According to the American Kennel Club, the German Shepherd is the second most popular dog in the U.S.A. based on 2019 registration statistics — and for good reason.1 They are highly intelligent, agile, loyal, and loving animals that are frequently used in search and rescue applications and as police dogs.
Such an athletic and powerful dog needs a diet to match, and you’ll want to feed your German Shepherd the best possible diet to help them perform at their optimum. All dogs require a well-balanced diet consisting of the correct proportions of protein, fat, and essential nutrients, but German Shepherds will thrive on a diet with higher-than-average protein levels. Protein is essential to help these dogs build and then maintain muscle mass.
Your dog’s diet is a big responsibility, and it can be a stressful experience to decide on what the best food to give is. That’s why we’ve created this list of in-depth reviews — to help you narrow down the options and find the best possible food for your beloved German Shepherd.
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The 11 Best Dog Foods for German Shepherds
1.Ollie Fresh Dog Food — Best Overall
Our favorite dog food for German Shepherds is Ollie Dog Food. Having an eager, active breed like the German Shepherd means finding an adequate diet that supports and satisfies their busy lifestyle. Ollie’s recipes do just that. Each fresh and baked recipe uses whole, locally sourced ingredients and lists hardy, real meat proteins like chicken, turkey, beef, and lamb, as the first. Whichever meal you decide on, you can be sure that your dog is getting the essential nutrients they need to grow up strong and stay in tip-top shape.
With Ollie, you customize your dog’s meal plans according to their weight, age, and dietary needs. You can also choose how frequent shipments are sent so you never run out of food.
Although some dog owners may be reluctant to sign up for a subscription, we highly recommend it for the convenience and knowing we’re feeding our dogs top-of-the-line dog food.
2. Iams ProActive Health Large Breed Dog Food — Best Value
This large breed adult dog food from Iams is the best German Shepherd dog food for the money, giving your dog real chicken for an affordable price. The food is specially designed for adult dogs to give them all the essential nutrients they need. It contains farm-raised chicken as the first ingredient to give your powerful German Shepherd the real protein they need to build and maintain muscle and bone strength. Iams makes their dog food with no artificial flavors or preservatives, using whole grains and antioxidant-rich vegetables for optimum nutrition without empty filler calories. It also contains prebiotics for good digestive health, omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, and a natural flavor that they are sure to love.
Several customers report that the food gave their dogs bloat and gas, likely due to the inclusion of grains in the recipe. Some also said the food gave their dogs loose stools, again likely due to the grains, which are an unnecessary addition. This keeps Iams from the top position.
3. Royal Canin German Shepherd Dry Dog Food
Royal Canin has developed this dry dog food specifically for German Shepherds over 15 months, making it the top choice overall for food for your German Shepherd. The food is designed to cater for the German Shepherd’s notably sensitive digestive system, which is prone to bloating and frequent digestive issues. It contains highly digestible proteins and fibers that limit the intestinal fermentation that can lead to bloat. The formula also contains E.P.A. and D.H.A. (essential fatty acids) for a healthy coat and skin, and the size, shape, and texture of the kibble is specifically designed for the German Shepherd’s strong teeth and jaws.
While this food is ideal for German Shepherds, it is comparatively expensive food. The kibble also has a high-fat content, around 17%, so be sure to not overfeed this food to your Shepherd.
4. Royal Canin German Shepherd Puppy Dog Food — Best for Puppies
This food from Royal Canin is designed exclusively for growing German Shepherd puppies, to give their developing bodies all the essential nutrients that they need. The food is suitable for puppies from 8 weeks to 15 months old and will help with the digestive issues that young Shepherds can sometimes suffer from. The developing digestive system of growing puppies cannot absorb nutrients the same way that an adult’s can, and Royal Canin has included L.I.P. (low indigestible proteins) to ensure high quality, highly digestible protein sources. The food is fortified with calcium and phosphorus for healthy bone development and an exclusive complex of antioxidants that include vitamin E and C, lutein, and taurine for a well-functioning immune system.
The food, despite its high price and “high quality” claims, contains grains, including corn, wheat, and oats. These ingredients are not easy for adult dogs to digest, much less growing puppies. The first ingredient listed is a chicken by-product, not an ideal source of meat and protein.
5. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Taste of the Wild High Prairie Grain-Free dog food includes protein sourced from buffalo and bison and has pea and sweet potato for added energy. It also includes natural antioxidants from fruits like blueberries and dried chicory root for prebiotic support and a healthy digestive tract, as well as chelated minerals with amino acids to enhance their absorption. The food will take care of your dog’s skin and coat with the included omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and the recipe contains zero grains or fillers and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Several customers report that the food gave their dogs bloat and gas, with some even vomiting. Some dogs would simply not eat the food, and customers state that there may have been a change in the recipe causing this. The food also has a high-fat content, so beware of overfeeding.
- Get the best dog bowl for your German Shepherd! See our reviews & top picks here.
6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Wilderness grain-free dry dog food is packed with protein from real chicken, which will give your German Shepherd the food they need to build and maintain lean muscle mass. The food is grain-free but contains a healthy balance of carbohydrates in the form of peas, potatoes, and carrots to give your dog a boost in energy. It is also free from poultry by-products, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives. The recipe contains essential fatty acids omega-3 and -6 for a healthy coat and skin and is formulated with “LifeSource Bits,” a special blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to support your Shepherd’s immune system.
This food is comparatively expensive, and it will cost a fair amount to keep your dog on it for long periods. Some customers report that their dogs did not enjoy the food, likely due to the pungent fish smell. The proportions of “LifeSource Bits” are large, and there seems to be too much added compared to actual food.
7. CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Dry German Shepherd Dog Food
This dry dog food from CANIDAE is completely grain-free and contains real lamb as the first ingredient, followed by turkey and chicken, ensuring a healthy dose of protein for your canine companion. The recipe is formulated for both healthy dogs and dogs with sensitivities and will give your dog a healthy balanced meal using just 10 ingredients. There is no wheat, corn, soy, or artificial flavorings or colorants, but the food is packed with healthy protein, fat, probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and minerals.
Several customers report that the food made their dogs gassy and bloated, pointing to digestive issues, and many said that their dogs would just not eat the food. Some customers who have dogs with allergy issues said that the food made their dogs have flare-ups, contrary to the claims of the manufacturer.
8. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Large Breed Dry Dog Food
Science Diet dry dog food from Hills is designed to provide your pooch with the complete nutrition they need. It contains chicken meal for protein and antioxidants for a healthy immune system. The food also contains a vitamin-E-and-C blend for further immune support and is free from artificial colorants, preservatives, and flavors. The recipe contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which is essential for dogs as they get older, and has 18% fewer calories than other brands, making it great for large breed dogs that are prone to gaining excess weight.
The food contains grains like wheat, corn, and soya, which can present a problem for dogs with digestive sensitivities. Consequently, several users report their dogs having gas, bloating, and loose stools, and some say that their dog always seems hungry after switching to this food. This is likely due to the fillers of wheat and corn, which are empty calories. Even the least picky of dogs may not eat the food.
9. Eukanuba Breed Specific German Shepherd Adult Dry Dog Food
This adult dry dog food from Eukanuba is formulated specifically for German Shepherds, and the ethic of the company is that dogs are best fed as carnivores, so you can be sure that the food is packed with high-quality animal protein. The food features a specialized 3D DentaDefence system, which cleans your dog’s teeth while they eat and claims to prevent tartar build-up for up to 28 days. The included proteins are sourced from chicken, egg, lamb, and fish, not from vegetables, as many other commercial dry foods are. The food contains glucosamine and chondroitin and is suitable for dogs 1 year and older.
While this food contains a great deal of protein, it also contains many grains, including wheat, corn, and sorghum. Some customers report that the food dried their dog’s skin out and caused itchiness and excessive shedding. Some customers’ dogs would not eat it.
10. Royal Canin German Shepherd Loaf in Sauce Canned Dog Food
This canned dog food from Royal Canin is specially formulated for German Shepherds in order to provide the essential nutrients needed by the breed. The food contains D.H.A. and E.P.A. for healthy skin and a smooth, shiny coat, as well as chicken and pork to provide essential animal-sourced protein. It also contains fish oil for essential fatty acids and vitamin C and E for immune support. There are no artificial flavorings, colorants, or preservatives in the food.
Tinned dog food typically contains a great deal of water content, and the total weight is largely moisture. Added to this is the fact that this food contains corn flour to “bind” the ingredients and bulk it up. Therefore, the food is not as rich in nutritional calories as you’d like. It also contains powdered cellulose, produced from pulp fibers from wood and plants, which has no nutritional benefits at all.
11. Dr. Gary’s Best Breed German Dry Dog Food
This dry dog food from Dr. Gary’s Best Breed is specially formulated for German Shepherds and other large dog breeds. The formula provides premium protein obtained from animal sources, including chicken, fish, and eggs, as well as sea mussels, which are a great source of glucosamine and chondroitin. It also contains essential fatty acids omega-3 and -6 for healthy skin and vibrant coat and vitamins C and E to support a healthy immune system. The inclusion of garlic powder will help support your dog’s immune system and liver and reduce cholesterol build-up.
A handful of customers report that their dogs would not touch this food and that it had a pungent fishy smell. Some said the food caused loose stool and even diarrhea in their dog. The kibble is much too small for large breeds like German Shepherds, only around the size of a pea, so they are likely to not chew the food properly.
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting the Best Dog Food for German Shepherds
German Shepherds are big, powerful dogs and will benefit greatly from a diet that consists of a high amount of good-quality, animal-based protein. German Shepherds should have a caloric intake of around 2,000 calories a day, depending on their activity levels and age. It is important to remember that German Shepherds have different dietary needs at different growth stages — puppy’s nutritional needs are different to senior dogs. With that in mind, there are a few important points to consider when buying food for your Shepherd.
The ingredients of the dog food that you choose are naturally the most important aspect. A diet consisting of mostly protein and fat is highly recommended for these powerful animals.
The food should ideally be free from grains, or they should at least be kept to a minimum. Grains can cause gas and bloat and other digestive issues in large dogs. They are most often used as fillers and other than dietary fiber, have little beneficial nutrition for your dog. The most commonly found grains in dry dog foods are wheat, corn, and soy. There is controversy around whether to feed dogs grains, as they have evolved to eat an omnivorous diet and are not strictly carnivores. Each breed and each dog is different, and the best thing to do is to assess how your pooch reacts to different food and go from there.
Meat should be listed as the first ingredient on the package, and ideally, the first three ingredients should be some form of animal protein. This usually includes chicken, beef, and fish, as these are the best source of protein for a healthy dog. Protein is essential to both the building and maintenance of lean muscle mass and to give your dog the energy they need.
Fat is also important and is best sourced from animals. Of course, too much is not good, but the food should contain around 10-15% fat. You’ll also want the food to be free from any artificial ingredients like flavoring, preservatives, and coloring.
By-products from pork, chicken, and fish often get a bad rap, and consumers will often shy away from pet foods that list these in their ingredients. By-products from animals come from the non-rendered, clean parts that do not include the meat typically consumed by humans. These include organ meat like liver, lungs, kidney, blood, and bone and actually can provide important nutrients for your dog.
Related Read: Wet or dry food?
Other than puppies and seniors, dry food is the best bet for your German Shepherd. Dry kibble is more affordable, has dental benefits, and is more nutrient-dense than wet food. Wet food is made up of mostly water, and dogs will generally need to consume more to get adequate nutrition. Wet food has its place, though. Puppies cannot easily break down the hard chunks of kibble, so wet food may be better for their developing teeth and jaws. The same goes for seniors, who often have trouble with hard kibble in old age.
The best German Shepherd food according to our tests is Ollie Fresh Dog Food. This food is specifically for German Shepherds, contains highly digestible proteins and fibers that limit gas and bloating, and has essential vitamins for a healthy coat and skin.
The best German Shepherd food for the money is the large breed adult dog food from Iams. It contains farm-raised chicken as the first ingredient, contains no artificial flavors or preservatives, and has antioxidant-rich vegetables and prebiotics for good digestive and immune health, all for a highly affordable price.
Good nutrition is essential to the health and well-being of your German Shepherd, and finding the right food for your beloved pooch can be a stressful process. Hopefully, our in-depth reviews have helped narrow down the options so you can make the best choice for your canine companion.
Featured Image Credit: AnjaGh, Pixabay