It’s not that you don’t have a ton of options on the market already; you do.
However, fresh food delivery services weren’t even a thing until recently – and not all dog food is created equal, anyway.
If you’re hoping to get your pup hooked on all-natural, nutrient-rich ingredients, dog food that’s “just fine” probably won’t cut it. You want fresh food made in a human-grade kitchen, formulated as part of a personalized meal plan, with no controversial ingredients anywhere in the recipes.
One of the best custom dog food brands reviewed in this guide might be an excellent place to start your pup’s journey toward a healthier diet!
What Is Customized Dog Food, Exactly?
You want what’s best for your furry best friend; every responsible dog owner does. In your search for the best dog food, you likely came across all sorts of things, from dry dog food and grain-free formulas to canned options and even raw dog food.
One issue with store-bought dog food is that it generally doesn’t seem particularly appetizing – well, at least not to the human eye. I’m sure there’s a reason why our dogs greet each mealtime with tail-wagging and jumping around, though.
However, the all-purpose formulas of these mass-produced dog foods are a much bigger cause for concern. Nutrition shouldn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach, although it seems that off-the-shelf dog food companies didn’t get the memo.
Each pup is an individual and, as such, deserves fresh food and quality ingredients that meet their dietary needs.
It’s not like your neighbor’s Pomeranian puppy will have the same nutritional requirements as a 5-year-old working dog, like a Newfoundland. The comparison sounds a bit ridiculous, but you get where I’m going with it.
And why should you be the only one who gets to eat healthy at each meal, anyway?
Sure, “customized food for dogs” sounds way too fancy, and not to mention something that will eat away at your budget – and fast. But you’d be surprised how simple pet food can be when you go with real, fresh ingredients.
The trick is to take your pup’s dietary needs into account and create a personalized plan that works for them. That’s one reason why dog food delivery services work with pet owners to develop customized meal plans for their dogs.
How Custom Dog Food Subscription Services Work
Using a pet food delivery service is more straightforward than it sounds. It starts with setting up your account, providing your name, email address, and the like. You’ll then create a profile for your dog and note down your dog’s characteristics, including the dog’s age, breed, ideal weight, and activity level.
You’ll generally be asked to provide the following information about your dog before placing your first order of fresh dog food:
• Lifestyle and activity level
• Dietary restrictions
• Chronic conditions
• Protein preferences
• Stool consistency
• Coat condition
The inquiry will vary from one brand to the next, but the more questions you have to answer, the better. They might seem like a drag, but in-depth questionnaires are a good indicator of how well the brand caters to each dog’s needs.
Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs, AAFCO Approval & Label Requirements
In terms of the best dog food delivery services, having a veterinary nutritionist on staff is generally a good sign. They will understand dogs’ nutritional needs and know which ingredients to use, in what amounts, and why to ensure that your dog eats a complete and balanced diet.
This scientific approach to recipes is crucial for personalized nutrition. And given that proper nutrition is paramount to your dog’s health, expertly formulated nutrient-rich blends made by pet nutrition experts is exactly what you want to feed your pup.
The crucial ingredients in dog food recipes are:
• Proteins, preferably animal-based and sourced from real meat sources, including beef, chicken, turkey, and lamb
• Carbohydrates, primarily sourced from veggies, fruits, and whole grains, such as squash, kale, berries, and brown rice, that provide energy and fiber
• Fats, which play a vital role in your dog’s diet and are your dog’s primary source of essential Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
• Vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamins B1, B2, and B12, vitamin E, and vitamin K, zinc, selenium, manganese, copper, and choline
Your dog’s food is prepared as part of a personalized nutritional plan based on the input you’ve provided when signing up for the subscription service. Each ingredient is measured, and all the meals are pre-portioned to make sure your dog’s diet fits their needs to a T.
A diet that meets basic nutritional requirements is referred to as “complete and balanced.” You’ll often see this indicated on the label as approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO for short.
Advantages Of Custom Fresh Dog Food
These pre-cooked combos of meat and veggies arrive straight to your door and essentially look like human-grade food – but in a chunky, premium-quality, dog-friendly version.
Words like “personalized,” “fresh,” “all-natural,” and “small batch” sound rather appealing, but that’s what marketing buzzwords are meant to do.
The real question is whether these personalized blends of fresh dog food have actual benefits for your pup?
Will a freshly-prepared balanced diet make a real impact on your dog’s health, well-being, and even lifespan? Or is pet food delivery service one of those trends that come and go?
One of the key advantages of switching to fresh dog food is that, unlike mass-produced options, customized plans don’t contain questionable additives and low-quality fillers. Instead, each meal is made “from scratch” and based on lean proteins, veggies, and whole grains.
Dog food delivery companies ensure that their recipes are AAFCO-approved, meaning they contain vitamins and minerals essential for nutritionally-complete diets. Even more so, they will typically work in USDA-certified facilities and use only human-grade, all-natural ingredients.
But it’s the fact that these meal plans are custom-tailored to meet your dog’s dietary needs that is probably the most beneficial of all. Dog owners answer a few questions about their dog’s age, breed, lifestyle, medical conditions, among other things, and the company creates a custom dog food blend for their pup.
Personalized recipes, based on natural ingredients and free of preservatives, by-products, and fillers, that address the dog’s needs has several research-backed benefits, including:
• Preventing dry skin, itchiness, and excessive shedding
• Relieving allergy symptoms
• Improving digestive health and maintaining a healthy gut
• Preventing excessive weight gain
• Promoting an active lifestyle, mobility, and joint and bone health
• Supporting brain development and cognitive functions
• Increasing the dog’s lifespan
Convenience is another big perk of going with a delivery service.
The order arrives straight to your door, requires little to no preparation, and should last your pup the next week or two. There’s no need to add dog food to your shopping list, and you don’t have to deal with lugging heavy bags of kibble around, either.
Disadvantages Of Custom Fresh Dog Food
Yes, custom dog food has quite a few advantages, from improved nutrition and, in turn, better health of your pet, to the convenient doorstep delivery for pet owners. However, I wouldn’t say that it doesn’t have any downsides, and the most notable one is the cost.
You’re probably used to getting a month’s worth of off-the-shelf food for the same amount that you’d spend on custom dog food delivery services every week. In that sense, the premium pricing of such services might come as a bit of a financial shock.
Rest assured that you’re getting your money’s worth, though. Fresh, human-grade ingredients, personalized meal plans, careful handling, and delivery service might cost a premium but consider it an investment in your pup’s health and well-being.
And in the long run, switching your dog to a healthier diet, made from real ingredients and rich in nutrients, ultimately balances out cost-wise. You likely won’t be spending as much on veterinary care and supplements as you would if you were to feed your dog cheaper, off-the-shelf options.
Another downside that might pop up occasionally is availability.
Custom pet food subscriptions usually deliver at least a week’s worth of food at a time and won’t be readily available in stores. If your weekly supply gets compromised in any way, you’ll be in a pickle, with a hungry pup on your hands and no food to serve at mealtime.
Best Customized Dog Food Brands & Delivery Services Of 2021
1. Hungry Bark
Hungry Bark was founded on the idea of making sure dogs – our four-legged family members – have a better quality of life. And it starts with planning their diet to meet their unique nutritional needs.
Delivering premium ingredients, sourced from reliable US-based suppliers and farmers, free of antibiotics, hormones, and fillers, and non-GMO is where Hungry Bark truly shines, though.
All dog owners have to do is complete a quick, one-minute assessment, and you’ll get a custom plan that meets your dog’s breed, age, health goals, and activity levels.
Each of the vet-approved recipes – crafted with real proteins, including chicken, lamb, salmon, duck, and turkey – contributes to a nutritiously-advanced diet. Plus, you can throw in all-natural, single-ingredient protein mix-ins and supplements into your dog’s plan for an added nutritional boost.
Hungry Bark’s products are tested by ISO-certified independent testing labs to ensure that the food is free of toxins and bacteria. What’s more, Hungry Bark’s packaging is made from recycled materials, which is always a nice touch.
You can give Hungry Bark’s premium-quality kibble a try worry-free. Your first order comes with a 20% discount and a two-week trial backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
It’s hands down the best custom dog foods brand currently on the market!
Here’s what makes the Hungry Bark subscription service stand out:
• All ingredients are natural, antibiotic- and hormone-free
• Doesn’t contain any artificial preservatives or fillers
• Vet-approved recipes, including chicken, duck, salmon, turkey, and lamb, contain real meat proteins and are fortified with probiotics, minerals, and vitamins
• Combined with single-ingredient protein mix-ins and USA-made supplements
• Resealable packaging made from recycled materials, with an ultra-thick lining for freshness
• A two-week trial, a 20% discount on your first order, and free shipping
—> Read our full Hungry Bark review.SHOP NOW
If you want freshly made, human-grade dog food customized to your dog’s nutritional needs, the Farmer’s Dog is the best dog food delivery service out there.
Each meal contains fresh, unprocessed ingredients, including real meat and veggies, and is prepared in USDA-certified kitchens, meaning they are, technically speaking, safe for human consumption.
The idea behind what The Farmer’s Dog offers is that food for dogs should be just that – food. It’s probably the furthest possible thing from commercial, mass-produced dog foods as it can be.
The Farmer’s Dog offers four recipes, including beef, turkey, chicken, and pork, developed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists following AAFCO standards. And if you’re up for some cooking, you can grab The Farmer’s Dog free DIY recipes off their site, too!
If that’s not enough to declare this the best fresh food for pups currently on the market, I don’t know what is.
Besides focusing on fresh, human-grade ingredients, The Farmer’s Dog has highly personalized plans based on your dog’s characteristics and needs.
Everything’s pre-made and pre-portioned for ultimate convenience and, to top it all off, your dog’s meals come in BPA-free, biodegradable containers.
Here’s what makes The Farmer’s Dog subscription service stand out:
• All ingredients are human-grade, rather than “feed grade,” and sourced from reputable food suppliers
• Prepared according to USDA-facility standards
• Developed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists to meet AAFCO standards
• Four pre-cooked fresh dog food recipe varieties made with beef, chicken, turkey, and pork and free DIY recipes for homemade dog food
• Pre-portioned, ready-to-serve meals in BPA-free, non-toxic, biodegradable packaging
• 20% off on your first order of food
• The Farmers Dog plans start at $2 per day and include free shipping
3. Nom Nom
Nom Nom’s made-to-order, pre-portioned meals are the definition of convenience. Each meal is individually packaged into vacuum-sealed bags with easy-tear tops for less mess at mealtime.
More importantly, it’s the closest you can get to homemade food for dogs. You can choose between four recipes – Beef Mash, Chicken Chow with sweet potato, Pork Potluck, and Turkey Fare. You can go with the Variety Pack and order dog food without a subscription to see which recipe your dog likes most.
All of Nom Nom’s recipes are developed by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, Dr. Justin Shmalberg, and formulated to meet the AAFCO guidelines.
You can choose between full meals and half portions, with the latter allowing you to use a single meal bag per day mixed in with your dog’s current diet.
Interestingly enough, Nom Nom doesn’t forget about cats. If you’re in a multi-pet household and want to feed your pets healthy, fresh-made food, Nom Nom is a food delivery service you should consider.
Here’s what makes the Nom Nom subscription service stand out:
• Made from restaurant-quality proteins and vegetables and sustainably sourced from reliable U.S. growers and suppliers
• Free from artificial preservatives, “meal” protein, by-products, and fillers
• Formulated by board-certified veterinary nutritionists to meet AAFCO standards
• Prepared in small-to-order batches and pre-portioned for convenience
• Four fresh dog food recipes, including Beef Mash, Chicken Chow, Pork Potluck, and Turkey Fare
• Ready-to-serve meals in fully-recyclable packaging
• Two-week trial and 20% off your first order of food
• Free shipping with delivery every week, every two weeks, or every four weeks
As with every other dog food subscription, your Ollie experience starts with an in-depth questionnaire that allows the team to get to know your pet and customize their recipes.
You can choose between four varieties, based on real meats – beef, chicken, turkey, and lamb – and packed with dietary fiber from sweet potato and leafy greens. What’s more, Ollie recipes follow AAFCO guidelines on dog nutrition and are vet-formulated to ensure that the fresh-made meals are personalized to meet your dog’s requirements.
Your dog’s food will arrive in vacuum-sealed packaging, with peel-back lids, a handy scoop, and a reusable tray for leftovers.
On that note, each package does contain multiple meals, but you’ll get a detailed feeding plan based on your dog’s weight, age, breed, and activity levels. It even specifies how many calories your pup should eat per day.
You can try it worry-free with Ollie’s starter box. You’ll get two weeks’ worth of food delivered to you at a 20% discount. If your dog doesn’t like it, Ollie’s customer service will make sure you get your money back.
Here’s what makes the Ollie dog food subscription service stand out:
• Made from whole foods and real, high-quality protein
• Minimally processed and gently cooked to preserve nutrients
• Free of by-products, artificial flavorings, and soy, corn, and wheat fillers
• Four vet-crafted high-protein recipes, including beef, chicken, turkey, and lamb
• Includes a reusable tray and a scoop for serving
• 20% off the starter box, backed by the 100% money-back guarantee
• Ollie plans start at less than $4 per day
5. Spot & Tango
Spot & Tango made a splash in this niche with its fresh, easy-to-serve meals but went on to introduce the first dehydrated, 100% whole foods option. It’s one of the few dog food delivery companies that offer fresh-made, specialized dry food, known as UnKibble.
If you’re set on feeding your dog a dry food diet that’s in line with their unique requirements, this is the best dog food subscription out there.
Spot & Tango’s dry food is made from 12 locally-farmed ingredients, AAFCO-approved, and prepared in USDA-certified kitchens. Most importantly, all the meal plans are personalized based on your dog’s weight, breed, age, lifestyle, and health conditions.
What’s more, Spot & Tango offers 20% off your first box of dry dog food, along with a two-week trial. If you cancel during this time, Spot & Tango will give you your money back, too.
Here’s what makes the Spot & Tango subscription services stand out:
• Made from 100% whole food, human-grade ingredients, and real meat, with no artificial additives
• Complete and balanced, vet-developed personalized plans that meet AAFCO standards
• Cooked in a USDA-certified kitchen
• UnKibble personalized dry food blends are available in Beef & Barley, Duck & Salmon, and Chicken & Brown Rice varieties
• Small-batch, pre-portioned fresh dog food options include turkey, beef, or lamb
• Two-week trial and a 20% discount on the first order of food
• UnKibble plans start at $7 per week, and Fresh food plans start at $15 per week
I and Love and You works a bit differently than most other dog food delivery services I reviewed today, in the sense that you can find it in stores. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you; I’m just pointing out the differences here.
That aside, I and Love and You have a lot to offer. And when I say “a lot,” I mean it. Whether you have dogs or cats, this company has a wide range of high-quality, fresh food options that’ll meet and exceed your expectations.
The plans aren’t customizable per se, but you can fill out a quick questionnaire and get some recommendations on the best raw food diet for your dog.
On that note, ILY offers one of the best fresh raw dog food options on the market, with high protein content and the so-called Human Grade line, which features 100% dehydrated food. Mix in some water and boom – you’ve made a complete meal for your dog!
It might not be ready-to-serve, but it sure beats mass-produced, off-the-shelf food that you would typically feed your dog. And it’s formulated to meet AAFCO standards, too.
Here’s what makes the I and Love and You customized food for dogs stand out:
• Made from high-quality ingredients, without artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, and by-product meals
• Grain-free recipes that don’t contain soy, corn, wheat, or rice fillers
• Formulated to meet AAFCO standards for dogs’ nutrition
• Raw food recipes are available in a variety of flavors, including beef, chicken, turkey, and fish
• The packaging is 100% recyclable
• Available at online retailers and stores
• Free shipping on orders over $49 and product subscriptions
7. Pet Plate
Balance is an essential part of your diet, and your dog’s diet is no different. That’s one of the reasons why the subscription service Pet Plate gets a spot on my list. Each meal is vet-created, pre-cooked, pre-portioned, and, most importantly, balanced.
Pet Plate offers customizable plans that feature beef, turkey, lamb, and chicken-based recipes, high in protein, grain-free, and cooked in human-grade kitchens.
You can order several Pet Plate blends for taste-testing, which makes this an excellent choice for picky eaters, and choose between Full and Topper plans. Unfortunately, there’s no way to customize the recipes for dogs with allergies or other health conditions.
If you’re not happy with your order, though, Pet Plan has your back with a 100% money-back guarantee.
The meals come in handy plastic tubs, meaning you don’t have to guess about meal sizes or clean up the mess afterward. Scoop and serve, simple as that. In case you were wondering, yes, the packaging’s recyclable.
Here’s what makes the Pet Plate subscription service stand out:
• Made from 100% whole food ingredients, free of by-products, preservatives, and artificial coloring
• Food is made in a USDA-certified human-grade kitchen in small batches and flash-frozen for freshness
• Complete and balanced plans formulated to meet AAFCO standards for dog food
• Customized recipe options include beef, turkey, chicken, and lamb
• BPA-free and recyclable packaging with resealable lids
• 100% money-back guarantee on your first order of food
• Pet Plate plans start at $2.50 per day and come with free shipping
Final Thoughts On Custom Dog Food Brands
You are what you eat, they say – and the same is true for your dog. And after going through dozens of best custom dog food brands, I’d say that pet parents have no excuse not to feed their dogs fresh, customized meals made from real ingredients.
Most are pre-cooked, portioned out, and, most importantly, delivered straight to your door. You don’t have to leave the house, and your pup still gets to eat the healthiest, most balanced meals currently available for our canine companions.
Whether you go with freshly-made kibble or made-to-order meals that look like homemade food you’d make for yourself is entirely up to you. There’s going to be a lot of tail-wagging whenever mealtime rolls around, that’s for sure.