I wholeheartedly believe in feeding a balanced, fresh, raw diet to dogs. But with puppies, since I use food as a reward for training, and because puppies lack the enzymes to digest uncooked food, I feed kibble.

My preferred puppy kibble, and one I carry in my retail section, is Farmina Grain-Free Pumpkin Lamb & Blueberry Puppy Food. It’s the best kibble money can buy. It is a European product with premium ingredients and grass-fed protein.

If you want to save time, take my advice and buy Farmina. If you’re on the fence or wanting to shop around a little, here’s some information to help guide your decision-making.


Reading a Label

Don’t look at the front of the dog food bag. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate what’s on the front of food bags, so companies can make any claims they want to, even if they aren’t true. Catchy words like holistic and organic are meant to lure you in.

Instead, read the label on the back of the bag. That’s where the FDA requires honesty and transparency. Dog food ingredients in the United States are listed in descending order of pre-cooked weight. The first five ingredients typically constitute a significant portion of the recipe.

Look for the following ingredients:

  • deboned protein
  • dehydrated protein
  • whole animal protein
  • named organ meats (e.g., beef liver, chicken gizzards, etc.)
  • protein meal (e.g., chicken meal)
  • animal Fat
  • protein oil

And avoid these ingredients:

  • by-products (aka slaughterhouse waste)
  • non-specific meals (e.g., poultry meal)
  • anonymous meat ingredients (e.g., dehydrated fish)
  • bone meal (corn meal, pea protein, etc.)
  • food coloring dyes
  • animal by-products


Protein, Fat, Fillers and Grains

Protein is the most expensive ingredient in dog food. Dogs are carnivores; they need protein. Quality kibble lists protein as the first and second ingredients with additional proteins in the top 10 ingredients.

In addition to protein, puppies need fat; it contains double the energy that protein does. Look for animal fats in the ingredients lineup.

What dogs don’t need is fillers and grains (carbohydrates). They don’t process carbs like we do. It does them no good; worse yet, it takes a toll on their digestive system.

To figure out how much of a kibble is carbohydrates, look for the Guaranteed Analysis label on the food. Add up the protein, fat, fiber and moisture contents, then add in ash (if it’s not listed, assume it’s six percent). Subtract that from 100. The number you end up with is how much of the food is carbohydrates and fillers. Ideally, you want around 30 percent filler foods or less.


Which Protein is Best?

Hooved animals are generally the best, most natural protein source for dogs. This includes lamb, beef, boar, venison and elk. Pig too, but I don’t feed much pig meat to my dogs.

If your dog has a food intolerance, it’s most likely an intolerance to chicken. If you feed chicken to your dog and notice that he seems itchy, eliminate chicken from his diet and see if that helps! (When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.)

I recommend starting your puppy on lamb, beef, venison or elk as opposed to chicken or turkey. Fish is good, too, as an alternative protein source. 


Is Grain-Free Better?

Long story short, no. If you look into it, you’ll see that going grain-free was a trend that was backed by opinions, not science. To date, to my knowledge, there is zero research supporting a grain-free diet. On the contrary, the FDA unearthed some information back in 2018/2019 that linked dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs with certain grain-free foods.

My philosophy is “Everything in moderation." I feed my dogs grain-in and grain-free kibble in training. And I put them on a balanced, fresh, raw diet – as nature intended – as soon as puppy training wraps up.


Kibble Size

Whichever kibble you choose, make sure the kibble itself is a decent size. For a medium to large breed puppy, a kibble that’s approximately the size of your pinky fingernail is good. Anything smaller causes problems when it falls out of your hand and onto the ground. You want your dog’s focus on you, not the floor!

For Farmina puppy food, with a medium to large sized dog, I feed the Mini size first for one bag. Once that bag is gone, I upgrade to the Medi/Maxi size.

Happy training!


This information is an excerpt from The Puppy Head Start Program© Module 2 (Preparing for Your Puppy). Content is copyrighted. Do not use copyrighted work without expressed written permission from Valor K9 Academy or you will risk being liable for copyright infringement.