9 Best Dog Food For Hunting Dogs in 2021 (Reviews + Buying Guide)

Mike PowellEdited by: Mike Powell
Abby TexasReviewed by: Abby Texas

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall for Hunting Dogs: Orijen High-Protein Dry Dog Food
“Orijen High-Protein Dry Dog Food has high-quality ingredients and a good recipe range without poultry that makes it a top choice for your hunting dog. It has biologically appropriate nutrition so it has all the good stuff your dog would be chewing if he lived in the wild.”

Best For Dogs With Allergies: Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Dog Food
“Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Dog Food is available in a variety of flavors so you can give your dog delicious meals without compromising his diet. This is the best limited ingredient option that gives your dog all the nutrition he needs to stay healthy.”

Best Value for Money: Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Recipe
“Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Recipe is a surprising premium-quality dog food at a lower price. It contains healthy ingredients like pumpkin, Omega fatty acid, vitamin A, superfoods, and easy to digest carbs.”

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Hunting dogs are specially trained dogs with specific nutritional requirements to accommodate a highly active lifestyle. These dogs demand high concentrated protein and high quality fat which serves as fuel source for their physically demanding activity. They also need joint-fortifying supplements and immune-boosting nutrients which completely rounds up the best dog food for hunting dogs.

Whether your hunting buddy is a terrier, a hound, or a retriever, the foods in this list should be able to provide exactly what they need.  

Product Name
Best Overall for Hunting Dogs
Best For Hunting Dogs With Allergies
Rank
Ranked #1
Ranked #2
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
ORIJEN Dry Dog Food for All Breeds, Regional Red, Grain Free & Chicken Free, High Protein, Fresh & Raw Animal Ingredients, 13lb
Canidae PURE Grain Free, Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food, Lamb and Pea, 24lbs
Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Real Meat Recipe High Protein Dry Dog Food With Real Cage Free Chicken Protein 40Lb
Rating
Our Rating 93 / 100
Our Rating 91 / 100
Our Rating 90 / 100
Pro 1
High in protein with added joint supplements
Variety of flavours available, making it easy to avoid ingredients that may be a problem
Extremely affordable for a highly nutritious dog food
Pro 2
High-quality ingredient list which does not include low quality food fillers
Good levels of glucosamine and chondroitin in all recipes
Contains a significant amount of glucosamine and chondroitin
Best Overall for Hunting Dogs
Rank
Ranked #1
Thumbnail
ORIJEN Dry Dog Food for All Breeds, Regional Red, Grain Free & Chicken Free, High Protein, Fresh & Raw Animal Ingredients, 13lb
Rating
Our Rating 93 / 100
Pro 1
High in protein with added joint supplements
Pro 2
High-quality ingredient list which does not include low quality food fillers
Custom Button
Best For Hunting Dogs With Allergies
Rank
Ranked #2
Thumbnail
Canidae PURE Grain Free, Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food, Lamb and Pea, 24lbs
Rating
Our Rating 91 / 100
Pro 1
Variety of flavours available, making it easy to avoid ingredients that may be a problem
Pro 2
Good levels of glucosamine and chondroitin in all recipes
Custom Button
Best Value for Money
Rank
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Real Meat Recipe High Protein Dry Dog Food With Real Cage Free Chicken Protein 40Lb
Rating
Our Rating 90 / 100
Pro 1
Extremely affordable for a highly nutritious dog food
Pro 2
Contains a significant amount of glucosamine and chondroitin
Custom Button
Sources researched
18
Sources researched
Customer reviews
16,745
Customer reviews
Hours spent testing
14
Hours spent testing
Products tested
9
Products tested

Best Dog Food For Hunting Dogs

Here are our top picks for the best dog food for hunting dogs:

  1. Best Overall for Hunting Dogs: Orijen Grain Free Dry Dog Food
  2. Best for Dogs with Allergies: Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food 
  3. Best Value for Money: Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Dry Dog Food
  4. Best for Growing Hunting Dogs: Acana Grain Free Dry Puppy Food
  5. Best Immune Defense Dog Food: Victor Classic Hi-Pro Plus Dry Dog Food
  6. Best Raw Diet for Hunting Dogs: Stella & Chewy’s Raw Dog Food Toppers
  7. Best for Healthy Digestion: Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Dry Dog Food
  8. Best for High Energy Dogs: Wholesomes Performance Dry Dog Food
  9. Best for Senior Hunters: Solid Gold Dry Dog Food

1. Orijen Grain Free Dry Dog Food

Best Overall for Hunting Dogs: Comes with a high concentrated amino acid profile that keeps your hunting dog’s muscles strong and healthy

ORIJEN Dry Dog Food for All Breeds, Regional Red, Grain Free & Chicken Free, High Protein, Fresh & Raw Animal Ingredients, 13lb
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PROS

  • High in protein with added joint supplements 
  • High-quality ingredient list which does not include low quality food fillers
  • Delicious flavor variety that includes choices without poultry 
  • Has added supplements for digestive support and skin & coat boost

CONS

  • May be too low in fat for highly active dogs 
  • Somewhat pricey 

Orijen Grain Free Dry Dog Food is a high-protein, biologically appropriate dog food, which aims to replicate the typical diet that dogs have in the wild. It contains essential ingredients that keep your hunting dog’s energy levels high, muscles maintained, and joints strong.

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High Protein & Fairly High Fat 

All 3 of the recipes contain 38% protein and 18% fat, which is well within the recommended amount for most hunting dogs. The two non-chicken flavors also contain no hidden poultry, which makes them safe for dogs who may be sensitive to it.

2. Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food 

Best for Dogs with Allergies: Contains very few, highly nutritious ingredients that help avoid common allergens

Canidae PURE Grain Free, Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food, Lamb and Pea, 24lbs
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PROS

  • Variety of flavours available, making it easy to avoid ingredients that may be a problem 
  • Good levels of glucosamine and chondroitin in all recipes 
  • Slow-burning carbohydrates for extra energy 
  • Great Omega fatty acid levels for extra immune support 

CONS

  • Fat content may be a little low for active dogs 

If your hunting dog is sensitive to certain ingredients and you want a dog food that is made of as few ingredients as possible, this limited ingredient recipe is definitely worth checking out. There are only 10 key ingredients in this dog food, all of which come from premium quality sources. You can guarantee your hunting dog is getting all the nourishment he needs to support his extremely physical lifestyle.

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Flavour Variety 

Even with his food intolerances, your pooch will not get bored with all the available flavor variety in this recipe range. You can choose from Bison, Chicken, Duck, Lamb, Salmon, Wild Boar, and Lamb, Goat, & Venison, as well as chicken flavors for puppies, seniors, and dogs that require weight management. 

Protein & Fat Counts 

Each recipe contains a good amount of carbs for long-term energy, but they vary a little in protein and fat content. The protein range for the recipes vary between 25% – 32%, which falls well within the recommended range for hunting dogs.

3. Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Dry Dog Food

Best Value for Money: High protein, nutrient-rich dog food at a budget friendly price

Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Real Meat Recipe High Protein Dry Dog Food With Real Cage Free Chicken Protein 40Lb
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PROS

  • Extremely affordable for a highly nutritious dog food
  • Contains a significant amount of glucosamine and chondroitin 
  • Great quality slow-burning carbohydrates 
  • Perfect protein and fat counts for an active hunting dog 

CONS

  • May not be suitable for pups who are sensitive to chicken 

Your dog can get enough nutrition plus more in this Extreme Athlete Recipe from Diamond Naturals.

It contains 32% protein and 25% fat which are perfect for a hunting dog. Adding the glucosamine and chondroitin in the mix, plus a good mount of Omega fatty acids, vitamin A and E, and L-carnitine, it’s really more than what you can expect from a dog food at this price point.

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Top Range Quality 

For a lower-priced food, you may be surprised at the premium quality of the stuff that’s in this food. Chicken meal is ingredient number one but it’s closely followed by whole chicken, which are great protein bases for a recipe. 

There’s a ton of easily digestible carbohydrates sources in this food, including superfoods like kale, quinoa, and coconut. Pumpkin is a great slow-burning veggie which will provide some sustained energy, as will rice. 

4. Acana Grain Free Dry Puppy Food

 Best For Growing Hunting Dogs: Nutrient-dense, high protein formula specifically formulated for puppies being trained to hunt

Acana Dry Dog Food for Puppy, Grain Free, Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Cage-Free Eggs, 25lb
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PROS

  • High-quality, all-natural ingredient list 
  • Premium levels of protein and fats for a growing puppy 
  • Contains DHA and EPA for optimal brain and vision development 
  • Nice Omega fatty acid and joint supplement levels to support a large, hunting dog frame

CONS

  • Not suitable for puppies who can’t tolerate chicken, peas, or lentils 

If you’re grooming your dog to be the best hunting buddy, you got to start at a young age. The Acana Grain Free Dry Puppy Food is the perfect puppy-specific dog food to give them while they’re learning to hunt. It has just the right amount of protein to give them great muscle growth support. It also has a high fat content that is crucial in active, growing pups.

This dog food is made from locally sourced ingredients, so you can be confident about the quality of protein, fruits, and vegetables added in it. It’s biologically appropriate which means they’re as close as can be to the typical diet that natural hunting dogs have.

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Puppy-Specific Extras 

You’ll find the necessary DHA for brain and eye health, as well as EPA, which is a fatty acid that has many benefits. The Omega levels are right where they should be, and there’s a nice dose of joint-strengthening supplements which is helpful even from an early age. 

5. Victor Classic Hi-Pro Plus Dry Dog Food

Best Immune Defense Dog Food: Formulated with ingredients that promote healthy digestion and strong immune system

VICTOR Classic - Hi-Pro Plus Dry Dog Food
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PROS

  • Great protein and fat levels for hunting dogs 
  • Good Omega fat levels for extra immune and skin health support 
  • Contains DHA and L-carnitine, which are essential for brain development
  • Improves metabolic function and speeds up cellular regeneration

CONS

  • Not suitable for dogs who have ingredient sensitivities due to the presence of multiple proteins

Victor Classic Hi-Pro Plus Dry Dog Food has a multi-meat formula coming from high quality animal ingredients. It brings an amazing blend of amino acids which is responsible for healthy muscular development that is vital for all hunting dogs. It’s packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that work together to fortify your hunting dog’s immune system.

It’s extremely safe and nutritious that it’s highly recommended for growing puppies, pregnant and lactating females, and high-performing hunting dogs.

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Superb Nutrients Minus Glucosamine 

You’ll find perfect protein and fats in this food (30% and 25%), as well as nice Omegas, DHA, Vitamin E, and L-carnitine.

There are specific instructions for when your transitioning your pup to this dog food so be sure to check the packaging for additional details.

6. Stella & Chewy’s Raw Dog Food Toppers

 Best Raw Diet for Hunting Dogs: Freeze dried dinner morsels that adds flavor and texture as well as amazing supplements to your dog’s diet

Stella & Chewy's Stella's Solutions Hip & Joint Boost Cage-Free Chicken Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food, 13 oz
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PROS

  • High in protein and fats, perfect as an addition to normal kibble 
  • Plenty of useful additions, including joint supplements 
  • Raw nutrition with highly digestible ingredients
  • Rich in omega fatty acids for a healthier skin and coat

CONS

  • Slightly pricey 
  • Only available in chicken flavour (other flavours are different recipes and don’t contain joint supplements, although they have their own benefits)

If you need a clever way to get your picky hunting dog to eat his food, adding delicious dinner morsels like this one will definitely work. Not only will it add an exciting texture and flavor to your dog’s usual kibble, it will also give his joints an extra boost, which is fantastic for hunting dogs.

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High Protein, Fat, & Great Extras 

This kibble topper is raw food that contains 40% protein and 23% fat. These are amazingly high for a dog food topper. Aside from these main nutrients, this recipe contains a significant amount of DHA and EPA, extra vitamin E, lovely Omega 3s, and best of all, L-carnitine to assist with metabolism and energy regulation, and glucosamine and chondroitin for joint strength.

7. Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Dry Dog Food

Best for Healthy Digestion: Ancestral canine diet that eliminates digestion related health concerns

PROS

  • Premium quality ingredient lists on every flavor 
  • High in protein from premium quality animal sources 
  • Contains slow-burning carbs 
  • Good levels of joint-strengthening supplements

CONS

  • None of the recipes are poultry-free (although one does contain turkey instead of chicken) 
  • Somewhat pricey 

These raw-infused recipes are high in all the essential nutrients, contain no grains or gluten, and have some of the highest Omega fatty acid counts. If your dog enjoys the raw flavor and texture, Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Dry Dog Food would be an awesome option.

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Variety of Recipes, with Glucosamine 

Choose between 6 different recipes (or a puppy recipe or a large breed-specific recipe). They’re all slightly different, although the nutrients are very similar (38% protein, 17% fat, some of the highest Omega levels, and a great splash of glucosamine for joints). 

This is a kibble/raw mix, which means it has a little something extra to a normal kibble. There are some freeze-dried raw bits mixed into the dry kibble, which are super digestible, minimally processed, packed with nutrition, and add a little bit of texture and taste that normal kibble wouldn’t otherwise have. 

8. Wholesomes Performance Dry Dog Food

Best for High Energy Dogs: Single-protein meal from organically sourced chicken that supports exceptionally active lifestyles

PROS

  • Specifically designed to support dogs with high energy levels
  • Free of high-moisture proteins—its only protein source is chicken
  • Fortified with omega fatty acids to keep hunting coats silky and full

CONS

  • None of the recipes are poultry-free (although one does contain turkey instead of chicken) 
  • Somewhat pricey 

It should go without saying that hunting dogs require a lot of energy throughout the day. As such, the Wholesomes Performance Dry Dog Food is ideal for distributing a slow release of energy that active dogs can easily maintain. 

Its natural vegetable fibers promote excellent digestive health, while rice inclusions soothe easily disturbed bowels. 

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SPORTMiX’s 16% fat inclusions allow your athletic dog to normalize bodily functions, recovering more quickly after a long day. This optimal source of energy also increases nutrient absorption and dulls inflammation.  

This kibble is also fortified with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which keep your hunting dog’s coat in tip-top shape all year round—no matter the weather!

9. Solid Gold Dry Dog Food

Best for Senior Hunters: Highly digestible formula incorporates whole proteins, spinach, and sweet potato to aid senior hunters as they age

PROS

  • Specifically formulated for older hunting dogs with compromised gut health
  • Made locally without any fillers, corn, wheat, gluten, or grain
  • Highly digestible formula is ideal for senior dogs with sensitive stomachs

CONS

  • None of the recipes are poultry-free (although one does contain turkey instead of chicken) 
  • Somewhat pricey 

As your senior dog ages, it becomes less active and requires increased weight management. Fortunately, the Solid Gold Dry Dog Food is formulated especially for aging hunters ready for retirement. 

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Its grain and gluten-free recipes are gentle on dogs with irritable bowels, allergies, or food aversions. Ideal fat, calorie, and protein levels keep your dog feeling satisfied without the risk of unnecessary weight gain. 

The antioxidant-rich spinach and superfoods in this recipe will keep your senior feeling healthy and energized throughout the day. 


Basic Nutritional Needs of Hunting Dogs

Hunting dogs are the elite athletes of the canine world. They have specific nutritional needs, and in order to keep them in optimal health, you’ll need to make sure these needs are met. 

Your hunting dog will most likely need a high daily calorie intake to support their active lifestyle. This will vary from dog to dog, but you can get a good idea of how much your dog will need by using the guidelines on the back of the dog food packaging. If your pup starts to look chubby or scrawny, you can adjust up or down. 

As a rough idea, a 50-pound, active hunting dog will burn around 1400 calories a day when they’re NOT out and about hunting. This number can go up to 2200 on a hunting day. You’ll need to make sure you’re feeding enough cups of food per day to cover this number! 

The fat content of the food is going to be the first thing you need to check out. This is the most easily burned nutrient for rapid energy, so a diet high in fat is necessary for these pups. 20% should be the minimum number you see on a dog food label. 

Protein is also essential to keep those hard-working muscles maintained. It’s crucial that animal protein makes up the majority of the protein content in the food, and is from high-quality, identified sources. 30% and upwards is a good number for these active pooches. 

It’s a good idea to go for foods with carbohydrates that provide sustained energy, such as potato, sweet potato, squash, or other veggies. Be sure to avoid low-quality stuff like wheat, corn, and soy. 

Hunting dogs also need a joint supplement in their daily food. You can buy glucosamine supplements separately, but many foods come with it already added in, which is a bonus. 


How to Choose the Best Dog Food for Hunting Dogs

1) Fat Count & Quality

When it comes to producing energy, fat is the single most important nutrient for dogs. It may sound backward, but it’s true – it’s the most quickly and easily processed by your pup’s body, providing an easy-to-access abundance of energy, which is especially important for active hunting dogs. 

Animal fats are the number one choice here and should be the first fat seen on any great food for hunting dogs. Take note that they should be named and identified, such as “chicken fat” or “pork fat”. Anything worded in general terms, like “animal fat” or “poultry fat” is best avoided. 

You should choose food containing about 20% fat. You can go a fair bit higher if your hound is very active. 

2) Carbohydrate Quality

You don’t often see carb content on a dog food label, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Fats are the more essential nutrient when it comes to energy production, but it’s still imperative that you select a food containing high-quality carbohydrates. 

Carbs help regulate your pet’s blood sugar, and so although you don’t need to pay much attention to the percentage of them in the food, it’s important to make sure that the carbs that are included are of super quality and will be good for your pooch. 

Things like sweet potatoes, squashes, and brown rice are great options that provide long-term, sustained energy and keep that blood sugar, allowing your pup to do his hunting thing for longer and feel better while doing it. 

3) Protein Count & Quality

Hunting dogs’ muscles get a good workout on any given day, so the protein in your dog’s food should be of high enough quality and content to maintain muscle mass and keep them tough enough for the amount of exercise they get. 

Animal protein is essential. Meat meal is acceptable (as long as it’s been identified), but some pets may struggle to digest it. It is almost 4 times higher in protein than whole meat, though, so it depends on your pup’s needs! 

An active dog will need around 30% protein. You can go a little up or down depending on the activity level of your pooch, but 30% is a great level to aim for if your pup is active in a hunting sense. 

4) Important Supplements

These pups work hard and play hard, and it tends to take a toll on their bodies. The best dog food for hunting dogs should contain supplements that will help ease the strain on your pup’s body, including the immune system, muscles, and joints. 

Glucosamine and chondroitin are always wonderful to see on a dog food label. They provide a much-needed strength and stability boost to a dog’s joints, which is great for hunting dogs as many of them tend to suffer from joint dysplasia. 

Other things that are beneficial for just about all dogs include DHA (especially for puppies), EPA, vitamins A and  E, and L-carnitine (which assists with energy regulation and metabolism). 


Questions & Answers

How many calories should my hunting dog be eating? 

This will depend on the dog – a beagle is definitely not going to need the same amount of calories as an Irish wolfhound, no matter how active he is. It will also depend on the day – a hunting day’s calories will differ from a rest day. 

If you consider that a 50-pound pup would need 2200 calories on a hunting day, and 1400 on a rest day, you can get a pretty good estimate of your own dog’s needs by adjusting that number. 

Changes in weather conditions also affect caloric intake. If you’re hunting on a snowy, cold day, your pup is going to burn more energy than on a warmer day. For every 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) that the temperature drops, you should increase your fluff’s calories by about 7%. Remember, when it warms up again you should decrease accordingly.

How often should I be feeding my dog, and when?

Hunting dogs can differ somewhat when it comes to feeding schedules. Although you can feed your everyday pup a few cups of kibble a couple of times a day, when it’s hunting season, you will need to pay more attention to when you feed your pooch. 

It’s recommended to get your hunting dog into the habit of eating once a day. This may sound horrendous to us humans, but dogs’ metabolisms do well with this, as it can take up to 12 hours to digest their meal. 

If your pup is not hunting the following day, you can split this into two meals if you wish. The day before the hunt you’re going to want to feed them just once – in the evening so that by the time the hunt begins, their food will be digested and they’ll be burning those fats for energy.

Never feed your pup on the morning of the hunt. High activity levels on a full stomach can not only be uncomfortable for your pup and slow him down out in the field, but it can also actually be dangerous, increasing the risk of gastric torsion. It also won’t digest in time, so your pooch won’t even end up using those precious calories and nutrients for the hunt.

Wait an hour or so after your hunting day to feed your pup so their heart rate can normalize. 

Are there ingredients I should avoid? 

This will depend on your pup’s tummy. Some dogs are sensitive to poultry, some to grains, while others can chow through anything and suffer no side effects. 

Pay attention to how your pooch reacts to their food, and if they show any sort of discomfort, you may want to do some experimenting with different flavours. Bear in mind that “beef” flavoured foods might still contain chicken on their ingredient list, so if you’re going to be trying to avoid an ingredient, you will need to do some proper examination of dog food labels before you buy. 

It’s always a good idea to avoid foods containing wheat, soy, or corn products as these are often hard for dogs to digest. Other than that, anything artificial or synthetic has no place in a food and should be steered clear of. 

What are some common health problems seen in hunting dogs? 

The lifestyle of a hunting dog is hard on the body, so it makes sense that one of the most common problems in hunting dogs is joint issues. Arthritis and joint dysplasia are both painful and debilitating conditions, so extra care should be taken to support and maintain your pup’s joints. 

The deep-chested Irish Setters and others like them can be prone to gastric torsion, which is a potentially fatal condition. Although this is generally caused by your pup eating too fast or too much, it can be caused by feeding your pooch improperly or at the wrong time in relation to his activity, so you need to be extra careful here. 

Hunting dogs can also be susceptible to bacterial infections that they may pick up around the countryside as they’re out and about. You’ll need to make sure their immune system stays as strong as possible. Omega fatty acids and probiotics and prebiotics in their food are helpful to keep their immune system healthy. 

Should I change my hunting dog’s diet when it’s not hunting season? 

As mentioned above, you should change your pup’s calorie intake on days when they aren’t hunting. You can stick to the same food, though, as long as it’s high quality and nutritious!

Mike Powell

Mike is an avid dog lover and writer. He’s based in Los Angeles, CA where he grew up in a household surrounded by pets. He’s been a dog owner all his life and he uses this extensive experience of having dogs as part of his family to share valuable, practical tips to improve other people’s dog parenting experience.