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 Thoughts on Food and Feeding

Liver Layered Birthday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


I should start off saying that I don't normally do for the puppies what I do for the adults. I never know where puppies homes will be and certainly philosophies
about feeding dogs varies greatly from home to home so the following is usually only for the dogs that call Ivy Gables home. 

To illustrate the range of views on feeding dogs I'll share a conversation I had with my vet one day while  there with a dog that had diarrhea.  Now, I have to say
 I love my vet but on the food issue we don't see eye to eye at all.  She started by asking me what I was feeding this dog.  I'm sure she was expecting me to name a
particular brand of dried food and stop there. She got much more than she was anticipating though as I explained our rather complicated (at least for most homes)
doggie diet and my belief's about feeding my dogs and the reason for those belief's. She patiently listened while I went on with our food routine and when I was done
she said " Well that's all fine and good but really a simple quality dried kibble is best you know". 

I didn't know and I still don't.  She, like me, likes her food.  You can tell those things sometimes.  So, after the 5 minute education that sounded more like
a lecture about why a kibble diet is the best way to feed our dogs, I smiled and thanked her and tried to steer the conversation back to the task at hand which
was dealing with my poor dog with the diarrhea.  I knew any argument from me about how my dogs actually handled getting new foods better than most because
they had such a diverse diet  would just fall on unlistening ears. 

 But in the back of my mind I was wondering about her comment about a dog doing better on a kibble diet.  Not that I didn't know the conversation or philosophy; 
I'd heard it or read it all too many times.  What I wondered, standing there that day, was - wouldn't we all do better on a kibble diet? Wouldn't we all do better with
 a balanced dried kibble that gave us all our daily requirements in one handy prepackaged food.  Measure out one or two cups, depending on our individual size,
 and know we had everything we needed in it to be healthy and nourish our bodies.   Well of course the answer is yes, we would be better off physically.  But we know
there is so much more to life than just taking care of the physical needs of our bodies.  It's important, we all know and agree, but so is quality of life.  And most of us
 would also agree our quality of life would not be the same if you took the enjoyment of mealtime away by only caring for the physical body and discounting the pure enjoyment we all get from a good meal when we're really hungry and replaced it with the "better for us all inclusive kibble" diet.


Baked Scrapple and Rice Treats

The other conversation wasn't really a conversation at all but a comment made to me by another  Tibetan breeder about her dogs.   She said with great pride
"Not one of my dogs has ever had a piece of human food pass it's lips".  I don't know what the look on my face said but I know my heart hurt for those dogs. 
To never know the pleasure of a taste other than dried kibble, to me, is not just very sad  but unimaginable.

To address this issue of balanced nutritional needs of dogs, which also happens to be most peoples very argument on this subject of how best to feed our dogs,
 I would have to say this.... if your a mother, you know a child's nutritional needs backwards and forwards.  We know about the food pyramid and now the "new" food pyramid.  We also know very few children (or adults for that matter) get what that food pyramid says is necessary for a healthy body.  And at the very same time, on
the other side of things we are being told if our kids refuse those  5 daily servings of  healthy fruits and veggies...well, just don't force it on them.   They'll be alright without them for now and we really can rest assured that the kids will not suffer permanent damage from this  deviation from the sacred food pyramid for a time. 
Granted, this is said with the implied assumption that someday these kids will begin to eat what's good for them.  And hopefully they will, but in reality how many
people eat what they are suppose to daily?

So if our children, who we hold dearer to our hearts than anything else on this earth, are given a reprieve from a forced diet, why can't we do the same for our
dogs whom we love, but not quite as much as our kids...usually. 

Well simply said, it's because picking up a bag of dried dog food is infinitely easier than planning a diet for our dogs.  Our lives are busy enough these days
without having to plan a meal for Fido.   Most of us aren't even planning our own meals so how the heck are we suppose to find time to feed home cooked food to the
dogs?  So what do we do?  Well in a perfect world, for me and my dogs,  if I could afford it and if I had the time I think I would do what Madonna does with her
dogs and make each of them a plate at dinner time.  What the heck, if your eating a healthy balanced diet, why not?  Just give them more of the protein and
everyone enjoy.   But.......  my income and Madonna's are worlds apart and besides, she only has 2 dogs and , well, we have more than 2.  Quite a few more than 2.  
At least it feels that way when I'm cooking for them.  And time.... well there is never enough of that is there? So we try to find a way to take advantage of the
convenience of quality dried kibble with some home cooking added to it to enhance it.  Sort of a  "Food Channels Sandra Lee" approach....Semi Homemade. 

So what exactly do we do here to feed our dogs given how we feel about the food issue?

First off,  we change kibble more than most people do.   We've  found a few that the dogs really like and they are the ones we feed  most of the time but 
frequently we see a new one and  give it a try.   Our dogs rarely get diarrhea  from a change in diet or dog foods or because they got  hold of something new.  
Their tummies are used to variety so we don't get the syndrome people who feed their dogs one dried food and only one dried food for  years on end get when
they get a hold of something new. When that dog finally gets something different his stomach reacts because it has been so conditioned to only one food. 
This reaction just reinforces for the owners that their dog is one of those dogs that can't have anything new in their diet and double their efforts to keep the
dog on one food and only one food.  I know there are some dogs with medical conditions that make this impossible but we're taking about most dogs....not the
few with true conditions that can't have variety.  Our dogs don't go through this because they've had many foods from a very young age.  Variety truly is the
spice of life...even for our dogs. 

Secondly, our dogs are always free fed, which means there is always dried food available in bowls.  Even puppies are free fed from the time they are
old enough to get themselves to the bowl.  Usually it's because there is a bowl near by for mom and the puppies have smelled it and gotten themselves over to it.

I believe dogs are like us in that if they are deprived of food it becomes an obsession for them.  My first dog with a real issue with weight came to me when she
 was 3 yrs old.  She'd been fed a very regimented diet for years and was always hungry.  Would it have been different for her had she had free access to food all
her life?  We will never know.   I know there are dogs that love food more than others just like there are people who love food more than other people but I still
believe an environment of deprivation creates a more obsessional attitude about food, even in dogs. 

Thirdly, once a day we feed a dried kibble that's got something really yummy on top.   Here we stew chickens and use this or a traditional canned food...as
opposed to the cans that come with slices and gravy,  or a combination of the 2.   It's actually pretty inexpensive given the joy it brings the dogs.   Mixed
with their high quality kibble it's still a pretty balanced meal .  I make enough at one time to freeze the majority of it in individual sized containers that hold
enough for 2 or 3 days worth so I can feed them something they love and not have so much work for myself that I  hate doing it.

Fourthly,  we do snacks and treats liberally here.  I  occasionally cook things for them  that can be divided into individual portions and frozen to give as a
treat or used as a supplement to dry on days I can't, for whatever reason, do the kibble topped with chicken.   If I have something  on hand or frozen I can
 just give them easily it can be  good source of variety nutritionally as well as a special treat.

As for treats, we still always have rawhides and milkbones or meaty bones on hand but I also keep something soft and especially yummy on hand too. 
Dogs rarely go into a crate without a treat and soft treats are particularly coveted.   These soft treats are wonderful for training puppies all sorts of things
 like why it's best to potty outside and that crates and leashes can be a good thing. 

Most training facilities ask you to bring a soft treat to classes these days to use as a training tool as they know the power food has to get the behavior your
 trying to get from your dog.  If you've read the obedience page on this website you know my experience with training before and after using food and the
difference it made in my dogs attitude.  I was able to get the behavior without food but I couldn't get the attitude I wanted.   Jean Donaldson makes a compelling
 case for this in her book "The Culture Clash".   It certainly was true for me with my dogs.

So that's our feelings about food and I dare say given the plethora of cook books for dogs on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble, we aren't alone.   Being a big
fan of National Geographic  Channels Dog Whisperer, I couldn't help notice on one of his episodes him mixing a concoction that looked more than vaguely 
similar to ours as he prepared to feed his pack of dogs.  And at a seminar  a few years back on breeding show dogs by author, breeder and judge,  Patricia Craig
Trotter she told us not to be afraid to "add a little spaghetti sauce to that dogs food" .  This wasn't said for it's nutritional value but as a way to give a treat to
our dogs at mealtimes.

So I'll say the same thing to you....

Don't be afraid to treat your dogs with something yummy.   They give us so much and they don't ask for much in return.  It really does seem
like such a small thing to do and yet, it means so much to them.

Oh, and for the record, the dog with the diarrhea.....as it turned out, it had nothing to do with her diet.




Stewed Chicken

Doggie Trail Mix

Annie's Birthday Cupcakes. Photo by Chef #1484412

Annie's Birthday Cupcakes


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