Just like people who exercise and move around more frequently need a different diet than those who spend most of their time sitting, active dogs need different kinds of food. They need their muscles and other systems to be supported.
If dogs aren’t fed a proper diet that complements their daily activity, it has long-term effects. Dog food should support healthy joints, strong immunity, continuous muscle strength, and a healthy coat and skin.
Check out our reviews of the current top 11 best dog foods for active dogs. Check the pros and cons for a faster synopsis, or read the buyer’s guide so you know what to keep an eye out for in your puppy’s food.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2022
The 11 Best Dog Foods for Active Dogs
1. The Farmer’s Dog Fresh Chicken Dog Food – Best Overall
Active dogs need a lot of fuel, and that’s where fresh food subscriptions really shine. We found The Farmer’s Dog Chicken Recipe to be the overall best food for active dogs because of its nutritious, high-protein diet. This food’s main ingredients are chicken, Brussel sprouts, Bok choy (Chinese cabbage), and broccoli, with added fish oil and nutrients. This balanced blend gives your pup a whopping 49% protein on a dry matter basis. Although this is a lot for some dogs, if your dog is highly active, the protein-heavy diet is the way to go.
The Farmer’s Dog is an easy-to-use subscription service—it only takes minutes to enter your dog’s info, and then it can help you calculate the best food for your pet and deliver meals straight to your door.
Since it is subscription only, it can be a little trickier to browse and compare plans, but you can click above to get 50% off of your first order to try it out and cancel any time. It is a little pricier than standard pet food, but the quality of the food definitely speaks for itself.
To conclude, we think this is the overall best dog food for active dogs available this year.
2. American Journey Active Life Formula Dry Dog Food — Best Value
American Journey is the healthy food for active pups that fits into a tighter budget. The company believes in dogs living a life filled with adventure, ready to take on the next exciting thing. They should get a chance for their curiosity to be fulfilled.
This dog food gives them the accessible kind of energy to do just that. Each of American Journey’s recipes, including the one featured here, gives them a balanced diet. The first ingredient is a high-quality protein, in this case, deboned salmon.
Nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits complement the recipe. Each morsel in their dish is meant to give them strength, power up their immune system, and contribute to their overall health and well-being. The bags come in multiple sizes, but none are big enough for more than a couple of dogs.
Fatty omegas balance out the necessary oils for a dog’s skin and coat. The carbohydrates and fibers come from brown rice and barley. There is no wheat, corn, soy, or artificial ingredients in the recipe. No fillers mean longer stamina. It is the best dog food for active dogs for the money.
3. Dr. Tim’s Active Dog Pursuit Formula Dry Dog Food
Dr. Tim’s is another great option if you want to give your dog a high-quality dog food. It has been checked by other vets and approved by a Ph.D. canine nutritionist and an experienced veterinarian.
This food is created specifically for active and working dogs. The formula is packed with accessible proteins to keep a dog healthy no matter what their days are filled with. It isn’t meant to be a filler that only lasts for short spurts of time. Instead, this food is meant to complete your dog’s dietary needs in a couple of meals each day.
The food is slow-cooked and all-natural. The premium ingredients metabolically balance any active pup. It is filled with 86% animal protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and patented BC30 probiotics. Premium ingredients do mean a premium price, though.
4. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Large Breed Dog Food — Best for Puppies
Food for active dogs isn’t only determined by their energy level, daily exercise, and age. Don’t forget that even if you want to put your pet to work, puppies need extra protein and nutrients in their diet to grow properly.
Help your puppy grow healthy with this large breed chicken and rice formula. It is supplemented with probiotics to give your dog an easier time digesting it. This dog food is designed not only for puppies but also for large breed dogs that will be over 50 pounds once fully mature.
DHA is an essential ingredient in food meant for puppies. It is commonly found in their mother’s milk. DHA supports proper brain and vision development as they age. Unfortunately, the other additives are somewhat controversial. These include corn gluten meal and poultry by-product meal.
5. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Taste of the Wild is widely recognized to be a healthy food brand. They base their formulas on that of dogs’ oldest ancestors, the wolves. Since wolves are considered to be a high-energy animal, it makes sense that this formula supplies everything necessary for an active pup.
The High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog food is formulated with novel proteins, including buffalo, bison, and venison. These are uncommon, and some dogs love them, while others find them unfamiliar. It is a grain-free recipe, meaning it doesn’t use corn or wheat as a carbohydrate source. Instead, it includes sweet potatoes and peas.
The fat source is plainly stated as chicken, a healthy and available source in high quantities in the food. Real fruits and vegetables have plenty of vitamins and nutrients to balance it all out. Dried chicory root is added as prebiotic support to make digestion easy.
6. VICTOR Professional Formula Dry Dog Food
VICTOR formulates a nutrient-dense formula out of beef, chicken, and pork meals. Some “meals” are worse for your dog when made with unknown meat sources. However, this food is composed of 81% protein from meats, meaning the meal has been cooked down to be a more direct protein source than some whole meats.
Although the recipe is not grain-free, it is gluten-free. The grains used include alfalfa meal, among others. Alfalfa is a questionable ingredient to some people, so keep this in mind if your dog begins to suffer from gas or nausea. The combination of accessible proteins and grains that are more digestible for dogs makes it a well-balanced meal for a sporting pup.
This food by VICTOR is not marketed for puppies, but since it packs such a protein punch, it can be fed to all life stages. That includes puppies and pregnant or lactating females.
7. Purina Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Performance Dry Dog Food
Purina has another offering on the table for dog owners who want options. This formula is fine-tuned to encourage strength and promote long-lasting stamina. This is done via a 30/20 mix. The food has 30% protein from real chicken, which is the first ingredient. It is further augmented by 20% fat for increased energy, which comes from beef. They mix the beef fat with preservatives to keep it tasting fresher, but for some, this is not preferred to all-natural diets.
They pointedly blend not only proteins and fats but also amino acids, antioxidants, and minerals. The food includes healthy amounts of glucosamine to support the development of healthy joints. Since it can be fed to puppies as well, it contains necessary DHA supplements.
8. Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Dog Food
Rachael Ray’s brand of developed dog foods is wholesome, pleasing to the tastebuds, and well-balanced. It contains brown rice, and the protein source is farm-raised turkey and venison. Turkey is the number-one ingredient.
Brown rice is another one of the main ingredients, keeping the recipe free from controversial wheat and corn additives. Venison is protein-rich and accessible. It also lends a delicious flavor to the food that most dogs won’t want to stop eating. Sometimes, though, its uniqueness makes it more off-putting to dogs that prefer to stick with flavors they recognize.
Fruits like cranberries are used in the mix, giving it the antioxidant boost to fortify your fur-baby’s immune system. The entire recipe is boosted with L-carnitine. This supplement helps balance weight and control metabolism. Even on a high exercise day, their food gives your dog a helping paw.
Rachael Ray’s food includes no poultry by-product meal, fillers, wheat, or wheat gluten products. It does, however, contain corn.
9. Eukanuba Premium Performance Adult Dry Dog Food
Eukanuba works hard to develop quality dog food for your furry friends. It wants to help nurture the best from your pup. Much like Taste of the Wild, Eukanuba believes that the best way to nourish a dog is by feeding them like carnivores. It is for this reason that its food contains high-quality proteins from animal sources.
This premium performance food is explicitly meant for adult dogs that have more of a sporting lifestyle. It is meant to provide 100% of their daily nutritional needs, without excess fillers.
Another way that Eukanuba supplements this food for athletic dogs is by increasing the total amount of protein. It is 28% higher than in its adult maintenance food, going above and beyond what couch potatoes need. The fat content is the same at 18% of the total formula.
Finally, the 3D DentaDefense System reduces the amount of tartar that builds up on teeth.
10. AvoDerm Natural Triple Protein Meal Formula Dry Dog Food
AvoDerm helps provide balanced nutrition to each meal that your dog eats. The first ingredients are chicken meal, ground brown rice, lamb meal, turkey meal, and ground white rice. The brand does use preservatives in its fat sources, this time in chicken.
The meat meal supplies them with high-protein sources that are easy to use. It is supplemented further with high-quality fats and oils, bringing a balance to omega-3s and -6s that your pup will appreciate.
AvoDerm promotes maintaining healthy coats and skin further by including avocado with its oil in the recipe. A somewhat controversial ingredient is alfalfa meal, meant for giving dogs a source of carbohydrates other than wheat but being widely contested.
11. Sport Dog Food Elite Series Working Dog Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Sport Dog Food Elite Series uses a single protein source to satisfy protein needs. It uses turkey, a poultry that is easy to digest but stands out from the more common chicken in flavor. It is also considered a low-ash animal.
Not only is this dog food specially made for dogs that experience a more active lifestyle, but it is also for pups with food sensitivities. This formula contains no artificial flavors or preservatives, fillers, or by-products. It has American-sourced, organic products exclusively.
Sport Dog Food has excluded difficult-to-digest grains, as well as flax, white potato, and legumes. Trace minerals help encourage absorption, so your dog gets the most out of every bowl. Currently, they only offer one size bag with a premium price.
Buyer’s Guide: Finding the Best High Energy Dog Food
Buying food for an active dog can cover certain grey areas. For example, what is an active dog? You can’t only look at breed information, since it has more to do with your dog’s daily routines and activity. Once you know that your dog would benefit from food like this, what should you look for?
The Difference Between Active and Not-So-Active Dogs
Determining whether your dog is an active breed or not can be difficult. Some breeds tend to be more energetic than others, although this isn’t the only factor.
Consider the difference between an English Bulldog and a German Shepherd. Obviously, they are built quite differently, but their general attitude and movement are also opposites. An English Bulldog is stubbornly lazy, preferring to sit around with you for as long as possible. A German Shepherd would quickly grow bored with a lifestyle like this and move off to find something new to do.
That doesn’t mean that all German Shepherds are active, though. If they are made to live in an apartment or kenneled without getting much time to roam around, they shouldn’t eat an active dog’s food.
The time of year does not affect all dogs the same way, but it does matter for most. Dogs tend to be more active during the spring and summer months. As they feel winter coming on, they might start to settle down.
Dogs that have jobs to do in the winter will be most active during the cold seasons. Think about a Siberian Husky. They will barely want to move in the summer but will be bounding around happily in the winter.
Try to consider location on both a broad scale and a small one. Pups that live in urban areas or apartments tend to be less active than those that roam around on farms and ranches.
On a large scale, if you live in an area that is nice and warm for most of the year, some dog breeds prefer it, and others would rather be romping in the snow. The location, combined with the breed, changes the way and amount that they will be active.
Did you get a dog to have a cuddle buddy, one that would like to curl up at your feet or on your lap on lazy evenings? Or do you have a show dog who participates in dog sports? If you live and work on a farm, perhaps they help you out with the work.
Whatever the case, their purpose in your life partly determines their activity. Just because your pup goes on a couple of walks a day to get them out of the house, it doesn’t mean they are active enough to get food high in fat and protein. Feeding them can cause a decrease in appetite and even a struggle with obesity.
Perhaps your work companion was once an alert, active dog. As a dog ages, though, they become more docile and less excited to move around. Even if you have fed them food for active dogs up to this point, it is often best to switch them to dog food for seniors. It helps control their weight and give them extra joint support.
If a dog is active for most of the day, running around the farm, climbing among mountains, herding, agility training, or training for a sports dog show, then they most likely need extra oomph in their food.
Ideals to Consider in an Active Dog’s Food
Food for active dogs should be a high-quality food, preferably with natural ingredients and highly available consumption rate. As an example, animal proteins are easier for dogs’ systems to digest and use than plant proteins.
The minimum basic requirements for an average dog include:
- For adults, a minimum of 18% crude protein; for puppies, at least 22%
- For adults, at least 5% crude fat; for puppies, minimum of 8%
- Low quantities of complex carbohydrates
- At most, 5% dietary fiber
If these are the bare minimum, then active dogs need far more. Look for foods that give them higher levels of protein and fat. These should still maintain a balance of fiber and carbohydrates, though.
Quantity vs. Quality
When a dog is more active, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should start eating more food. Instead, feed them a premium food that has increased amounts of what they need. Simply eating more of their previous food gives them just as many carbohydrates and fillers as protein in each bite, and that can lead to lethargy or weight struggles.
The price of high-quality dog food can be a hard pill to swallow for some. However, in the end, it often balances out. If they are getting a food that supports them and better fulfills their dietary needs, then they can eat less of it to benefit. Theoretically, buying higher-quality food should mean smaller meal sizes because you don’t want to overload your pet.
While trying to figure out the best meal size, consult your vet and keep an eye on our dog’s attitude and weight.
Doing the best for your pet is what finding the perfect food comes down to. If your dog works hard for you, then they will appreciate the extra care that you take in feeding them a quality diet.
Number one on our list, The Farmer’s Dog Chicken Recipe dog food stands out from the crowd. The brand does its best to formulate truly delicious and absolutely fulfilling formulas for highly active dogs, and their food is human-grade and vet-formulated.
If budget is what you need to focus on, consider American Journey Active Life Formula Dry Dog Food. At the best value on the list, you aren’t losing out on prime protein and a well-balanced recipe.
From farm to show stand, active dogs need an all-inclusive diet. Give them what they need, and they are bound to give back for years to come.
Featured image credit: Ann Tyurina, Shutterstock