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Affectionately nicknamed the Aussie, the Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized breed known for their intelligence and herding ability. They’re also very active dogs, so the best food for Australian Shepherds is a high-quality food formulated for active breeds, high in protein and higher-than-average fat.
Despite the name, the Australian Shepherd was actually developed in the United States. They’re closely related to the Border Collie and more distantly related to the Collie and the Shetland Sheepdog. Though they’re known for their herding skills, Australian Shepherds are highly versatile due to their trainability and eagerness to please. If you’re looking for a dog that learns quickly, loves to play, and gets along well with children, consider the Aussie.
Read on for more about this active breed’s nutritional needs, as well as our picks for the best dog food for Australian Shepherds.
The Basics of Canine Nutrition
A healthy diet for dogs consists of protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals. Protein is the foundation, supporting growth and development in puppies and helping adult dogs maintain lean muscle mass. Fat is a concentrated source of calories and helps your dog absorb fat-soluble vitamins. They need a collection of vitamins and minerals, some of which can come from healthy carbohydrates; however, your dog has no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends that dog food have a minimum of 22% protein for canine growth and reproduction (puppies and lactating females) and an 18% minimum for adult dogs. For fat, these numbers are 8% and 5%, respectively.
To meet these requirements, feed your dog a high-quality food made with real, whole-food sources of these nutrients. Animal protein should be at the top of the ingredients list, for example. Keep in mind that not all dog foods have the same calorie content, so compare the calories per cup to feeding recommendations according to your dog’s age and weight.
AAFCO standards exist to encourage commercial pet food products to adhere to minimum nutritional requirements; however, checking for an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy on the label is mostly a way to weed out the really bad dog foods. The statement itself isn’t a wholesale guarantee of quality.
It’s worth putting in the time and research to better understand the world of dog food. Here are some great educational resources on the topic:
- Our in-depth guide, Decoding Dog Food: Your Guide to What You’re Really Feeding Your Pet
- How to Read a Dog Food Label, by the American Kennel Club (AKC)
- The Dog Food Project, an online reference with exhaustive information about everything from dog nutrition to common dog food ingredients to avoid
Understanding Your Aussie’s Nutritional Needs
With an average weight range between 35 and 65 pounds, the Australian Shepherd walks the line between being a medium and a large breed. Like all dogs, the Australian Shepherd requires a high-quality diet rich in animal protein with a healthy balance of essential fatty acids to provide energy as well as support for the breed’s thick double coat.
Carbohydrates provide a supplemental source of energy as well as fiber for healthy digestion and essential nutrients. Remember, however, that dogs have a limited ability to digest plant materials. Make sure any carbohydrates in your dog’s diet are nutritious and highly digestible, such as whole grains and fresh vegetables.
Grain-free food has not been proven to be inherently healthier for dogs, and most dogs have no trouble digesting whole grains. Furthermore, the FDA has been investigating a potential link between grain-free diets and heart problems, so it may be best to avoid grain-free dog food unless your veterinarian confirms an allergy or sensitivity that necessitates the switch.
What to Look for in Australian Shepherd Food
To make sure that your Australian Shepherd’s nutritional needs are met, start with a high-quality puppy food or adult dog food.
While the Aussie may be considered a large breed if it grows to more than 50 pounds at maturity, their energy level is higher than many large breeds. This means that the caloric density of large-breed dog food might not be sufficient. If your Aussie is very active, consider choosing an active or working breed formula. These foods will be higher in protein to support lean muscle mass, as well as contain higher fat and calorie content to keep up with their energy.
Here are some additional things to look for in dog food for Australian Shepherds:
- A high-quality source of animal protein. Protein provides the building blocks for strong muscles. It should come from high-quality animal sources to maximize digestibility and to provide the essential amino acids your dog needs.
- Moderate-to-high fat content. Fat provides a concentrated source of energy for dogs in the form of calories. Because Aussies are so energetic, they may require a higher fat content than average.
- Nutritious and digestible carbohydrates. Whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fresh fruits are nutritious and digestible for dogs—they provide dietary fiber, essential nutrients, and energy. Just keep the carbohydrate content low, focusing primarily on animal-based ingredients.
- Wholesome, natural ingredients. Whole-food ingredients are the most nutritious and digestible ingredients for your dog, so avoid dog foods that contain byproducts, fillers, and artificial additives. The shorter the ingredient list, generally speaking, the better.
- Complete and balanced nutrition. Make sure the food you choose carries an AAFCO statement of nutritional quality certifying that the recipe is formulated to meet your dog’s minimum nutritional requirements.
The Best Dog Food for Australian Shepherds
The best dog food for Australian Shepherds features wholesome, natural ingredients and starts with a premium source of animal protein. To help you choose the best option for your Aussie, we’ve compiled a list of our top picks of wet and dry foods for puppies and adult dogs.
Featuring a rich blend of deboned chicken, salmon, and whole grains, this recipe is formulated to meet your puppy’s nutritional needs to give them the best possible start in life.Shop on Chewy
Made with fresh chicken and brown rice, this protein-packed formula also contains Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits, a proprietary blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. There’s also a lamb and oatmeal option.Shop on Chewy
Made with 87% protein from real fish, this formula has a limited ingredient list and is designed to meet the high-energy needs of growing puppies as well as active adult dogs.Shop on Chewy
If you want to start your Aussie off right, try this active breed dog food that’s formulated for both adult dogs and puppies. It’s packed with premium protein and healthy fats to nourish your dog’s body throughout their life. There’s no corn, wheat, or soy, which are potential allergens in some dogs.Shop on Chewy
Why choose one protein when you can have three? This formula leads with chicken, along with a dose of lamb and salmon, to deliver a good mix of proteins for active adult dogs, supplemented with whole-grains, fruits, and veggies that provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber.Shop on Chewy
If you’re looking for an active breed formula that won’t break the bank, this chicken and pork protein, high-fat recipe features wholesome natural ingredients, along with additions such as glucosamine for healthy joints and probiotics for digestion.Shop on Chewy
Made with premium natural ingredients in a protein-rich recipe that starts with pork and chicken, this formula is designed to keep active breeds like Australian Shepherds moving, with added omega fatty acids to keep their skin healthy and their coats shiny. It’s also corn, wheat, and soy-free.Shop on Chewy
Is your dog tired of the same old kibble? Sometimes a little canned food is in order, either on its own or mixed in with dry dog food. This Canidae recipe is formulated for all ages, breeds, and sizes, and starts with real chicken, chicken broth, and chicken liver along with brown rice and barley for nutrient-rich carbs. Other protein options include a chicken, lamb, and whitefish combo as well as a lamb and brown rice recipe (all are also available as dry dog food).Shop on Chewy
This formula is tailor-made for active and working breeds, with 86% animal protein plus a rich blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support your Aussie’s active lifestyle and help maintain that glorious coat.Shop on Chewy
This high-protein formula, designed for herders like Aussies, stands out from the pack with buffalo as its animal protein base. It’s grain-free and legume-free; mineral-rich sweet potatoes comprise the food’s main carbohydrate content along with pumpkin, carrots, and blueberries. It also includes probiotics for healthy digestion, plus additional vitamins and minerals.Shop on Chewy
Got a dog who loves fish? This recipe features fresh salmon as the main ingredient along with Menhaden fish meal, rich sources of protein and omega fatty acids. This line of foods is grain-free and boasts only eight real-food ingredients, along with added vitamins and minerals; in this case that includes sweet potatoes, peas, and alfalfa. Canidae Pure’s other recipes include such animal protein treats as duck, lamb, bison, and goat. The limited ingredients make it a good choice for dogs with food sensitivities.Shop on Chewy
Talk to Your Vet Before Choosing Any New Food for Your Dog
We’ve selected some of the best dog food options for your active Australian Shepherd. But before introducing any new foods into your dog’s diet, we suggest consulting with your vet. Your veterinarian can help you understand any health issues your Aussie may be experiencing and can recommend dog food that best supports their specific health needs. And if you are changing your Aussie’s diet, the AKC has recommendations on how to make the transition to avoid tummy trouble.