Low Protein Food

Hi everyone,
I have recently been advised by a trainer to feed my dog a food that is less that 20% protein. He is a 14 month old Working Cocker Spaniel. He does gun dog training (although for short periods and not massively strenuous) and is about to start some agility training but just once a week. Both of these things are hobby level so, although he gets a fair bit of exercise, he is not actually a working dog - hence the recommendation to lower the protein level of his food.

He has previously been on Naturaw which I really like but I think is usually something like 45% protein as its basically all meat. He has also been on Acana kibble which is 29% protein. I like the idea of cold pressed food but that also seems to be above 20% protein.

Can anyone recommend a good quality lower protein food? Any dietary experts out there have any advice?


Hello and welcome to the forum Natalie. Please can you say why your trainer advises less than 20% protein? This sounds very low for a young, active dog.

Hi Dottie,

Thanks for replying. I had told the trainer that I was finding it a bit challenging to manage my dog’s prey-drive on walks. He is a working bred dog and goes into hunt-mode, is very fast and can become a bit deaf to me. We worked on a number of things to give him the exercise he needs but directed by me and more under-control but the first thing the trainer asked me was what I was feeding him and said the first thing I should do was feed him a food with a protein content of less than 20%. I thought, maybe, because he’s not actually out all day working on shoots etc. he needed a lower protein diet. I know working dogs get a different diet out-of season when they’re not working as they have different energy requirements so I assumed that was what he meant.


I am finding it rather difficult to comment on this because I don’t want to contradict your trainer. This notion of protein levels influencing behaviour has been around for many years and is still prevalent to some degree, especially in the older generation. No one can say for sure whether it does or it doesn’t - perhaps it does in some dogs but generally it is now thought that higher protein does not equate to behaviour problems in dogs.

Your dog is very young and quite active by the sound of things. If you cut down to a sub 20% protein food, you will be feeding him a lot of carbohydrates. These can be useful for energy but are not always good nutritionally. The other consequence is that the fat level will be correspondingly low and dogs do need this.

Personally I don’t agree with reducing a young dog’s diet to the level you have been advised but if you want to go ahead and try it, you can use the Dog Food Directory filters to find something suitable. At this low level of protein you will have to use dried (extruded) food so select that then set the nutrient slider to the level you want. You can narrow down the search by using the other filters. I would suggest ticking the no red ingredients box under ‘Avoid ingredients’.

Thanks - thats really helpful. I actually haven’t been able to find any foods with a lower than 20% protein level anyway. There is a large animal feed supply store near me and I spent absolutely ages looking at everything and even the Bakers & Chappie etc had over 20% protein. I was also a bit concerned about additives etc in the cheaper foods with lower protein.

Also, he doesn’t have difficult behaviour - he’s actually a lovely responsive dog. Just full of energy and quite high drive. However, training is already beginning to help with that, so I think I will park the low protein idea, at least for now. My plan had been to move on to a cold pressed food like Markus Muhle or Guru or something so that I can also add in some raw sometimes. I don’t know, but anyway, not going to stress about the low protein.

Thanks for taking the time and for the detail - I appreciate it.

1 Like

If you want to move away from raw I think your choice of cold pressed food is a good one. The protein is not too high and should be fine for your dog. It is very digestible. You can use the nuggets for training treats. Many of the reviews that I have read are positive and some owners report that their dog’s behaviour has changed for the better. However, it doesn’t sound as if there is anything wrong behaviour-wise with your dog. From what you say, he is a young, healthy and energetic little lad and that is exactly how it should be.