What Food Can A Dog Eat? 21 Healthy Foods for Dogs

21 Healthy Foods for Dogs

What food can a dog eat? 

This is often one of the first questions I get from new puppy owners. It's normal to feel some stress or trepidation about it. The good news is that it’s not too complicated to determine what they should eat and I’ll be happy to share some great tips with you. 

Here’s the first tip:  It’s actually more complicated to help them choose what NOT to eat! And I can help you with that too.

Puppies love to explore the world with their mouths. This usually makes mealtime a breeze, but it can also make it difficult to keep them out of trouble! Just like human babies, they put a lot of things into their mouths. But unlike human babies, they are mobile long before their brains are fully developed! 

So now you have a lightning-fast vacuum cleaner that can move all by itself. This is a recipe for disaster! Or just an opportunity for training. As a certified trainer with 20 years of experience, I look at these situations as training opportunities!

Not only are these puppies mobile, with noses and mouths that are naturally only a few inches off the ground, these curious puppies don’t have a lot of impulse control until they grow and mature. They have to be taught that resisting temptation is the best choice.You might be faced with some vet bills or some close calls if your puppy ingests things they should not. 


puppy chewing a shoe


When I worked at the vet’s office, we saw so many canine patients who had ingested items they should not have. This includes clothing – especially socks and stuffing from toys and beds. It always made me sad when a dog needed uncomfortable surgery to remove these items – and the owners had to foot a pretty high bill!

There are things that a puppy must eat in order to keep him or her healthy and happy. Our primary responsibility as puppy owners is to make sure that they are getting all the right nutrients. After all, you are what you eat and that’s the same for our dogs. 


The majority of a puppy’s food intake should be puppy kibble. 

Dog food designed for puppies contains the necessary nutrients they need for growing minds and bodies. Most puppies eat kibble designed for young dogs for at least the first 6 months of their life. After that time, with the advice of your vet, you might transition him to adult dog food. 

As we work through training, we can use a part of a dog’s meal for rewards, and we can also find some tasty treats that could motivate him for those especially hard tasks! But be careful with those treats. No more than 10% of a dog’s daily allowance of food should come from treats.

owner giving dog a treat


The best thing to do is measure out the daily allotment of kibble and then estimate the amount of treats he can have. Then use that amount for the day’s worth of meals and training and rewards! That helps prevent accidentally overfeeding your pup. 


What type of dog food should I buy? 

The first thing I want you to know is that your dog is not a vegetarian. If you believe strongly in the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, that’s totally fine, but your dog’s health needs require meat to be a part of their well-balanced diet. 

Just like with food for humans, there are many differing opinions on the best food for our dogs. 


So how do you choose the best food for your dog?

It requires doing your own research and testing to find the food that works best for your dog because, like humans, each dog reacts differently to foods.

As part of your research, you can definitely ask your vet for his or her opinion, but you should know that many vet offices receive incentives if they promote or use specific foods. 

If you’re thinking of researching online, I’d like to suggest you check out All About Dog Food. I’m picky about my dog’s food and the sources of information that I trust and this site is a favorite because it is thorough and provides accurate, up to date information about dog food ingredients, manufacturers, and the dog food industry in general.

After you’ve selected a dog food to try, it’s important to slowly transition your pup to your chosen brand and watch carefully to see how your dog reacts. 


Signs that your dog isn’t tolerating the new food well

Of course watch for obvious signs like vomiting and diarrhea. And also watch your dog’s behaviors like how settled or anxious he might be, the quality of his poo – and even how much he goes to the bathroom. Sometimes you may see your dog excessively itching. It’s possible that it could be a food allergy. 

If your dog has an issue with the brand or protein source you likely will notice health and/or behavior changes soon after introducing the new food. 

Keeping a log of your dog’s daily activities and any new behaviors you notice will help you pick up patterns that signal a potential issue. This works for potty training too!


How much food should a dog eat? 

How much to feed your dog will depend on many factors, including size, weight, age, breed and activity level. Just like with humans, we have to fuel our dogs for what they’ll be doing that day. If you are taking your dog on long hikes and walks, he’s going to need more fuel. 

How much to feed him will also depend on what you’re using for food. The label on the dog food bag should be one of your guides, as each food has a different caloric makeup. 

Keep in mind that manufacturers want you to buy more of their product so their recommended levels may be on the high end. Be sure to check if the portions are per day or per meal. You don’t want to overfeed or underfeed your dog. 

Did you know that over 54% of American dogs are overweight because they are eating poor quality diets and are being overfed? 

The quality of the food plays a big role in his diet as well. When you are looking at the ingredients list on the back of the bag, be sure to look at the first 3-5 ingredients to ensure the ingredients are something you recognize and not just fillers. 

Fillers are ingredients like corn or rice and have no nutritional value. These foods are fine as treats or toppers, but should not be considered part of important puppy nutrition. Fillers will likely leave your dog hungry for more and you’ll be picking up a whole lot more poop than is necessary.


nutritious foods


Did you know that over 54% of American dogs are overweight because they are eating poor quality diets and are being overfed? 

The quality of the food plays a big role in his diet as well. When you are looking at the ingredients list on the back of the bag, be sure to look at the first 3-5 ingredients to ensure the ingredients are something you recognize and not just fillers. 

Fillers are ingredients like corn or rice and have no nutritional value. These foods are fine as treats or toppers, but should not be considered part of important puppy nutrition. Fillers will likely leave your dog hungry for more and you’ll be picking up a whole lot more poop than is necessary.

Many foods have lots of salt, sugars and colors in them. These kinds of foods are not healthy for your dogs.  

Remember that ingredients are usually listed in order from greatest amount to least. If you don’t recognize one of the ingredients as something wholesome and nutritious then you should pass on that brand. There are so many to choose from, take some time to do this research before you need to feed your dog!

When choosing a dog food, consider if you want to use wet or dry food, or a combination of both.  Wet or dry foods alone can be a complete meal or can be combined to complete the meal. 

Keep in mind that wet foods contain a large amount of water, so you’ll have to adjust the quantities higher to make sure your pup is getting enough. This often makes it a more expensive option. And it could impact potty training!

Potty training is probably one of the first things you’ll be working on when that new puppy comes home. If it seems like a mystery on how to get him to go potty outside, check out my free New Puppy Starter Kit for all the best tips on potty training. I have several videos with lessons on the fundamentals of potty training, and also how to get your puppy to ring bells to alert you that he needs to go outside.

How often should your dog eat?

How often to feed your dog really depends on his age and the advice of your veterinarian. 

Growing puppies need to eat more often because their tummies are too small to eat all the calories they need to stay healthy and active. When young puppies have an empty stomach for too long they might throw up a yellow foamy bile. This is not harmful but, just like when you’re too hungry, it could affect your pup’s mood (including unwanted behaviors like biting), his ability to focus on training and his ability to sleep. 

So most puppies are fed three times a day, unless they’re going through a growth spurt and temporarily need to eat a little more. 

Around the 6 month mark I often recommend feedings drop to twice a day. You may want to transition by taking half of the midday meal and splitting it between the morning and evening meal for a few days before eliminating the midday meal altogether. All puppies are different, so you may have to adjust the transition amounts if your puppy is having a hard time with the switch. 


Is human food good for dogs?

Many human foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can really irritate a dog’s digestive system, sometimes even causing health problems. But other human foods are great for dogs and provide an incentive or reward during training. 

In my private Facebook group we recently did a challenge with students enrolled in my online course. Puppy parents were tasked with giving their dog a taste test of human foods that were safe for dogs. We wanted them to learn more about their puppy’s preferences. 

Some pups ate anything their owners offered them. Other pups definitely held out for the good stuff. Pups and owners alike had a lot of fun and my students got some new ideas on what foods to try with their puppy. 


What are good human foods for dogs? 

Foods that are safe for your dogs are chicken, cinnamon, coconut, corn, oats, peanut butter, plain yogurt and more!


What vegetables can a dog eat? 

Some great veggies to offer to your dog are peas, broccoli, corn, green beans, and carrots. These can be raw or cooked but make sure there are no seasonings like salt or pepper or garlic. 


What fruits are good for dogs? 

Try these fruits and see which ones your puppy likes: apples (no seeds), bananas, blueberries, cucumbers, mango, pears, watermelon, and strawberries!

A few foods to never feed your dog are grapes and raisins, chocolate, garlic, onion, olives, apple seeds, and alcohol. These foods present a choking hazard or can be toxic to dogs. Some foods, like tomatoes, can be fed in moderation and in some forms but not all!


foods you should never feed your dog


What can puppies eat?

Puppies can eat any of the foods that are safe for dogs, but when they are young, it’s important to offer new foods much more slowly than you would an adult dog. 

Puppies have sensitive stomachs and need to transition or be introduced to a new food a little at a time. When offering a new food, make sure it is a small amount and offer only one new food at a time when they are young. That way you can observe any issues your puppy has with the food. Space new foods out by a few days at least. 

I recently switched foods for two of my dogs. I noticed that Harper, my Great Dane, was becoming very itchy on the brand she was eating. So we did a massive amount of research looking for foods that didn’t contain chicken or tons of fillers like rice and barley. And we finally decided on a new brand. 

We switched to the new food over the course of 3 weeks. Yes! Three weeks! From watching carefully, I knew that new foods often cause a reaction in my dogs, so I am always extra cautious when introducing something new, and I take it really slowly to minimize any stress or discomfort. 

When you first bring your puppy home from the breeder or rescue, try to bring home some of the food they are eating. Even if you decide to switch to a different food, use the old food as part of the transition if you can.

I suggest you resist the urge to doctor up your puppy’s food. If he’s not eating he may be overwhelmed (especially if he’s new to your home), he may have sore gums, an upset stomach, or he may be holding out for something better. 

Puppy kibble contains the most nutrients and we don't want to teach our puppies that if they don’t eat, they get something better next time. When it’s mealtime, put down the food for 10-15 minutes. Then pick up any remaining food and make it part of the next meal but don’t give more than the normal amount. 

All dogs are food motivated, but it might take a few meals for them to get the idea that they should eat what is served at the time it is served. 

If your pup is eating too fast you can use various slow bowl feeders, puzzle toys, and enrichment activities such as snuffle mats to slow down the eating process. While these things may slow the consumption rate you will need to work on your pup’s excitement level around food, and impulse control. This will take time and training. 

Even if your dog is getting all the proper nutrition and amount of food, he still might be picking up extra things and gobbling them down – like cucumbers

You can – and you should – train your dog to not eat everything they encounter. Your puppy needs to think before just acting on every impulse. And you can do this by teaching him impulse control.

The other part of addressing this behavior will be managing your puppy’s environment so that the right choice is the easiest choice. That means restricting your puppy’s access so he can’t constantly get at the things he should not have. 

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Before I knew about training, we let our dog Bear have access to the backyard and garage while we left for the day. What a mistake that was! 

He ended up pulling 3 full-size paint cans off a shelf in the garage. They crashed to the ground and broke open. 

I came home to what looked like a murder scene because red paint and been splashed everywhere and Bear was happily prancing around showing off his artistic abilities. He dragged the white paint out to the yard and made a disastrous mess. 

Lesson learned, no more free roam when we weren’t home! 

Just as we do for our human babies and toddlers, we need to restrict access and contain our pups when we are not able to directly supervise them. We put up baby gates until children are safe to navigate stairs. We put covers on outlets and locks on toilet seats. We do this for safety to protect our precious children and it’s the same for your puppy. 

Teaching impulse control can be done in a fun way that both the human and canine enjoy. But there’s a right and a wrong way. 

The lessons have to start in a very basic way and build up as the puppy is successful. It’s not usually intuitive for humans to teach in this way but in my online course I break it down into fun training games. You – and your puppy – won’t even realize you’re in training!

30 Days to Puppy Perfection Online Training Program


Even if a food is listed as safe for a dog, it’s always important to pay attention to how YOUR dog responds. Dogs can have or develop food allergies and if you are paying proper attention to his bathroom habits, energy levels, unwanted behaviors, and body language, you’ll be better able to notice if he’s not feeling well. 

Being a puppy detective takes time and training. I can help you with that! It’s an investment of time and resources from the humans, but having a healthy, happy, and well-mannered puppy makes it all worthwhile!


Michele Lennon with her dream dogs

About the trainer

Michele Lennon

After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.