Best Dog Food For Active Dogs

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active dog swimming

While most dogs can run around and love exercise, some are highly active. They may include working dogs, hunting pups, or even agile dogs who practice in their backyard.

Because of this, they need top-quality nutrition and plenty of protein. What’s the best food for active dogs, and how can it support them?

Our favorite option is ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

It’s a high-protein, high-fat, and high-calorie dry dog food for active adult dogs. And it contains DHA and glucosamine for muscle support and cognitive function. 

And we have other great options, too — including choices for small breeds, puppies, and puppies at heart. 

Best Budget Option
CANIDAE Under the Sun Grain Free Lamb Adult
CANIDAE Under the Sun Grain-Free

Single protein from lamb

Farm-grown ingredients

Fortified with probiotics

Best Overall
ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free
ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free

85% animal ingredients

Wholey prey diet

Biologically Appropriate

Best Premium Option
Wellness CORE Ocean Whitefish Grain Free
Wellness CORE Ocean Whitefish

100% poultry-free protein

Promote whole-body health

Taurine for heart health

Our Top Picks for Active Dogs

  1. Best OverallORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free Dry Dog Food 
  2. Best Budget Food CANIDAE Under the Sun Grain-Free Adult Dry Dog Food 
  3. Best Premium Food Wellness CORE Ocean Recipe Dry Dog Food
  4. Best for Puppies Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
  5. Best for Seniors Go! Solutions Carnivore Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food
  6. Best for Small BreedsEukanuba Adult Small Bites Dry Dog Food
  7. Best for Large Breeds VICTOR Purpose Performance Formula Dry Dog Food
  8. Best Wet FoodHound & Gatos 98% Turkey & Liver Grain-Free Dog Food
  9. Best for Sensitive StomachsNatural Balance L.I.D. Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
  10. Best Fresh Food Nom Nom Beef Mash Dog Food

10 Best Dog Food For Active Dogs Reviewed 

The following dog foods follow AAFCO’s nutrient profile guidelines. Before switching your dog to a new formula, consult with your veterinarian. 

Best Overall

1. ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Beef, Wild Boar, Goat, Lamb, Lamb Liver
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 38% Crude Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 12% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 463 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: High-protein and high-calorie whole-prey dry dog food for active dogs 

Most active dogs do well with a high-protein and high-fat diet. This type of nutrition gives them energy and keeps their muscles strong. Try ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free dry dog food if you’re looking for a great overall option to feed your adult dog. 

This formula starts with high-quality and real animal proteins — including ranch-raised beefwild boargoat, and grass-fed lamb.

Orijen uses the whole-prey method, so they include the organs and bones of each meat. These contain essential nutrients like calcium, glucosamine, and iron for heart health and bone strength

Beef fat and pollock oil provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for a healthy heart and protect joints. And pollock oil contains DHA and ARA for cognitive function and immune health. 

This is a grain-free diet. Instead of wheat, whole red lentils and whole chickpeas provide complex carbohydrates and prebiotic fiber. These aid in healthier digestion and supply vitamins like vitamin A and magnesium for metabolic and eye support. 

Pet owners say this dog food is the best for all dogs — no matter their size. They’ve noted an increase in energy levels and digestion and say their pup loves the taste. But some say to avoid it if your dog has a sensitive tummy.  


High-protein recipe

Easy-to-eat kibble 

High-quality animal proteins


Smells like fish 


Can cause loose or slimy stool 

Best Budget Food

CANIDAE Under the Sun Grain-Free Lamb Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food

CANIDAE Under the Sun Grain Free Lamb Adult
  • First 5 Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Green Peas, Garbanzo Beans, Yellow Peas, Canola Oil
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 25% Crude Protein, 11% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 357 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Affordable dog food with antioxidants for energy support 

Feeding active dogs — like giant breeds and multiple pets — can add up quickly over time. But feeding your pup doesn’t have to be expensive. Instead, try high-quality dry dog food that’s affordable. 

CANIDAE Under the Sun Grain-Free dog food starts with real lamb and lamb meal. And lamb is the only animal protein in this recipe, so it’s perfect for dogs with sensitivities.

It’s packed with essential nutrients like taurine for heart health and iron to promote muscle growth and performance.

This is a grain-free recipe that’s also free from potatoes. Instead, it includes green peasgarbanzo beans, and yellow peas. These gentle carbohydrate sources contain fiber for digestion and vitamins like vitamin C for immune support. 

Canola oil and vitamin E aid in a shiny coat and healthy skin with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

This food’s also fortified with natural probiotics and antioxidants from pumpkingreen beansbutternut squash, and blueberries. They help boost immunity and keep your dog regular. 

Canine owners exclaim that this food helps their dogs keep up with daily activities. But some hate how the food easily crumbles, and they feel like the bag turns into dust too fast. 


Grain-free  formula

High in antioxidants 

U.S. based company and ingredients 


Easy to crumble

Kibble is larger 

Best Premium Food

Wellness CORE Ocean Recipe Dry Dog Food

Wellness CORE Ocean Whitefish Grain Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Whitefish, Herring Meal, Salmon Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Peas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 34% Crude Protein, 15% Crude Fat, 7% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 414 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-calorie and high-protein premium dry dog food 

No matter your dog’s breed or size, they could benefit from premium dog food if you want to spoil them. But, the key is to choose a top-quality food with real animal proteins and no extra fillers. 

Wellness CORE Ocean Recipe dog food is a poultry-free formula perfect for most adult dogs — even those that can’t have specific proteins. 

The first few ingredients are all animal meats — including whitefishherring meal, and salmon meal. These contain natural sources of taurine and essential fatty acids for joint support and heart health. 

One of the cons of this food is its fat sources. While coconut oil or salmon oil would be better options, this recipe has ground flaxseed and canola oil. But canola oil has omega-6 fatty acids for muscle tone and regulates your pup’s metabolism. And it also gives your dog a shiny coat. 

Wellness CORE Ocean Recipe is free of poultry by-product meal, fillers, corn, soy, and gluten. It also doesn’t include artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. 

Pet moms and dads exclaim their gratitude for this premium and chicken-free formula. But they admit that the food stinks and can make your whole kitchen smell like fish. 


Contains taurine and glucosamine


Has wild-caught fish 


Food smells bad 

Some picky dogs won’t eat it

Bags don’t seal properly 

Best for Puppies

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy Chicken Grain-Free
  • First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Peas, Tapioca Starch
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 36% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 423 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-protein and high-calorie dry puppy food with healthy fats for energy support 

Puppies are already active. But if you’re training your pup or plan on them being a working dog, you want to start them off with food that compensates for that. 

Keep in mind that younger dogs have higher metabolisms. So yours will need plenty of calories, fats, and protein to help them keep up with their daily activities and growth. Luckily, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Puppy dry dog food meets those needs. 

This high-protein, high-fat, and high-calorie formula starts with real deboned chicken and chicken meal. 

These provide 36% Crude Protein, perfect for future hunting or working pups. And they offer glucosamine and chondroitin to protect your pup’s joint health and support their lean muscles. 

Chicken fat and fish oil supply omega fatty acids for limber joints and heart health. And fish oil contains DHA for brain growth and development — essential for puppies.  

Potatoescarrots, and flaxseeds offer prebiotic fiber for digestive support and keep your pup going all day. And they are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc for eye and immune health. 

Puppy parents love that this food is high in calories and protein and say they’ve noticed how well their puppy grows. But some admit that the kibble may be too large for smaller puppies. 


Contains DHA for growing pups 

Doesn’t have animal by-products 

Includes probiotics for digestion 


Larger kibble size 

Picky pups push it around 

Best for Seniors

Go! Solutions Carnivore Grain-Free Senior Recipe Dry Dog Food

Go! Solutions Carnivore Grain-Free Chicken Senior
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, De-Boned Chicken, De-Boned Turkey
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 4.5% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 394 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: Grain-free and high-protein senior dry dog food with 85% real animal proteins

Don’t let your senior dog fool you — they can have plenty of energy to run around, and many working dogs still do it in their golden years.  Go! Solutions Carnivore is complete and balanced nutrition for senior canines who need protein and fat to keep up with their activity. 

This chicken recipe starts with chickenturkey, and salmon meals. It also contains wild boarduckNew Zealand green mussels, and lamb.

These ingredients feature taurine for vision and heart health, plus glucosamine and chondroitin for hip and joint health.

Chickpeaspotatoes, and sweet potatoes provide prebiotic fiber to help support good gut bacteria and overall digestion. And blackberriespapaya, and blueberries are packed with anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin C for a healthy immune system. 

Last but not least, dried chicory root offers digestive enzymes and natural probiotics for a healthy digestive tract. These ingredients keep your dog ready to go and active all day long.

Go! Solutions Carnivore Grain-Free Senior Recipe is free of by-product meals, artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, and wheat.

Senior dog owners rejoice that this food made them “sprightly” again, even if their dogs started slowing down. But if your dog is missing teeth, skip this food — many noted that the kibble is harder. 




Contains turmeric as anti-inflammatory 


Kibble is harder 

Can give gas to some dogs

Best for Small Breeds

Eukanuba Adult Small Bites Dry Dog Food

Eukanuba Small Bites Adult Chicken
  • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn, Wheat, Chicken Fat
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 25% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 3.8% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 371 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: High-fat dry dog food with tiny kibble size for small active dogs

Small dogs could quickly run circles around their humans. And many perform agility moves and compete in competitions.

Tiny dogs also have smaller jaws, so they’ll need kibble that fits appropriately and isn’t too large for their mouth. Eukanuba has bite-sized kibble designed for smaller muzzles, making it easy to chew their food. 

The first ingredient is real deboned chicken. It contains essential nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin to keep muscles lean and joints limber and strong.

It’s vital to note that this food also contains chicken by-products, but it comes from the leftover organs and chicken feet from the deboned chicken they use. 

Chicken fat and salmon oil contain natural DHA and vitamin E sources to help support healthy brain function. This formula also provides their “3D DentaDefense” blend to help reduce tartar build-up for clean teeth and healthy gums.

This recipe is best for a small or medium-breed adult dog 12 months or older and weighing up to 54 lbs. 

Small breed parents say this food is the best for picky eaters and dogs who need help with dental care. But if you’re trying to avoid certain ingredients for your pup, you may want to look elsewhere. 


Contains dental cleaning properties 

Small bites 

High-quality animal fats 


Can get moldy fast 

Contains chicken by-product meal 

Best for Large Breeds

VICTOR Purpose Performance Formula Dry Dog Food

VICTOR Purpose Performance
  • First 5 Ingredients: Beef Meal, Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Millet, Chicken Fat, Blood Meal
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 3.8% Crude Fiber, 9% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 399 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: High-fat and large kibble dry food for active large breeds  

Large breeds typically need more food to keep up with their body type and weight. And they’ll also need more protein and fat when they’re more active.

Victor Purpose Performance is a high-calorie diet. It has a larger kibble size to keep your dog from choking or eating their food too fast.

And it contains supplemented probiotics to aid in digestive support — essential for bigger dogs and their energy levels. Last, it helps reduce tartar build-up due to the large size and kibble shape. 

This formula starts with real beefchicken, and pork meals. Even though these aren’t deboned meat options, they are products of US-grown meat, bones, and organs. They contain l-carnitine and glucosamine for limber joints and strong muscles. 

Fish oil comes packed with omega fatty acids. They aid in reducing inflammation in the joints and provide EPA for a healthy heart. And, they’re great for giving your dog a shiny coat and healthy skin. 

This is not a grain-free recipe. So if your dog is allergic or sensitive to grains, you’ll want to steer clear of this formula. But it does contain high-quality whole grain millet and grain sorghum as low-glycemic carbohydrates.

These provide fiber for a clear digestive tract and have nutrients like niacin for nourished skin.  

Large breed owners said this food aided their dog’s energy levels and kept them going all day. But many say it smells like a chemical factory when you open up a new bag.  



Contains natural joint supplements 

Provides probiotics 


Smells bad 

Contains ingredients like wheat

Dry and crunchy 

Best Wet Food

Hound & Gatos 98% Turkey & Liver Grain-Free Dog Food

Hound & Gatos 98% Turkey Grain Free Canned
  • First 5 Ingredients: Turkey, Turkey Broth, Turkey Liver, Agar-Agar, Potassium Chloride
  • Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 10% Crude Protein, 8% Crude Fat, 1.5% Crude Fiber, 78% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 458 kcal/can
  • Key Feature: High-protein and high-fat wet dog food for active dogs 

There are many reasons you may want to give your dog wet food. Maybe it’s used as a topper to revive dry, bland food and entice them to eat. Or maybe your dog needs wet food because it’s missing teeth or doesn’t have any at all. 

You can rely on Hound & Gatos 98% Turkey & Liver Grain-Free canned food. It’s made with 98% animal protein and is free of gluten, grain, artificial flavors, colors, and additives.

It features real turkey as the first ingredient and follows a whole-prey approach. It’s full of essential vitamins like B, D, and E for skin health, energy, and strong bones. 

The only ingredient besides the turkey protein and agar-agar (a thickener) is salmon oil. It makes this a higher-fat diet for dogs who need energy support.

And it has omega-3 fatty acids for brain development and supple skin. This wet food is pate-style, so it’s easier to feed your fur baby and less messy. 

After switching to this food, dog moms and dads say breakfast is no longer a battle with their dogs. But if your dog needs grains for heart health or bulk, they’ll need to skip this food.


Free of gluten and grains 

Limited ingredients for sensitive dogs 

High-calorie recipe


Can cause loose stool 


Best for Sensitive Stomachs

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

Natural Balance LID Grain Free Salmon Sweet Potato
  • First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, Menhaden Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Tapioca Starch, Potatoes
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 24% Crude Protein, 10% Crude Fat, 4.5% Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 373 kcal/cup
  • Key Feature: High-calorie and high-protein dog food with limited ingredients for allergies

Finding food that offers enough nutrition and energy without adding ingredients like grains or proteins like chicken or beef can seem impossible.

But you don’t have to pick one or the other. Instead, try Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets dry dog food. 

First, it is essential to note that this food is lower in protein and fats compared to the other options on this list. It contains 12 simple ingredients (not including vitamins and minerals).

These components are easily absorbed, thus helping your dog get all their nutrients anyway. 

It starts with real deboned salmon and fish meal as the first ingredients. These proteins are easier on the tummy and immune system for dogs allergic to chicken, beef, and lamb.

Plus, they contain essential amino acids and fatty acids to soothe sensitive skin, build lean muscle, and lubricate joints. 

This recipe is grain-free and instead includes sweet potatoes as its easy-to-digest source of carbohydrates.

They are chock full of fiber for easier digestion and contain vitamins A and C for immune health. This recipe is free of wheat, soy, corn, peas, chicken, and by-product meals. 

Pet parents say this food is the only option that doesn’t cause their dogs to lose weight or develop dry and itchy skin. But like most fish recipes, it stinks and can even make dogs smell bad too. 


High in omega-3 fatty acids 


Limited-ingredient diet 


Food smells like fish 

Harder kibble 

Best Fresh Food

Nom Nom Beef Mash Dog Food

nom nom beef recipe
  • First 5 Ingredients: Ground Beef, Russet Potatoes, Eggs, Carrots, Peas
  • Guaranteed Analysis: (wet matter basis) 8% Crude Protein, 4% Crude Fat, 1% Crude Fiber, 77% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 182 kcal/cup 
  • Key Feature: Human-grade fresh dog food customized for active pups
Get 50% OFF your first Nom Nom order!

Nom Nom offers human-grade dog food from the same high-quality ingredients you’d find in your local grocery store. And along with being top-value, it’s tasty, so even picky eaters will gobble it right up. 

You’ll start with their quick online quiz to discover your dog’s personalized diet. Nom Nom will ask questions about your pup’s breed, size, potential allergies, and activity level. This will help them know how many calories and macronutrients your furry friend needs daily. 

Once you finish the quiz, Nom Nom will list out what your dog needs and give you the option of choosing four different recipes. Their options are beef, turkey, pork, and chicken. You can select one at a time or try all four! 

Their “Beef Mash” contains fresh ingredients like USDA ground beefrusset potatoes, and eggs. So you know this food will be delectable. The food is shipped right to your door every two to four weeks, so you’ll never have to worry about going to the pet store again. 

Dog owners love how easy it is to dump their dog’s food in a bowl for a fresh and easy meal. But they admit that you must have quite a bit of freezer space for storage. 


Human-grade ingredients 

Free of fillers and artificial preservatives 



Delivery isn’t always reliable 

Food must be frozen to avoid waste

german shepherd running

How to Choose the Best Dog Food For Active Dogs

Ready to choose food for your active pup? Here’s what you need to know. 

What to Consider

Every dog is different, and no two active dogs will need the same nutrition and food. Here’s how to decide on the best dog food for Fido. 


Your pup’s breed and size will play a big part in their food. For example, large breeds usually need more overall food, while small breeds need higher calories per pound but less food each meal. 

And breed matters, too — since hunting dogs are different than herding dogs, which are different than working dogs. If you have a hunting dog, their needs will contrast with a herder’s.

And vice-versa. So it’s crucial to know your dog’s breed and what they’re good at, to ensure you feed them properly. 


Age plays a part in what your dog needs too. Puppies need more omega fatty acids for cognitive growth, while seniors need more glucosamine for joint health.

And seniors typically require fewer calories, protein, and fat than puppies and adults. 

No matter your dog’s size, age, or breed, it’s essential to discuss what your dog will need nutritionally with your veterinarian. 

Daily Routine

Does your dog work all day and then get food, or do they have a few hours on and a few hours off when it comes to activity?

What your dog eats and when is vital to know. Their daily routine will determine when they eat, how much, and if they need significantly more calories in their everyday life. 

raw meat fish chicken ingredients

Ingredients to Look For In Food for Active Dogs

So what’s best for active dogs? Here are the ingredients to look for. 

Protein Content 

Dogs, especially when active, need protein to perform their best. And dogs love meat — they come from wolves, after all!

So protein content is a big deal for active pups, and they’ll need at least 22% Crude Protein, although 25%-35% is ideal. 

Also, focus on natural animal proteins — including fish, chicken, venison, pork, beef, and lamb. These should make up the first ingredient or the first three. 


Dogs get their energy from fat. And while too much fat can make a dog gain weight, this shouldn’t be an issue for active pups. To be safe, stick to 15%-20% Crude Fat in your dog’s food. 

Some great sources of healthy fats include animal fats, coconut oil, fish oil/salmon oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and even avocados (in moderation).

Carbs and Fiber 

Active canines don’t have to be “keto” or eat a raw meat diet to thrive. They need a few healthy carbohydrates and fiber.

It helps improve and support their digestion and gives them vitamins and minerals like vitamin C for a robust immune system. And they aid in energy storage!

If your dog can’t have grains, that’s okay. Instead, focus on carb sources like potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, and legumes. If they can handle grains, look for ingredients like barley, oats, and brown rice. 

Other Vitamins and Minerals

All dogs need vitamins and minerals, which are crucial for active dogs. Their bodies need additional support to keep them energetic and to have the ability to work. V

itamins like B12, Vitamin C, and iron can be beneficial. These aid in immune health, heart health, and energy support. 

But of course, all vitamins and minerals matter, and they should be balanced. Luckily, most commercial dog foods already meet those needs. But feel free to talk to your vet about their recommendations for your pup’s needs.

How much should a very active dog eat?

This will depend on your dog’s breed, whether they’re at a healthy weight (or need to gain weight), and whether they’re a working dog versus an active pup.

Of course, always talk to your vet about your pup’s specific needs and work on a feeding plan with them. 

Active dog breeds typically need around 30-35 calories per pound they weigh. Puppies should be on the higher end, about 35-40 calories per pound.

As your dog ages and reaches seniorhood, they’ll need less, around 28-30 calories per pound. 

If your dog is hunting, they’ll typically need to eat once, preferably in the evening. Working dogs and other active dogs can eat two meals a day, and puppies should be eating every 4 hours, about 3-4 times a day.

If your dog is smaller and at risk for hypothyroidism, 2-3 meals daily should suffice. 

Our Verdict

Highly active dogs need lots of support to help keep their muscles, heart, and energy levels robust. That’s why we listed our top 10 favorites and how they can assist your pup, no matter their needs. 

Our number one choice is ORIJEN Regional Red Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

It’s high enough in macronutrients and calories to keep your dog going all day and contains real animal proteins to aid in lean muscle mass. 

But all of our options — including our limited ingredient diet — can keep your dog healthy, active, and happy. 

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Kim Studdard is a freelance writer for many websites in the pet universe. When she isn't spending time with her family and pets, or saying "Look a dog" everytime she sees one, you'll find her reading a book or traveling the U.S.

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