For Kim, Allison, And Keith

Anja (below, in comments) is right.  This blog entry is itself like a doggie stew–I’ve put in all kinds of different things–and she threw her ingredients in, too.  🙂 

What are the chances?  On the exact same day that I come to the conclusion that the reason many people from the general dog-owning public prefer Cesar Millan-style dominance theory training, over the much more scientific and incidentally more humane positive reinforcement/negative punishment-style training, is because tons of people get their jollies from controlling whatever living being they can get their hands on, the issue of domestic violence is offered up on a platter for me to ponder, not once, not twice, but more times than you’d think would be statistically probable.

The training question is huge, and the thought I had (I’m going to go so far as to call it a realization) depressed me.  To know that many folks you’d think would be more aware of progress in training methods are still convinced that we need to use physical control and discipline with our dogs, makes me despair sometimes.  

One person’s input that packed a wallop:  an acquaintance said he’d never been to a trainer who didn’t use physical manipulation to get a dog into a sit.  This plummeted me into the depths, temporarily.  Teaching a dog to sit is so easy that a toddler still in diapers can do it.  You just need to be able to stand quietly in front of a dog, looking like you’re waiting for something, and the dog will sit.  A freaking Roomba set on ‘pause’ could probably train a dog to sit, once the dog got used to it.  And a trainer who has to push a dog into a sit isn’t worth what you’d pay for the Roomba (and don’t forget that the Roomba will do your floors, too).

But this subject is so loaded that I’m leaving it for a day when I didn’t spend all day thinking about it.  At the bottom of this entry I’ll put a link to today’s most outrageous control freaky domestic violence incident involving a pet.  But the ‘meat’ of this entry will be about something much less controversial (although it still features in many ‘discussions’ between dog lovers):  dog food.

A friend asked what she could do about her dog, who was somewhat obsessed with getting himself on the outside of people food.  For today, I’m going to be as brief as I can, and provide links and stuff tomorrow.  Two things pop out at me for now.

Thing One:  The present-day kibble industry is very recent.  If you think back, you’ll realize that, even in your parents’ day (if you’re close to middle age), people were feeding ‘people food’ to their dogs.  The kibble manufacturers did a masterful marketing job, but its days are numbered, and that’s a good thing.  More on that (lots more, if I can find it) tomorrow or the next day.

Thing Two:  a tale from Suzanne Clothier’s fantastic book, ‘Bones Would Rain From The Sky’ (short form of the title, which is commonly used)

Client brought dog to her; said dog was picky eater and would not eat her dog food.  Dog too thin, not very healthy, just not thriving.  Client/owner convinced dog being manipulative, holding out for better, staging hunger protest or something similar.  Offered as proof, ‘whenever I have chicken, she’s right there, begging her head off!  And she licks my oatmeal bowl clean every morning.  But will the little diva eat her food?  Oh, no.  She’s so stubborn I don’t know what to do anymore.’  (major paraphrase, done from memory)

I have no idea what any of you are thinking at this point.  For me, it was obvious where this was going, but the client was a little hard to convince at first.

Dogs don’t lie.  Dogs aren’t manipulative, as we can be (although they can train us, but that’s something different).  Dogs don’t have all the weird relationships with food that we do.  If the dog was desperately begging for chicken and licked up every speck of oatmeal, it’s because those were good things for it to eat.  Once Suzanne persuaded the owner to try it, the dog’s health took a major leap upwards, in every way.  (It’s probable that this particular dog had allergies to a lot of other dog food ingredients, which is why she needed a purer diet to be in good health.)  All of us have stories like this. 

(Now don’t be a smart-tail and say that your dog begs for chocolate–should you feed her chocolate?  No!  The dog in the story wasn’t messing around–she was desperately craving the foods which she could sense were the only ones her body could utilize, and this may be the case with my friend’s dog, too.  There’s certainly no harm whatsoever in trying a more ‘people-food based’ diet for a dog like that.)

Not every dog thrives on the same ingredients.  You need to observe your dog, and tweak what you’re serving to meet his or her needs.  And, in general, dogs like variety in their meals.  If you think otherwise, you can thank the same kibble industry that brainwashed us into thinking that is was OK to feed our best friends greasy little balls from a bag with an expiration date sometime in the next decade, day after day, with no added anything.

People sometimes think that dry food is better for a dog’s teeth than ‘wet’ food.  Even that’s not true.  When you eat a Triscuit, it’s nice and crunchy.  But within seconds it becomes a mushy paste that sticks to your teeth just as much as a marshmallow does.  It’s bones that help clean a dog’s teeth–intense chewing on a resistant surface–not kibble.

Having bashed kibble a bit, let me say that all kibbles are not equal.  There are some really great ones out there, and I had to learn about them for Soyer.  The trainer who worked with Soyer at the beginning feeds her own dogs a raw diet (I’ll add at least one link about that, tomorrow), which wasn’t possible at Soyer’s boarding facility, and I cook for my own dogs, which wasn’t possible either (although I began cooking extra stew, and taking it to Soyer in microwave-safe containers), so Soyer needed to eat kibble, and we got him one of the best that money could buy, in our opinion:  grain-free Canidae.  There are lots of other excellent ones, and if people want to read about them here, I’ll write about them.  I suspect, though, that the information is easy to come by.  Still, you might want personal testimonials from other owners, so just write in, if so.

I bought Soyer’s food at a store we have here called Country Max.  It stocks a wide variety of high-end pet foods, in addition to some of the less expensive ones.  For my own dogs, I wanted to use a kibble base, and I wanted it to be a kibble for which I didn’t have to go to a special store.  I wanted to be able to buy my kibble at our 24-hour supermarket, so that I would never risk being without it.

Luckily for me, right around the same time I began to learn a little more about canine nutrition and came to that decision, a decent, all-natural kibble appeared on our grocery store shelves here:  Harmony Farms.

I don’t know what a Canidae-level owner would feel about Harmony Farms.  For me, it’s a very nice step up from Science Diet, which is what I used to feed, thinking (brainwashed by my former vet’s office) that I was doing a good thing for my dogs.  Science Diet, frankly, is a terrible choice.  I think you’d be better off with most store brands.  I’m quite sure you’d be better off with Purina One, or Rachael Ray’s Nutrish.

My dogs really like the Harmony Farms (not the diet bag, though–just the regular stuff in the green bag), and have never once tired of it.  Maybe someday, when I have fewer dogs or dogs with special needs, I’ll feed one of the super high-end kibbles (although I still feel that supplementation with freshly cooked ‘stew’ is the most important contributor to my dogs’ good health and longevity).  For right now, this is really working.  The price isn’t too bad–it works out to be about $1 per pound.  It’s a better price at Wegman’s than at Tops, and the bigger the bag, the better the value, as you’d expect (although it’s not an infallible rule).

I feed the dogs twice a day, morning and late afternoon.  I cook a ‘stew’ to mix into their kibble.  If you want to try it, it’s easy and satisfying for the cook, I’d say.  You can really exercise your creativity.  I can’t tell you quantities, for obvious reasons, but you can hardly go wrong.  Make a little the first day, and if your dog is looking for more, make more for the next meal.  If you make too much, cool it and refrigerate it for later.

Boil some water in a saucepan.  If you have some leftover all-0r-almost-all-natural broth (low sodium), add it to the water.  If you want to give your dog a real treat, buy a jar of Gerber baby food (beef, chicken, ham, turkey, or lamb) and add that to the water (and be sure to rinse out that jar to get every last bit–dogs and cats love meat baby food, as a general rule, and it’s good to keep some on hand for giving pills, coaxing the appetite of an ailing pet, etc.)

If you’re using raw meat that day (thin chicken breast cut into pieces, or ground beef, turkey, or chicken, add it at this point, and cook for a couple of minutes.

Now add a little grain (this is controversial–many dedicated, knowledgeable owners and trainers are looking for grain-free diets lately), avoiding corn.  Corn isn’t truly bad for dogs; it’s just not too useful to their bodies, except as fiber.  If you don’t believe it, feed your dog some frozen corn or corn on the cob and notice the yellow polka-dotted poop you get the next day.  Most kibble is loaded with corn (the Science Diet, for instance, is outrageously corny).  Harmony Farms is not.  I use rice (mostly white, believe it or not, unless I want to add fiber, because the brown, like corn, tends to go right through them), oatmeal (my preferred grain), or, occasionally, pasta (elbows or broken-up thin spaghetti).  

Cook until the grain is close to finished (depending on your veggie/fruit), and add a vegetable or fruit (apple is the fruit I almost always use–had some gassy dogs with peaches, but it may have been because it was new to them).  I usually use frozen veggies, in the interests of time, but fresh would be wonderful.  My dogs really love spinach and peas, and they like carrots and beans very much, too.  The big bags of mixed veggies are a good variety (although there’s some corn in there), and a good bargain: 91.6 cents per pound, I believe, at Wegman’s. 

I cook the veggies just enough to make them palatable.  I cook the apples a little longer, until they’re fairly mushy.  Dogs love apples, and you can use all-natural applesauce on days when you’re rushed.  I keep that in the pantry year-round.  Use any veg or fruit your dog likes, except–and this is a big exception–grapes or raisins and onions.  I have found it better to avoid tomatoes, peppers, and loads of garlic, too, although a moderate amount of garlic is very nice, and they love it.

Lastly, add cooked meat, if you’re using it–chicken or turkey from the day before, or pot roast, or pork chops…go for lean meats, since too much fat is not only not great for any of us, but can actually cause serious problems for a dog, if he or she isn’t used to having much fat (I think this can happen to us, too).  Don’t feed much (or any) sausages or hot dogs or luncheon meat–nitrites and nitrates should be avoided even more for dogs than we avoid them ourselves.  One of the easiest meats to add, and one of the dogs’ all-time faves, is canned tuna.  I always have it in the house, for them, and the cats, and me. 

Mix it thoroughly, let it cool for a while (definitely check the temperature before setting it down for your dog), pour some on top of the kibble, and stir.  If you try this, friend, I hope you’ll let me know what your people food-obsessed doggie thinks of it.  I confess that I hope very much you’ll try it, as I suspect your dog, whom you told me was a shelter bounce-back (a few times!), hasn’t always had people who cared as much about him as you do, nor too much good food.

For folks who are OK in the financial department but who have very little time, check out The Honest Kitchen.  Their raw, dehydrated diets are great.  You just soak them for a few minutes to rehydrate, and serve, and they can be stored, dehydrated, for ages at room temperature.  My dogs really loved, ‘Thrive’–I served it in place of their homemade ‘stew’.

Please, anybody, write in with your tips about creatively and healthily feeding our dogs–thanks!

I'll deal with the bone issue tomorrow--kind of controversial.

 Here’s the link to the most depressing domestic violence article I saw today (you might not want to taint your soul by reading it, seriously):

something much more wholesome--the meal tray at my house

P.S.  I always keep some cans of different flavors of Harmony Farms wet food in the house, too, in case it’s a really rushed day and I can’t cook for them.  I just make a thick broth from the canned food and warm water, and they really like it.

P.P.S.  I was wrong.  My favorite grain is not oatmeal, although that’s wonderful.  Even better is quinoa, and my dogs just love it.  It’s a little pricier and takes a teeny bit longer to cook, so I buy it less frequently, but the extra protein and yummy taste are so worth it.

More pees and one ess:  I forgot eggs!  They love eggs, any which way!  And I also forgot that the Crock Pot is invaluable for making doggie stew.  Layer the stuff in there (veggies and grains on the bottom and meat on top), turn it on low and cook it overnight, and you’ll be golden in the morning.

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4 Responses to For Kim, Allison, And Keith

  1. Anja says:

    Wow, did you leave ANYTHING out of this blog??? ; )
    As to the positive re-enforcement concept…..the more I read by Jean Donaldson and Patricia McConnell etc….. the more I think about it when I am at work. Why? Because I wish I was working for a dog-trainer, rather than my well-paid supervisor!!!! If he was sent to some basic clicker-training and asked to read some good books about dog-training…… we’d all work much happier and more productive at the old office!!!
    As to the food….. I start with the meat and add sweet potatoes instead of grain about 15 minutes later…. about 10 minutes later some green beans, peas and after all is cooked I add parsley and shredded apples…. raw eggs the next day after all is cooled. I make a huge batch (I know my girl loves it) and freeze it in 2-day portions….. which is mixed with kibble (currently I use the fish-based Natural Balance).
    I believe Panda was about 18 months when I got her and already had tartar build up. Not much, but it was there. She has been getting bones on occasion and I have NOT had to have her teeth cleaned! They are perfect now! Knuckle bones are better than the marrow bones as they don’t chip and are softer than the middle weight-bearing part of the femur or tibia for instance. There is also more connective tissue like tendons which acts like floss.
    Dogs are supposed to chew on something (as they do in the wild on bones) after they have their meal which helps to release digestive enzymes…..
    There is a ton of info out there, but if one chooses to start with a good kibble….. they can easily create their own cooking instead of canned food which is EXPENSIVE and very low quality…. compared to what you can offer yourself.
    It’s not rocket-science! It’s food! All one has to do is use some common sense…..
    Great blog, Ingrid!!!!!

  2. Anja says:

    I should add that chicken bones, cooked, are dangerous! Therefore I like using the leg-quarters which only have large bones which are easy to take out after cooking. I count the parts and count the bones to make sure I don’t miss any. When I do use breasts or whole chicken, I de-bone it when it is raw and save the bones and the meat for a broth I use for …. anything.
    I also like to add carrots and canned pumpkin!
    When you cook yourself, you can also TASTE it!!!! You know it’s clean and what you put in it…. and guess what…. it’s YUMMY!!!!

  3. Ingrid Bock says:

    Anja, great ideas. Sweet potatoes are great, and the whole squash family! My dogs seem to love any orange veggie. Canned pumpkin is the best, though, and you reminded me to pick up some more (you probably know that it’s said to help certain digestive troubles, and Soyer needs it regularly.) I’ve been doing summer squash lately–at 50 cents per squash, it’s a great value and they chow down on it.
    Big 🙂 re. your office.
    Re. bones, I was gonna save it, but I actually feed cooked chicken bones, broken into little pieces. If they don’t crumble, I don’t serve ’em. Sometimes I have them go through the crock pot twice, and the second time, they always crumble. The dogs love them. I’ve been doing it for years, but don’t recommend it, because everyone says it’s dangerous. I tried it originally because Dingo had almost stopped eating (heart disease seems to do that), and I was trying anything he seemed interested in. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d be saying goodbye to him, so I had nothing to lose. I cooked them a very long time and broke them up, and he loved them up to the end. All my dogs now love them.

  4. Bandit got a whole foods diet (used Better Food For Dogs as my cookbook until I was educated enough about it to wing it) and I *wanted* to cook for Barbo when we got him. But he turned up his nose at all people food except fish. So we put him on Wellness oceanfish kibble and he eats it just fine. BooBoo now too, although I think she’d probably take people food if I cooked for her.

    I much prefer cooking for them, knowing what exactly is in there and never having to risk any contaminants. But, Barbo wants no part of it. So, we go the human-grade, organic dog food and treats route.

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