An energetic small and white pup running at dog daycare.

Having an active dog can be a joy. Whether they are working hard to herd animals on a farm, participating in dog sports, hunting with you, or even just participating in your active lifestyle alongside you, your active companion can enrich your life in indescribable ways. 

At the same time, if you have an active or energetic pup, you may be wondering how their nutrition needs differ from dogs that spend more of their time resting. You want to make sure that you are picking the right type and amount of food to keep your dog happy, healthy, and able to keep up with their active life. 

Ideal Nutrition for Active Dogs

When determining the amount of food that your dog needs, you should consider their activity level. In figuring this out, it is best to keep in mind how long, often, and intensely your dog exercised.

You can roughly estimate your dog’s activity level by counting the hours that your dog generally moves (versus laying or resting) in a day.

  • Low Activity: Moves less than 1 hour a day
  • Normal Activity: Moves between 1 and 2 hours a day
  • High Activity: Moves between 2 to 3 hours a day
  • Working/Sporting: Moves over 3 hours each day

If your dog is doing any extensive movement or specialized agility training, they may need a specialized diet to ensure that they can recover from the activity and stay at the peak of their physical performance. However, many dogs, even active ones, do just fine with a balanced, basic diet. 

When looking for food that is a good fit for your dog, you should look for food that has a similar nutrition profile to puppy food. That is, you should look for dog food that has a balance between protein and fat.

Specifically, you want between 25 and 30% protein and about 20% fat. 

Beyond the macronutrient profile of the food, you also want to ensure that your dog likes the food and can digest it easily. Before introducing a new food, keep in mind any dietary needs or restrictions that your dog may have.

After introducing a new kind of dog food to your dog, it is a good idea to monitor them and see if it seems to cause an allergic reaction.

Feeding an Energetic Dog

If your dog is energetic but still getting in most of its movement between one and two hours a day, they are actually receiving the recommended amount of activity for a dog and can generally be fed with regular dog food. You will want to ensure that the food is of good quality, but you can save any special activity food for dogs that move most of the day.

However, if your dog is very active and does move for over three hours a day, you may want to look into specialized dog food.

Just as for humans, food is fuel for dogs. If they have to expend a lot of energy throughout the day, it is essential to ensure that they are adequately fed so that they can keep up with the demands of their schedule. 

When looking for specialized dog food, you will need to look for brands that have higher protein content than most: around 30% of high-quality animal protein, or possibly even more. 

You will want to ensure that no matter what food you pick for your canine companion, it is food that they like and will want to eat. 

When to Feed an Energetic Dog

Determining timing when trying to feed an energetic dog can be tricky. Your dog will need fuel before they need to expend a lot of energy, but if you feed them too closely to when their activities start, it could cause digestive upset, and feeding dogs immediately after exercise can cause bloating and discomfort for your dog. 

According to veterinarian Bradley Quest, when thinking about feeding timing, “you want to feed your dog at least two hours before exercising or wait at least one hour until after they stop so that they have time to physically cool down and rehydrate before eating.” 

Another solution is to just feed your dog smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, keeping in mind your dog’s specific schedule and energy needs.

Dog Nutrition Guide

Most dog foods that are going to be acceptable for active pups will meet AAFCO requirements for all life stages. AAFCO, or Association of American Feed Control Officials, is a private, non-profit, voluntary membership association that helps to establish guidelines for ingredient definitions, product labels, and laboratory analyses of the nutrients that go into pet foods. 

In order to meet AAFCO requirements, a company has to ensure that its food contains at least 22.5% protein and 8.5% fat. However, high-quality dog foods will often include much more.

Foods containing a higher level of animal fats are important for active dogs because it provides them with the calories they need. Additionally, added amounts of fat make the food taste good so that your dog will be enthusiastic about eating it. 

Micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals, are also vital to your dog and important to keep in mind when choosing a food for your pup. A well-rounded diet for your dog, no matter how active they are, is important to ensure the health and happiness of your furry family member. 


Another thing to consider when trying to figure out which food is best for your pup is their hydration levels. Active dogs are going to need water before, during, and after the exercise they are engaged in.

For humans, we have sports drinks that can help us ensure that we stay hydrated even through the most strenuous of exercises. However, those same drinks are not safe to give to dogs, so we may need to look for alternate ways to ensure that our furry friends stay hydrated. 

Giving your dog wet food instead of dry food is one way to ensure that your active pup is receiving the amount of water necessary for them to remain healthy, especially if your dog doesn’t drink a lot of water during their activity. Though it seems obvious, many pet parents may not stop to consider that wet food contains more water than dry and may be a good option to give to your pup if you think they are struggling to stay hydrated.

You can also add a few spoonfuls of warm water to their dry food to improve both hydration and digestibility.

As always, if you have concerns about your dog’s diet or wellness, consult with your veterinarian for all of your nutritional questions. Your vet will be well-versed in your dog’s specific nutritional needs and can recommend food that will be a good fit for you and your active pup, as well as any supplements they may need. 

Greenlin Pet Resort Can Help Keep Your Pet Active and Well-Nourished

If you have an active, energetic dog that needs a lot of time to run and play, it can be hard to fit that into your daily schedule every day. Fortunately, Greenlin Pet Resorts is here to help! 

We have many options for your furry friend to ensure that they stay happy and healthy. If you are looking for a puppy or doggy daycare for your dog, look no further than Greenlin’s six convenient facilities located all around central Pennsylvania. You can even book online following the links below.

We can give your dog a chance to work out their energy in a safe and happy environment while allowing you to complete the tasks that you need to. 

Call us today or contact us online to schedule a time to come visit one of our locations and meet one of our experienced caregivers. We can give you a tour of our facilities and explain the different options we have available for your furry friend.

We can’t wait to meet you and welcome you and your pup into our Greenlin family!