Using food in training

Why use food in training?

Positive reinforcement means to add something the dog loves to encourage them to repeat the behaviour. Animals are programmed to work for their food by hunting so we’ve taken away their natural problem-solving abilities serving food “on a silver platter”. Wasn’t it Kathy Sdao who said that you have to feed your dog anyway, so why not reallocate those calories to training?

You can certainly use other rewards such as toys/play, physical affection, verbal praise, access to resources (dog park, swimming hole, doggie-friends, Nana and Poppa, whatever the dog LOVES). However oftentimes in training  you need to be able to repeat the behaviour 5-10 times in a session, relatively quickly and food is the fastest way of doing just that.

I don’t want to bribe my dog through treat-training or create a food dependency.

Good – we’re on the same page. Nothing irks me more than bribing a dog. It’s not teaching!

Here’s how to avoid bribing and food dependencies: The food should NEVER be visible before the cue is given. If it is, you’re bribing. The food should arrive AFTER the behaviour is offered. That way, it’s a reward, not a bribe.

Food dependency occurs when WE create it – not the dog. In the beginning we reward every time we get the behaviour. When the behaviour is fluent and generalized to various environments and distraction levels, then we can change our reinforcement schedule by feeding every OTHER time we get the behaviour, every THIRD time, every FOURTH time, and then randomly so that the dog never knows when the reward is coming. Like a slot machine! That’s what will make the behaviour the strongest…and neither you nor the dog will be dependent on the treat.

What kind of food does my dog like?

You’ll have to ask your dog! Dogs have preferences just like we do. Test out a few different types of treats and see which one really gets their attention. Take a few options on a walk with you and see which one keeps their attention while they’re outside in a higher distraction area. The winner is the one you should use in training.

Can my dog have “people food”?

Absolutely! What do you think kibble is made of? Kibble is just processed “people food” that is baked down into a tiny little hard kibble, filled with preservatives to ensure it has a long shelf life and then sprayed with flavouring to make it taste better. Does that sound like it’s better than “people food”? In fact, my dog ONLY eats “people-food” – I won’t give him processed food or kibble and he’s the healthiest dog I know!

Your dog can eat a variety of foods, save for a handful of toxic ones (chocolate, grapes, raisins, onion, macadamia nuts, pits/seeds, to name just a few). We generally suggest a pure protein, boiled or baked, and then chopped up. At least then you know exactly what’s going into your dog’s body and you have limited the preservatives and chemicals they’re ingesting.

Why can’t I just use kibble?

You can certainly try, however if your dog eats kibble for every meal, you’re not really giving them any incentive to work hard. Most dogs don’t find kibble very high value (have you tasted it??) so using a higher value food reward will bring you faster and stronger behaviours in training.

Will feeding “people-food” teach my dog to beg?

If you feed “people-food” directly from your plate or the table when your dog is begging for it, then yes. Absolutely. You’ve just reinforced a behaviour therefore it is likely to be repeated.

If you use people-food in training then no, your dog is not likely to beg. If they start begging, you can use positive reinforcement training to teach them a solid “go to mat” and “stay” so that they’re not in your face when you’re eating!

Are crunchy biscuits or chopped vegetables okay?

I personally wouldn’t use them as dogs tend to have to chew them and then they get tired/bored with them. They’re not very tasty and they certainly don’t have a great smell. They’re fine if you’re rewarding your dog as a one-off but if you’re hoping for an excellent training session, you’ll find your dog is tired of chewing about 10 minutes in and has lost interest in you and the game.

How big should the treats be?

Great question! We don’t want to fill our dogs up halfway through a training session, so it’s paramount that we use a tiny treat. For puppies and extra small dogs I use a treat the size of half a green pea. For small to medium size dogs I use a treat the size of a green pea. For large to extra large breed dogs, I use a treat the size of two green peas.

If you feed them too much of anything, they will likely have gastro-upset such as gas or diarrhea. No fun for anyone involved!

How many should I bring?

I always suggest bringing more than you think you’ll need for the session. 3/4 of a sandwich baggie is likely a good estimate. If you have leftovers, great! Pop them back in the fridge or freezer for the next session. It’s best to have too many than too little!

My dog is not food motivated. What should I do?

As a famous trainer once said, “All dogs are motivated at some point by food, because if they weren’t they’d be dead.”

We need to close the economy on food. This does not mean that you must starve your dog. Don’t get me wrong! It simply means that you have to adjust the WAY your dog accesses their food. If your dog has constant access to a full food bowl 24/7, then food is not of high value – it is merely a piece of furniture. They will simply eat to sustain life. (Also keep in mind that it only takes a couple of hours of being exposed to the air for kibble to go rancid, so they’re not even going to enjoy it when they DO eat it!)

Stop free-feeding your dog. They don’t enjoy it. I promise. Start hand feeding your dog at meal times to really increase the bond between you both. Try taking their food on walks instead of feeding out of a bowl – a few kibble every time they make eye contact or respond to a cue. Feed them out of food dispensing toys rather than a boring bowl. All of these things increase the VALUE of the food in the dog’s perspective.

Also, never feed your dog before a training session. For one, you’re doubling their calories which will lead to unnecessary weight gain. Two, you’re filling them up and then asking them to work hard for something they won’t want to eat!

What if most food makes my dog sick? / My dog has severe allergies

I would certainly speak with your veterinarian and a qualified nutrition consultant if that is the case. We strongly recommend Sabine Contreras (www.betterdogcare.com) and Monica Segal (www.monicasegal.com) as they have studied with vets and beyond.

Use very small amounts of the food you know your dog can tolerate and bring a variety so that it’s spread out. You can bring their regular food and try to “spice it up” a little by using another ingredient that they can tolerate.

When all else fails, try putting two portions of their kibble into a baggie, sprinkle with parmesan cheese (if that is tolerated), seal it and leave it in the fridge overnight. You can do the same with a hot dog. Grill a hot dog and toss it in a baggie with two portions of their kibble and then seal it and leave it in the fridge overnight. Take the hot dog out the next day and just use their kibble, which now smells and tastes like hot dog! The liquid from canned tuna is also a great option!

Please do not wait to deal with this – Sabine and Monica have saved many dogs’ lives through nutrition and are an amazing resource not to be missed. Your dog can have a better quality of life and a better relationship with food. There is no such thing as “hypoallergenic” food; every dog has a different allergen and a different reaction so no one food fits all. Many foods claim to be, but they simply mask the problem. Find out what the trigger is and avoid it. Your dog’s health is worth it! Plus, food intolerances and allergies can lead to serious behavioural issues even if they’re being “managed” with special diets.

What are some ideas for treats?

Ah, the million dollar question! Here you go!

Boiled / baked protein

  • Take a cheap cut of beef, pork, turkey, chicken (including ground)
  • Bake it or boil it
  • Strain off any fat
  • Let cool
  • Chop into bite-size pieces and portion into baggies
  • Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days
  • Freeze for up to 2-3 months (freezer-safe container)

Cheese (always opt for low-fat)

  • Shred or chop into bite-size pieces
  • Refrigerate for up to 5-7 days
  • Freeze for up to 3 months (freezer-safe container)

Wet dog food (canned)

  • Add a little water to dilute it
  • Portion into a squeeze tube (like this one: http://goo.gl/aZpIVW)
  • Refrigerate for up to 5-7 days
  • Freeze for up to 2-3 months (freezer-safe container – NOT the squeeze tube)

Commercial Rollover Dog Food rolls

This kind: http://goo.gl/zs25mQ (they have a few flavours)

  • Slice into 1/4” slices
  • Pile 3-4 slices at a time and dice in one direction, keeping the form
  • Turn the pile 90 degrees and dice in the next direction, making tiny cubes.
  • Refrigerate for up to 5-7 days
  • Freeze for up to 3 months (freezer-safe container)

How to slice and dice Rollover Dog Food rolls:

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Doesn’t this look like more fun than a bowl??

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Pet Obesity Day

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[Image source: Mr TGT]

Is Fido looking a little frumpy lately? 

It’s been known to happen. Perhaps you’ve been working long hours, unable to spend as much time at the dog park or running each morning. Maybe a member of the family is sneaking table scraps (more than usual) to him while your back is turned. It could even be that the measuring cup for that kibble is getting bigger and bigger…

Whatever the reason, it’s no laughing matter. 

Did you know? Obesity can lead to: 

  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Respiratory and Heart disease 
  • Osteoarthritis 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Many forms of cancer – especially intra-abdominal cancers

Obese pets also live shorter lives than pets who are at a healthy weight or slightly underweight. 

Now before you jump on the diet-wagon, it’s important to visit your trusted veterinarian. There are some conditions that are associated with weight gain; hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease for example. These should always be ruled out prior to embarking on a weight-loss plan. 

There are some simple solutions to weight loss once medical issues are ruled out, but just because they’re simple doesn’t mean they’re easy or a quick-fix. Just like with people, we don’t need fancy food, diet pills, surgery or gimmicks. We need to do three things:

  • portion control
  • healthy choices
  • exercise

Sound familiar? I hope so! 

Portion Control

First, look at your dog food bag, if you’re feeding kibble. The dog food companies want your dog to eat more so that you buy more and you buy more frequently. Don’t follow their recommended feeding unless your dog is more of an athlete than a couch-potato. Decrease portion sizes slowly and gradually until your dog is at their recommended weight and then all you have to do is maintain. 

If you’re using treats to train, decrease the amount of kibble you’re feeding to make up for the extra calories in training. Use healthier choices for treats. Avoid store-bought products that contain colours, nitrates, preservatives, sugar (yes, that happens!) and other harmful chemicals. Try boiled chicken breast, ground beef, cheerios, freeze-dried liver. 

Also, try using slow-feeders or food toys to slow your dog down a touch and maybe even feed 3-4 smaller meals per day rather than 1 or 2. 

Healthy Choices

Speaking of healthy choices, look at your dog’s food. Would you eat it? Why not? Answer that question honestly and reconsider what you’re feeding your dog. Do you know how to read dog food labels? Here’s a crash course. Want to find a better choice for your dog? Contact Sabine who specializes in canine nutrition and for less than $30 you’ll be coached on the best choices for your dog.

Remember that major dog food companies have excellent marketing but if they’re putting all their money into marketing, how much is left over for quality ingredients. Don’t go for that big-box-store or grocery brand – you know the one…the one with the commercials of happy puppies and kittens munching and crunching while you’re bombarded with promises of “high quality animal protein” (read: euthanized pets), probiotics (read: just a touch so we can list it on the ingredients, but not enough to make a difference), and fresh fruits and vegetables (riiiiiight…). The words “natural” and “organic” are also a joke to me. Everything is natural. Kibbie is not. 

Kibble is simply meat (of all kinds, you will find out), grains, vegetables and fruits, grinding them up, steaming them at high temperatures and finally pushing them through a machine to make cute little shapes. Once the food is dry, it’s generally sprayed with flavour agents (many are carcinogenic), fats and vitamins to make it appetizing for the animal. 

Well. “Appetizing” is one word for it. It’s “life-sustaining”…that I’ll give it. We shouldn’t have to *make* food more appetizing to eat it. Food should taste fantastic as is. 

Bottom line? You have other options. There are higher quality kibbles out there, as well as home cooking and raw food diets. Each dog is different and there is no cookie-cutter approach. 

Exercise

I find that most people in Toronto exercise their dogs quite well and relatively appropriately, however visiting the suburbs, I see more overweight, sluggish dogs than anything else. When you have a backyard it’s easy to get comfortable and stop walking your dog 3-4 times a day. 

When increasing an exercise regime for humans or dogs, it’s paramount that we start small and start slow. I always tell people to research The Running Room program for people and use that same methodology; warm up well, one minute jog, one minute walk, repeat for a short time, then cool down. You gradually increase the distance and intensity, but you don’t go from couch-potato to marathon-runner in one week or even four weeks. Find the right type of exercise for your dog. 

Swimming is low-impact and great for water-loving dogs. Running is a good choice if you can find a softer surface than concrete or asphalt (terrible on the knees and other joints!). Agility classes can be a blast, as can frisbee, fetch, and flyball. Brisk walking is the most realistic for most people and dogs. Always choose something you both enjoy – if your dog is not enjoying it, get creative and find other ways to exercise where you’re both having fun – otherwise it’s not realistically sustainable. 

So when your dog is packing on the pounds, don’t turn to gimmicks and special food. Be sure they’re medically sound and then give them healthier choices and more activity in their lives. You might even find that you’re getting into better shape and that your relationship with your dog might get a makeover too! 

Happy Pet Obesity Day! 

Let’s get personal.


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Recently I’ve been having some skin problems – dry skin, mostly. Since November. On my face – mostly my eye lids. What does this have to do with dog training? Well. A lot. Hang in there.

I’ve seen my doctor four times since November and each time we try something different. Moisturizing creams to start, then 0.5% hydrocortisone cream, then a prescription hydrocortisone cream, then a ban on makeup for two weeks, then *only* Clinique cleansing products (goodbye, bank account), then only hypoallergenic mineral makeup, then back to a makeup ban, finally, a dermatologist.

Throughout this whole process I’m frequenting the snazzy sections of department stores, talking to “experts” of all kinds. Clinique experts, Dior experts, estheticians, makeup artists, MAC experts, Elizabeth Arden experts. I didn’t even know half these brands existed! I’m surrounded by makeup and cleansers, toners, washes, foaming this and that, exfoliating yadda-yadda, wax-bases, anti-wax bases, you name it. I have no idea what they’re talking about and I’m sure I have that dim smile on my face as I nod with feigned interest.

By the end of it, I’ve bought almost $400 worth of products and so far, nothing is working. I’m at the end of my rope. I go to Sephora because three people have now told me that they’re *really* the experts. I walk in and a salesperson approaches me and we talk about my issues. She nods knowingly and leads me to a rack of products that look so soothing and lovely. She proceeds to smear product after product on my face with Q-tips, cotton pads, her hands. My face feels clean and fresh. I feel like a complete idiot.

I tell her what I’ve been using so far and she acts shocked. “That won’t moisturize your skin! You can’t use that product – you have to use something that doesn’t have water! Here, let me show you…” and she trails off on a tangent about this product that is “all-natural” (aren’t they all?) and made from grape seed oil and it will solve all the world’s problems. A tiny tube for $200.

I take the names down of each of the products and thank her for her time. I’ll get right on that. As soon as I win the lottery and can spend $200 a week on face cream. In the meantime I will suffer through this charming cracked eye lid and looking like a drawn, exhausted dog trainer with no makeup on.

I leave the mall, over-stimulated and a bit shaky. I call my fellow dog trainer friend and come pretty close to crying.

“Now I know exactly how clients feel. They go from trainer to trainer, expert to expert, salesperson to salesperson. They get conflicting information each and every time. By the end of it, they want what is best for their dog but they don’t want to spend $800 experimenting. They just want the truth. This is exhausting and I give up.”

Where I am with my dry skin is exactly where most people are with their dogs. At a critical point where they know something’s gotta give, but have no way of knowing who is telling the truth. How do you make a decision?

“Go with your gut.” – easy to say. Part of my gut tells me that putting any more creams and chemicals on my face is not the way to go, so I’m going to do a full detox and cleanse and see if I can change this from the inside out. I’ll work with a naturopathic doctor and a dietician and see if that helps. Another part of my gut says “screw this – slather on hydrocortisone and fix this once and for all and WHO CARES ABOUT THE 18 PAGES OF SIDE EFFECTS!!!”. Another part of my gut says “I’m hungry so where’s that chocolate bar?”. What does my gut know?

When it comes to dog-raising, it’s not easy. Our guts gets confused easily. Everything sounds accurate and it’s so easy to believe that a dog is behaving a certain way because of dominance, just like it’s easy to believe that the moisturizer my doctor recommended is supposed to hydrate my skin and fix this problem.

I wish I had some wise advice to close off this post, but I don’t. I’m an expert and I can teach you what I know, but who knows. Maybe I’m an Elizabeth Arden expert with only Elizabeth Arden training. All the more reason for me to continue studying and relying on *science* so that I can bring you the most accurate, unbiased information possible without causing you to go broke or give up.

I’m always telling my clients to question everything. No matter who the expert is – you have to use your common sense, do your research, learn what you can so that YOU become your own expert. Nobody knows you or your dog better than you do.

Go on, question away. I’ll be right there with you.

Canine Nutrition

On Sunday I attended a Canine Nutrition seminar by Erica Garven, hosted by All About Dogs. I have been looking forward to this seminar for weeks. As soon as I saw Renee post it, I jumped on it and registered. I was admittedly the first to arrive, sitting on the curb outside, anxious for ten o’clock.

When the seminar began, I could almost feel my skull crack and open up in order to allow the knowledge to pour in. If I could have opened my eyes or ears wider, I would have. I didn’t want to miss a single word or or slide.

Here’s a little background information for you, before you assume that I’ve lost my marbles. My mother is a nurse and I can remember when I was wee and she was in nursing college, I would sneak her textbooks into my room or onto the bay window in order to sift through the information and try to learn some “big girl words”. I had trouble saying stethoscope but that didn’t stop me from trying to spell Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Since those early days, I have always been interested in medicine and the sight of blood has never bothered me. I collect medical textbooks, I watch medical docu-shows and download surgeries to watch during dinner. (Double-lung transplants are by far the most fascinating.) Anything medical or health-related fascinates me, so of course nutrition would be of interest to me – it’s the foundation of good health, after all.

So in comes Erica and I open my notes. She starts off by talking about the simpler ways to eliminate (potential) allergens and what is on the top of the list? Stainless steel bowls. Are you serious? Apparently dogs can have a pretty serious allergy to stainless steel and eating out of the bowls can cause symptoms similar to food allergies, as well as discolouration of the area around the mouth and nose. Instead of switching over to a plastic bowl (which can contain toxins that discolour the nose, turning it pink), she recommends using ceramic bowls.

She told us about her dog, Toby…who is a “lemon dog” (you know exactly what I mean.) and of his serious allergies that she has been able to eliminate or at least manage thus far, giving him back a wonderful quality of life that most of us would likely not have known how to do.

We talked a lot about allergies and what the signs are. Some of the symptoms that I see frequently are:

  • inconsistent or poor stool quality
  • itchy skin
  • chronic infections (ears, eyes, etc…)
  • dull, flaky coat
  • inconsistent behaviour

When I’m working with dogs, one of the first questions I ask is about diet and I include questions about the amount fed and the timing of the meals – oftentimes people are confused about how this is related to training and behaviour, but many times I have seen a complete 180º turnaround simply because of a change in the diet.

Those of you who know me, know that I am a serious kibble investigator and that I’m a big believer in scheduled feedings that take place at least twice per day. I never suggest one meal per day (imagine how that affects our blood-sugar levels!) or free-feeding (leaving food down all the time). I have a list of kibble that I do recommend, but even then, I always suggest keeping up to date with the company’s recall information, product changes, ownership, etc…

Since attending Erica’s seminar and soaking up all the knowledge possible in three hours, I came home and implemented a few changes to Parker’s diet. If you’ve been following lately, I’ve put Parker back on home-cooked food and have seen some incredible changes. His breath no longer smells, his energy levels have evened out, his coat is super-shiny, he is excited about his food (that’s not normal for him), and he’s sleeping better at night. He has also been showing some interesting puppy-like behaviour lately – he’s become more playful with his friends but also his humans. It’s really quite nice.

His regular meals consist of (in no particular order):

  • brown rice
  • two vegetables
  • one fruit & one berry
  • yogurt
  • vitamins & minerals
  • one protein
  • safflower oil

I’ve used cooked rice (of course), raw veggies and fruits, and a cooked protein (or canned if fish). So far it’s been a lot of trial and error – most days have been great, but other days have been not-so-great. I’ve found that sweet potato, carrots and kidney beans go right through him and come out looking just like they did when they went in. I tried cooking them a little longer, but that caused them to come out looking pale and whole. No big change except that I was sure the nutrient value was lessened.

After Erica’s seminar, the changes I made were:

  • use more protein
  • use less carbs (rice)
  • boil all veggies to release the nutrients (but don’t over cook)
  • add water (or broth) that the veggies are boiled in
  • use a food processor to puree everything
  • freeze in weekly portions
  • add this to a high quality kibble
  • use vitamins & minerals

Last night I got to work and I made the first batch. It included:

  • veggie puree (spinach, parsley, zucchini, carrots, sweet potato)
  • strawberries & blueberries
  • vitamin & mineral powder
  • Nature’s Balance kibble

The kibble covers the protein and I’ve added all the extra nutrients that make it even healthier (and tasty). Oftentimes companies try hard to add in all the right ingredients, but if you think about the process kibble has to go through, how many nutrients really make it to the end product? Adding veggies, fruits and berries will only serve your dog well in the end.

Here are a couple of pictures:

For Parker, I add a couple of tablespoons to his kibble at each meal and every now and again he’ll get a full home-cooked meal with a little carb and home cooked protein. Pureeing the veggies and fruits will make it easier for him to digest and metabolize, whereas, as Erica says: “in a carrot, out a carrot”, which is exactly what was happening.

Confession: I tasted it. I swear I did. My brother was witnessing the cooking process and suggested that we try it. It’s just fruit and veggies, so why not? We grabbed a tablespoon of each batch and gave it a shot. The greenish one was very veggie-heavy and a little tart. The lighter coloured one had more strawberries in it and it was a little sweeter. Both tasted good. It made me reconsider how I eat. If I did this for myself every day, I’d be a healthier person…but that’s a whole other post.

I’m looking into booking Erica for a seminar soon and would love for you folks to hear what she has to say. If you’re interested, email me to be notified of the event, or stay tuned on the website.

Homecooking: part deux

Well, it’s been two weeks since I put Parker back on home-cooking and boy am I glad I did. His breath is 100% better, his energy levels have improved, he is sleeping more soundly at night, his reactivity has gone down significantly (more on that later), and he is so motivated and happy!

This past week has been really busy and at one point I woke up and realized that I had no prepared meal ready for Parker. It was quite a rush and that will be my downfall. I’ll have to be more organized going forward. In a rush, I made oats, pumpkin, carrots, apple, banana, chicken breast, tuna. It was quite disgusting. And by disgusting, I mean he loved every moment of it.

Yesterday I was in a bind and made up brown rice, chicken hearts, carrots, bananas, strawberries and broccoli. Lesson learned. Parker thinks chicken hearts are weird and has to chew them 4 times before he believes they are food. He is not a fan of fruit (we knew this before). Chicken hearts are too rich, smell terrible, and cause him to have rabbit poop and Dramatic Groaning Syndrome all day.

Today I got up and raced to Sobey’s to stock up on his ingredients (and heck, even do a little grocery shopping for me too!) and came home with a whole lot for a whole $8.00. It’s important to shop for sales and for fruits and veggies that are in season.

I spent almost an hour in the kitchen preparing the next weeks’ worth of meals for him and he spent that whole hour singing to the heavens just outside of the kitchen. I kid you not. I wouldn’t dare stop him – it was the only entertainment I had while I slaved away in a hot kitchen.

So for this week, his meal consists of:
– oatmeal
– cheerios
– boiled chicken breast
– canned tuna or salmon
– zucchini (HIS FAVOURITE!!!)
– carrots
– apple (still not sure if he will enjoy this long term)
– banana (learning to tolerate)
– green peas
– celery (chopped so small he can’t tell it’s there)
– vitamins/minerals
– safflower oil (sauteed the veggies in this briefly)

What did I learn? He loves peas. I had no idea, but I’m not really surprised. He is like his mama – he loves his veggies, but could live without fruit unless someone force-feeds him.

What did I learn that is even more important? That I have taught my dog to beg and now have to retrain some manners into him. Feeding your dog human food does *not* cause them to beg. Feeding your dog human food from the counter, the stove, the table, the couch – *that* will cause your dog to beg. Oops.

Trainer error. Please try again.

🙂 And now, for a picture-dump. Again, so good that I would eat it.

Home-Cooking

Parker has been eating Orijen for years and it has served him quite well up until recently. (They changed the formula so that there is more protein and less fruit / vegetables.) As soon as he started eating the new formula, his stool changed (smell and consistency) drastically and so did his breath. Suddenly when he opened his mouth, you could smell it from across the room. Not pleasant, I tell you.

I thought “time for a change” so I switched him over to Taste of the Wild as it has extremely high ratings and great feedback from colleagues, clients, and friends. The issues did not disappear and it’s been almost a month.

I’m a pretty patient person, but I like to see results sooner than that…so I made another decision. Keep him on Taste of the Wild (he seems to enjoy it more than the Orijen) but go back to mostly home-cooking for him.

When we first adopted Parker, we tried a few different foods and some were good, some were *really* bad (Science Diet which caused him to develop acute colitis where he passed blood instead of feces) and finally I gave up on kibble. I listened to my mother (we all should) and started home-cooking for him. Everything changed – his stool was consistent, his coat was shiny and smooth, his breath was neutral, he had great energy and slept soundly, his weight remained consistent, etc…

However, after a few months of that, I found it difficult to maintain with a full-time job so I put him on the highest quality kibble we could find – Orijen. Like I said, it served him well for years.

So here I am, home-cooking again and I am really looking forward to seeing how it turns out. Tonight I made a pretty stellar mash for him:

  • brown rice
  • lean ground beef
  • sweet potato
  • canned tuna
  • kidney beans
  • spinach
  • green beans
  • green peas
  • safflower oil
  • vitamins/minerals

He does really well with veggies and the rice really seems to settle his stomach quite a lot. I kept the protein level high but not as high as the commercial kibble he’s been eating.

Here are a few pictures of how it turned out:

I’m still supplementing each meal with some Taste of the Wild kibble and he also gets the occasional dollop of cottage cheese or plain yogurt plus healthy snacks like banana, blueberries, carrots, etc… and he will continue to get his raw or smoked bones in order to keep his teeth clean (plus regular brushings).

I’ll keep regular updates as we go along and we’ll see how things turn out. I’ll also post recipes as I move through the different options. This mash was pretty exciting and I may tone it down going forward, but it feels nice and balanced for now as long as he’s got some fruit in his snacks.

Stay tuned!

What are you feeding to your pup?

What food do you feed your pup? When you read the ingredient list, what are they top 5-10 ingredients? You may find that the cheapest brands and those that you find most advertised have the most fillers. By fillers, I mean carbohydrates like corn, wheat, wheat flour, rice, barley and oats. These are foods that to cause your dog feel full, longer.

According to the labeling guidelines/regulations, the ingredient with the most weight must be listed first. Many times, pet-food companies will weigh the ‘good’ foods before they are processed so that they can be added first to the list; however, once processed, they are lighter in weight, therefore should be further down the list. This is a loophole in the system.

My rule of thumb is to read the ingredient list and if I cannot pronounce it or would not eat it myself, I will not feed it to my dog.

Dogs are naturally carnivores, therefore their bodies need more protein than they do anything else. Vegetables come in second, fruits third, and carbohydrates? I doubt that they should really be on the list at all. Where would they find carbs in the wild? They wouldn’t.

It is so important to feed your dog a good, healthy food if you are not home-cooking for him/her. Find out more about the company that makes your dog food – what else do they produce and sell? Do you support and believe in those products too? Where do their products come from? How many by-products can you find?

After doing much research on dog foods, I came across a brand that really struck a chord with me: Orijen. I think they explain it best:

Our fresh regional ingredients include free-run chicken, turkey & ducks, whole Grade A eggs, free range wild boar, bison and heritage pork, grass-fed lamb, and a variety of wild-caught freshwater & saltwater fish—all farmed or fished within our region, passed ‘fit for human consumption’ and delivered FRESH TO OUR DOOR. Each & every day!

  • Our focus is on ingredients that are sustainably farmed or fished WITHIN OUR REGION – by people we know & trust, and delivered to us FRESH (never frozen) each day,
  • Our award-winning dog and cat foods are based on our ‘Biologically Appropriate’ nutritional philosophy (Processed under the Government of Canada’s highest food safety standards, ORIJEN’s fresh meats are produced exclusively from animals passed as ‘fit for human consumption’ and are all certified free of antibiotics and growth hormones.)

So, what about your dog food? Can you say the same for yours?

Read more: Orijen