Tips for Feeding Your Show Dog
TIPS ON FEEDING YOUR SHOW DOG
You think that people are passionate about politics or religion? That is mild compared to how dog people are when it comes to how they are feeding their dogs. When I was a kid our dogs ate inexpensive dog food from the grocery store and leftovers from us. For most of my adult life of feeding dogs I have fed good quality kibble. The majority of my dogs as an adult and as a kid have lived well into their teens. What was considered good quality kibble 15 years ago is not necessarily what is considered good kibble today. Over the last few years I have began to experiment more and try different things with my dogs.
For years I have fed my birds a diet that consists of some pellets, fresh foods and for some a seed mix. They eat a wide variety of foods. I cook mashes and make chops for them and offer different fruits, veggies and grains all the time. It took me a long time to begin to feed my dogs more like my birds and to be less worried about every little thing. I have learned to offer a variety and to feel okay about trying different things and switching up their diets.
I realize that some people do not feel comfortable with switching up their dog’s food regularly and that is a very real concern for some dogs. One of my own dogs, Opie has shown me time and time again that he does best on a particular dry dog food, Purina Sensitive Skin and Stomach. The few times I have tried to feed him something different such as raw food or a higher quality kibble, he immediately went downhill. I switched because I felt guilty that I wasn’t feeding him a dog food that was “good enough” or that he wasn’t getting enough variety, but I have learned my lesson and will be much more careful in the future.
A detailed post on food would require a lot of research and detailed information, but here are a few things that you might consider when making decisions regarding your dog’s diet.
All your dogs don’t have to eat the same thing
This was a revelation for me. I live with several dogs, and am currently feeding three or four types of food at any given time. As I mentioned with Opie if I feed anything besides the kibble he does well on, he doesn’t do well and has dry flakey skin, so he stays on that for the most part, though I may add in some other things from time to time. I also have a puppy and a bitch nursing a litter, both of whom are eating puppy food. The rest of my dogs are eating a combination of a high quality kibble mixed with a high quality dehydrated food. Because Opie doesn’t do well on other foods that doesn’t mean that the rest of my dogs should only be fed the food he does well on. Why should I restrict all of their diets because one dog in my group doesn’t tolerate other foods as well?
Not all dogs have the same requirements or nutritional needs and it is a good idea to look at them as individuals. Don’t feel like all your dogs have to eat the same food, they don’t. If they do better on different foods, feed different foods. I never understood why people get all worked up about feeding different foods especially if they are feeding a kibble. It is not any more difficult to scoop food out of two bags than one if you think about it. Once I realized and accepted this, feeding my dogs became much less stressful for me.
Variety is a good thing (for most dogs)
Some dogs do not tolerate a varied diet, but those dogs are few and far between. The reason most dogs don’t do well on a diet that has a lot of variety is that they are not used to it. I now raise my puppies on different foods and change up their food on a regular basis. Occasionally we come across a dog that has a specific intolerance to a protein or grain or who just does best on a single type of food, but that truly seems to be pretty rare.
For the most part my dog’s systems are fine with change, however when switching foods I frequently use goat milk to moisten the food during transitions. Goat milk is a natural probiotic full of nutrition and can help with the change for dogs who may need it. Once I got used to feeding my dogs different foods and rotating what I fed it became a much more natural thing for me as this is how I feed my parrots and myself. Think about how unhealthy it would be for us if we ate only the same thing all the time. We would never feed ourselves that way because it wouldn’t be good for us. Not only from a nutritional standpoint but from an enrichment one as well. I believe that dogs that get fed a varied diet are more satisfied.
Not only do I change up the actual food, I also change up how I deliver the food. Sometimes I feed out of puzzle toys or interactive dog toys and sometimes I feed it out of bowls. Sometimes I make a mix the day before of kibble with some dehydrated food mixed in with water to offer a soft mushy food. Sometimes I offer healthy leftovers. Sometimes I feed straight goat milk.
Your dogs, your decision
I was recently on a dog forum where people were discussing dog foods and many were talking about how they had been trying to avoid a certain popular brand of food because they felt like it wasn’t high enough quality. Many of the people on the forum ended up using the food because they were at their wits end with finding a food that worked and their dogs ended up doing great on that very food they were trying to avoid. I understand this and have been there too. We want so badly to do the best thing for our dogs, that we end up doing the exact opposite. I will no longer go down that road and I will not apologize or feel guilty for it. I know that I am doing the best I can for my dogs and that is all that matters.
Our dogs are our responsibility and we owe it to them to do what we feel is best, not what someone else insists is the only way to go. If you believe that raw feeding is best for your dog, you know how to prepare it and your dog’s health and condition reflect that then by all means feed raw. If you want to feed raw but aren’t comfortable with putting a raw diet together but don’t mind using a prepared raw diet and that works for you and your dog, great! If a high quality kibble is what you can afford and your dogs do well on it, go for it. Or maybe you are like me and you vary all of those things and switch it up much like you feed yourself, well that is okay to. If your dogs are healthy, happy and well cared for and it is working for you then you are on the right track.
One size rarely fits all
Like people, dogs are individuals. One size rarely fits all when it comes to nutrition and how to feed your pets. This is why, in my opinion, it is so important to be flexible and open minded. If what you did for your previous dog or your first dog is not working, don’t get frustrated just try something else. I mentioned my struggles and dilemmas with Opie’s food and how guilty I felt for feeding a food I didn’t feel was good enough and then how horrible I felt for changing to something better which was not good for him. That doesn’t mean I will not continue to experiment in small doses with him to find a happy medium. Will I completely change his diet again? Probably not, but I will continue to offer different things and continue to see what works for him and what doesn’t. And, if at some point this particular food stops working for him, by all means I will be trying other things to see what works for him.
Other things to try
If you are thinking you want to try some new things and additions to your dog’s diet, but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few ideas:
- Goat milk – rich in nutrients and calories, goat milk is a great addition to most dog’s diets. Many breeders use goat milk regularly for puppies but don’t take advantage of it for adults. When my dogs have a tummy upset I offer goat milk while fasting them to allow their bellies to heal while still giving them calories and a feeling of fullness. Plus, they all LOVE their goat milk.
- Raw bones – if you want to offer some raw but don’t want to feed all raw consider offering raw meaty bones. Large, raw, meaty bones are a great way to offer some enrichment and mental stimulation. Meat shops and some grocery stores sell large soup bones that are great for recreational chewing. Bones can fracture teeth, but so can nylabones and other hard chews. Note: Never feed a dog cooked bones of any kind.
- Chicken feet – my dogs LOVE raw chicken feet. Some grocery stores and many ethnic stores offer raw chicken feet. These are just a great treat that dogs seem to love to chew on.
- Raw toppers – several of the high end dog food companies offer raw food toppers which are usually dehydrated protein chunks that can be added to your kibble.
The gut and the brain
It used to be thought that the brain rules all, but research is showing that the gut has a lot more to say about how our bodies our functioning than we used to think. Think about how functional you are if you have an upset stomach. It can affect how you feel, how you act, what you eat and your mood. The same is true for our dogs. What we are putting into them matters, a lot. I have worked with dogs whose behavior issues turned out to be an issue with what they are eating whether it resulted in skin irritations or allergies or an upset belly. How we feel directly affects how we behave.
So, be open and curious about what else is out there and what you can experiment with to make your dogs diet healthy, interesting, varied and enriching.