Choosing a Good Dog Food

By Jean Cote | Food & Treats

Feeding your dog is the most fundamental way to care and to promote a healthy life for your dog. Good dog food will help your dog fight diseases and to keep him healthy.

It is of no surprise that the majority of dog owners spend more money on dog food than any other expenses for their dog. But choosing a brand or type of dog food can sometimes be confusing. A dog food that has a label “Premium”, “Premium Ultra”, or “Holistic” does not guarantee that the food was prepared using high quality ingredients. So the more you know about commercial dog foods and what the label means, then it become easier for you to choose a good dog food brand for your dog.

There are basically two choices of commercial dog foods. There is either the kibble type or the canned type dog foods. Both contain mostly the same ingredients, but the kibble type had the water removed through the process of extrusion or baking. This gives the dog food a crunchy appeal while at the same time ensuring a long shelf life. The water is kept in canned dog foods, so it must be sealed in a can to keep it fresh.

Here are some Pros and Cons of both:


  • Less expensive than canned dog food.
  • Has a very long shelf life.
  • Does not require refrigeration after opening.
  • Available in many flavors, types and formulas.
  • Usually keep teeth cleaner.
  • Ability to buy in bulk.


  • May contain more vitamins & enzymes due to the fact that the food did not go though the process of extrusion.
  • Long shelf life (with the can unopened).
  • Easier to chew and picky eaters like it better.
  • Must refrigerate any remaining food.

The label on the packaging can tell you a lot of information regarding the quality of the dog food. On the front you should see the brand of food, whether it is for puppies, adults or seniors. But also on the bag, you will find additional text that will describe in greater details the content of the food. This is usually found in the back or the side of the bag of kibble.

Within this text, you should find a list of ingredients that was used to manufacture the dog food. Although the amount of each ingredient is not listed, the manufacturers must list each ingredient in descending order according to weight. So if the first ingredient on that list is rice, then the food contains more rice than any other ingredient. If chicken is the first ingredient, then there are more chicken than any other ingredient. Dogs require a high-quality protein so they usually do better on dog foods that have meat ingredients listed in the first two ingredients.

Below is a list of common ingredients found in good dog food along with a short description:

  • Animal fat (Chicken or Beef): Fat obtained from the tissue during the process of rendering and extracting.
  • Grains: This usually includes one of the following: whole, ground, cracked, barley, wheat, rice, oats, brown rice or any other grains.
  • Meat by-products: The parts of slaughtered mammals other than meat. This includes lungs, kidneys, brains, livers, blood, bones and intestines.
  • Meat or fresh meat: The flesh which includes muscles, tongue, heart and skin.
  • Poultry: The flesh and skins of poultry, it may include bones or not.
  • Poultry by-product meal: The rendered parts of poultry, this includes necks, feet, intestines.

As you can see from this list, it is best to avoid the dog foods which contain by-products. Usually the more expensive brands of good dog food contain better ingredients, but you should always read the list of ingredients.

Also, the majority of good dog food manufacturers will print their website address on the packaging, which you can usually find additional information about the brand and dog food, like how it was prepared and whether or not it contains by-products.

If you are currently feeding your dog a brand of dog food and you wish to switch to a new brand, you will first need to transition your dog to the new food. Begin by mixing your dog’s daily food amount with half of the new brand and half of the old brand. This will usually avoid diarrhea and other common problems that occur when changing dog foods.

About the Author

Jean Cote is an animal lover and the founder of the Dog Trick Academy. For more than a decade, he has served as a coach to thousands of dog owners around the world to better train, communicate and forge a stronger bond with their dog using positive and force-free training methods.

  • Anonymous says:

    I used to feed my dog food with a lot of by-products like you mentioned – I didn’t know the difference until I switched to a natural dog food with real meat (chicken) as the first ingredient. She’s been eating Synergy for almost a year and does great with it – loves it too. It doesn’t take long to read labels and pick better nutrition for your dog – I’m so glad I did – and there are so many companies like Natural Balance that make really healthy kibble for a reasonable price.

    • Jean Cote says:

      Thank you for sharing. In my opinion, the more plain and natural the food is, the better it is. 🙂

  • >