Australian Shepherd about to eat dinner.

Working Dog Food - The Best Nutrition For Active Canines

Our #1 Pick

Petzyo

Gentle Dog Trainers No.1 Dry Dog Food

Petzyo Dry Dog Food Kangaroo & Sweet Potato

  • High protein content
  • Hemp seed oil helps with joint support
  • Rich in fibre
  • Suitable for both puppies and adults

Working dogs require proper nutrition to give them strength and stamina to fulfil their daily tasks. But with tons of different formulas on the market, choosing the right one can be difficult.

In this article, we’ll cover all the ingredients you should look for in working dog food, as well as what are some of the best recipes on the market nowadays.


Working Dog Nutrition: Everything You Need To Know

Do working dogs need a special diet? The truth is it depends. The needs of each dog depend on many factors, one of which is the activity level. Dogs who go through long hours of strenuous exercise such as herding dogs need a diet that will provide enough energy that will support them through the day. Most regular dog food formulas won't cut it in this case. On the other hand, support and therapy dogs might not need an overly caloric diet, even though they perform valuable tasks.

In this guide, we’ll focus on dog food formulas that are designed with high energy requirements. We all know that lots of protein is good for canines, but feeding only meat is not enough, especially in the case of working dogs. Fats and carbohydrates are equally important sources of energy, and it’s crucial to achieve the right balance of all of them to fulfil a working dog's nutritional needs.

Protein

A quality source of protein is a must for any dog food. In the case of working dogs, this is even more important as it will offer the necessary support for maintaining their muscle mass. You’ll ideally want to see meat and organs at the very top of the ingredient list. Clearly named ingredients is always a good sign, as opposed to ambiguous listings such as ‘meat meal’. The former is invariably a sign of cutting corners with the quality of the source ingredients.

According to the AAFCO guidelines, the diet of an adult dog should contain at least 18% of protein. Working dogs will need more, so look for feed with higher protein percentages - ideally around 25%. Going any higher than 30% is not necessary, though, as it will not be useful for the dog (1).

Fats

Fats contain twice as many calories as proteins or carbs. While we might be inclined to think about too much fat as something ‘bad’, in the case of working dogs, food with generous fat contents will help support prolonged physical activity.

“In dogs, carbohydrates stored as glycogen do play a role in short bursts of exertion — say, that needed to chase a squirrel up a tree — but exercise that lasts for more than a few minutes relies primarily on fatty acids as fuel. Therefore, owners need to pay particular attention to how much fat their canine athletes consume.” - Jennifer Coates, DVM for PetMD

Many ‘active dog’ formulas follow this logic, so don’t be surprised if you see they contain 20% fat or even more. For very active dogs, this can be quite beneficial.

Carbs

If you’re into fitness at all, you’ve probably heard of the term ‘carb loading’ which is thought to help athletes increase endurance. When it comes to dogs, this does not work. As mentioned above, fat and protein are the main source of energy for canines.

Still, that doesn’t mean that carbs aren’t important. During digestion, they’re broken down to glucose, which is the necessary source of energy for the central nervous system to work properly (3). So while a dog’s body doesn’t need carbs, it needs glucose. That’s why a well-balanced diet for working dogs should include good carbs as well. Look for recipes that feature natural sources of carbs such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.


Top 6 Best Working Dog Food In 2022

Petzyo Dry Dog Food Kangaroo & Sweet Potato
  • High protein content
  • Hemp seed oil helps with joint support
  • Rich in fibre
  • Suitable for both puppies and adults

Nutritional Analysis:

Protein

26%

Fat

12%

Fibre

4%

Petzyo - 5 Star Rating

  • Ingredients: Kangaroo Meat, Lentils, Peas, Sweet Potato, Chicken Oil, Kangaroo Offal, Sunflower Oil, Tomato, Basil, Flax Seed Oil, Kelp, Turmeric, Blueberry, Chicory, Taurine, Hemp Seed Oil, Fish Oil, Green Tea.
  • Named Protein First: Yes.
  • Dog Food Type: Grain Inclusive.
  • Recipe Range: Kangaroo, Sweet Potato & Superfood Extras or Salmon, Ocean Fish & Green Lipped Mussels or Chicken, Turkey & Superfood Extras or Petzyo Raw Food Range
  • Suitable For: Petzyo's recipe range can be suitable for puppy, adult and senior dogs depending on the recipe
  • Cost: $$$
  • Australian Owned: Yes.

If you want to feed your pooch with the best working food on the market (which also happens to be our overall best dog food), you can’t go wrong with Petzyo. This brand has a couple of formulas available, but this kangaroo recipe has the right nutritional value for working dogs.

The number one ingredient is kangaroo meat, which is one of the best options for active canines. Kangaroo is a lean red meat that’s higher in protein than other types of meat. It’s also rich in healthy fats, iron, zinc and B vitamins.

The Petzyo Dry Dog Food Kangaroo & Sweet Potato being tested by our independent expert team.

Petzyo Dry Dog Food Kangaroo & Sweet Potato being tested.

One of the star ingredients is hemp seed oil. It’s rich in omega fatty acids which are crucial for joint support and overall immune system health. As for veggies, this formula contains sweet potatoes and peas. They’re high in fibre and vitamins such as A, B6 and C. Together, these compounds help support the nervous, digestive and immune systems.

Related: Petzyo Dog Food Review.

There are tons of superfoods included in this recipe, such as kelp, blueberries and turmeric. They are all natural sources of antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. And since Petzyo makes dog food in small batches, you’re sure to always buy a bag of fresh kibble.

Verified Review - 06/12/2021
"Both my dogs love this kibble. One is a greyhound and they have sensitive tummies. She has been great on the kangaroo kibble."

Pros

Cons

  • High protein content
  • Limited recipe range
  • List Element
  • List Element
  • Hemp seed oil helps with joint support
Cell
  • Rich in fibre
Cell
  • Suitable for both puppies and adults
Cell

Meals For Mutts Grain Free High Performance Turkey
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Turkey meat is good for bone and muscle health
  • Uses natural preservatives
  • Rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids

Nutritional Analysis:

Protein

32%

Fat

20%

Fibre

4%

Meals for Mutts - 4 Star Rating

  • Ingredients: Turkey meat, chickpeas, seasonal vegetables, alfalfa, natural fats and oils, omega 3, 6 & 9, coconut oil, egg, kelp, turmeric, parsley, probiotics. Also contains Yucca schidegera extract and natural flavours and is preserved using natural vitamin E and rosemary oil.
  • Named Protein First: Yes.
  • Dog Food Type: Grain-free
  • Recipe Range: Duck & Turkey or Kangaroo & Lamb or Salmon & Sardine + more
  • Suitable For: Dogs of all ages depending on the recipe
  • Cost: $$$
  • Australian Owned: Yes.

This formula by Meals For Mutts is specially created to provide proper nutrition to dogs that are very active, whether it’s racing, pulling sleds or engaging in agility training. The key to an ideal formula for working dogs lies in the proper blend of BCAA's (branch chain amino acids), glutamine and creatine. When each of these compounds is added in a correct ratio, they improve the dog’s muscle development and endurance.

The first ingredient on the list is turkey meat, a named protein. Turkey is lean white meat, and as such it’s great for building muscles. It’s also rich in niacin, which helps in converting proteins, fats and carbs into energy. Turkey is also a natural source of minerals and compounds that improve bone health, such as calcium and glucosamine.

The Meals For Mutts Grain Free High Performance Turkey being tested by our independent expert team.

Meals For Mutts Grain Free High Performance Turkey being tested.

Moreover, his grain-free formula is great for dogs with allergies. Turkey is hypoallergenic, and so are all the veggies used in the recipe.

Aside from turkey, this recipe also contains lots of plant-based protein from chickpeas and alfalfa. The result is a whopping 32% of crude protein. Is so much protein necessary? Not really. But many working dog owners found it works, especially with very large active dogs.

Verified Review - 4/01/2020
Meals for Mutts Grain Free Performance Dry Food
"My two Tibetan Mastiff’s thrive on this dog food. Their coats are glossy and they are very healthy and energetic."

Pros

Cons

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Only sold in large packaging of 9 and 20kg
  • Turkey meat is good for bone and muscle health
  • List Element
  • Uses natural preservatives
Cell
  • Rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids
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  • Grain-free
  • Balanced nutritional profile
  • Tailored specifically for puppies
  • Contains probiotic cultures
  • Yucca extract helps with poo odour

Nutritional Analysis:

Protein

28%

Fat

17%

Fibre

5%

Taste of the Wild - 3.5 Star Rating

  • Ingredients: Water buffalo, lamb meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), egg product, roasted bison, roasted venison, beef, natural flavor, tomato pomace, potato protein, pea protein, ocean fish meal, salt, choline chloride, taurine, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, natural probiotics, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Named Protein First: Yes.
  • Dog Food Type: Grain-free
  • Recipe Range: Chicken or Mackerel & Lamb or Beef + more
  • Suitable For: Dogs of all ages depending on the recipe
  • Cost: $$$
  • Australian Owned: Yes.

All recipes by Taste Of The Wild are based on the protein sources from your pet’s ancestral diet. The formula we’ve chosen for this list is High Prairie, which features water buffalo as the number one ingredient. With 28% of protein, you can rest assured this recipe will give your pooch the required energy for performing daily tasks. It’s AAFCO certified, meaning it meets all the nutritional needs of a growing pup.

This grain-free formula contains sweet potatoes and peas as the main sources of carbs and fibre. These ingredients are also high in vitamins A, B and C, as well as iron and potassium. They’re also high in antioxidants, which boost the immune system and help with healthy growth.

The Taste Of The Wild High Prairie Puppy being tested by our independent expert team.

Taste Of The Wild High Prairie Puppy being tested by our review team.

A healthy digestive system is crucial for all dogs, but especially for young pups. For that reason, every recipe from this brand contains more than 80 million live probiotic cultures that are native to a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. It also contains yucca schidigera extract, which reduces the smell of your dog’s poo.

Verified Review - 3/08/2021
Our Puppy Is eating better.
"We were feeding our Husky mix another puppy food recommended by the breeder. Loki was only nibbling on the food throughout the day. We were feeding our older dog TOTW canned food and mixing a little in with Loki’s food, but he was still not eating well. We have gradually switched him over to TOTW High Prairie puppy food and he’s eating much better. Unfortunately we recently lost our oldest dog, and since we have some TOTW canned food available we are mixing a bit more in with his dry food."

Pros

Cons

  • Grain-free
  • Some find the kibble too small for large dogs
  • Balanced nutritional profile
  • List Element
  • Tailored specifically for puppies
Cell
  • Contains probiotic cultures
Cell
  • Yucca extract helps with poo odour
Cell

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel and Lamb
  • Top-quality protein sources
  • Rich in omega fatty acids
  • Can be used as either a complete meal or a topper
  • Naturally preserved

Nutritional Analysis:

Protein

43%

Fat

25%

Fibre

2%

Ziwi Peak - 4.5 Star Rating

  • Ingredients: Mackerel, Lamb, Lamb Heart, Lamb Tripe, Lamb Liver, Lamb Lung, New Zealand Green Mussel, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Bone, Lecithin, Inulin from Chicory, Dried Kelp, Minerals (Dipotassium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Selenium Yeast), Salt, Parsley, Preservative (Citric Acid, Mixed Tocopherols), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid).
  • Named Protein First: Yes.
  • Dog Food Type: Grain-free
  • Recipe Range: Lamb, Mackerel & Lamb, Venison, Beef, Tripe & Lamb, Free-Range Chicken + more
  • Suitable For: Dogs of all ages
  • Cost: $$$$$
  • Australian Owned: No (but NZ owned)

Unlike conventional kibble, Ziwi Peak dog food is made through an air-dry process, which kills the bacteria while preserving all the beneficial ingredients of raw meat. And speaking of meat, Ziwi Peak recipes have all their protein sources named. Not just that, the brand also states which part of the body was used for the specific formula.

All proteins are ethically sourced. Lamb is grass-fed and free-roaming the pastures of New Zealand, while blue mackerel is wild-caught from the remote waters of islands.

The Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel and Lamb being tested by our independent expert team.

Ziwi Peak Dog Food being tested by our review team.

Aside from having a high protein and fat content, this dog food is ideal for working dogs because it contains green-lipped mussels. This mussel, which can only be found along the coast of New Zealand, is naturally rich in omega fatty acids. They’re also rich in glycosaminoglycans that can help with arthritis pain.

Related: Ziwi Peak Dog Food Review.

This dog food contains no fillers or artificial preservatives. Instead, it’s naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols. This, however, also means its shelf life is about two months, which is shorter than most conventional food. This is something to keep in mind when choosing the packaging size.

Verified Review - 4/09/2021
Family favourite
"Always a favourite for our dogs. Super nutritious and good for reduced mess."

Pros

Cons

  • Top-quality protein sources
  • Expensive
  • Rich in omega fatty acids
  • List Element
  • Can be used as either a complete meal or a topper
Cell
  • Naturally preserved
Cell

#5: Best Grain-Free Option: Ivory Coat Lamb And Kangaroo

Ivory Coat Lamb And Kangaroo
  • Grain-free formula
  • High protein content
  • Contains superfoods rich in antioxidants
  • Uses natural preservatives
  • No useless filler

Nutritional Analysis:

Protein

36%

Fat

18%

Fibre

5%

Ivory Coat - 3.5 Star Rating

  • Ingredients: Lamb Meal, Kangaroo Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Dried Lamb, Dried Kangaroo, Pea Fibre, Tomato Pomace, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), ground flaxseed, salmon oil, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, spinach, parsley, apples, blueberries, vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, D3, E, Beta-Carotene, Niacin, d-Calcium pantothenate, Biotin, Folic Acid, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Manganese, Copper, Natural Prebiotic, Rosemary Extract & Green Tea Extract.
  • Named Protein First: No (but lamb meal is ok)
  • Dog Food Type: Grain-free
  • Recipe Range: Lamb & Kangaroo, Chicken with Coconut Oil, Lamb & Ocean Fish, Turkey & Duck + more
  • Suitable For: Dogs of all ages depending on the recipe
  • Cost: $$
  • Australian Owned: Yes.

Ivory Coat offers a wide range of grain-free recipes that have a high protein and fat content. They’re all great for working dogs, but this formula with lamb and kangaroo meat is the best option for working dogs. All of their dog foods meet the Australian standards and those of the AAFCO, meaning they’re balanced for everyday feeding.

Aside from protein, this recipe also contains lots of fibre sources such as sweet potatoes, peas, kale, broccoli and tomato pomace. These veggies are also high in vitamins A, B, C and K, as well as minerals such as magnesium, iron and zinc. All of these are necessary for the proper functioning of a dog’s immune system.

The Ivory Coat Lamb And Kangaroo being tested by our independent expert team.

Ivory Coat Lamb And Kangaroo being tested by our review team.

Blueberries, which are considered superfoods, are also full of vitamins and minerals. They also have more antioxidants than any other fruit, and as such, they help by reducing recovery time after heavy exercise. Thanks to the high level of phytochemicals, blueberries reduce inflammation in chronic diseases.

Related: Ivory Coat Dog Food Review.

This recipe contains no grain, wheat or fillers. It also has no added flavours or artificial preservatives and uses rosemary and green tea extracts instead. This formula works especially well for dogs with sensitive stomachs or gluten sensitivity.

Verified Review - 4/09/2021
My dogs love it
"Finally found a brand that my dogs love and eat without fuss. They are satisfied with a smaller amount than other brands I’ve tried and already their coats are becoming shiny."

Pros

Cons

  • Grain-free formula
  • Lamb meal is ok, but there are better options
  • High protein content
  • List Element
  • Contains superfoods rich in antioxidants
Cell
  • Uses natural preservatives
Cell
  • No useless filler
Cell

Stockman and Paddock High Performance Dry Beef Food
  • Australian beef meal as the main ingredient
  • Balanced nutritional profile
  • Whole food ingredients rich in vitamins and fatty acids
  • Features prebiotics for gut health

Nutritional Analysis:

Protein

26%

Fat

16%

Fibre

5%

Stockman and Paddock - 3.5 Star Rating

  • Ingredients: Australian Beef Meal, Australian Wheat, Australian Wheat Meal, Australian Hydrolysed Chicken Protein, Australian Beef Fat, Beet Pulp, Natural Flavour, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Flaxseeds, Dry Chicory Root, Choline Chloride, Essential Vitamins (A, D, E, B1, B6, niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, B12) and Minerals (zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium) and Antioxidants.
  • Named Protein First: No (but beef meal is ok)
  • Dog Food Type: Grain inclusive
  • Recipe Range: Grain-free or Working Dog
  • Suitable For: Adult dogs
  • Cost: $
  • Australian Owned: Yes.

Stockman and Paddock might not have tons of different recipes available. But what it does have is a formula that offers complete and balanced nutrition, specifically designed for active Australian dogs. With 26% protein and 16% fat, this recipe will keep your working pooch in peak condition.

There are no shady ingredients in this formula. First on the list is a named protein, Australian beef meal. But aside from a high protein level, this dog food is also rich in carbs and fibre.

The Stockman and Paddock High Performance Dry Beef Food being tested by our independent expert team.

Stockman and Paddock High Performance Dry Beef Food being tested by our review team.

This dog food is rich in essential vitamins including vitamin D, whose primary function is to maintain a healthy level of calcium. It also contains B1, which is a vitamin dogs need but don’t produce themselves. B1 helps regulate energy and carbohydrate metabolism, so maintaining a high level of this vitamin is essential for working dogs.

Flaxseed is also worth mentioning, as it’s high in omega fatty acids. These acids help with reducing inflammation and relieving pain, which is crucial for working dogs. Flaxseed is also high in antioxidants which help in promoting a dog’s long-term health.

Verified Review - 14/08/2021
Good value with good fat and protein content
"WGot a rescue Greyhound with a healthy appetite. The nuts are quite big which are good for his teeth. Fat and protein values seem good. The kibble also agree with his stomach as his stools has a good consistency. We used to feed him grain free kibble mainly because it also left him with an easy to pass stool. However, the latest research indicates that a grain free diet is associated with a particular heart disease in dogs so I started looking for something else."

Pros

Cons

  • Australian beef meal as the main ingredient
  • Limited recipe range
  • Balanced nutritional profile
  • List Element
  • Whole food ingredients rich in vitamins and fatty acids
Cell
  • Features prebiotics for gut health
Cell

Final Verdict

The best working dog food must have a proper nutritional balance to keep them active and healthy. We’ve found that Petzyo dog food has the right amount of protein and fat most working dogs need.

It also contains all the essential vitamins and minerals that improve overall health. In case you’re looking for a grain-free option, you can’t go wrong by choosing the Meals For Mutts High-Performance recipe.

FAQ

How to transition my dog to new dog food?

To avoid upsetting your dog’s stomach, you should introduce the new food gradually. To do this, you should mix old and new kibble with a 4-to-1 ratio, and gradually increase it over the course of seven days.

Do working dogs need grain-free food?

Some might claim that dogs don’t need grains in their diet. While that’s open for debate, we can’t say that grains are bad for dogs in the right amounts. In fact, they can be a source of important vitamins and minerals.

Can dogs have too much protein?

While protein is an important part of any dog’s diet, more doesn’t necessarily mean better. Dogs can’t store excess protein, so it has to be excreted. What this does is put unnecessary strain on the dog’s liver and kidneys.

References

  1. 1) Tupler, T. February 01, 2021. “Dog Nutrition: Guide to Dog Food Nutrients.” PetMD. Retrieved December 6, 2021. https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_whats_in_a_balanced_dog_food
  2. Coates, J. September 12, 2014. “Dietary Fat is Important for Athletic Dogs”. PetMD. Retrieved December 8, 2021. https://www.petmd.com/blogs/nutritionnuggets/dr-coates/2014/september/dietary-fat-important-athletic-dogs-31984
  3. PetMD Editorial. Oct 19, 2011. “Carbohydrates: Key to a Balanced Dog Food.” PetMD. Retrieved December 6, 2021. https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_carbohydrates_key_to_balanced_dog_food
Vedrana Nikolic

Vedrana Nikolić is a professional writer, anthropologist & dog lover with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying the communication between animals and humans. Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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