12 Best Dog Foods for Golden Retriever Puppies – 2023 Reviews & Top Picks
What your Golden Retriever puppy eats now will affect them for the rest of their life. When your puppy is growing, they need many vitamins and nutrients. Otherwise, they may be at a higher risk of developing health problems later in life, such as hip dysplasia.
While all puppies need proper nutrition, it is especially important that Golden Retriever puppies are fed correctly. As larger dogs, these canines are more prone1 to diet-linked health issues. For instance, if they grow too fast or eat the wrong ratio of calcium and phosphorous, they can develop hip dysplasia.
However, choosing the best food can seem nearly impossible. There are so many puppy foods out there. Deciding which one works best for your Golden Retriever can be challenging.
Luckily, we’ve done a lot of the legwork for you. Below, we’ve reviewed some of the best puppy foods for Golden Retrievers.
A Quick Glance at Our Favorites of 2023
|Best Overall||Ollie Fresh Dog Food Subscription||
||Click Here to Save 50%|
|Best Value||Purina Pro Plan Puppy||
|Orijen Amazing Grains Dry Puppy Food||
|American Journey Active Life Formula||
|Vet’s Choice||Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Puppy Recipe||
The 12 Best Dog Foods for Golden Retriever Puppies
1. Ollie Fresh Dog Food Subscription – Best Overall
|Main Ingredients:||Beef, Peas, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Carrots|
|Calories:||1540 kcal ME/kg|
If you want to feed your Golden retriever puppy only the best, we recommend Ollie Beef Dish with Sweet Potatoes. This formula is made with human-grade, fresh dog food. It includes beef as the primary ingredient, which you can really see when looking at it. This beef adds tons of protein and fat, which your canine needs to thrive.
This formula also includes a range of ingredients to improve its nutritional content. For instance, sweet potatoes are added to increase the carbohydrate content and provide fiber. Both of these nutrients are vital for your puppy’s energy levels and digestion system.
Blueberries are included for their high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C. Both of these help improve your dog’s immune system. Chia seeds add tons of healthy fats, which aid in brain development.
With that said, this formula is more expensive than most. Plus, it also includes high levels of peas. Peas are not the best option for most dogs, as they may be related to certain heart conditions. Golden Retrievers are already at risk for these conditions.
- Human-grade ingredients
- Fresh ingredients
- High in beef
- Blueberries, chia seeds, and sweet potatoes included
- High in peas
2. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Dry Food – Best Value
|Main Ingredients:||Chicken, Rice, Poultry By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Beef Fat|
If you’re on a budget, then we recommend Purina Pro Plan Puppy Chicken & Rice Formula. As the name suggests, this formula is designed primarily for puppies, though it isn’t solely made for larger breeds. It costs much less than the competition while still maintaining high nutritional standards. Therefore, we consider it the best dog food for Golden Retriever puppies for the money.
The first ingredient in this food is chicken, which works well for most dogs. Chicken provides plenty of amino acids and other nutrients that Golden Retrievers need to develop properly. However, chicken can also be a common allergen, so keep that in mind when feeding this to your canine.
Because this food is grain-inclusive, rice is also included. This rice provides an easy source of carbohydrates, which provide energy.
Corn gluten meal is also included. This ingredient may sound a bit controversial, however, it is actually one of the most digestible sources of protein. On a more negative note, by-products are also included, which range in their quality.
- Includes chicken as the first ingredient
- Correct ratio of calcium and phosphorous
- By-products included
3. Orijen Amazing Grains Dry Puppy Food
|Main Ingredients:||Chicken, Turkey, Whole Mackerel, Whole Herring, Salmon|
Compared to other foods on the market, Orijen Amazing Grains Dry Puppy Food costs much more. However, it also includes a lot more meat, so you’re paying for extremely high-quality ingredients. The first few ingredients are all some form of meat, including chicken, turkey, and salmon. All of these meats contain amino acids that your puppy needs to develop and thrive.
Because there are so many meats, this food has a much higher protein content than others. Depending on your dog, this may or may not be a good thing. Some dogs are sensitive to high-protein diets, while others do quite well on them. High-protein diets may also be related to several health problems, so keep that in mind when choosing this food.
Plus, this food is also grain-inclusive. However, grains do not appear until much further down on the ingredient list.
Thanks to the high fish content, this food does contain quite a bit of DHA and EPA. Probiotics and prebiotics are also included, which help regulate your puppy’s digestive system.
- Lots of meat
- DHA and EPA included
- Probiotics added
4. American Journey Active Life Formula Large Breed Puppy
|Main Ingredients:||Deboned Salmon, Menhaden Fish Meal, Brown Rice, Peas, Rice Bran|
For most dogs, we highly recommend the American Journey Active Life Formula Large Breed Puppy recipe. This formula is made specifically to support the growth of large-breed puppies. Therefore, it works great for most Golden Retrievers.
Furthermore, the very first ingredient in this formula is salmon. Salmon provides extra DHA and other fatty acids, which your puppy needs to thrive. These fatty acids help with brain, eye, and joint development. Menhaden fish meal appears as the second ingredient, which only helps your canine’s development more.
To ensure proper bone development, this puppy food includes a precise blend of calcium and phosphorus. These two minerals are particularly vital for large breed puppies, but they must be provided in the right amount, which this dog food does.
We also liked the inclusion of grain in this formula. Grain provides extra fiber, which helps regulate your dog’s digestion. Plus, grain-free foods may be associated with some negative health consequences in some dogs.
- Salmon is the main protein source
- Designed for large breed puppies
- Moderate protein content
- No artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors
- Includes peas as the fourth ingredient
5. Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Puppy Food – Vet’s Choice
|Main Ingredients:||Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal|
The Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Puppy Recipe Dry Dog Food includes deboned chicken as the first ingredient, immediately followed by chicken meal. Both of these ingredients provide lots of protein and fat to your canine, which are necessary when your puppy is growing. Chicken meal is basically concentrated chicken, so it contains more protein than whole chicken.
This formula is also grain-inclusive. It includes whole grains like barley, oatmeal, and brown rice. All of these ingredients are high in fiber and carbohydrates, which your puppy will need to support their high energy levels.
To ensure that your puppy develops well, omega fatty acids, DHA, glucosamine, and chondroitin are all included. These help your puppy develop and thrive, ensuring that they grow into healthy adults.
- Includes omega fatty acids
- Chicken as the first ingredient
- Glucosamine and chondroitin included
6. Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula
|Main Ingredients:||Lamb, Lamb Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Cracked Pearled Barley, Grain Sorghum|
As the name suggests, Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula was designed specifically for large breed puppies. Therefore, it includes the correct ratio of ingredients and nutrients to help your Golden Retriever grow without increasing their risk for health problems later on.
The primary ingredient in this food is lamb. Therefore, this formula may work well for puppies that are sensitive to chicken. There are also a variety of grains included, which may help prevent some problems later on. Thanks to the high amount of lamb, this formula contains quite a bit of protein. However, it isn’t necessarily as high as some other formulas we’ve reviewed thus far.
To help your puppy’s digestive system, this formula also includes a high number of probiotics, as well as prebiotics. These two ingredients help prevent stomach problems and support your Golden Retriever’s digestion.
- Lamb as the first ingredient
- Reasonable amount of protein
- Probiotics and prebiotics included
- Designed specifically for large breed puppies
7. VICTOR Purpose Active Dog & Puppy Formula
|Main Ingredients:||Beef Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Fat, Menhaden Fish Meal|
Compared to other puppy formulas, VICTOR Purpose Active Dog & Puppy Formula contains a lot of protein. In fact, the protein content is at 33%, which is higher than most formulas on this list. However, much of this protein doesn’t come from meat, which is why we rated this food a bit lower on the list. While beef meal is the first ingredient (and extremely nutritious), peas appear as the second ingredient.
Peas are common in grain-free foods like this one, and they contain a lot of protein. Therefore, they raise the protein content of the food substantially. However, peas may also cause certain heart conditions in dogs, according to a current FDA investigation.
This food does contain all of the nutrients your puppy needs to thrive. If your dog is active, you can continue to feed this food far into their adulthood, though more laidback dogs will need less protein and fewer calories.
- Beef meal as the first ingredient
- High in protein
- Designed for active puppies and adults
- Contains high amounts of peas
8. Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula
|Main Ingredients:||Water Buffalo, Lamb Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Egg Product, Pea Protein|
The Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula is one of the most popular foods on the market. It includes lamb meal, water buffalo, and other meats. The formula advertises that it includes venison and bison. While these meats are included, they are very far down on the list. Therefore, be sure you pay attention to the ingredients that are actually on the list—not those advertised.
This food includes quite a bit of meat, but it also includes pea protein. This concentrated form of protein raises the protein content of this food substantially. However, this protein may not contain all of the amino acids your dog needs to thrive, and as mentioned earlier peas may be connected with certain health problems.
The protein content in this food is moderately high. However, much of it does come from the peas.
We do like that this formula is made in the USA, and Taste of the Wild is a family-owned business. It doesn’t contain grains, corn, wheat, or many artificial ingredients, either.
- Novel meats for puppies with allergies
- Moderately high protein content
- Doesn’t contain artificial flavors or colors
- Pea protein included
9. Natural Balance LID Dry Dog Food
|Main Ingredients:||Lamb, Brown Rice, Lamb Meal, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran|
For puppies with allergies, you may want to consider Natural Balance LID Lamb & Brown Rice Puppy Recipe. This formula contains very limited ingredients, which lowers the chance of your dog having a reaction. Plus, lamb is the only protein source and isn’t a common cause of allergies. Lamb provides all the amino acids your dog needs to thrive.
Brown rice is listed as the second ingredient. This grain adds fiber and carbohydrates to your dog’s food. This fiber helps regulate your dog’s digestive system. No soy or gluten is included in this formula, making it better suited for dogs with allergies.
This formula includes DHA and omega fatty acids from fish oil, which help with your dog’s coat and skin health.
While this food isn’t specifically designed for large breed dogs, it does include everything that larger puppies need to thrive. Therefore, it is suitable for Golden Retriever puppies.
- Omega fatty acids included
- Brown rice included for increased fiber
- Lamb as the only protein source
- Not designed explicitly for large breeds
10. Ultimates Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Puppy Dog Food
|Main Ingredients:||Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Peas, Chicken Fat, Whitefish Meal|
Compared to other formulas on the market, Ultimates Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Puppy Dog Food costs much more. Therefore, we listed it lower on the list, especially since you aren’t getting much for the increased price.
The first ingredient is chicken meal, which is extremely nutritious. This ingredient contains chicken only, but the moisture content has been removed and it is extremely concentrated. Brown rice is also listed as the second ingredient, which adds fiber and carbohydrates to the formula.
With that said, peas are listed as the third ingredient. This ingredient adds a lot of protein to the food, though this protein may not be especially digestible. Plus, peas may be associated with certain health problems in dogs. Keep this in mind if you decide to purchase this formula.
L-Carnitine is added to this formula, as well. This nutrient helps support your dog’s ability to burn fat and make lean muscle. Plus, it’s also fortified with DHA for brain development.
- Chicken meal as the first ingredient
- High in fiber
- Includes DHA
- Peas high on the ingredient list
11. Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage Dry Dog Food
|Main Ingredients:||Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Dried Egg, Buckwheat, Pacific Whiting Meal|
Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage Dry Dog Food isn’t specifically designed for large breed puppies. However, it does meet the nutritional needs of all puppies, making it suitable for Golden Retrievers and most other puppies out there, as well.
It doesn’t include any peas, lentils, or legumes, which may be associated with a range of health problems. Instead, it includes brown rice as the first ingredient. This ingredient provides fiber and quite a few other nutrients, as well.
Thanks to the included fish, this formula also contains high amounts of DHA for brain development.
With all that said, we did find this formula to be substantially more expensive than other options out there. Plus, it isn’t specifically designed for large breed dogs.
- No peas, lentils, or legumes
- Chicken meal as the first ingredient
- Fish added
- Extremely expensive
- Not designed explicitly for larger breeds
12. Eukanuba Premium Performance Pro Puppy Dry Dog Food
|Main Ingredients:||Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewer’s Rice, Corn, Chicken Fat, Wheat Gluten|
Eukanuba Premium Performance Pro Puppy Dry Dog Food has a small but very passionate fan group. This company appears to use advanced science when formulating their dog foods, which is one reason why they are so popular. However, they also happen to be one of the most expensive dog foods out there.
Plus, their ingredients aren’t extremely high-quality. Therefore, the value of this food just isn’t there. You’re paying more for less.
The first ingredient is chicken by-product meal. While by-products aren’t always bad, they can include some lower-quality ingredients like feathers. Therefore, they aren’t recommended, especially as the main protein source. Despite the name, brewer’s rice is extremely nutritious, though, and appears as the second ingredient. Most of the nutrients likely come from the brewer’s rice.
Wheat gluten is also included, increasing the protein content of this food. However, wheat gluten isn’t particularly digestible, which means that your dog may not actually get much from this food.
- Backed by science
- Brewer’s rice included
- Very expensive
- By-products as the first ingredient
- Not specifically for large breed puppies
Buyer’s Guide: Picking the Best Dog Food for Golden Retriever Puppies
Purchasing dog food can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to figure out your puppy’s nutrition. Luckily, with a small amount of background knowledge, you can easily figure out the quality of the many foods available, allowing you to choose the best option for your canine.
Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about this food.
Protein and Amino Acids
Dogs need 22 different amino acids to survive. However, they can make many of these themselves. There are 10 that they cannot make on their own. Therefore, these amino acids have to be in their food. Otherwise, deficiencies will develop.
These amino acids come from protein, which is found in meat and plants. Dogs can digest both meat and plant sources equally, but most plants don’t contain all the amino acids they need. Plus, meat-based protein is more efficient.
Therefore, the protein included in your dog’s food really matters. Otherwise, your canines won’t get the amino acids they need and health problems will develop.
Preferably, the main source of protein should be meat-based. However, plant-based protein can work as long as it is backed by science and includes all the necessary amino acids. After your dog eats the protein, their body doesn’t care where it came from.
If a meat source is used, the source should be listed. “Beef” and “salmon” are great options. However, “meat” or “by-products” are not. Speaking of by-products, they aren’t recommended, simply because they don’t include as much crude protein as whole chicken. Plus, you don’t really know what you’re getting with by-products.
Next to amino acids, fatty acids are also vital for your canine’s health. Golden Retriever puppies especially need these fatty acids, as they provide extra help for their brain development. Fatty fish, whole eggs, plant oils, and nut butter all provide fatty acids that are vital for your canine’s development.
Often, you’ll find that dog foods either include fish meat as a main protein, or they include fish oil. Some also include eggs and plant oils. All of these ingredients add necessary amino acids.
While carbs have a bit of a bad name, they are vital for your dog’s development, as well. These carbs provide a fast source of energy, which your dog needs to grow and develop. Furthermore, carbohydrates also include high amounts of fiber, which helps regulate your dog’s digestive system.
Therefore, we highly recommend choosing a food with a quality source of carbohydrates. Whole grains are typically the best option, as they provide lots of nutrients and fiber. Unless your dog is allergic to grains (which is rare), we recommend choosing a grain-inclusive food.
While many people assume that grain-free foods are better because they contain more meat, this isn’t typically the case. Instead, many grain-free foods simply switch out the grains in their formulas for peas. Peas are not a recommended source of carbohydrates, as they may be linked to several health problems in dogs.
When feeding a Golden Retriever puppy, be sure you purchase food specifically designed for puppies. Puppies and adults need different amounts of nutrients. Therefore, puppies can’t thrive on regular adult dog food.
Large breeds like Golden Retrievers need especially careful nutrition during their puppy years. Otherwise, they may develop health problems later on. For instance, hip dysplasia is a particularly common problem that is often related to diet.
There are many dog foods out there designed specifically for large breed puppies. However, some formulas are nutritious enough to be suitable for all puppies. Always check that the formula is labeled as for large breed puppies, though. Regular puppy food won’t do for these dogs.
Feeding your Golden Retriever puppy is vital for their long-term health. There are many health conditions that these dogs may develop if they don’t consume the proper nutrition. For instance, hip dysplasia has been connected to poor nutrition as the dog is growing.
For most Golden Retriever puppies, we recommend Ollie Beef Dish with Sweet Potatoes. This formula is designed specifically for the needs of your puppy. Therefore, it contains a moderate amount of protein and high amounts of omega fatty acids. It includes everything your Golden Retriever needs and nothing they don’t.
If you’re on a strict budget, we recommend Purina Pro Plan Puppy Chicken & Rice Formula. While this formula does include some lower-quality ingredients, it is very inexpensive. Plus, Purina is known for their very safe foods that are backed by science.
Hopefully, one of the foods we reviewed works for your Golden Retriever puppy.
Featured Image Credit: Jagdprinzessin, Pixabay