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9 Best Dry Dog Foods

| Published on March 2, 2024

Reviewed by: Dr. Theresa Fossum

Reviewed by:

Dr. Theresa Fossum

Meet Dr. Theresa (Terry) W. Fossum, DVM, MS. Ph.D., Diplomate ACVS – a remarkable animal lover whose passion for animal care and innovative solutions has left an indelible mark on the veterinary world. As the CEO of both Phoenix Animal Wellness and Epic Veterinary Specialists, she's ensuring dogs and cats receive the highest level of care and compassion.Read more
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When choosing the best dry dog food brand for your dog, there’s a lot to consider. In recent years, dry dog food has gotten a bad rap – and it’s not entirely without reason. But several fantastic companies are giving us a reason to give kibble another shot. These dry dog food brands are putting their heart into the kibble they make, with a focus on the health and well-being of the pups we love.

What Are the Top Health Benefits of the Best Dry Dog Food?

Dry dog food has been a hit with pet parents since the 1940s when it was first introduced to the market, and it’s easy to see why.


Dog kibble can be sold in bulk, so there are fewer trips to the store. It’s often more affordable than other options available to pet parents, and there are many recipes to choose from. Dry dog food is more convenient to store than other options that may take up a lot of space in your refrigerator. Unlike fresh and raw food diets, your dog’s kibble can be stored in any dry place.

It also stays fresh longer than most other dog food options. Whereas unopened frozen food can be stored in your freezer for up to six months, dry dog food can be stored for up to 18 months in an unopened container. Fresh food that has been opened must be eaten within four days. However, your pup’s kibble will stay good once the seal is broken for up to two weeks.

Healthy Teeth

One surprising health benefit of dry dog food is cleaner teeth! The dry, crunchy kibble requires dogs to chew more than they would wetter, softer foods. The rough texture of dry dog food will actually scrape away some plaque that may be present on your dog’s teeth. This can help reduce the chance of periodontal disease caused by tartar buildup – though, you should still brush your dog’s teeth regularly to maintain good dental health.

Best Dry Dog Food Buyer’s Guide

AAFCO recommends that pet parents educate themselves on how to read packaging labels properly; however, we picky pet parents know that labels can be deceiving. Veterinarian Dr. Kathryn Primm, DVM, writes,

“I used to think that I could make decisions about my dogs’ nutrition based on the food labels because I felt comfortable knowing that labeling is government regulated. I was a wise consumer – or so I thought.”

Many people rely on the ingredients list, expecting the largest-volume ingredients to be listed first. We’ve since learned that this method is unreliable. But there are still a few things you can find on the label that will help you make a good choice. 

Where are their ingredients sourced?

Look for a dry dog food that sources its ingredients from the United States or Australia. Many companies will attempt to cut costs and maximize profits by using cheaper ingredients from overseas, but this practice has led to several recalls and other issues in the past wherein foreign ingredients were tainted with toxic, non-edible items. Be aware that there is a difference between “sourced” and “made” in the U.S.A. Your dog’s dry food might be “made” in the U.S.A. but could still be using cheap, lower-quality ingredients from other countries. 

Does this food meet AAFCO guidelines?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, has set standards for complete and balanced food for dogs in different life stages. For a dog food company to claim their food is “complete and balanced” for a specific life stage, they must first validate their claim through nutrient content analysis or AAFCO-compliant feeding trials. Feeding trials are more costly and time-consuming but are the preferred validation method. Many brands will state on their website whether their food meets AAFCO standards, but you can also find the information on 

Ingredients to Avoid

One of the reasons dry dog food has become less popular in recent years is due to the use of preservatives and fillers that are not ideal for consumption. Many dry dog food brands are still using some ingredients meant to extend the shelf life of their kibble, bring down the cost of production, and make your dog feel fuller longer. These may sound like good things, but the trade-off is in your dog’s health. Some preservatives and additives are known carcinogens and cause issues like obesity, liver failure, and even cancer in dogs. Keep an eye out for the following in the ingredients list:

  • BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)
  • BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
  • Ethoxyquin
  • Nitrates/Nitrites
  • Propyl Gallate
  • Carrageenan
  • MSG
  • Sodium Hexametaphosphate

Quality dry dog food will not cut corners or use cheap fillers and preservatives in their products. Find more ingredients to avoid in our list of 10 Ingredients You NEVER Want to See in Your Dog’s Food. Your final choice should be made around your dog’s needs, but this list of the ten best dry dog food brands is a good place to start your search. 

Best Dry Dog Foods

1. The Honest Kitchen

The Honest Kitchen doesn’t just do kibble; they’re making clusters. These tasty whole food clusters are made with 100% human-grade ingredients that are cold pressed, roasted, and then dehydrated. This process is meant to keep the nutrients in the food where we want them and keep all the flavor your dog will love. They have a variety of flavors and formulas, including grain-free and options for small-breed dogs and puppies. 

  • Made with 100% human-grade ingredients
  • Whole grains
  • Careful cooking method maintains nutrients, aroma, and taste of ingredients
  • No artificial preservatives, feed-grade by-products, fillers, GMO ingredients, corn, wheat or soy

Deals & Offers: New Customers can receive 30% off orders $30+ with code IHEARTDOGS30.

AAFCO Statement: The Honest Kitchen foods tested in our trial are substantiated to provide complete and balanced nutrition according to the procedures for feeding trials as established by AAFCO.

2. Spot & Tango

Spot & Tango Unkibble close up

Spot & Tango Unkibble is a unique dry dog food option that uses fresh, whole ingredients in a convenient, shelf-stable form. It has four recipes (Cod + Salmon, Beef + Barley, Chicken + Brown Rice, and Turkey + Sweet Potato) that are complete and balanced for both puppies and adult dogs. The recipes use a unique fresh dry process to preserve the flavor and nutrients of the food. This process is more convenient and affordable than frozen fresh food.

Pet parents interested in Unkibble can fill out a quick 3-minute questionnaire about their dog to get personalized meals shipped right to their door. This food avoids artificial preservatives, fillers, and additives so you can feel comfortable about the ingredients going into your dog’s tummy.

Spot & Tango Unkibble
  • 100% fresh, whole ingredients in a shelf-stable form
  • Take a 3-minute quiz to get personalized meals
  • No artificial preservatives, fillers, or additives
  • All recipes are balanced for puppies and adult dogs
  • Get 50% off - use promo code: IHEARTDOGS50

AAFCO Statement: All the recipes meet or exceed the AAFCO Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages, including growth of large size dogs (>70 pounds or more as an adult) by formulation and by analysis of the finished product.

3. A Pup Above

A Pup Above is best known for its delicious fresh dog food, but they make great dry dog food too. Their “cubies” are made with whole ingredients that are gently dried to provide a convenient, healthy dry dog food for your pup. A Pup Above Cubies comes in four mouth-watering flavors to please even the pickiest pup’s palette – Turkey Pilaf, Porky’s Porchetta, Chicka Pupatouille, and Beef Pot Roast.

Try A Pup Above and get $50 off your first order of $100 or more with code IHEARTDOGS.

For those who want to offer their dog a little variety, you can order a combination of dry and fresh food. This brand doesn’t provide a personalized service like some of the other brands, but you can save money if you get a subscription. A Pup Above can deliver your dog’s delicious meals to your door, or you may be able to find them at your local store!

  • Made with whole ingredients
  • Gently dried to maintain flavor and nutrients
  • Shipped to your door and available in some stores
  • Superherbs for joint, immunity, and digestive support
  • Only made with human-grade, USDA-certified ingredients

AAFCO Statement: All of our recipes are developed according to the nutritional profiles established by AAFCO. They are Complete & Balanced for Adult Maintenance and meet AAFCO nutrient profiles by formulation and analysis of the finished product.

4. Open Farm

Open Farm is proud to be “obsessive” about sourcing their ingredients. They offer a wide variety of dog food, including dry, wet, fresh, and raw, and every single recipe uses responsibly sourced ingredients. This means humanely-raised meats free from antibiotics and wild-caught, sustainably sourced fish. The farms they work with must adhere to high standards for animal welfare. Why? Because Open Farm knows that protein is essential to a dog’s diet.

Their dry dog food is made with a balance of 90% animal protein mixed with ancient grains. So you know you’re dog isn’t just getting any protein – they’re getting responsibly farmed, better-for-the-planet animal protein. Open Farm offers seven different flavors of dry dog food for your adult dog, but you can get them started early with the puppy option – also made with ancient grains.

  • No artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Made with whole ingredients
  • Non-gmo, gluten-free grains
  • No rendered poultry or meat by-products
  • Several flavor options and a puppy recipe

Deals and Offers: Use code “AFF20” for 20% off your first auto-ship purchase.

AAFCO Statement: Open Farm dry food recipes are formulated to meet the nutritional levels estimated by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages except for the growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs or more as an adult).

5. Redbarn

Redbarn knows your dog loves meat, and they love your dog, so they make sure every recipe includes high-quality animal proteins in the first five ingredients. And because they hand-select only the healthiest ingredients, you can bet their foods are free from artificial chemicals and preservatives.

Every scoop supports healthy digestion and skin while giving your dog a beautiful, shiny coat. Redbarn foods also help your pup maintain heart health. Plus, your dog will think every mealtime is a treat thanks to tasty recipes made with poultry, beef, and seafood.

For over 25 years, Redbarn has been a family-owned business that makes their food right here in the USA. And buying food from Redbarn means supporting worthy causes, as this company with heart donates food, treats, and chews to shelters, rescue groups, and pet-related organizations to help support animals in need.

  • First 5 ingredients are high-quality animal proteins
  • Ocean, Land, & Sky Recipes available in whole grain & grain-free options
  • Made In the USA with globally sourced ingredients
  • 24% - 29% crude protein, depending on the recipe
  • Every scoop supports healthy organs & a beautiful, shiny coat

Deals and Offers: 15% off food with code IHEARTFOOD15

AAFCO Statement: Redbarn embraces AAFCO guidelines because it’s what’s right for our dog and cat pet parents.

6. Merrick

Dog eating Merrick

Merrick’s Classic Healthy Grains recipes are specially formulated to give adult dogs the nutrition they need. All formulas include real animal protein, such as beef, chicken, or lamb, with brown rice. Real meat is always the first ingredient, offering plenty of protein for canines. Dogs on this diet will also get plenty of glucosamine and chondroitin to benefit their joints and omega fatty acids to improve their skin and coat health. This food is proudly made in USA facilities, including plenty of vitamins and minerals while also avoiding foods that could cause issues in dogs, such as potatoes, peas, lentils. The recipes also avoid artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.

Merrick Classic Healthy Grains
  • Uses real meat as the first ingredient
  • Benefits your dog's joints, skin, and coat
  • Made in USA facilities with essential vitamins and minerals
  • Avoids artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives

AAFCO Statement: All of Merrick’s complete and balanced diets are formulated to meet or exceed the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient profiles

7. Orijen

Orijen Pet Foods

Orijen offers dry dog food that’s packed with quality protein. The recipes contain 85% animal ingredients (including meat, organs, and bones), and the first five items on the ingredient list are animal protein sources. For example, the Original recipe has chicken, turkey, salmon, whole herring, and chicken liver as the first five ingredients. Orijen’s products can benefit a variety of areas of your dog’s health, including immune health, digestion, skin, and coat. Suitable for all life stages, this food is grain-free to cater to dogs with grain allergies and sensitivities.

  • Includes 85% animal ingredients
  • First five items on the ingredient list are animal protein
  • Benefits immune health, digestion, skin, and coat
  • Suitable for all life stages

AAFCO Statement: Orijen diets are formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AAFCO for cats and dogs. This ensures that the foods provide complete and balanced nutrition.

8. Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo’s Life Protection Formula comes in recipes that can be fed to your dog for life. There are varieties made for every dog, including small and large breed puppies, adults of all sizes, and senior dogs. Each recipe is made with real meat and whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal. Each recipe meets the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles to support your pup at whatever life stage they are currently in, whether you’re looking for a dry puppy food to support growth, an adult food for a healthy weight, or a senior food to support your aging dog. Blue Buffalo is easily found in your local pet supply store or online. 

Blue Buffalo
  • Made with whole grains and real meat
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for multiple life stages
  • A variety of flavors for your pup to enjoy
  • Conveniently sold by multiple retailers

AAFCO Statement: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula recipes are formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.

9. Instinct

Dog with Instinct Limited Ingredient food

Instinct offers a variety of great dog food recipes, but one of their most notable products is their limited ingredient food. This kibble focuses on one animal protein and one vegetable per recipe to create short ingredient list. That way, if your dog has allergies, you can quickly scan the ingredient list to ensure the allergen isn’t included. These recipes purposely avoid common allergens, such as chicken, beef, eggs, grains, and potatoes. These recipes can benefit your dog’s skin, coat, and immune health thanks to the high levels of omega fatty acids. All the recipes are made in the USA using easily digestible ingredients. Plus, the kibble is raw-coated to enhance the flavor.

Instinct Limited Ingredient
  • Limited ingredient recipe focuses on one animal protein and one vegetable
  • Avoids common allergens
  • Good for skin, coat, and immune health
  • Made in the USA with highly digestible ingredients

AAFCO Statement: Instinct diets all bear AAFCO-specified nutritional adequacy statements, indicating whether the diet is complete and balanced or for intermittent/supplemental feeding, the appropriate life stage for feeding that diet, and how nutritional adequacy was determined.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Dry Dog Foods

How do I choose the best dry dog food?

Though more can sometimes be better, when it comes to the best dog food, having so many options can be overwhelming! What is the best dry dog food? Which dry dog food is the best for my dog? AAFCO recommends that responsible pet parents looking to choose the best dog food keep their pet’s life stage in mind and buy food that will support them at that point. Whereas your puppy will need food for growth, your adult dog will need food for maintenance.

Keep your dog’s health goals, dietary needs, and allergies in mind. You may also want to stick with a brand that isn’t just selling dog food but making it themselves. Many large-scale recalls are caused by manufacturers who produce food for multiple brands. Dog food brands that make their own food in their own facilities can keep a close eye on the source and quality of their ingredients, how the food is prepared, and how their facilities are maintained. These brands often have higher standards for quality and cleanliness. 

Related: Top 13 Dog Food Brands With No Recalls

What is the best dry dog food for small dogs?

When choosing a dry dog food, it’s important to remember that no option is one-size-fits-all. Like humans, our dogs are unique individuals with their own needs. Your dog’s size, weight, activity levels, and health will need to be considered. The best dry dog food for small breed dogs will be different than that for large breed dogs.

A small dog may struggle to chew and swallow kibble meant for a larger breed, so you’ll want to be sure to get a brand made for little mouths. Dry dog food is an excellent choice for small breeds, as small dogs are more prone to dental disease than larger breeds with easier-to-brush mouths. You’ll also want to ensure their food balances nutritional content and volume. Your small dog will need less food to feel full, but small breeds also tend to have high metabolisms. The best dry dog foods for small dogs will be calorie-dense and balanced to ensure your pup gets all the nutrition they need in a smaller serving.

What is the best dry dog food for large dogs?

If cost is high on your list of concerns when choosing a dry dog food, you may want to remember that your large breed dog will eat a lot. The bigger the dog, the bigger the serving they’ll need. For the cost-conscious consumer, dry dog food is a great choice. You may be able to find discounts on dry dog food when you buy in bulk, and you won’t need to find an abundance of space in your freezer to store it.

Make sure, though, that you’re not sacrificing quality for cost. You often get what you pay for when food is concerned. The best dry dog food for your large breed dog will be balanced for big servings, so your dog doesn’t feel hungry between meals. Look for lower-calorie dry dog food, so you can feed your pup servings large enough to keep them satisfied after meals, but you’re not expanding their waistline. Also, you may want kibble big enough that your big dog is encouraged to chew and get those sweet teeth-scraping benefits. 

What dry dog food do vets recommend for dogs?

Veterinarians understand that no two dogs are the same. Still, most agree on a few basic points. Many vets recommend dry dog food with ingredients sourced from the U.S.A. or Australia mixed in small, easier-to-monitor batches. Your vet is also likely to recommend that you keep your dog’s age, health, weight goals, and activity levels in mind.

Many vets will also encourage you to consider your lifestyle – you may be tempted to try cooking for your pup yourself. Most vets understand that this can be difficult to maintain for busy people and recommend a dry dog food diet. All these factors can be a lot to weigh, making it seem impossible to find the right fit. The best thing you can do is speak with the vet who knows your dog best. 

Is a grain-free formula better for dogs?

Grain-free dry dog food may be a better choice in some cases for dogs with digestive issues who find it difficult to digest carbohydrates. You may have heard that carbohydrates are not necessary for a dog’s diet, and while that may be true, carbs are not particularly harmful to dogs. They can help your dog keep from feeling like they’re starving between meals. You may be tempted to give your dog a few extra treats or table scraps or second-guess the portion you’re giving them if they seem like they’re hungry all the time. A few extra calories daily can add up to a lot of added weight before you know it.

Recently, an FDA investigation linked grain-free diets to dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that weakens the heart’s ability to pump blood. Though not every dog who eats a grain-free diet will get DCM, you may want to consult your vet before choosing a grain-free dry dog food for your pup. Grain-free dry dog foods have their benefits and place, but unless your veterinarian recommends a grain-free diet, your dog is likely fine eating a few grains. Avoid cheap fillers like wheat gluten and corn meal, and opt for food that uses whole grains.

Choose the Best Dry Dog Food for Your Dog

There’s no beating dry dog food when it comes to convenience, but the best dry dog food will also be health-forward for your precious pooch. Thanks to these caring companies, we don’t have to sacrifice our pups’ health for the easy store-and-serve convenience of dry dog food. These brands are a great place to start, but whatever brand you choose, make sure you’re keeping your own needs and those of your dog in mind.

Looking for other supplies for a new dog? Check out our comprehensive new puppy checklist!

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