The Best Food For German Shepherd Puppies: A Beginner’s Guide

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German Shepherds are one of the most active, curious, and hardworking breeds of dogs you can have. So it’s very important to make sure their diets fuel the best intake. Just like humans, the most important time for your GSD’s diet to be focused on is when they are a puppy. This is when you can provide them with the necessary nutrients to help them grow to their full potential.

Most vets recommend high-quality wet or dry food designed specifically for your German Shepherd puppy. The best foods contain large amounts of real protein and whole fats to help keep your GSD puppy healthy and growing well.

Let’s go over some of the most important features of good puppy food for your young GSD.

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What nutrients does a GSD puppy need?

The two broad groups of nutrients needed for any puppy are macronutrients and micronutrients. Both are crucial for a number of areas for your GSD. Macronutrients like protein, fat, and carbohydrates act as fuel for functions like growth and muscle-building. Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals play specific roles that can help in a huge variety of ways.

#1 Protein

Protein is the cornerstone of your GSD’s tissue and muscles. Getting enough protein in every meal will help ensure a physically strong and healthy dog. 

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends that dog foods for large breed dogs, like your GSD, should contain between 30% to 40% of high-quality protein. And it can be found in:

  • Poultry & Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Lamb
  • Grass-fed beef

#2 Fat

They also recommend that your dog’s diet contain between 15% and 30% high-quality animal-based fats. 

Fat is responsible for a considerable number of functions like bone and joint development, digestion, and hormone production. 

Dietary fats need to come from quality fat sources containing essential fatty acids which will make your GSD skin and coat healthy. Here are some great fat sources for your puppy: 

  • Chicken fat
  • Fish oils
  • Beef fat

#3 Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the final nutrition to consider. Adult German Shepherds need between 5% to 8% carbohydrates from their diet. 

These are needed to give your GSD energy to happily meet each day’s activities, as well as grow.  Carbs are also a great way to manage your GSD’s weight. The best sources of carbohydrates can be found in: 

  • Whole oats
  • Potatoes 
  • Rice
  • Sweet potatoes

However, it’s too easy to stumble upon low-quality dog food made with wheat-based products, soy, and corn. 

These have all been proven to deter digestion and cause most food allergies. So you have to be mindful when choosing your dog food.

Micronutrients

The list of daily recommended vitamins and minerals for GSD puppies is extensive. These are all important to keep your GSD puppy healthy and growing the way it should. 

Some of the most important ones to look out for are calcium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorous. These can all help promote strong bones and joints, as well as help to prevent hip dysplasia in your adult GSD later on. 

When to switch to adult food?

One of the most common changes in a GSD puppy’s diet is an earlier switch from puppy food than other breeds.

Switching to adult food after their first six months is suggested for larger breeds like the German Shepherds. This is typical for larger breeds to prevent joint issues, like hip dysplasia.

Fat and protein intake can drop by about 4% and 3% respectively in adult dog food. This is to accommodate a lowered rate of growth from puppy to adult. Keeping these macronutrients the same can lead to unnecessary weight gain in an adult.

Feeding your GSD puppy

A good GSD puppy diet contains enough protein and fats for healthy bodily functions and enough calories from carbohydrates to sustain growth and provide energy.

Puppies need more calories than adults to help with growth.

A typical recommendation is about 40 to 70 calories per pound of bodyweight. This can change on a number of things like your puppy’s activity levels, so be sure to monitor their weight gain to find a sweet spot.

Bodyweight (Lbs)Average Daily Calorie Intake
5 – 10525
11 – 15875
16 – 201,080
21 – 30 1,400
31 – 50 1,600
51  + Up to 2,100

It is vital that a GSD gets at least 22% and 8% of their daily calories from protein and fat respectively.

These daily calorie intakes are best split into three meals.

Again, the protein and fats should come from whole foods. For protein, poultry and other meats are great. In terms of fats, these should be essential fatty acids like fish oil and chicken fat.

1. Dry food for German Shepherd puppies

Dry food is one of the easiest options for any dog owner. It is typically very widely available and there are excellent options available these days that can promote your GSD puppy’s health. 

One of the biggest draws to dry dog food is convenience. High-quality dog food will meet all of the requirements your puppy needs, meaning all you need to do is follow the serving suggestions based off of their current weight. 

Always check dry food to see what the first ingredient is. This will always be a source of whole protein in a high-quality kibble. 

Pros

  • Widely available
  • Most convenient
  • Usually cheaper

Cons

  • The pet food industry is not regulated
  • Not all dry food has quality ingredients
  • Not great for fussy puppies

Best dry food for GSD puppies

#1 Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition German Shepherd Puppy Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin Breed Health Nutrition German Shepherd Puppy Dry Dog Food, 30-lb bag

Why do we like it? 
One of the most obvious options if you happen to own a GSD. The ingredients have been specifically formulated with GSD puppies’ best interests in mind.

Features 

  • Designed to meet the nutritional needs of purebred German Shepherd puppies 8 weeks to 15 months old.
  • Specialized kibble shape is designed for a German Shepherd’s long, strong muzzle to encourage chewing.
  • Helps protect puppy’s development of the immune system and natural defenses with an exclusive complex of antioxidants, including vitamin E.
  • Aids digestion with highly digestible proteins and specific fibers to promote optimal stool quality.
  • Maintains bone and joint health with glucosamine and chondroitin to support large breed bodies.

#2 Diamond Naturals Dry Food for Puppy, Large Breed Lamb and Rice Formula

Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food, 20-lb bag

Why do we like it? 
Although this food is not made exclusively for GSDs, it still features all of the prerequisites for excellent dry food for a large breed puppy like a GSD. 

Features 

  • Made in the USA by a family-owned company using quality ingredients from trusted domestic and global sources.
  • With real pasture-raised lamb as the #1 ingredient, this recipe is formulated with precise protein and mineral content to support the needs of large breed puppies.
  • Crafted with balanced nutrient levels to fuel larger growing bodies, contains omega fatty acids for skin and coat health and features vitamins and minerals from superfood fruits like blueberries and oranges.
  • Each serving includes species-specific K9 strain proprietary probiotics, plus antioxidants and prebiotics to help support healthy digestion, immune system health and overall wellness.
  • Made without corn, wheat, artificial flavors or colors.

#3 Eukanuba Puppy Medium Breed Dry Dog Food

Eukanuba Puppy Medium Breed Dry Dog Food, 33-lb bag

Why do we like it? 
Eukanuba works very well for GSD puppies. It also features a formula with specific calcium and phosphorous target levels to avoid skeletal issues when growing. 

Features 

  • Medium puppy dry dog food formulated with complete and balanced nutrition for medium breed puppies up to 12 months old with an expected adult weight between 24 to 54 lb.
  • Supports muscle growth and bone health in athletic pups with high-quality animal protein and optimized levels of calcium and phosphorous.
  • Supports healthy dog brain development with clinically proven levels of DHA for smarter, more trainable puppies.
  • Provides concentrated energy from fat and carbohydrate levels beneficial for growing puppies.

2. Wet food for German Shepherd puppies

Wet or canned food is one step closer to a real food diet for your GSD puppy. There are a number of benefits to wet food, but they typically come at a greater premium. GSD puppies can be fussy eaters with kibble, but this usually isn’t the case with wet food. 

One of the biggest benefits of a wet food diet is how easy it is to identify low-quality food. You want to be able to see visible chunks of meat in the food. If you can’t, it is likely it is not the very high quality.

Pros

  • Easier for digestion
  • Higher moisture content
  • Usually more appetizing

Cons

  • More expensive than dry food
  • Not ideal for fast-eating puppies

Best wet foods for GSD puppies

#1 Hill’s Science Diet Wet Puppy Food

Hill's Science Diet Puppy Chicken & Barley Entree Canned Dog Food, 13-oz, case of 12

Why do we like it? 
Hill’s Science Diet Wet Puppy Food is the most recommended wet dog food by vets. As the name implies, it has been scientifically formulated to provide all the necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals for puppies.

Features 

  • Precisely balanced nutrition to help build immunity and mobility
  • High-quality protein to promote ideal body weight
  • Promotes gentle and healthy digestion with balanced and complete nutrition
  • This delicious formula promotes gentle and healthy digestion and has a savory meaty taste your puppy will love
  • Recommended for puppies up to 1-year-old and pregnant or nursing dogs

#2 Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Natural Wet Puppy Food

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Puppy Chicken Dinner with Garden Vegetables Canned Dog Food, 12.5-oz, case of 12, bundle of 2

Why do we like it? 
It contains a large amount of deboned chicken meat and whole grains, making it a balanced option for your GSD puppy.

Features 

  • Precisely balanced nutrition to help build immunity and mobility
  • High-quality protein to promote ideal body weight
  • Promotes gentle and healthy digestion with balanced and complete nutrition
  • This delicious formula promotes gentle and healthy digestion and has a savory meaty taste your puppy will love
  • Recommended for puppies up to 1-year-old and pregnant or nursing dogs

3. Real food for German Shepherd puppies

Real food contains whole ingredients that are cooked to aid in digestion. Whole real foods are a great option for adult GSDs, it might be best to keep the puppy food dry or wet. The American College of Veterinary Nutrition does not recommend feeding dogs less than one year old a homemade diet as they can be lacking in calcium and phosphorous, which can have serious implications down the line for GSDs.

Pros

  • You have full control of the ingredients
  • Great for picky dogs

Cons

  • Nutritional knowledge required
  • Time-consuming to make
  • More expensive

4. Homemade food for German Shepherd puppies

If you insist on feeding your GSD puppy a homemade diet, the best way to go about it is to get recipes specifically formulated for them by a veterinary nutritionist.

This will ensure all of their needs macro – and micronutrient needs are met, particularly their calcium and phosphorous requirements. This is very important to prevent issues like hip dysplasia and other joint and bone issues as an adult GSD. 

A typical homemade food recipe:

  • Chicken
  • Peas
  • Chicken liver
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Rice
  • Potatoes

This is a recipe from the pet fresh food service, Ollie. You can find plenty more recipes there. Please always check the full ingredient list to see what ingredients they put in like dicalcium phosphate. 

Raw Food for German Shepherd puppies

A raw food diet is another type of dog food that has grown in popularity recently. The idea is to give your dog a diet more like they would have eaten before they became man’s best friend. It usually consists of organ and muscle meat, bones and sometimes a raw egg. These are all nutritional powerhouses for your GSD.

The problem with raw food is that most vets do not recommend it for puppies. Just like with an unbalanced homemade food diet, there are a number of risks that can be linked to giving your GSD puppy a raw diet. 

That being said there are countless people who swear by a raw food diet for their pets. They do offer potential benefits for your GSD, but it is a great idea to do some further research. 

Treats for GSD Puppies

The best snacks for your GSD puppy will be ones that can give your puppy boosts in protein, fat, and other beneficial nutrients. Snacks can be a great way to help train your puppy as most GSDs are generally very food motivated. 

Be sure to use treats that are appropriate for soft teeth. Again, look out for snacks that have meat as their first ingredient listed. 

Treat Recommendation

#1 Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Lamb & Salmon Dog Treats

Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Lamb & Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dog Treats, 3-oz pouch

Why do we like it? 
This is an all-natural, tasty, bite-sized dog treat. Made in the USA and specially formulated for puppies under 1 year your pup.

Features 

  • A specially formulated for dogs under 1 year
  • Contains only premium, all-natural ingredients with no meat by-products, corn, wheat or dairy
  • Perfectly sized treats that can be given daily
  • Free from artificial colors and flavors
  • A natural source of DHA and Omega 3

#2 Bundle: Nylabone Teething Pacifier Puppy Chew Toy + N-Bone Puppy Teething Ring Chicken Flavor Dog Treats

Nylabone Teething Pacifier Puppy Chew Toy & N-Bone Puppy Teething Ring Chicken Flavor Dog Treats

Why do we like it? 
It’s a 2-for-1 pack to spoil your pup. Comes with a Nylabone Teething Pacifier Puppy Chew Toy and a 3-pack of N-Bone Puppy Teething Ring Chicken Flavor Dog Treats.

Features 

  • Treats are designed specifically to help relieve sore gums and teething pain.
  • Treats are made in the USA—without any corn, wheat or soy—to be completely edible and digestible for puppies of any breed.
  • Toy is crafted to keep puppies happy, busy and entertained while ridges and nubs clean teeth, reduce plaque and tartar, and promote proper oral hygiene.

#3 Pupford Beef Liver Training Freeze-Dried Dog Treats

Pupford Beef Liver Training Freeze-Dried Dog Treats, 4-oz bag

Why do we like it? 

Handy treats for your dog’s training needs. Choose any taste from beef liver, chicken, salmon, rabbit or sweet potatoes. They are extremely high-quality and even come with a free training app. 

Features 

  • Treats are designed specifically to help Made in the USA.
  • Formulated specifically for training with just 1 kcal each.
  • No need to refrigerate, store anywhere.

#4 Get Naked Puppy Health Grain-Free Small Dental Stick Dog Treats

Get Naked Puppy Health Grain-Free Small Dental Stick Dog Treats, 18 count

Why do we like it? 

A healthy, handy, and easy-to-carry treat – that also helps keep your pup’s teeth white by reducing build up of plaque and tartar through chewing.

Features 

  • All-natural dental sticks specially formulated for your puppy’s unique needs.
  • Added DHA Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and calcium help promote healthy cognitive development.
  • Great for teething puppies, as the chewing process helps alleviate pain and soreness.

#5 Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Soft-Moist Variety Pack Training Dog Treats

Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Soft-Moist Variety Pack Training Dog Treats, 4-oz bag, 4 count

Why do we like it? 

No need to choose. All flavors are included in one pack. They offer your GSD essential fatty acids and protein with every treat. 

Features 

  • Natural, soft-moist training treats made with real chicken, turkey, salmon or beef first.
  • Contains DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that helps support cognitive development.
  • 100% free from poultry by-product meals, corn, wheat and soy.
  • Made without artificial preservatives and colors.

Summary

Making the right choices for your GSD puppy will give them a longer, healthier life in the years to come. And to make the right choices, you need to keep learning as your GSD grows. Be sure to read up on each of the food recommendations if you find your puppy is unhappy with one of them, or even change to a different type of diet mentioned. Product reviews are one of the best ways to find a food that will make your pup happy, just be sure to look out for reviews from GSD owners.