and Turkey
- Proudly made in the USA
Your puppy may be domesticated, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want a taste of the wild. Enter this grain-free puppy food, which mimics a wolf’s natural diet – heavy on buffalo and lamb, with healthy additions of fruits and vegetables. The result is a food rich in nutrients, fatty acids including DHA, and antioxidants, which together support a nourishing lifestyle, robust immune system, and digestive health.
- 3 presentations available: 5 lbs., 15 lbs., and 30 lbs.
- 2 flavors available: High Prairie and Pacific Stream
- Made from real, easy-to-read ingredients like buffalo, lamb, roasted venison, sweet potatoes, and peas
Other Dry Dog Food for Puppies
Royal Canin has developed a nutrient-rich puppy food designed to support your pup’s immune system, digestive health, teeth and bone strength, and overall growth, while fueling the short-yet-intense rapid puppy growth period. What’s more, this specialized kibble helps reduce the formation of tartar. It’s the perfect choice for young puppies who have recently weaned.
- Two presentations available: 2.5 lb. and 13 lbs.
- Ideal for gestation/lactation support, as well as the weaning transition
- Developed for puppies up to 10 months
If you’d love to feed your puppy “real food,” but simply don’t have the time, you’ll love BLUE Life Protection formula for puppies. Every bag begins with real fish, chicken, or lamb, and add to them whole grains, fruit, and garden veggies, as well as other essential nutrients and antioxidant-rich ingredients. It’s nothing artificial and everything you’d feed your pup if you were cooking from scratch.
- 3 presentations available: 6 lbs., 15 lbs., and 30 lbs.
- 4 flavors available: Chicken and Brown Rice, Lamb and Oatmeal, Small Breed Chicken and Oatmeal, and Large Breed Chicken and Brown Rice
- No chicken by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial colors, preservatives, or flavors
CANIDAE starts with one basic belief: good ingredients are the building blocks of good food. And that’s what Under the Sun puppy food is all about: high-quality animal proteins and complex carbs, like chicken meal, oatmeal, and flax seed, blended with fruits and vegetables including green and yellow peas, butternut squash, tomatoes, apples, pumpkin, and blueberries. What you won’t find: fillers and grains, like corn or wheat.
- 2 presentations available: 5 lbs. and 12 lbs.
- One flavor available: Puppy (with chicken)
- No potatoes, corn, wheat or soy
There’s a reason Hill’s Science Diet is such an established name in the pet food industry: The brand collaborates with more than 220 vets, Ph.D. nutritionists, food scientists, and technicians to develop puppy kibble that’s rich in essential nutrients while meeting strict quality standards. And in the case of your beloved pup, this dry food incorporates real ingredients (lamb, salmon, and chicken proteins) and other natural ingredients, to deliver a high-quality food that supports growth.
- 3 presentations available: 4.5 lbs., 15.5 lbs., and 30 lbs.
- 2 flavors available: Regular Bites and Small Bites
- No artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or chicken by-product meal
Merrick knows that puppies thrive (and grow) on healthy fats and high-quality protein – not fillers, grains, and by-products. The Merrick Grain Free Dry Puppy Food has no corn, wheat, soy or gluten and contains 55% poultry, fish, and healthy fat, with an additional 45% comprised of fresh produce, vitamins, and minerals. The result: a healthy coat and skin, improved digestion, a boost in energy, and healthy joints.
- 3 presentations available: 4 lbs., 12 lbs., and 25 lbs.
- The first ingredient is real, deboned chicken
- Cooked in the USA, in organically certified kitchens
PRO PAC rounds out our list with Ultimates, a puppy kibble made from high-quality ingredients like chicken meal and brown rice. To up the nutritional goodness, Midwestern added plenty of extra protein, fat, and calories, to help little pups develop strong bones, lean muscle, healthy organs, and robust immune systems. All that said, this food is also about what it doesn’t contain: no corn, wheat, or soy.
- 2 presentations available: 5 lbs. and 28 lbs.
- One flavor available: Puppy formula
- Added antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals for ultimate growth
You love your pup, and now Purina gives you an affordable, natural recipe you can feel good about: This puppy-approved food offers up 100% of the essential nutrients young dogs need, thanks to high-quality ingredients like farm-raised chicken (at least 27% protein) and amino acids. You won’t find any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, but you will find nutrients to support your puppy’s active lifestyle and muscle growth.
- 3 presentations available: 3.8 lbs., 15.5 lbs., and 30 lbs.
- 27% protein content to support growing muscles
- Proudly made in the USA since 1965
If you were to make your own puppy food, what would you put in it? That’s the basis of Purina ONE SmartBlend, a healthy puppy food formulated with real ingredients, like chicken, oatmeal, and rice. The goal is to deliver a diet rich in essential nutrients, like lean protein (for developing muscles) and fatty acids (for eyes and brain development), not to mention all the vitamins and minerals your growing pup needs.
- 3 presentations available: 4 lbs., 8 lbs., and 16.5 lbs.
- One flavor available: Healthy Puppy Formula, with real chicken as the #1 ingredient
- The first ingredient is real chicken
Looking for more puppy food options? We reviewed all the best, fresh dog food delivery services so you can choose the right one for your pup.
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