Best Dog Food for Golden Retrievers: Just the Good Stuff | Herepup
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Best Dog Food for Golden Retrievers: Just The Good Stuff

Best dog food for golden retrievers

Golden Retrievers are super busy dogs!

They are one of the most popular dog breeds in America. They’re lively, lovable and absolutely full to the brim with loyalty and affection. Plus, they are one of the most intelligent breeds and have the keenest sense of smell. No wonder many of them are working dogs!

And any dog that busy needs to eat and eat well. We consulted with some dog experts and golden retriever enthusiasts to figure out exactly what a golden needs out of her diet.

So if you want the best food for your golden, read on, and you'll know, what is the best dog food for golden retrievers!

Quick Picks: Top 5 Choices for Goldens

Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Salmon Recipe
Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Salmon Recipe
    Evanger’s Grain-Free Meat Lover’s Medley with Rabbit
    Evanger’s Grain-Free Meat Lover’s Medley with Rabbit
      Instinct Grain-Free by Nature\'s Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe
      Instinct Grain-Free by Nature\'s Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe
        Real Buffalo
        Merrick Grain Free
          Natural Balance L.I.D.
          Natural Balance L.I.D.

            **Below, you'll find our expert's science-backed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Chewy.

            Best Dog Food for Golden Retriever - Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Salmon Recipe

            Blue Buffalo Grain-Free Wilderness Recipe

            We love Blue Buffalo, and this is a particularly good formula from them. It's one of the best dog food brands for golden retrievers and other breeds overall.

            We especially like it for golden retrievers, since it has so much fish, making it rich in omega fatty acids, which helps your pup keep her nice, sleek, shiny coat.

            The protein content in this food is 36%, which is great. The main protein sources come from chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, and dried egg.

            The carbohydrates here aren’t as complex as they could be. For example, there’s more white potatoes than sweet potatoes, and we generally like slow-burning, complex carbohydrates to make up the bulk of our carbs.

            That said, there are lots of good fruits and veggies in here, like cranberries, apples, carrots, blackberries, spinach and a whole host of other great stuff, which really rounds out (and boosts) the nutritional profile.

            Runner Up for the Best Food for Golden Retriever - Evanger’s Grain-Free Meat Lover’s Medley with Rabbit 

            Evanger's Meat Lover's Medley with Rabbit Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

            If that’s not a saucy name for a dog food, we don’t know what is!

            All jokes aside, this is a great formula, and it’s a good choice for this particular breed.

            It’s got a nice, high protein content—about 31% of all calories come from protein. The bulk of those come from deboned chicken, although this formula also contains chicken meal and fish meal.

            What we really like about this dog food, though, is that the first two ingredients are good, simple, wholesome ingredients: chicken and sweet potatoes.

            Of course, there’s a lot of other tasty stuff in here as well: pumpkin, carrots, peas, beets, parsley and a bunch of other stuff.

            We didn’t list it higher, though, because it contains some controversial ingredients, too: alfalfa meal, alfalfa nutrient concentrate, and canola oil.

            So if you’re worried about that stuff, you may want to opt for another food from this list.

            Nature's Variety Instinct Grain-Free

            This is another good dry dog food of a similar quality. Like the others on this list, it contains no fillers, no corn, and no soy, which are great for golden retrievers, since they’re so prone to allergies.

            The protein content for this dog food is 31%, which consists mostly of duck, turkey meal, and salmon meal.

            The reason it ranks so low is that duck is the main ingredient. We love duck, and it’s a great protein, but it’s also made mostly of water. The trouble is that it loses a lot of its water during processing, so the actual portion of duck is usually smaller than listed.

            Still, there’s a lot to like here. There are tons of great fruits and veggies, for example.

            We would have listed this food higher if it contained more flax. As it stands, it contains a very small amount of flax, and we usually like to see more omega-rich fats in our dog foods.

            Real Buffalo Dry Dog Food for Golden Retrievers - Merrick Grain Free

            Merrick Real Buffalo and Sweet Potato

            Let’s wrap these recommendations up with a classic, shall we?

            If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: we highly recommend Merrick. It’s what our dog eats when she’s not busy sampling other tasty foods for this blog (don’t worry; her sample sizes are very small and not very frequent).

            In this particular formula, the main ingredient is deboned buffalo, although you’ll also find chicken meal, salmon meal and turkey meal.

            The carbs come mostly from sweet potatoes, and a variety of fresh produce, including apples, blueberries and organic alfalfa.

            As much as we love this stuff, we’d like to see more fruits and veggies to round out the nutritional profile. Still, it’s a great food, and we feed it our own do.

            Limited Ingredient Diet for Golden Retriever - Natural Balance L.I.D.

            Nature's Variety Instinct Grain-Free

            This is the first opportunity we’ve had to really review (and to have our dog sample) anything from Natural Balance. And we were pretty impressed!

            This is a really good, quality, grain-free recipe that provides lots of protein combined with several other great ingredients.

            It’s got a fairly high (but not outrageous) protein content—about 30%--which is more than enough for a golden retriever. The main sources of protein in this recipe are chicken meal, pork meal, duck meal, and salmon meal.

            And remember, meat meals are basically meat concentrates, which means they lose much less water than whole meats during processing; and that usually means they’re a lot more nutrient-dense.

            There are also lots of great carbs and veggies here. Like most grain-free formulas, the carbs come from sweet potatoes. You’ll also be able to find stuff like tomatoes, blueberries, flaxseed (yay fat!) and ground sage.

            Best of all, there are no weird ingredients here. Really nothing to be concerned about at all.

            The verdict? Our pup loved it, and we were really, really impressed by this formula.

            Golden Retriever Diet & Nutrition Needs

            0 Cal

            Older Dogs

            0 Cal

            Typical Adults

            0 Cal

            Active / Working Dogs


             **Please note: these estimates are based on an average weight for this breed. Every dog is different. Please talk to your vet before making changes to your dog's diet. 

            The optimal caloric intake of your golden retriever will depend on several different factors: her age, weight, activity level, metabolism and whether or not she’s spayed (or neutered if you’ve got a dude dog).

            So, of course, every dog is different. We just wanted to give you some rough estimates here. Our estimates are based on a 70-pound dog. Overall, that’s about average for the breed. It’s probably a bit high for a bitch, but it’s smack dab in the middle of the typical weight range for an adult male.

            At that weight, a typical golden retriever needs about 1,500 calories per day. If you’ve got a lazy dog, and old dog, or if your dog’s energy went down after he/she was spayed/neutered, those calories are going to be a bit lower—probably somewhere around 1,200 calories per day.

            On the other hand, if you’ve got a highly active dog, or if your golden is a working dog, she’ll need significantly more calories—up to 2,300 calories per day.

            These are just rough estimates. Make sure you chat with your vet to see how much your specific dog needs to eat.


            You also want to make sure your golden gets appropriate amounts of the different macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs).

            Most of the time, you want your dog’s diet to get at least a quarter of its total calories from protein. That’ll be listed on the back of nearly every dog food label, so you can just check when you by some. At the very least, just make sure the main ingredient (the first ingredient on the label) is some kind of meat that you recognize.

            Goldens also have long, luxurious coats, which means you should take special care to make sure they’re getting plenty of fat, and you especially want to make sure there are good omega fatty acids in her diet.

            Carbs don’t matter quite as much as long as you’re staying away from the gross stuff, like corn, soy and sugar (believe it or not, some dog food companies still include that stuff in their dog foods).

            Labrador Isolated On White

            Golden Retriever Health Problems & How Food
            Can Help

            Golden retrievers have quite a few potential health issues you should be on the lookout for. Luckily, you can considerably cut down on the risk of some of these with a few relatively simple changes to your dog’s diet.


            Gold retrievers are prone to allergies. This usually manifests in skin irritation. So if your pup’s itching all over, she may be allergic to something—and it’s probably one of the low-quality ingredients found in many commercial dog foods: corn, soy or wheat.

            Of course, if you suspect your dog has allergies, take her to the vet. After you do, and if it’s okay with your vet, you can try some hypoallergenic dog food.

            Gastric Dilation and Volvulus

            Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (or GDV) is an emergency. It’s also called “bloat,” and it happens when a dog’s stomach twists and folds over on itself.

            No one knows the exact cause, but it happens most frequently when (1) dogs eat one large meal each day and (2) when dogs exercise shortly after meals.

            So, just don’t do that stuff! Make sure you’re splitting your dog’s daily food into at least two meals (even more if you want to be on the safe side) and not letting her play for about an hour after she eats.


            Golden retrievers actually tend to have quite a few other health problems, but obesity is often the cause. This is especially true for stuff like diabetes and cancer. It can also lead to or exacerbate hip and joint problems, which are also common in this breed.

            To keep your pup from putting on too much weight, you can limit their calories slightly, or you can try a higher-protein-lower-carb diet.


            Oh, and hey... If you liked this article, check out this one on French bulldogs. And here's a pretty good one on the best food options for Labradors. Or, check this article out if you're looking for information on feeding a Chihuahua. We've also got a post on low fat dog food if you've got a chubbier puppy.

            **Disclaimer: Our dog food reviews are based mostly on (1) our expertise and that of the experts with whom we consult and (2) the information provided by the manufacturers. We do test many dog foods (with our dog's help), but we can't test them all. As such, please remember the above recommendations are our opinions, and you should consult your vet before making changes to your dog's diet.

            Image credits:


            Paul is an entrepreneur and marketer for the pet industry who works out of Chicago. He teaches people how to break free of the 9-to-5 grind by blogging for a living. Currently, Paul runs the HerePup along with the team of dedicated experts – so you know he has the knowledge to help you make the right choice.

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