When Maverick was a puppy I fed the same food my parents fed their dog. The vet sold it to them so it must be a good food, right? Wrong!! It was (and still is) an awful food for my dogs. Maverick always had gunky eyes. My trainer at the time recommended I talk to someone about food so I found someone with more knowledge than me. They pointed out that his current food was full of corn and that corn was not ideal for dogs. I changed to a better quality kibble and his eyes cleared up. But, then he developed hot spots on his body and was still itchy. He had to go onto a steroid to stop the itching and this was all before he was 1.5 yrs old! I knew there was something wrong and I started to research alternative foods. I researched raw feeding. Raw meaty bones. I transitioned him and the change was dramatic. His eyes were bright, his coat was great and his energy was wonderful. This was a match for him. I would classify myself as a raw food feeder. They still get dry food when we go hiking, in food toys or as a light morning supplement but the bulk of their food is raw. I also do some crock pot cooking for them and they love that occasionally as well. Variety. My dogs thrive on variety. I rotate my form of food and I also give a good rotation of protein sources. They never get the same bag of dry food twice in a row. I always rotate the manufacturer and the protein source. This is what works best for my dogs. What works best for your dogs might be different.
So, how do you tackle the question of what is the best food for your dog?
I am NOT GIVING YOU NUTRITIONAL ADVICE for your dog. This is just one friend talking to another friend and here is what my food journey has taught me.
- Do your research. The books and websites that have really helped me are:
- Be patient and be willing to try different things for your dog.
- Try different dry foods. Expensive doesn’t guarantee your dog will thrive on it. There are quite a few really expensive dry foods that my dogs don’t thrive on and in fact have adverse reactions.
- Try raw foods - frozen and thawed. My dogs prefer commercial raw frozen and meaty bones thawed.
- Try different brands of raw food. My dogs are not big fans of big patties but love nugget and morsels from Primal. My dogs do not like dehydrated food but love freeze dried food.
- Try dehydrated foods. My dogs don’t like them but lots of dogs do.
- Cook your dog food and try different recipes. If you dog likes canned soft food then crock pot cooking is the way to go! It’s cheaper and doesn’t have a ton of additives and preservatives in it.
- Rotate, rotate, rotate. You don’t eat the same thing every night and neither should your dog. Good nutrition is balanced over time and different protein sources have different vitamins and minerals.
- Feed the best food you can afford. I can't always afford to eat organic food. But, that doesn't mean I completely give up. When I can I select higher quality food for myself I do. It's the same with your dogs. What you put in your dog’s body affects how they feel AND how they behave so stack the deck in your favor. Good nutrition supports your training program and poor nutrition undermines your training goals by affecting their bodies and brain. If you can’t afford a high quality kibble consider supplementing your dog’s diet with fresh whole foods like cooked green beans, making some crock pot meals etc. Avoid CORN and foods with corn in them! Read more about the detrimental effects of corn in the nutrition booklet below.
- If your dog doesn’t like something don’t take it personally. I had a friend who didn’t like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when he was a young kid. It wasn’t until he was 8yrs old that they found out he was allergic to peanuts. As a young child he didn’t have the vocabulary to say “this makes me feel icky” so avoiding the food was the only way he could communicate that it wasn’t good for him. Dogs do the same thing. They avoid foods that make them feel icky.
- Watch your dog’s stool. For some dogs a change is food will cause loose stools. You don’t want diarrhea. But, there is a fine line between severe intestinal upset and a slightly upset tummy. We all have an upset tummy from time to time because we ate something too rich. If you eat the same bland thing day after day and someone finally gives you something with flavor there is a chance your system might be surprised and result in loose stools but that doesn’t mean the food itself was bad. Just that your system wasn’t used to it.
- Your dog should be HAPPY about their food. If they walk away and aren’t enthusiastic about eating they are trying to tell you something. Listen!
Check out my short nutritional booklet below.