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The Best Dog Food and Supplements for Herding Dogs in 2018

Last Updated:
Saturday
July 21, 2018

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When it comes to these lovable breeds, you’re facing more than just a companion in your home: you’re also facing a pet that has some pretty specific needs. Like most high-energy dogs, you’ll find that if you want to keep your border collie or Australian Shepherd in perfect condition then you’ll need to ensure that you’ve got high-quality food and supplements available for them.

It’s not nearly as hard as you think, however, and we’ve made this guide in order to help you find the right food and additives to keep your dog healthy for a long time to come. Let’s get a grip on the meat of the matter, though, and discuss which dogs we’re talking about and what makes them tick.

Special Considerations for Feeding Herding Dogs

There’s really two sets of nutrition for herding dogs: pets and working dogs are going to have much different requirements. Especially since a working Collie or Shepherd is generally going to be a farm dog and hard at work for the majority of the day.

It’s important to take into consideration the level of activity your dog is going to be involved in when it comes down to it.

Fortunately, these dogs aren’t prone to bloat or overfeeding for the most part although we still recommend splitting their meals into a morning and night schedule for the best results.

Puppies should be fed more often for the first year or so of their life and will have higher caloric requirements as they grow. Somewhere in the range of 150%-200% of the indicated resting rate for a dog their size is usually good.

Senior dogs will have slower metabolisms, but the best way to monitor this is simply to be sure your dog isn’t getting obese as time goes on and adjusting food accordingly.

Nutrient Distribution

When it comes to herding dogs even those who are homebound most of the time will benefit enormously from high protein levels. The optimal ratio with fat is around 2:1 for these dogs, although a couple of points of deviation probably won’t affect things in the long run.

For dogs, protein is always going to be the ruler of the roost when it comes to macronutrients. A working herding breed should probably be fed something which comes in at least 30% protein.

Fats are almost as important, especially since they contribute to skin and coat health. Too much fat can be a bad thing, however, and cause damage to the liver and pancreas of the animal in question.

Carbohydrates should be under 30%. The best way to accomplish this is to make sure that you’ve got a grain-free, high-quality food since quite often this ingredient isn’t listed on the package.

Caloric Intake

Herding dogs, while quite active, don’t generally have a much higher metabolism than similarly sized dogs. The recommended base calorie level for a sedentary herding dog is 30 calories per kilogram of bodyweight plus seventy calories.

Working dogs, depending on their routine, will take anywhere from 150% to 250% of that, however, so the best way to handle it is to check your dog regularly to make sure they’re not overweight.

You’ll be able to feel a healthy dog’s ribs, as well as the muscles in their legs and back. An underweight dog will have a hollowed out stomach and diminishing muscles, while on an overweight dog you won’t be able to feel anything through the fat.

Micronutrients

The micronutrients contained within the food are important, but Collies and Shepherds rarely have any specific needs here.

Focus on making sure fiber is 4% for adult dogs and puppies and slightly higher for those who are older and you’ll be fine. Phosphorus should be in a 1.2:1 ratio for ideal bone health, but a little bit of deviation is okay since herding dogs don’t seem to suffer from joint problems as much as most larger breeds.

Top Dog Foods for Herding Breeds

We’ve hand-picked a variety of high-quality dog foods for your herding breed. Collies and Shepherds will thrive on all of the following, as long as you’re careful about caloric intake and keep a sharp eye out for any issues which might arise. Luckily the requirements and lack of food allergies within these breeds actually make selecting a good food more a matter of looking for something grain-free with the right macronutrient balance rather than an exhausting affair like with some breeds.

Best Herding Breed Dog Food

Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Protein Natural Dry Dog Food

Taste of the Wild always scores high marks with us: it’s designed to mimic a dog’s “natural” diet and it comes in a wide variety of flavors. For herding breeds, we’re quite fond of the duck flavor, as most of the dogs tested readily came to agree with its taste when switched over.

It’s almost optimal in balance, coming in at 32% protein and 18% fat, just a touch off from the optimal 2:1 ratio. Everything else is in perfect balance, however, and it’s high enough in calories to keep your energetic dog going without having to completely fill their stomach.

It’s also grain-free, the carbohydrates coming in the form of sweet potatoes and other legumes which dogs absolutely love. It’s hard to say enough about this excellent food at the end of the day, although working dogs may want something a little bit more calorie dense since we’re not all made of money.

Our opinion: Taste of the Wild tops our charts once again. No matter which flavor you go with, it’s hard to beat the sheer amount of nutrients and thought put into this natural food.

  • Grain free
  • High protein and fat
  • Balanced omega acids for heart and joint health
  • Great micronutrient profile

  • Very expensive
  • Fats and protein could be balanced a bit better

Best Puppy Food for Herding Breeds

BLUE Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Puppy Dry Dog Food

Your puppy needs smaller kibble and the best nutrient profile possible in order to get their growth going and reach their full potential. This high protein, grain free food is one of the best ways to do it.

It comes in at 36% protein and 16% fat, almost ideally balanced and also contains DHA which is great for boosting the brain development of these already intelligent breeds. It also has just the right blend of Omega fatty acids to ensure proper development.

Did we mention the one hundred percent ideal 1.2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio? Because that’s there as well, ensuring healthy bone development for the first year or so of your Collie or Shepherd’s life and helping to avoid later issues.

All of the ingredients are of the utmost quality as well. It’s pretty much a win all the way around when you get down to it.

Our opinion: To ensure your herding breed reaches their full potential, try to get them on Blue Diamond’s puppy food as soon as they’re weaned. You’ll be amazed at the results.

  • Super high protein
  • Balanced ratio of fat to protein
  • 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio is ideal
  • Made with high-quality ingredients, no chicken meal

  • Very expensive
  • A little high in fiber

Best Senior Herding Breed Food

CANIDAE Grain Free PURE Meadow Senior Dog Dry Formula with Fresh Chicken

Senior dogs have different nutritional requirements than when they’re young and spry. Lower calories, lower fat, and higher fiber are all good things and it doesn’t hurt to have joint support nutrients like glucosamine added in.

CANIDAE has made sure that all of these requirements are met with their senior food. It comes in at only 10% fat and still boasts 28% protein, it also has glucosamine added and comes out to a good 5% of fiber.

All of this is done with no grains and with your dog’s health in mind. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it to prolong the energy levels of your favorite canine and many people found their dogs bouncing back readily in their golden years through this kibble.

It’s also “limited ingredient”, which basically means that there’s only a few things in it and all of them are of the utmost quality.

Our opinion: For senior herding breeds, it’s hard to find anything better. It’s balanced and has just the right nutrient shift for elderly dogs and what ails them.

  • Perfectly formulated for senior dogs
  • Has joint supporting supplements
  • High-quality ingredients
  • Few ingredients to avoid allergies

  • Quite expensive
  • Too low in fat for dogs who are still working

Best Herding Breed Dog Food for Working Dogs

CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Dog Food

For those dogs who are still doing what they were bred to do, it’s hard to beat CRAVE. Coming in at 34% protein and 17% fat it’s perfectly optimal while maintaining high calories to keep your dog going through the whole day.

We’ll readily admit that it’s not ideal for most house dogs, but for those who are tough at work on the farm or in the pasture, it’s just about perfect. It’s grain free as well.

There is one thing about CRAVE dog foods: they’re focused on the protein and fat content with little else. While it contains most of the vital micronutrients you may want to consider getting your dog a multivitamin supplement as there’s very little added to to the base.

On the other hand: for working dogs, it’s pretty much perfect. We’ve tried long and hard to find a better, commercially available dog food for working dogs and it hasn’t happened yet.

Our opinion: As usual, we recommend CRAVE for seriously working dogs, with the caveat that it’s simply too nutrient dense for dogs who are going to spend most of their day at home.

  • Extra high protein and fat
  • Perfectly balanced macronutrient ratio
  • Grain-free
  • Calorie dense for working dogs

  • Should probably be supplemented with a multivitamin

Best Budget Food for Herding Dogs

Purina ONE SmartBlend True Instinct Natural With Real Turkey & Venison

Not everyone is going to be able to afford super expensive dog food, but that’s no reason to let your dog have to deal with subpar kibble. This turkey and venison blend from Purina ONE is ideal for your dog while remaining fairly cheap.

It’s not grain-free but it does have an impressive 30%, although the fat is a bit high at 17%. The micronutrients are well balanced, however, and it has quite a few items added.

It’s more processed than anything else on our list, unfortunately, but it’s cheap and highly nutritious. It really does blow most commercial foods out of the water despite its flaws.

Our opinion: If you’re looking to feed your herding dog a great food on a tight budget, then give this brand a shot. It’s not the best, but it’s a heck of a lot better than most of the competition.

  • High protein
  • Good micronutrient profile
  • Made with turkey and venison’
  • Great price

  • Fat ratio is a bit too high
  • Not grain-free

Common Herding Breed Health Problems and Diet

Herding breeds which were bred for work actually have fairly few problems which occur on a regular basis. Most of those that do occur are genetic problems that no supplement or dietary measures are going to be able to counteract efficiently.

That said, elderly herding dogs tend to suffer from some common problems:

  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Arthritis
  • Eye problems

Countering these can help prolong both a dog’s working life and how long they’ll be an energetic family companion.

Unfortunately, many of the problems which can occur in these breeds, such as the feared Collie Eye Anomaly, really have no cure. They’re fairly rare as far as that goes, but it does happen on occasion so it’s best to make sure you know about the history of the disease in the lineage and purchase them from a reputable breeder.

One nice thing is that they’re not prone to the joint issues which seem to affect most purebred dogs. There’s something to be said for working dogs: they’ve been bred for their abilities in the field instead of just their appearance and that means that a healthy dog that lives to a ripe old age is much more common in these breeds than with some of the more inbred lines of dog.

We’ll detail some supplements which can help after the foods. For the most part, a well-balanced diet, careful observation, and regular vet checkups are going to be your best weapon against the onset of old age in your lovable pooch, however.

Top Supplements for Herding Dogs

While there’s not a whole host of problems that herding dogs suffer from, there are the usual ailments in old age. Supplements for these dogs rarely need to be started when they’re young, but when they start to get over the hill you may want to consider some of the following.

Best Joint Supplement for Herding Dogs

Veterinary Naturals Hemp & Hips’ Soft Chew

This was the best of the joint supplements we could find, or at least among them. The primary thing that stood out was the addition of natural hemp oil and turmeric on top of the regular joint support nutrients.

Both of these ingredients work as invaluable anti-inflammatory agents, relieving pain from arthritis and other sources.

It also contains pretty much every joint support nutrient which can be found for dogs, from chondroitin and glucosamine to MSM to Omega fatty acids.

All of this comes together along with a great tasting chew that we haven’t seen a dog reject yet.

Our opinion: For joint support in elderly Collies and Shepherds, give this a shot. We’d recommend adding it to the diet in late adulthood, roughly from six years onwards, and it’s a great way to keep your dog active into their later years.

Best Eye Supplement for Herding Dogs

Ocu-GLO Vision Supplement Animal Necessity

When it comes down to it, these supplements aren’t going to save your dog from Collie Eye Anomaly. CAE is a genetic condition with no known cure, and it’ll take a vet to slow down the development of the disease.

On the other hand, aging dogs always run the risk of eye problems and the right nutrients can keep your dog’s sight clear for a long time into the future.

This supplement is packed with the nutrients and vitamins which are needed to maintain retinal and corneal health, allowing your dog clear vision. Much like joint supplements, you’ll probably be best served by waiting until late adulthood to begin using them but if your dog shows signs of fading vision early it can’t hurt.

Our opinion: They’re not a miracle, but this supplement is formulated to help keep a dog’s vision going well into advanced age. Give them a shot to help combat the effects of aging.

In general, the average dog which is considered to be from a herding breed, are usually used to herd sheep. We’ve found that most of these breeds are quite closely related, which means that they’ll have similar nutritional requirements and problems.

If your dog falls into any of the following categories then you’re in the right place:

  • Border Collie
  • Australian Shepherd
  • English Shepherd
  • Rough Collies
  • Smooth Collies

All of these dogs are medium sized dogs which have been primarily used for herding sheep and other livestock in the past. The English Shepherd, in particular, has been known to be a great herder of just about everything, from chickens to cattle.

All of them are very active and intelligent dogs. Most of those that make it into homes are of the working variety, although it’s not unknown for a slightly non-conforming dog from a show line to be introduced as a pet once it has been spayed or neutered.

Since they’re primarily working breeds, most of these dogs benefit from a ton of activity and their boredom can lead to disaster when combined with how smart they are. That said, most of them are also extremely loyal to their families and their animals and gentle with children and smaller animals.

While there are some pretty big differences between these breeds, they end up being primarily in temperament and intelligence rather than in actual structure. As a breed which has been primarily bred for working they tend to have fewer health issues than dogs which have been converted primarily to pets.

Here’s what we do know: herding dogs are both some of the hardest working and best pets around. If you’re lucky enough to share your home with one, then you’ll want to ensure that they’re in great health.

Whether you’re using them as a farm dog, taking them to shows, or just enjoying their company they’re great dogs all the way around.

There are, of course, larger and smaller breeds of herding dogs but most of them aren’t quite as closely related and their requirements may be a bit different. With the exception of some of the largest, like German Shepherds, most will have similar requirements but you’ll want to research their individual health issues in order to determine supplements.

Conclusion

Collies and Shepherds are some of the funniest, most intelligent dogs on the planet. They’re awesome examples of canines that have evolved alongside us for a long time. Whether they’re working dogs or just a member of the family, they deserve the right nutrition to keep them healthy well into old age.

Making sure that you meet the needs of these special animals will help you make sure that you can enjoy their company for a long time to come.

When it comes down to it, both of you deserve it.

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