Golden retrievers are famously well mannered, upbeat, loyal, and intelligent animals. Whether as a companion or an addition to a family with small children, Goldens continue to be one of the top pet choices for millions of families around the country. The food you feed your Golden Retriever can have a major impact on its health and wellbeing, so we’ve researched the 7 best dog foods for your Golden. To do this we sifted through tens of thousands of reviews to provide you with the best options. Here’s our comprehensive guide:
Top Picks for Dog Food for Golden Retrievers
1. Purina Pro Plan Sport Formula Dog Food
Purina Pro Plan Sport is made specifically for active dogs; perfect for a healthy, lively Golden. This food blends 30% protein and 20% fat for lean muscle, as well as EPA and glucosamine for joint heath (helpful especially as dogs get older, though always important no matter the age). In addition, a number of customers have noted that their dogs’ coats have become shinier, especially with the salmon blend. Comes in a number of varieties, including chicken, salmon & rice, and Turkey.
- Comes in multiple types: grain free chicken, chicken, salmon, and turkey
- EPA, Glucosamine, Amino Acids
- Meat is the #1 ingredient
- Suitable for any age, from puppy through to senior
- Made in the USA
2. Taste of the Wild Grain Free Dry Dog Food
One of the highest rated products we examined, Taste of the Wild is an all natural, grain free dog food that has real salmon as the first ingredient. The food is packed with healthy ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, superfoods, and probiotics for optimal immune and gut health.
- Grain free, no corn, wheat, or filler.
- Salmon is the first ingredient.
- Completely natural with no artificial flavors or colorings.
- Comes with vitamins, minerals, and probiotics for digestion health.
- Marine sourced Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids from salmon fish oil.
- On the pricier end of dog foods, considering the ingredients.
3. Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
Purina One is a great choice for those looking for a high quality dog food at an affordable price. The food has 30% protein content, with real turkey as the first ingredient.
- 30% protein content, made with real turkey and venison
- Turkey is the #1 ingredient
- Good for active adult dogs, with balanced nutritional content
- Includes Omega-6 for healthy skin and coat
- Well priced compared with other dog foods
4. Royal Canin Golden Retriever Adult Dry Dog Food
A top choice for those looking for a premium dog food made especially for Golden Retrievers. Promotes healthy weight, skin, coat, and cardiac function. Should be given to dogs 15 months or older.
- Promotes healthy cardiac function with heart healthy ingredients such as taurine, EPA, and DHA.
- Helps keep weight balanced with food mixture made especially for a Golden Retriever diet.
- Many dog owners have claimed this food has been great in clearing up their dog’s gastrointestinal issues.
- Ideal for a shiny, healthy coats.
- Is pricier than other brands on the market.
- Keep in mind: kibble bits are larger than other products.
- Not suitable for puppies
5. Diamond Naturals Adult Dry Dog Food – Large Breed
For the price, Diamond Naturals packs a serious nutritional punch. Upon scanning the list of ingredients, many owners will find a long list of health forward foods including pasture raised lamp, kale, coconut, dried kelp, papaya, and chia seeds. This all natural dry dog food also contains an abundance of essential vitamins to keep your Golden Retriever active and strong.
- Solid bang for your buck
- Pasture raised lamb is the first ingredient
- Contains superfoods including: kale, chia seeds, pumpkin, yucca, coconut, quinoa
- Dozens of vitamins including: zinc, copper, potassium, vitamin b1, vitamin a, vitamin b6
- Tailored for large breed dogs
- No corn, wheat, or filler
- No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colorings.
6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Dry Dog Food
The Blue Buffalo Wilderness dog food is formulated specifically for animals requiring high protein and high carbohydrate diets. This dry food features a mixture of meats including beef, chicken, lamb, and venison, as well as healthy carbs including peas and sweet potatoes.
- Grain free, all natural
- High protein (30%) and high fat (15%) content for maximum performance and lean muscle
- Contains “LifeSource Bits”, a veterinarian approved mixture of vitamins, minerals, an antioxidants.
- Pricier compared with other dry dog foods
7. Royal Canin Golden Retriever Soft Dog Food
For those looking for a soft, wet food option for their Golden, this Royal Canin option is a great choice. This option, similar to Royal Canin’s dry food, is specially formulated for the needs of Golden Retrievers over 15 months of age.
- Soft food in a loaf sauce
- Formulated for purebred Golden Retrievers 15 months and older
- Heart healthy ingredients including taurine and L-carnitine
- Can be fed alone or mixed in with another dry dog food from this list
- Includes dozens of necessary vitamins and minerals
A Guide to Buying Food for Your Golden Retriever
Feeding your dog is a varied and complicated topic that any dog owner struggles with eventually. The most difficult part of choosing a food that any owner will encounter is simply that your dog is an individual. Each dog has not only its own preferences but its own health needs as well. Not all high-end or low-end foods are necessarily good or bad for your individual pup.
Picking food for your Golden Retriever is actually very similar to feeding other dogs of similar size, as they don’t have any special metabolism considerations. However, they are pretty big dogs, so we’ll keep that in mind with nutrition.
Is Your Golden a Puppy, an Adult, or a Senior?
Your Golden’s age is the first factor in considering what kind of food to feed it.
Food for Golden Retriever Puppies
It’s especially important to examine puppy food’s nutrition. Goldens fall into the large breed category, and larger breed puppies don’t need foods with as high of calcium and phosphorous concentrations as smaller breeds. Puppy food with high calcium and phosphorous can encourage bone growth too quickly and cause joint and bone problems later in life. Many large breed owners stick with adult food through the puppy stages, but there are also puppy foods that are geared toward large dogs. A good puppy food designed for a large breed dog can offer these lowered levels as well as keeping up with a growing dog’s needs.
Food for Adult Golden Retrievers
You’re just looking for a good quality adult dog food that really meets your dog’s needs. We’ll go over the quality of ingredients, but also keep in mind your dog’s preferences—Does he/she prefer fish or beef or chicken? Small kibbles, big kibbles? —as well as nutritional needs.
Food for Senior Golden Retrievers
It’s a good idea to go over your choices with your vet. Ideally, a senior Golden’s diet is focused on being preventative. It will be higher in protein and may need to adjust how much fiber it contains. This diet may also involve supplements and other nutrients to minimize health problems that tend to crop up as your dog ages (such as obesity and health problems). Most of the time, these diets will be catered to your dog after a physical.
Quality of Ingredients
The first thing we consider for whether or not to pick a food for a dog is the quality of ingredients it contains. Dogs, unlike cats, can derive nutrition from plants and vegetables.
Whether or not this makes them an omnivore is heavily debated, but it does mean foods with vegetables and grains aren’t necessarily bad for your dog! In fact, dogs are healthiest with a varied diet.
Since they are still best adapted to carnivorous diets, still look for foods that heavily feature animal-based proteins rather than plant-based proteins.
A dog food featuring berries and vegetables can add essential minerals and vitamins to your dog’s diet.
So, while we’d like to shy away from any dog food that focuses on corn or soy as its #1 ingredient, dog food featuring meat and a mixture of fruits and vegetables is often going to be in your best picks for your golden!
Reading the Nutritional Label
Food labels all seem to look the same, but there are two things that can set them apart.
First, a label with “Complete and Balanced” on it means exactly that. It must meet the minimum requirements to fit the complete nutritional needs of your dog. Even if it sounds contrived, this is a legitimate stamp to see!
Secondly, there are actually guidelines to what the label says about its flavor. Here’s what that looks like, using venison as an example.
|If it says||Then it means|
| ≥70% of the product
or 95% of the total weight (excluding water)
|Venison as a modifier
(Plate, dinner, entrée, platter, etc.)
|≥10% of the product
or 25-95% of the total weight
|With Venison||≥3% of the product|
|Beef Flavor||Just enough to be able to taste (≤3% of the product)|
Is Wet or Fresh Food Better Than Dry?
Not necessarily. It may be very similar nutritionally to dry food but more expensive. Some dogs really prefer to have wet food or have medical needs that require their food to be softer, such as having teeth removed.
As far as homemade and specially prepared meals, these may be fun and certainly higher quality than some wet and dry foods, they are not always better and should be held to the same standards.
With raw diets, it should be considered that dogs can spread pathogens that may not bother them but can still make humans sick. For example, Salmonella may never bug your dog’s tummy, but it sticks around in their bodies for up to a week and can be passed onto you and others in your family.
What About a Grain-Free Diet?
Only if your dog has allergies, and only if it is of good quality.
Grain-Free foods have been huge in the pet world lately, however, like gluten-free diets, they aren’t always the best or healthiest choice. Fillers used to replace grains aren’t necessarily high in nutrients and may even be worse for you. In the world of dogs, legume-based grain-free diets have been the center of controversy. Dogs fed these diets have been found to be lacking in taurine, which is essential to heart health. Too little taurine in a dog’s system can cause heart failure.
If you suspect your dog is allergic to grains, have a talk with your vet about foods available in your region that may fit your dog’s unique needs.
Golden Retriever Allergies & Food
Allergies? Yep. Dogs of any breed are susceptible to allergies. Allergies are even the undoing of a dog keeper’s best intentions buying the most expensive, highest rated, best-recommended food on the shelf.
Food allergies can appear at any age.
These allergies are the immune system reacting to proteins in food, whether it’s plant or meat based. If your dog is displaying symptoms of a food allergy, it could be caused by any food they consume from wheat to meat. The best treatment is to visit with your vet and discuss an allergy test. With food, this is an elimination diet potentially with a hydrolyzed food which can only be purchased through a vet. There are also a number of dog foods for allergies that eliminate the most common dietary culprits.
Not sure if your dog has allergies? Here are signs you should get in touch with your vet:
- Itchy skin
- Frequent ear infections
- Red underbelly
- Dull coat
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Swollen ears, lips, eyelids earflaps
Other Common Health Issues for Goldens
Goldens aren’t pre-disposed to many health problems that are related to diet. Most of the common health problems you’ll encounter, such as hypothyroidism, eye disorders, lymphoma, and skin problems are often caught in your yearly visit with your vet. Make sure to keep up with your annual visit as well as asking any questions you have about their health. If you notice odd behavior or new habits, bring them up! These are the best keys to ensuring your vet has everything they need to keep your pet healthy!
At home, Goldens are big dogs! Nearly any large breed is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, and enthusiastic eats are prone to obesity which can cause complications such as diabetes. These may never be an issue, but you can ensure they live longer and healthier lives by watching their weight. A healthy weight will reduce their chances of developing obesity-related complications as well as putting less pressure on their joints to minimize pain from dysplasia. Considering a dog joint supplement can also be a good idea.
How Often and How Much to Feed Your Golden Retriever
It really depends on your dog!
A puppy can eat up to four times a day until about 6 months. After that, you can reduce the number of feedings as your dog ages until about 1 to 2 feedings a day by adulthood (about 2-3 years in large breeds).
Some dogs are great and controlling their own weight and can be free-fed. On the other hand, most dogs aren’t, and may pack on a few extra kibbles when free fed. Most dogs in this range are fed once to twice a day barring other medical considerations.
The frequency, as long as they are fed at least once a day, isn’t as big of an issue as much as how much they eat in total each day.
Your dog’s total intake is based on your dog, his size, and his activity levels. For example, a 65 lb dog may eat about 1,500 calories on an average day. He may also eat less on a hot, lazy day, or more on a cold, active day. Keep in mind your dog’s activity and size when determining how much to give him, no matter how much he might complain that can’t possibly be all he gets for dinner.
You can use a calculator to determine how much to offer as well as consulting with your vet. However, once you know what your dog looks like at a healthy weight, you can use common sense: Is he looking thin? Average? A little fluffy—and not in the furry kind of way?
How to Know if Your Golden Retriever is Overweight
Not sure how to tell if your pup is looking a little fluffy? To get a good idea for a Golden, checking his or her weight can be done in just a few quick observations.
- Their stomach, rather than being straight (overweight), should have a somewhat visible tuck toward the end.
- Their ribs should not be visible (underweight). However, you should be able to feel them. If you can’t feel all of them, your Golden is overweight.
- Is their body straight (underweight)? Is it round (overweight)? Is it curvy (healthy)?
If you have any concerns at all, this is another great topic to bring up next time you see your vet. They may even have a guide they can show you or send you home with. If you’re not feeling confident, this is where having a reliable vet shines, since generalized advice can carry myths or tips that aren’t applicable, or your pup may have special considerations.
Do keep in mind, if you have a puppy, growth is so fast and disproportionate that it’s rare to have a problem with obesity. It’s very unusual for a puppy to need a diet due to the volume of nutrients and calories their bodies can go through in the process of growing into a full-size dog! If your pup is a little pudgy, don’t worry, they’re likely still working through it. If it doesn’t seem right to you, check in with your next visit; puppies should have a visit at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, and a year.
What to Offer Your Golden Retriever as Treats
If you’ve gotten this far, and you haven’t discovered any allergies or obesity problems and your pup has been awful good, it’s fun to treat them! Not only is it great for bonding, training, and generally making your pup happy, it can be great for their health. A varied diet can introduce minerals and nutrients that your dog may not see too often. So, if blueberries are in season, dig in!
Foods you can treat your dog with
Here are some treats you might find around the kitchen that you can indulge your pup with. Highly beneficial treats are highlighted.
- Apples (without the seeds)
- Bananas (Packed with nutrients; high in sugar, so in moderation)
- Blueberries (packed with antioxidants)
- Bread (plain, no spices or raisins)
- Carrots (these can be used as an edible chew toy)
- Cheese (if your dog isn’t lactose-intolerant)
- Coconut (no shell)
- Corn (no cob)
- Eggs (cooked, plain, no spices)
- Fish (plain, cooked, no bones; salmon and sardines are especially nutritious)
- Ham (in moderation, it’s high in salt and fat)
- Honey (in moderation, high in vitamins and helps with allergies)
- Peanut Butter (raw, unsalted, free of xylitol; peanut butter is a great source of vitamins)
- Popcorn (Unsalted, unbuttered, plain; contains nutrients supporting eye health)
- Pork (plain, cooked; calorie dense, but high in amino acids and less likely to cause allergies)
- Ripe, red tomatoes
- Turkey (cooked, plain, no spices)
- Watermelon (without rinds or seeds)
- Wheat and grains (unless your dog is allergic)
- Yogurt (if your dog isn’t lactose-intolerant)
Looking for something your dog might just go crazy over? Freeze dried liver treats are cheap and can be broken up into small bits as a high-reward training treat.
There’s a lot that goes into a dog’s nutrition, so it’s easy to see why many people get overwhelmed by the process. Once you have a good food picked out, feeding your dog is simply a matter of maintaining their weight, keeping an eye on their health, and finding out what snacks you both love!
We’ve also put together an entire list of our best approved healthy dog treats, that cover everything from fully vegetarian, to real steak jerky. Take a look if that’s something you’re also interested in.
Weight Management and Snacks