Dog Food Insider

A Dog Food Guide For First Time Dog Owners

A Dog Food Guide For First Time Dog Owners

So you’ve finally decided to get a dog! Congratulations! Having a companion animal is one of the most beautiful things in the world. As a brand new dog owner, you may have a lot of questions. The most important is what to feed your dog. With thousands of brands of dog foods in a variety of different types, recipes, and variations, it can be completely overwhelming to know where to start. If this is your first time owning a dog, you’ve come to the right place. Here is a guide on everything you need to know about dog food to get you started. Once you understand the basics, then you can dig through our thorough catalog of reviews to figure out exactly what dog food is right for your new pup. We hope you find this dog food guide to be helpful in the search for a healthy, nutritious diet for your dog.

Dr. Karen Becker’s Dog Food Guide Video

How To Read The Nutritional Panel

Like human foods, dog foods have an ingredients panel to let you know what is inside the food and what is the nutritional profile of the food. The ingredients panel on dog foods is broken up into two sections. The first is the ingredients panel which lists all the ingredients in the food in descending order. T the first ingredient makes up the bulk of the food and the last ingredient make up the least of the majority of the food. The second part is the guaranteed analysis panel. The guaranteed analysis panel has the nutritional content of the food. The guaranteed analysis panel always lists the protein, fat, fiber, and water content. It will also contain nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids. To learn more on how to read the nutrition label, read our comprehensive guide.

Think You Know How To Read A Pet Food Label?

The Basics Of Dog Nutrition

There is a lot to learn about dog nutrition, which is why we created this dog food guide in the first place. Like humans, dogs need a variety of nutrients to lead a healthy life. Dogs are obligate carnivores, which means in the wild they eat meat primarily. Dog foods often add grains, fruits, and vegetables to their ingredients to supplement the nutrition. Dogs can eat these parts; however, they need meat to live a healthy life. So no matter what food you choose, make sure the very first ingredient listed on the ingredients panel is always a whole meat source. Dogs also need fats and carbohydrates for energy and fiber for digestion.

Best Dog Food Ingredients

Understand Your Breed

Beyond the basics, there are very specific nutritional needs for each breed of dog. High energy and active dogs like Huskies, Boxers, and Corgis require more protein than dogs that are less active like Basset Hounds, Pugs, and Bulldogs. Also, certain breeds are more prone to specific health issues so need different nutrients in their food. For example, breeds that are prone to hip dysplasia like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers can benefit from food with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health. You can find out the nutritional needs of your dog from your veterinarian so you can keep an out for these ingredients in the nutritional panel.

The Common Varieties Of Dog Food

This dog food guide wouldn’t be complete without talking about the varieties of dog food. Once you have a good understanding of the nutritional needs of your dog, you also need to understand the different types of dog food. Here is a simple guide:


  • Puppy: Puppy formulas are designed specifically for puppies but can also be fed to nursing dogs. They usually have a wider nutrition profile to support the growth and development of the puppy and are made in smaller kibble sizes to fit their tiny mouths.

  • Adult: Adult formulas are fed to dogs around the age of 1 years old and are designed for the overall health of adult dogs.

  • Senior: Senior formulas are designed specifically to meet the nutritional needs of senior dogs. The age to start your dog on a senior formula depends entirely on the breed so talk to your veterinarian.

  • All Life Stages: All life stages formulas are made to feed from puppy to senior. This is a great option for breeds with sensitive digestion because you don’t have to switch foods a couple of times through their lives.

  • Small/Toy Breed: Small and toy breed foods are made for smaller dogs. They have a nutritional profile that meets the needs of smaller dogs and have smaller kibble sizes so they can adequately chew the food.

  • Large/Giant Breed: Large breed dog food is for larger dogs. The kibble is usually larger sized so they can chew the food. They also meet the nutritional needs of a larger dog, so you don’t have to feed them large amounts of food to respond to their needs.

  • Breed Specific: Breed specific is dog food formulated for the specific health needs of a breed.

  • Health Specific: Health specific formulas like weight control, healthy skin, and coat, or urinary health are formulated to target the specific health needs of dogs with illnesses. These are only recommended under direction of a veterinarian.

Dog food also comes in a variety of types including:


  • Limited Ingredient: Limited ingredient foods are made with fewer ingredients to help aid digestion.

  • Grain-Free: Grain-free food is made without grains which can trigger allergies and intolerances in certain dogs.

  • Organic: Organic food is with natural ingredients that are pesticide and chemical free.

  • Holistic: Holistic is formulated for the overall health and well-being of your dog.

  • Human grade: Human grade food uses the same quality ingredients found in human food instead of the lesser quality ingredients often food in cheaper brands of dog food.

  • Raw: Raw dog foods are foods that are minimally processed to maintain the full nutrient value of the ingredients.

After going through his dog food guide, you now know the basics of dog food, you can talk to your veterinarian about specific things to look for and read Dog Food Insider’s reviews on the different brands of dog food to find the best option for your dog. Make sure that whatever you choose, you introduce the new food to your dog correctly using this guide. So when it comes to picking a dog food for your first dog, don’t worry, we have you covered. Dog Food Insider has everything you need to know to make sure you pick the perfect food for your new family member.

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