Just because a dog food is high quality, doesn't mean your dog will do well on it.
How do you know if your dog is doing well on a dog food? Look at their poop! If their stool is well formed and firm, they are doing well on that food. If it is pretty loose, or your dog is very gassy, there may be a better food for them. Sometimes dogs have loose stools if they have parasites or overgrowth of bacteria, so I rule out a medical reason first by providing your vet with a fecal sample. If they still have loose stool and no parasites or overgrowth of bacteria, I may reduce the quantity fed as sometimes overfeeding will lead to looser stool. If they still have loose stool, I will try a different protein source or a different brand entirely.
If you have assessed your dog's weight and they are lean already, but eating a lot of food (Small dogs 15lbs or less generally shouldn't be eating more than a cup per day, medium dogs 35lbs or less shouldn't generally be eating more than 2 cups per day, 60lb dogs generally shouldn't be eating more than 3 cups per day, and 100lb+ dogs generally shouldn't be eating more than 4 cups per day), I will generally look at the calories per cup or kcal per cup and find a food that has a higher calorie per cup. Foods with a higher percentage of animal protein and fat ratios are also a good choice for very active dogs or ones with high metabolisms. If we can feed a higher calorie food and feed less, another benefit is that our dogs stool is often smaller too!
What to Look for in a High Quality Dog Food:
Animal protein should be in the first 3 ingredients.
It is better if the protein is a protein meal. This is a concentrated form of protein. You can't just go off of a protein percentage on the bag as this includes plant protein as well. Dog food should have more animal protein vs plant protein.
Ingredients should be listed out and specific.
For instance, it is better if the food says "Beef Meal" vs "Animal Meal." This way you know exactly what is in the food and it doesn't change on a regular basis, especially if your dog is sensitive to changes. "By-Products", are not necessarily bad, but again being specific is generally better.
Grain Free vs Grain Inclusive?
This is controversial, but there has been research that says Grain Free diets may not be good for dogs that are predisposed to heart issues.
Calcium to Phosphorus ratio.
This is particularly important for growing puppies, especially those of larger size. You want a Calcium to Phosphorous ratio of around 1:1.2.
How much should you Feed?
I personally tell people to only look at the recommendation on the bag once to get a starting place and never look at it again. Most recommendations are going to be more than you should be feeding your dog. It is a dog food company.. which makes money when you buy food. However, every dog has a different metabolism, just like people. So it is more important to look at your dogs body condition and decrease, stay the same, or increase the quantity based on how they look and feel. For short coated dogs you should be able to see a rib or two, you should easily be able to feel ribs without putting much pressure on the dog. There should be a defined tuck after the ribcage both from above and from looking at the side.
When to switch from Puppy food to an Adult or All-Life Stage? We generally recommend that you start thinking about switching to an adult or all-life stage food around 6-7 months old. This is more important for larger breeds vs small dogs as you want a slow growing puppy for overall bone and joint health.
Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs:
Limited Ingredient Diets.
These foods can be helpful if a dog has a sensitive stomach as it limits the quantity of ingredients that may be causing upset. Generally, they will also have a single protein source, which is helpful to see if your dog is allergic or intolerant to a specific protein. Most often dogs are intolerant to Chicken or Beef.
If feeding a premade raw food that is balanced for dogs, this can be a very healthy food, although often costly. You can also make your own raw diets, but it is very important to balance it properly or you can cause problems with long term unbalanced diets.
Website for Additional Help:
DogFoodAdvisor.com is a good website to get a basic understanding of what is considered good or not good in various foods. However, sometimes ratings are lower on controversial items or food items that aren't necessarily bad vs things that have been proven to be harmful.
I also like to look up the recall history on various brands of food. If a company has a lot of recalls, then I begin to wonder if there is a quality control issue. This can often be found on dogfoodadvisor.com
Some of the foods we or many of our clients have had a lot of success with are:
Purina Pro Plan Sport
Steve's Real Food (Frozen Raw Food)
Stella & Chewy's (Freeze Dried Raw)