Golden retriever puppy food makes a difference for the entire life of your dog.
We have organized our review of the 11 best foods for golden retriever puppies a little differently from the reviews you may find elsewhere. We have objectively tested, consumer-approved recommendations for each of the first year of your gold retriever puppy’s life, beginning when your puppy is weaned at about the age of one month.
We will list the best foods for giving golden retriever puppies a great start in life. But first, we will introduce to the food golden retrievers need when their mother can’t give them enough milk.
1. Best Food for Big Litters and Orphaned Puppies: PetAg Esbilac Liquid Milk Supplement for Puppies
Golden retriever litters usually include 8 to 10 puppies, although some golden retrievers will give birth to just one puppy and others may give birth to as many as 16.
When a litter of golden retriever puppies is very large, it is important to provide supplemental milk to make sure every puppy gets fed. It is important that every puppy gets milk from their mother for at least two days, because mother’s milk contains antibodies that give the newborn puppy immunity. As long as you make sure every puppy gets some mother’s milk, however, you can fill in any nutritional gaps with PetAg liquid and solid milk supplements, such as PetAg Esbilac Liquid Milk Supplement for Puppies.
PetAg Milk products provide all the amino acids and the right amount of carbohydrates and fat to support healthy growth in newborn puppies. You won’t have to worry whether each puppy is getting a turn to nurse (since dogs only have 8 or 10 nipples). You can bottle-feed puppies to give them all the nutrition they need.
You can use PetAg products to help puppies wean when they are about 3-1/2 weeks old, even if their mother is producing enough milk to feed all her puppies. Mix PetAg milk products with your puppy’s first kibble to soften it and to give your growing dog familiar flavors while getting used to feeding from a bowl.
A Frequently Asked Question About PetAg Goat’s Milk Products
Should you use cow’s milk products or goat’s milk products for your golden retriever puppies?
The fact is, both offer complete protein and both kinds of PetAg products will provide the fat and carbohydrates golden retriever puppies need for strong growth. If one parent of your puppies has a known allergy to cow’s milk, then use goat’s milk. But be aware that just as dogs (and people) can develop sensitivities to cow’s milk given them in infancy, they can also become sensitive to goat’s milk.
Next: The best golden retriever breeders in California (CA)
2. Best Food for Weaning Puppies: Solid Gold Grain-Free Canned Puppy Food or NuLo FreeStyle Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food
Golden retriever puppies go through a remarkable transition when they are about a month old. During the third week after giving birth, the mother dog is producing a maximum amount of milk to get puppies ready for independent feeding. Puppies may gain a pound in a single week. Their eyes are open. Their sense of hearing is activated. They begin to waddle around. And their teeth come in.
It is very important that you let the mother continue to nurse her puppies as their teeth come in. This is the time of a puppy’s life he learns not to bite. If a golden retriever puppy bites his mother’s teat, she will swat him, teaching him that biting other dogs, pets, and people is a bad thing. As your golden retriever puppy becomes more mobile, it will start to wander away from mama to look for the food bowl.
The best product to put in that food bowl is either Solid Gold Grain-Free Canned Puppy Food or NuLo FreeStyle Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food.
You probably noticed that both products are grain-free. This is a good time to dispel a common misunderstanding about dogs and grains in their dog food.
Humans make most of the glucose their bodies use for fuel from carbohydrates. Cats can’t use carbohydrates to make glucose at all; their bodies make glucose from leftover amino acids broken down from protein foods. Dogs do better on protein foods than carbs, but they can make some of the glucose they need from the carbohydrates in grains.
That fact gets misunderstood as some kind of idea that carbohydrates are good for dogs. They aren’t. Dogs can tolerate them. But they do better on mostly protein and fat.
Both Solid Gold Grain-Free Canned Puppy Food or NuLo FreeStyle Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food provide the protein and fat puppies need to grow fast without the carbohydrate they don’t.
Solid Gold Grain-Free Canned Puppy Food has some plant-based ingredients that provide plant chemicals a puppy’s body turns into vitamin A. This vitamin stimulates the growth of a healthy coat and a strong immune system. Providing pumpkin and apple for beta-carotene to make vitamin A keeps the dosage right. There’s lots of preformed vitamin A in liver, but liver can be too high in vitamin A for a golden retriever puppy’s growing metabolism.
NuLo FreeStyle Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food is a great way to get your puppy used to eating dry dog food. It’s also a great puppy food for weaning. Mix it with PetAg milk products (cow’s or goats milk) to make it easy to chew as it reminds puppies of mother’s milk.
NuLo FreeStyle Grain-Free Dry Puppy Food has complete protein with one more essential ingredient, docosahexaenoic acid, the omega-3 essential fatty acid also known as DHA.
DHA is “essential” in the sense that not only cannot a dog not live without it, the fatty acid has to be provided by food. A puppy’s body uses DHA from mother’s milk to build its retinas and the nerve connections from eyes to brain. Dogs at every stage of life use DHA to make the hormone eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which keeps inflammation in check.
Grains, by the way, provide a different set of essential fatty acids, the omega-6 essential fatty acids, that increase inflammation. One of the reasons older dogs develop inflammatory conditions is that they are fed too much grain with too much omega-6 fat that keeps pumping out the production of inflammatory hormones.
Don’t do this to your golden retriever puppy. Avoid the grain, protect the brain, and limit inflammation with grain-free puppy food.
Next, we will consider six foods for the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth months of your golden retriever puppy’s life
By the time your golden retriever puppy is three months old, she is entering a wonderful time of her life. Golden retriever puppies go through a period in which they are open to new experiences. Happy experiences of all kinds, including with food, make a difference for the entirety of the remainder of your dog’s life.
The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth months of your golden retriever’s life are the time he learns that cats are not the enemy. This is the time your puppy learns not to be afraid of vacuum cleaners and children’s toys.
These months are the time of a dog’s life when they can socialize to children, old people, people of all sizes, people of all races, and people who speak differently. This is the time your puppy will learn that the world is a safe place to be.
It’s also the time your golden retriever puppy can learn to accept different kinds of food. We don’t have just one recommendation for your dog at this stage of life. We have six, and we recommend you buy all six products to introduce your dog to different kinds of food that will make feeding your dog easier for the rest of her life.
3. Best Dry Food for Active Puppies: EUKANUBA Medium Breed Dry Puppy Food
Golden retrievers are really too large to be considered a medium-sized breed and not large enough to be classified as a large breed. But for purposes of choosing a puppy food, EUKANUBA Medium Breed Dry Puppy Food is a good choice for a growing, active golden retriever puppy.
Vets often recommend EUKANUBA Medium Breed Dry Puppy Food because it contains the DHA puppies need for continuing brain development plus the calcium and phosphorus they need for healthy bones and connective tissue. Hip dysplasia is not a common problem in golden retrievers, but providing your puppy with bone-healthy and tendon-healthy nutrients at this stage reduces the risk of it.
EUKANUBA Medium Breed Dry Puppy Food is also a good source of vitamin E. Like vitamin A, vitamin E supports a healthy, lustrous, beautiful coat. And because the predominant flavor in this product is chicken, even puppies that decide they want to be picky eaters will accept EUKANUBA Medium Breed Dry Puppy Food.
EUKANUBA Medium Breed Dry Puppy Food provides all the DHA your golden retriever needs, the full range of vitamins your golden retriever needs, and complete protein without a lot of added grain. (There is some sorghum and some corn meal to give the product a crunchy consistency.) But because your objective at this point in your puppy’s life is to encourage acceptance of a variety of textures and flavors, so we have two more recommendations from EUKANUBA products.
4. Best Treat for Active Puppies: EUKANUBA Healthy Extras Puppy Dog Treats
One of the things you will be doing with your golden retriever puppy early in their lives is training. You will be training your golden retriever puppy to sit, to stay, to fetch, to roll over, and to pay attention to you rather than dogs and other attractions on their daily walks. You will be reinforcing good behavior over and over again with praise and treats.
EUKANUBA Healthy Extras Puppy Dog Treats don’t really give your puppy a different flavor. Their main ingredient is chicken. But they do give your golden retriever puppy a different texture. EUKANUBA Healthy Extras Puppy Dog Treats go crunch as your puppy bites into them, with enough texture that they also help remove plaque and tartar from your golden retriever’s teeth.
You need to have a bag of EUKANUBA Healthy Extras Puppy Dog Treats on hand for every training session. You should even keep them on standby just in case your dog performs a behavior that merits immediate reinforcement. EUKANUBA Healthy Extras Puppy Dog Treats aren’t a mainstay of your dog’s diet, but they can become an essential part of your dog’s training not just as a puppy but for the rest of his life.
5. Best Wet Food for Active Puppies: EUKANUBA Puppy With Lamb & Rice Canned Dog Food
EUKANUBA Puppy With Lamb & Rice Canned Dog Food gives your puppy a tasty meal with two different flavors, lamb and liver. Although neither lamb nor the two kinds of liver used in this product is at the head of the list of ingredients, they are present in large enough amounts to give your puppy a different, appealing flavor combination. This product also has different sources of beta-carotene, carrot and tomato instead of pumpkin, and pays special attention to mineral nutrition. Using rice as a source of fiber and carbohydrate also minimizes the risk of developing food allergies.
Like EUKANUBA dry puppy food, EUKANUBA Puppy With Lamb & Rice Canned Dog Food provides complete protein along with the omega-3 essential fatty acids growing dogs need for healthy eyes and brain and optimal immunity. This product could become your golden retriever puppy’s favorite food, and it can double as cat food, too.
You should always have dry food, wet food, and treats for your growing puppy. Our next three selections are great puppy foods you can always buy if for some reason the first three aren’t available.
6. Best Alternative Dry Dog Food: Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food
Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food comes in a large bag that you can keep on hand for those times you just can’t get dog food delivered because of weather or supply disruptions. It provides complete protein from chicken without the potentially dangerous bones, along with new flavors like salmon. The brown rice in Wellness Large Breed Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food will help your puppy stay regular.
7. Best Alternative Soft Puppy Treats: Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Lamb & Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dog Treats
8. Best Alternative Crunchy Puppy Treats: Wellness Crunchy Puppy Bites Chicken & Carrots Recipe Grain-Free Dog Treats
There is a great reason for keeping both Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Lamb & Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dog Treats and Wellness Crunchy Puppy Bites Chicken & Carrots Recipe Grain-Free Dog Treats on hand for training your golden retriever puppy. With these two brands of treats, you can reward your puppy for good behavior with a variety of flavors and two different textures.
Your puppy won’t really know which treat he will get for doing the right thing. If your dog has a favorite, then he will make an extra effort to perform well next time because he might get his favorite treat. But both treats are tasty and nutritious.
9. Best Alternative Wet Dog Food: Purina Pro Plan Development Classic Turkey Entree Grain-Free Canned Dog Food
As you would expect, Purina Pro Plan Development Classic Turkey Entree Grain-Free Canned Dog Food provides complete protein for your growing golden retriever puppy. It is fortified with DHA from brain health. And it offers a different flavor your puppy can learn to love and enjoy the rest of its life.
Finally, we will consider two favorite foods to give your golden retriever after the age of six of months.
When your golden retriever puppy reaches the age of about six months, its brain starts developing differently. Younger puppies have an opportunity to learn all the safe and fun things in their world, and will remain open to those foods and experiences for the rest of their lives. Slightly older puppies, however, learn about things that can harm them. Bad experiences at this point in their lives stick in their memories forever.
It’s fine to continue giving your golden retriever puppy the foods she has grown to love in the first six months of her life. It’s just that at this point you want to make sure that any new foods are tried and trusted safe foods that just about every dog likes.
We have two best products for this stage of your dog’s life.
10. Best Treat for Older Puppies: Milk Bone Original Puppy Biscuit Dog Treats
Bigger puppies want bigger treats. Milk Bone Original Puppy Biscuit Dog Treats offer more than just a tasty morsel. They reinforce good training with several seconds of chewing into a tasty treat with a flavor that puppies have enjoyed all their lives, milk.
Milk Bone has added calcium and vitamin D to encourage healthy bones, and a gritty texture that stops tartar buildup on your golden retriever puppy’s teeth.
11. Best Alternative Treat for Older Puppies: Get Naked Puppy Health Grain-Free Small Dental Stick Dog Treats
While you are providing your golden retriever puppy with a variety of treats to keep her in suspense about which one she will get for doing well, why not add a treat that encourages cleaner teeth and fresher breath? Get Naked Puppy Health Grain-Free Small Dental Stick Dog Treats are designed to encourage good oral hygiene in dogs of all ages.
Our Buyer Guide for the Best Foods For Your Golden Retriever Puppy
When do you start feeding your golden retriever puppy?
Golden retriever puppies begin eating solid food at 3-1/2 weeks to 4-1/2 weeks of age. As they wean from mother’s milk, you can give them a variety of dry and wet foods that match their stage of development.
There is a very simple way to be sure you are buying the best possible dog food for your golden retriever puppy. Just buy the 11 brands we list above. But if those brands aren’t available, keep these guidelines in mind.
- Medium-puppy and large-puppy blends provide all the nourishment your golden retriever needs for health growth. Small-puppy products generally don’t provide enough calcium and phosphorus for this breed.
- Always buy products that list some kind of meat as their first-named ingredient. You don’t want products that contain more grain than anything else.
- If you need to vary flavors, choose one brand that has liver and one brand that doesn’t. Many brands will list chicken as their first-named ingredient, but liver makes a big difference in taste.
- Try to buy brands that include fish or fish oil. They provide DHA for growing brains and eyes.
- Don’t rely on a single brand of puppy food for feeding your golden retriever all the time. This helps you avoid allergies and problems with food that has gone bad.
You don’t have to buy each product for each month, but as we will be explaining as we go along, some puppy food choices make a huge difference in how easy it will be to feed your golden retriever if you introduce them at the right time. There are several critical months in a puppy’s life when you can introduce foods that it will enjoy for years to come.
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