The Best Puppy Food For Golden Retrievers

A GR puppy with head resting on an empty bowl with the best puppy food written beside it

Excuse me! Bowl’s empty!

There are many things that impact the health of your puppy, some controllable, some not.

One major contributing factor is nutrition. In fact, proper nutrition can impact nearly every aspect of your puppy’s health. Luckily, this is something you have total control over. (Though many a Golden has served himself from the trash!)

Finding the right kind of food for your puppy can be a daunting task, so we’ve done some research on your behalf.

Read on to learn about feeding, nutrition, and some of the best brands of dog food on the market.

Quick Links: Our Picks for Best Puppy Food for Golden Retrievers

Wellness Core Natural
Grain Free Dry Dog Food

Read Our Review

  • Major Sources of Protein are Chicken and Turkey.

  • Does not contain grains, gluten or wheat.

  • Chicory root - Rich in inulin,aids in the growth of healthy digestive bacteria.

5 out of 5
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High
Protein Dry Puppy Food

Read Our Review

  • Key sources of Protein - Deboned Chicken, Chicken meal and Turkey meal.

  • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids promote healthy skin and shiny coats.

  • Grain-free | Eliminates allergey related problems.

4.8 out of 5
Nature’s Variety Instinct
Raw Boost

Read Our Review

  • Protein is provided by chicken meal, raw chicken, freeze-dried chicken and turkey, salmon meal.

  • Contains Salmon oil, a great source of Omega-3

  • Apple cider vinegar | Reduces blood sugar levels.

4.8 out of 5
Dr. Tim’s Grain-Free Formula

Read Our Review

  • Primary source of protein is chicken meal.

  • Tapioca, pea and white potato blend - Helpful for dogs with food allergies.

  • DHA and EPA from omega fatty acids | Helps with Immune, brain function & heart health.

4.7 out of 5
Diamond Naturals [ For
Those On A Tight Budget ]

Read Our Review

  • Protein source is lamb, which is a go-to meat for allergy-prone dogs

  • Omegas fatty acids promotes optimal skin & coat health

  • Contains DHA for Brain and Eye Development

4.3 out of 5

*The above links lead to current prices and customer reviews on Chewy.

Carry on reading to discover why we made these choices, and lots of tips and buying advice to ensure you get the right product.

Eating Their Way To Health

Puppies have their own unique nutritional requirements. They are growing quickly, so while they eat smaller quantities of food than adult dogs, they need to extract far more nutrients, like protein, minerals and vitamins, to sustain their growth and development.

As such, puppy food is packed with extra nutrition, things that adult dogs don’t need.

Be sure to feed your puppy food that is specifically made for their age bracket and check the label to be sure you’re getting the right formula.

Different Dogs, Different Diets

Of course, nutritional needs vary from breed to breed. One only needs to look at a Golden Retriever to know they require a different diet than a Chihuahua!

Large breeds have special requirements, and it’s important that they be met. For example, joint and bone problems are much more common in big dogs than little ones, but choosing the right puppy food can reduce the risk.

Large-breed puppy food has reduced amounts of calcium and phosphorus, which helps control the rate of skeletal growth.

Proper nutrition can lessen your dog’s chances of developing conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia.

Don’t Give Them Too Much Of A Good Thing

Overfeeding your puppy can undo all the benefits of breed-specific food. By consuming too much food, your puppy will have elevated levels of the very nutrients that should be limited.

Additionally, overweight puppies may develop other health issues such as diabetes, and heart disease. Good eating habits developed during puppy-hood, will lead to a healthy mature dog in the years to come.

Nutrition For The Outside

One of the most visible components of your dog is its fur.

You’ve probably noticed that a nice, shiny coat gets a lot of attention from dog lovers! Nutrition plays a vital role in this area.

A large percentage of the protein your puppy takes in goes towards maintaining the coat. Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are also essential for healthy skin and fur.

Which Food Do I Choose?

Ask 10 different dog owners for their opinion on what the best dog food is, and you’ll likely get 10 different answers!

There will always be those who buy the cheapest brand on the market. Others will opt for the most expensive, while others still will simply go with a brand-name they recognize.

The truth is, there is no single “best” food for puppies (or adult dogs) in general. The key is to find the right food for your particular puppy.

Things To Look For In A Dog Food

Having said that, there are some general guidelines one can follow.

For instance, less expensive dog foods typically have lower quality ingredients. The contents are often inexpensive, low-grade protein sources, like animal by-products, and fillers.

Fillers are frequently things like corn meal, rice flour, or seed hulls.

Beware Of Fillers

Fillers literally fill your puppy’s belly, but offer little in the way of nutrition. For this reason, they’ll need to eat more food to get the nutrients they need.

This can lead to obesity, and will certainly cause increased defecation. The latter of these two issues will make house training more difficult than it already is.

Does High Cost Mean High Quality?

By contrast, more costly dog foods usually have higher-quality ingredients. The scales will be tipped heavily in favour of high-grade protein sources and fillers will be few and far between.

Price is not, however, a guarantee of quality. Check the ingredients list to see what’s inside before you make your decision.

How Much Am I Really Paying?

When it comes to price, remember that your puppy won’t need to eat as much food if they’re getting the nutrients they need.

You might find that expensive dog foods are a better bargain in the long run than they might seem at first, since you’ll need to feed less and hence buy less often than you would a cheaper brand.

Totally Goldens Recommends…

This list is based on recommendations found around the Internet, among the Golden Retriever community, and the personal experience of we here at Totally Goldens.

Wellness Core Dog Food – Our Top Recommendation

Wellness Core is available in a variety of formulations, but Totally Goldens readers will be most interested in the Puppy and Large Breed Formulas.

This is our top pick as the best puppy food for golden retrievers.

The major sources of protein in this brand are chicken and turkey, with both raw and concentrated meat (chicken meal, and turkey meal) being used.

Other beneficial ingredients include:

  • Peas, which provide protein and fiber
  • Potatoes, for digestible carbohydrates
  • Flaxseed, a source of Omega-3
  • Chicken fat, a source of Omega-6.
  • Chicory root, which is rich in inulin, a prebiotic that aids in the growth of healthy digestive bacteria
  • Chelated minerals; these are minerals that have been attached chemically to proteins, so they can be absorbed more easily

Naturally, there are many other excellent choices on the market, and not every brand is available to every consumer.

With that in mind, here are 3 additional recommendations:

Blue Buffalo WildernessBlue Buffalo Wilderness Large Breed Puppy Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo has an extensive product line but Golden Retriever owners will be pleased to know they offer a Large Breed Puppy formula.

Chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal are the key sources of protein in this formulation, and egg also contributes.

Other notable ingredients include:

  • Peas
  • Chicken fat
  • Potato
  • Flaxseed
  • Chelated minerals

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Large Breed Puppy Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Dog Food

There are numerous varieties in this product line including one specifically for large breed puppies.

The unique feature of these blends is the combination of dry kibble with freeze-dried raw meat.

Protein is provided by chicken meal, raw chicken, freeze-dried chicken, freeze-dried turkey, and salmon meal.

You’ll also find:

  • Peas
  • Eggs
  • Chicken fat
  • Salmon oil, a great source of Omega-3
  • Chicory root
  • Apple cider vinegar, which seems to have many health benefits, including reducing blood sugar levels

Dr. Tim’s Grain-Free FormulaDr Tims grain free food on white background

Dr. Tim’s uses chicken meal exclusively for the primary source of protein.

Being such a high source of protein, though, this should not be viewed as a drawback.

Additionally, Dr. Tim’s contains:

  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Beet pulp (good for the intestines and blood sugar)
  • Chicken fat
  • Herring meal, which is rich in iron and B-12
  • Whole dried egg
  • Flaxseed
  • Menhaden oil, made from a fish rich in Omega-3
  • Chicory root
  • Chelated minerals

Diamond Naturals – For Those On A Tight Budget

If, like many of us, you have both a puppy and a strict budget, all is not lost!

Here is a good compromise for your bank account that still provides good nutrition for your puppy.

In this brands line-up you’ll find a large breed puppy formula that’s good for your growing Golden puppy, providing all they’ll need including balanced omega oils for healthy skin and coat.

The protein source is lamb, a go-to meat for allergy-prone dogs.

Summary & Conclusion

Throughout the life of your dog, you’ll be constantly striving to keep him or her healthy. And it all starts with choosing the proper nutrition for your puppy.

Avoid low-cost foods that are more filler than substance, and look for better foods that are packed with nutrients to help your puppy grow. In particular, consider trying a large breed formula to meet the specific needs of your Golden Retriever puppy.

A high-quality brand might cost more up front, but in the long run, you’ll spend less than you thought because you’ll go through it more slowly than cheaper food.

Good nutrition is an essential part of any health regimen, and providing a high-quality puppy food will lay the foundation for a long, and enjoyable life.

Further Reading:

The importance of proper nutrition for puppies – PetMD

Canine Nutrition Basics – The Bark

Product images: ©

Please be aware this page contains affiliate links and TotallyGoldens receives a small commission if you make any purchases through any such links. This has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay and we are very grateful for your support.

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About Jim Wright

Jim Wright
"Jim Wright is a freelancer who has previously written about fish, snakes, lizards, and hedgehogs. He is delighted to now shift his focus and share his experiences raising his perpetual puppy, Stitch the Black Lab (and a cantankerous old German Shepherd named Lucy). Jim lives east of Toronto, where he writes and designs marketing material for small businesses. He can be reached at [email protected]."


  1. Avatar

    What about science diet we boutique the puppy nutrients one and puppy large breed for his bones I mix a little of both.

  2. Avatar

    How about Acana & Orijin? Thanks

    • Wendy

      Hi Corden,

      I have heard very good things about Orijin, they get rave reviews from all review sites and I would certainly be happy to recommend them. Acana are made by the same company so I would assume similar levels of quality, though I have to admit I haven’t looked into that brand or know nothing about them.

      The only reason I left Orijen off the page is because of the price . They are a ‘super-premium’ brand with a price tag to follow, though I have actually been meaning to add them in due to the rave reviews. Just not enough hours in the day to get everything done sadly! I’ll try add them in over the next couple of weeks.

  3. Avatar

    Thanks for the reply Wendy. Can’t wait for your review on Orijin and Acana 🙂

  4. Avatar

    I am picking up my Lizzie tomorrow and I purchased Taste of the Wild for her. Have you read anything about that brand? Or tried it yourself? I will of course, mix the breeders brand and this for a few days.

    • Wendy

      Hi Crystal,

      I have to admit I don’t know too much about that brand, though I do know it’s very popular. Have you googled for ‘taste of the wild dog food reviews’? There is lots of advice comes up with that search.

  5. Avatar

    What do you think of the dog food brand Canidae All Life Stages?

    In the dog food adviser review it is considered a 4 star food. Do you think it would be good to feed to my Golden puppy?

    • Wendy

      Hi Kerstin,

      Canidae does get good reviews and is a quality brand (and at a premium price!), but to be truthful I’ve not researched it enough to know just how good or suitable it is for a Golden so I can’t say. It sounds like you’ve been doing some research on it, I would suggest spending half hour googling around, reading other owners feedback from as many sources as possible and then making your own informed mind up. Do let us know what you find and decide!

  6. Avatar

    There is a good website called dog They review dog and puppy foods. I went ahead and paid the small fee to join, with that you get the editors choice brands. You will also receive emails if there are recalls or changing formulas. We are getting two Golden puppies in a week. I choose Oriijin puppy for large dogs, and Merriick canned puppy food for large dogs. Lots of great quality ingredients. It is expensive, but better prices at We fed our adult Goldens good quality food at he lived to 12 1/2 and she is still going at 14.

  7. Avatar

    What about natures recipe? My golden retriever puppy is 8 weeks old and I’m trying to see what’s best for her. This is my first puppy so I’m trying to get information about golden retrievers

    • Wendy

      It’s not one I’ve looked into I’m afraid. If you try searching in, they have a lot of information on every food, with lots of comments and feedback from current users on how their dogs have done on certain foods. It’s usually worth a look there.

  8. Avatar

    My golden retriver puppy not eating dogs food. It is 50 days old. Am worried. We went to veterinary doctor. She gave syrups for energy nd nutrients. Puppy eats only rice. I tried mixing dogs food in rice. He rejected eating that too.Wat shd I do that my puppy eats dogs food for good growth.

    • Wendy

      Hi Aswini,

      It is dangerous for anybody on the internet to try and give advice in this situation, they could very easily get it wrong. You must rely solely on professional advice, so please keep working with your vet and following their advice. Thank you.

  9. Avatar

    My 4 month old Golden did well on Core Puppy for the first 5 – 6 weeks,, then he began to have soft to very runny stools. We got him regulated on rice and chicken. However, when we slowly re-introduced the Core Puppy his stools became soft again. Too rich ? Too much protein ? We are lost. We switched him to Fromm Large Breed puppy and he seems to be doing well (not grain free) but no sure if this is a 5 star food.
    Any thoughts recommendations ? Different brand ? Grain – vs – grain free ? Farley is our 5th golden and this is the first time we had this problem. We’d really would like to feed him the best, 5 star if possible.
    Any help would be most appreciated ! Much thanks.

    • Wendy

      Hi Bernie

      Some dogs do have an adverse reaction to certain types of protein. Apparently the chicken worked well for your pup. There are different varieties of the Fromm brand. The highest rating is 4+. You should read the ingredients label and ensure that this is what you would like to feed you pup. For the most stick to natural ingredients that work well for your pup


  10. Avatar

    What have you heard about purina pro plan? Our vet has recommended it for our 5mo old golden

    • Wendy

      Hi Bryan
      There is a lot of information out there on pro plan. Your Vet will recommend what he is used to or what your pup needs. It doesn’t mean the choice is the best or right one. You can look at the dog food review here . You must note that each dog has a unique diet and please review this post for those ingredients that should not be in you pup’s food.
      To your Pup’s health

  11. Avatar

    Can a golden retriever puppy eat sweet corn and fruits?

    • Wendy

      Hello laxmi
      Corn lacks vitamins and minerals and can contribute to allergies. It is found in low quality dog foods because it is a cheap ingredient. Although in small quantities it may not be harmful, it is not a recommended food item for dogs. If the fruit or vegetable is good for youe health, it’s good for your dog.
      You should never feed your grapes, chocolate, caffeine, raisins, onions, garlic, mushrooms and certain items with the artificial sugar substitute Xylitol.
      To your Pup’s Good Health

  12. Avatar

    My puppy loves yogurt so much and most of the time I feed him with it 🙂

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