In This Article...
- What are the Best German Shepherd Puppy Foods?
- German Shepherd Puppy Diet Requirements
- How long should I feed my German Shepherd puppy food?
- How much and often should I food my puppy German Shepherd?
- Grain Free or Not?
- Best Puppy Food for German Shepherds
- Best Value Pick for GSD Puppies
- Most Popular Pick for GSD Puppies
- Best Dry Food for German Shepherd Puppies
- Best Canned Food for German Shepherd Puppies
- 6 More Really Good GSD Puppy Foods
- German Shepherd Puppy Food – A Final Word
German Shepherd puppies may grow up to be noble, courageous, and one of the smartest breeds around but they start out just as cute and playful as any other puppy. It won’t take long for your GSD (German Shepherd Dog – the breed’s official name) puppy to start developing his specific breed personality.
They are curious but tend to be cautious with strangers. Socialization is recommended so find a good puppy kindergarten class. German Shepherds enjoy training and your puppy will be a star in obedience class.
German Shepherds are large dogs as adults, weighing up to 90 pounds. It’s important for your puppy to have the best German Shepherd puppy food to ensure he grows up healthy.
Here’s what you’ll need to know
What are the Best German Shepherd Puppy Foods?
The Healthiest | Fresh
Ollie Chicken Dish w/ Carrots
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Best Premium | Dry
Orijen Puppy Large Breed w/ Chicken, Turkey, & Salmon
Most Popular | Dry
Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy
Most Affordable | Dry
American Journey Chicken & Sweet Potato Large Breed Puppy
Best Human-Grade | Fresh
The Farmer’s Dog Beef Recipe
German Shepherd Puppy Diet Requirements
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners and veterinary professionals about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. – fda.gov
Large puppies like German Shepherds usually go to their new homes when they are between 8 and 10 weeks old. By this age they have been weaned and they are eating solid foods such as a good puppy food.
Puppies are growing fast in the first few months. They use up lots more calories than adult dogs because they are building muscle and bone, not to mention the fact that their brain is developing. Plus there’s all that time spent in play. Play is undoubtedly fun for puppies but it’s also an important way to help muscles and bones grow and develop. And it burns up lots of calories.
German Shepherd puppies need plenty of calorie-dense nutrition, especially in their early months. Foods formulated for puppies typically have more calories per ounce than adult dog foods for this reason.
Puppies need more protein than adult dogs. According to AAFCO (the Association of American Food Control Officials), puppies need 22 percent protein in their diet compared to 18 percent for adult dogs. These are minimum nutritional requirements. Most good puppy foods will exceed this protein percentage.
Fat is a source of energy. Puppies need 8 percent fat in their diets compared to only 5 percent fat for adult dogs. These are minimum nutritional requirements. Again, most good quality foods exceed these percentages. In fact, you may have to watch that some foods don’t contain too much fat. A large breed puppy food like the kind you would probably choose for a German Shepherd puppy, will likely have less fat and fewer calories than regular puppy foods.
Foods that have about 30 percent protein and 9 percent fat, by dry matter basis, are considered ideal for most large breed puppies.
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), an essential long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid that helps in the development of the eyes and brain, is also important for German Shepherd puppies.
Since German Shepherds are a large breed and they can be prone to hip dysplasia, it’s especially important to pay attention to the calcium and phosphorus amounts and ratio in the food you feed. Too much of these nutrients or in the wrong ratio can lead to developmental orthopedic diseases such as hip dysplasia and other problems. Most good puppy foods for large breeds will use a reduced amount of calcium and phosphorus. They will also have the correct ratio of calcium to phosphorus but it’s good to check. The calcium percentage in the food should be about 1.5 percent. A calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1.1:1 to 2:1 (that’s slightly more calcium to phosphorus) is usually advised. Many of these foods are also lower in vitamin D since vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium.
The food you choose for your German Shepherd puppy should be labeled “complete and balanced.” The label should also have an AAFCO statement that says it is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established for growth including growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs or more as an adult).
We also recommend that you avoid foods that have oils or fats as one of the first four ingredients. According to one study, these foods are believed to be more likely to contribute to bloat. German Shepherds are one of the breeds that can be prone to bloat (GDV or gastric dilatation-volvulus).
We have been discussing large breed puppy foods but you can also feed your German Shepherd puppy a food that is AAFCO-approved for all life stages (or for “growth and reproduction”). If you feed an all life stage food you should make sure that it has a statement such as: “[Pet Food Name] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages including growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs or more as an adult).” (Or it can say feeding trials instead of nutrient profiles.) However, you should NOT feed any puppy a food that is formulated for adult maintenance. These foods do not have the nutrients to meet a puppy’s nutritional requirements.
Finally, you should not add nutritional supplements to your German Shepherd puppy’s diet. Anything you add to your puppy’s diet can throw the nutrients in his diets out of balance. This can lead to developmental problems such as bone disease. This is especially true if you add any kind of calcium to your puppy’s diet so no milk, cheese, yogurt, or other foods that contain calcium while your puppy is growing.
How long should I feed my German Shepherd puppy food?
Your German Shepherd probably won’t be fully mature until s/he is 2 ½ or 3 years old. Most dogs will reach their full size by the time they are about 2-2 ½ years old. This includes their bone growth. It can take this long for their growth plates to close.
However, your German Shepherd puppy will not need to eat a puppy food for this entire time. Most people feed a puppy food for about 12 months and then switch to a good all life stages food for their German Shepherd. You will need to make sure you are feeding a good quality food.
How much and often should I food my puppy German Shepherd?
|Age||Adult Target Weight 57 lbs Daily Feeding (cup)||Adult Target Weight 77 lbs Daily Feeding (cup)||Adult Target Weight 97 lbs Daily Feeding (cup)|
|2 Months||2 7/8||3 1/8||3 3/8|
|3 Months||3 1/2||4||4 3/8|
|4 Months||3 7/8||4 3/8||4 3/4|
|6 Months||4 3/8||5 1/2||6 1/2|
|8 Months||4 3/8||5 1/2||7|
|10 Months||4||5||6 1/2|
|12 Months||3 5/8||4 1/2||5 3/8|
|14 Months||3 5/8||4 1/2||5 3/8|
As we mentioned earlier, puppy foods usually have more calories per ounce than regular dog foods. That’s important because puppies have small stomachs. They need lots of calories for growth but they can’t eat a lot of food at one time with their small tummies. This means that your German Shepherd puppy needs multiple meals per day so he can get all of the calories he needs to grow.
Breeders and veterinarians usually recommend that young German Shepherd puppies have about four meals per day when they first go to their new home. These are small meals since puppies that are 2 ½ to 4 months old can’t eat a lot of food at one time. As your puppy gets bigger, he can eat more food at each meal so you can reduce the number of meals he eats from 4 to 3 by six months. Between six months and 12 months you can reduce the number of meals from three to two per day. It’s recommended that adult German Shepherds eat two meals per day – or three if your dog has any problems with just two meals.
As for how much to feed your German Shepherd puppy, the amount will change as he grows. You can find lots of growth charts for German Shepherd puppies online since the breed is so popular. (Unfortunately, this information is not always easy to find for every breed.) A 3-month-old GSD puppy will usually weigh around 30 pounds according to the breeders and owners who track their growth. At 6 months old, a puppy will usually weigh between 50 and 60 pounds. At 9 months, a German Shepherd puppy will typically weigh between 60 and 70 pounds. By 12 months, a German Shepherd puppy will, on average, weigh between 65 and 75 pounds. (Exact weights will vary. These are only averages of male and female puppies from one chart we checked.) So, at one year of age, a puppy will have achieved about 95 percent of his mature weight.
There are formulas to figure out how many calories your puppy/dog needs but, frankly, the math is complicated. It’s easier to use an online calculator or check the National Research Council’s recommendations for calories. You can also use the suggested feeding guidelines on the food you buy although these won’t be as precise.
If you’re feeding a 3-month-old German Shepherd puppy weighing about 30 pounds, he will need about 1490 calories per day, just running around and being a normal puppy.
A six-month-old German Shepherd puppy weighing 55 pounds will need 1565 calories per day. You might expect this older, larger puppy to need a lot more calories than the younger, smaller puppy but the younger puppy is actually burning up more calories because he’s growing faster. As the puppy grows and gets closer to being an adult dog, his growth slows and he will be using fewer calories – like an adult dog.
At 9 months, your GSD puppy weighing 65 pounds will need about 1774 calories per day.
And, by the time your puppy is 12-months-old and weighing 75 pounds, he will need about 1975 calories per day.
Your adult German Shepherd, weighing 80 pounds, will need about 1866 calories per day. You can see that’s a slight reduction in calories even though your adult dog weighs more than a 12-month-old puppy.
These calorie recommendations are guidelines. It’s always important to watch your puppy’s weight and condition. If he seems to be gaining or losing too much weight on the amount of food you are feeding, you should adjust his portions. His well-being is far more important than the calories.
Grain Free or Not?
There is a lot of current controversy about whether it’s safe to feed grain free dog/puppy foods. In July 2023 the FDA alerted consumers that it was investigating reports of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs that had been eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes as main ingredients. DCM is a heart condition that has been associated with Golden Retrievers. However, some of the reports received by the FDA involved breeds that had never previously been connected to DCM. It was believed that the problem could be related to the dogs’ diet. The FDA followed their initial warning up with a Q&A piece.
Foods involved range from some of the most expensive, best-rated dog foods available to customer favorites. They come from various manufacturers. The only thing they seem to have in common is their heavy use of peas, lentils, legumes, and in some cases, potatoes (including sweet potatoes).
At this time all we can say is that a small number of dogs (that are not Golden Retrievers) have definitely been affected but the FDA is investigating. Other researchers are also involved. Some owners are changing their dogs’ diets away from grain free dog/puppy foods to foods that don’t contain large amounts of peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes.
According to the FDA, if your dog is showing possible signs of DCM or other heart conditions, including decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing and episodes of collapse, you should contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may ask you for a thorough dietary history, including all the foods (including treats) the dog has eaten. You can have your dog’s taurine level tested if you are concerned. If you plan to have your dog’s taurine level tested, it’s best to test before you make any dietary changes in order to get an accurate reading. This would not be necessary for a young puppy but it might be helpful if you have concerns about an adult dog.
At this time the FDA is not advising dietary changes based just on the information they have collected so far. If you have questions or concerns about your dog’s health or diet, you should talk to your veterinarian. Your vet knows your dog’s complete health history.
Should you feed your German Shepherd puppy a grain free food?
It just depends. We recommend reading the label, as always. Does the food contain large amounts of the suspect ingredients? At this time, with the FDA’s investigation still ongoing, we would recommend feeding your puppy a good food with grain, as long as he doesn’t have any allergies to grains. You don’t have to feed a food with corn or wheat. There are some good low-grain dog foods and foods that use barley, oats, and other healthy grains. Many puppies and dogs can safely eat these grains without an allergic reaction.
Best Puppy Food for German Shepherds
Best Value Pick for GSD Puppies
The first ingredients in American Journey Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain Free Dry Dog Food are Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, and Turkey Meal. It has 32 percent protein and just 14 percent fat – which is good for a large breed puppy so it won’t grow too quickly. No corn, wheat, or soy. And it contains DHA to help your puppy’s cognitive development. If your puppy needs a grain-free food, this is a great value buy. Chewy.com has the 4-lb, 12-lb, and 24-lb bags.
Most Popular Pick for GSD Puppies
One of the bestselling dog food on Chewy.com, Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Formula Grain Free Dry Dog Food has buffalo and lamb meal as the first ingredients. It has 28 percent protein and 17 percent fat with 37 percent carbohydrates. It has 1.4 percent calcium. No grain, corn, soy, wheat, filler, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Chewy.com has bags in 5-lb, 15-lb, and 30-lb.
Best Dry Food for German Shepherd Puppies
Chicken Soup for the Soul seems like an under appreciated food. I fed this food to one of my girls when she was pregnant and refusing to eat anything. She loved it. Her puppies ate it when they were weaned and they grew like weeds. I eventually had to stop feeding it because they were gaining so much weight! Chicken Soup for the Soul Large Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food has 27 percent protein and 13 percent fat so it’s a good choice for large breed puppies. The first ingredients are Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Meal, and Turkey Meal. Comes in a 15 and 30-lb bag.
Best Canned Food for German Shepherd Puppies
If your German Shepherd puppy doesn’t like Chicken Soup for the Soul Puppy Canned Dog Food, you need to have him checked by a vet because I’ve seen dogs that wouldn’t eat anything else, including food from the kitchen stove, eat this food like it was the best thing on earth. I had one pet store clerk tell me that she wanted to eat this food when she retired because it looked so good. That might be going a little far, but it really does look good and I’ve never seen a dog that didn’t love it. It has 9 percent protein and 6 percent fat. The first ingredients are Chicken, Chicken Liver, Turkey, Chicken Broth, Turkey Broth, Duck, and Salmon.
6 More Really Good GSD Puppy Foods
We have placed an asterisk (*) next to foods that have added taurine. Not all dog/puppy foods need to add taurine if the meat content is high or for other reasons, but some companies do add the amino acid. Adding taurine to a food is not a guarantee that your dog/puppy won’t get heart disease since it also depends on other ingredients in the food as well as genetic and health factors.
The Farmer’s Dog Fresh Dog Food is a great option if you are interested in feeding your German Shepherd a diet consisting of fresh, whole foods with the convenience of home-delivery on a schedule you create yourself. The Farmer’s Dog uses human-grade meat and vegges in simple recipes that are specially formulated to suit your dog’s unique dietary needs. All the meals are made fresh and delivered shortly after production and all diets are veterinarian-approved. If you are looking for a high-quality but convenient option for your German Shepherd, The Farmer’s Dog might be exactly what you are looking for.
Adirondack 30% High-Fat Puppy & Performance Recipe Dry Dog Food is a premium quality food that contains no corn, wheat, or soy. The first ingredients are Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, and Chicken Fat. It has 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat. No artificial colors or flavors. Chewy.com has 5, 15, and 30-lb bags available.
The new formula for Wellness Complete Health Puppy Deboned Chicken, Oatmeal & Salmon Meal Recipe Dry Dog Food has Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Peas, and Chicken Fat as the first ingredients. (The old formula did not contain any peas.) It has 29 percent protein and 18 percent fat, along with 0.09 percent taurine. (Taurine is an added ingredient.) Please note that we are not recommending the other Wellness and Wellness CORE grain free foods while the FDA investigation continues because of their high content of peas, legumes, and lentils; but this food and any other similarly formulated Wellness foods look like they would be fine. Chewy.com has this food in 5, 15, and 30-lb bags.
Kinetic Performance Puppy 28K Formula Dry Dog Food contains no corn, wheat, or soy. It has 28 percent protein and 15 percent fat and it’s specially-formulated for medium and large-breed puppies and pregnant or nursing mother dogs. The first ingredients are Chicken Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal (Natural Source of Glucosamine), Brewers Rice, Ground Sorghum, and Chicken Fat. The company uses chelated minerals for better absorption. They only use natural preservatives.
If you really want to make sure that your German Shepherd is getting all the nutrition they need, you might want to consider the human-grade Ollie Delivery Service. Ollie staff members will even personalize your dog’s meal plan to their specific needs.
Picky eaters that just can’t eat store-bought kibble might love the high-quality, personalized meals. By using protein sources like beef, chicken, turkey, and lamb as their bases, Ollie recipes can provide your dog with all the protein they need in their diet. If you find that your dog doesn’t react well to certain ingredients in their recipes, you can always contact a staff member and let them know what you’d like to change.
Sport Dog Food Active Series Cub Buffalo & Oatmeal Formula Pea-Free Dry Dog Food is quickly becoming well-known as a great brand for people concerned about too many peas in dog foods. Their foods have no peas, flax, corn, wheat, soy, or glutens. They do have multiple proteins from low-ash sources and their foods are high in calories. No eggs or egg product. No artificial preservatives, flavors, fillers, or by-products. They do use sweet potatoes. They use chelated minerals for easier absorption. The first ingredients are Buffalo Meal, Oat Meal, Dried Sweet Potato, Pork Meal, and Coconut Oil. The food has 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat. This is an all life stage formula suitable for puppies and lactating females.
German Shepherd Puppy Food – A Final Word
German Shepherd puppies will grow quickly during their first year. We recommend feeding your puppy four meals per day when he’s very young and then moving to three meals per day. Finally, as he approaches a year old, you can move to two meals per day. Your puppy should be lean and active so watch the calories. A good large breed puppy food or a food for all life stages are the best choices.