I get asked all the time about what I feed my dogs, and I’m not going to lie… I enjoy answering that question because I think nutrition is so often overlooked. In fact it’s so important that when a severe behavioral case comes into one of our training programs I always tell folks that we’re going to be looking at the dog as a whole. Which means we’re going to focus on four areas: obedience training, modifying behaviors in the dog, modifying behaviors in the humans, and nutrition. It’s absolutely silly to think that food does not relate to behavior. I don’t think I could get away with feeding my 2 year old son snickers and ice cream every day and not see a change in his behavior. Unfortunately many of the dog foods out there are loaded with ingredients that are just about as bad for our dogs as a snickers is for my son. So, today as I was writing an email to someone (with a Cane Corso puppy) about this subject I decided to share it with all of you.
Choosing the right food for your dog is super intimidating. A trip to the local pet store can easily yield in excess of fifty options! So you need to do a little research. The good news is that you don’t have to take pictures of the ingredients of every bag of dog food that you’re interested in, and then go home and dissect those ingredients. Someone has already done that for you. The team over at Dog Food Advisor have created an absolutely essential resource that I’ve been using for years to help me narrow down my search. You can pull it up on your phone while you’re at the store, type in the name of the food you are looking up, and find a quick rating of that food. They’ve done unbiased research, and assigned a score to hundreds of different dog foods. I recommend a minimum four star rating for any dog that I’m working with, and there are plenty of affordable options within that tier. Not only do they assign a score, but they also do an ingredient break down to tell you why it got that score! It really is an amazing resource to have at your fingertips! Check out your dog’s food and see what kind of score it receives right now (and be sure to bookmark the page for later use): http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/
After a visit to Dog Food Advisor many of you may be surprised that the food your veterinarian recommended didn’t receive as high of a score as what you would hope. If your vet did recommend a high ranking food I would love to know who your vet is because I need more vets to refer business to! Unfortunately many vets like to recommend certain brands of food that are often sold in their offices and mass marketed to veterinarians. They come with fancy labels and mention how they were specially developed by veterinarians. Many even have formulas specifically for YOUR dog (insert sarcasm)! These foods are definitely not the worst foods out there, but for the price most times you could be feeding your dog a much higher quality of food. Veterinarians receive some pretty impressive mark ups on dog food, so they definitely stay motivated to sell you that stuff! Please don’t think that I’m bashing all veterinarians. In fact I’ve got some great friends who are vets. My veterinarian that I used back in Indiana was actually one of the original people that helped me start researching better nutritional guidelines for my dogs before Dog Food Advisor came out. However, I still make sure to do lots of research whenever I select a new veterinarian because I want to make sure I’m working with someone who is motivated to help dogs, not just to take my money.
**** Special Note: After you decide on a quality food you will want to go back in and check on the food’s score from time to time. I’ve had several foods that I’m feeding change their formula without me knowing, and it caused their score to drop. So check once or twice a year, and subscribe to any recalls that may affect you.
Now… here’s where I get a little more complex, and you can choose to do this or not. Every high quality food out there is going to have it’s strengths and weaknesses. For example two foods might both be very high quality, but one might have a little better vitamin C content, and the other might have a better source of protein. For that reason I like to either mix food brands together or rotate brands that I use each day or meal. Mixing the brands together obviously makes life easier on you because you just dump the foods in a bin, mix them up real well, and scoop from it just like you would when you buy a regular bag of food. However, I feel like sometimes my dogs like a little variety in the taste of their food, and for that reason I prefer to switch up the food with each meal (I limit to three different brands). I’ll use Zeno as an example. Right now Zeno gets three cups of Diamond Naturals every morning at the facility, and he gets two cups of Orijen for dinner on Mon, Wed, Fri, and two cups of Wellness Core for dinner on Tues, Thurs, Sat, and Sun. That way I know he’s receiving a pretty good variety of proteins, carbs, and vitamin sources. So if any of the foods that I’m feeding have any kind of major nutritional lack, the other two should help to make up for it.
Here are the links to those three foods on Amazon if you want to know exactly what I’m feeding. You can find them locally as well, but to be honest I’m kind of an amazon junky and love the convenience! If you need to know where to find them locally just let me know. You’ll notice that I included two different formulas of diamond naturals. I did that because I tend to switch up which one I’m using on Zeno depending on what we’re up to at that time. If we’re just doing our regular routine we stick with the normal Diamond Naturals. However, if we’re going to be going hiking, or when Zeno get’s older and starts performing in more events, I use the extreme athlete formula.
Wellness core: http://amzn.to/1ozH2jU
Diamond Naturals Chicken: http://amzn.to/1S0fCkT
Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete: http://amzn.to/25JvlZy
It’s important to introduce foods properly so your dog doesn’t end up getting an upset stomach with each new food that you add. What you want to do is mix the new food in gradually with the food that your dog is currently used to. You do this over the course of about ten days, and each day take away a little more of the old food and add a little bit more of the new food. This will allow your dogs intestinal system enough time to develop the digestive enzymes and bacteria it needs to break down the new foods.
Along with proper food I also believe that certain breeds need special supplements to ensure they are able to be at their absolute peak health-wise. However, I’m out of time today so I’ll have to save that for later!