Quin’s Story: Week 31 – What should you feed your dog?

Dog food – what is best for your dog?

The dog food market is absolutely enormous; it’s worth billions of pounds. So we are all subject to huge commercial pressure to buy certain types of food for our dog. When I was young the choice was between two or three types of tinned meat, plus a biscuit meal to add bulk. Even longer ago, dogs were simply fed scraps and leftovers – dog food didn’t exist.

Border Collie puppies
Puppy food

Today we are bombarded with choice over different types of dog food and we now consider there to be four main ways we can feed our dogs:

There is a huge amount of information available now about what type of dog food is best for your dog. I am not a nutritionist, so I am not going to wade into this argument. I am simply going to highlight a few of the issues and questions around dog food, as I have done previously.

Dog food – fit for your dog

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes! They also live very different lives – from a toy dog, such as a Yorkshire Terrier, living in a city and being carried around, to Border Collie, working sheep in the hills. Clearly the needs of those two animals will be very different. So I think you need to start by examining your dog’s size and shape and considering their level of activity and fitness.

Border Collie puppies
Yummy!

A good starting point with dog food is to talk to the breeder. Responsible breeders will have experience of the breed and what works well for them. That doesn’t mean you have to feed the same food, just that they have tried out different foods and worked out what works for them. As a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, I am required to provide advice about feeding to my puppy owners. I also provide a few days of puppy food and offer a sack of food at a discounted price.

Monitor your dog

When you get your puppy, you need to assess whether the food they have is working for them. Are they too fat, or too thin? Is their level of activity correct for the life they are living? I have seen dogs that are lacking in energy and struggling to enjoy the same walks that my dogs do. Equally, I have seen dogs that are ‘wired’, leaping around all over the house, struggling to settle.

Border Collie
Ready for action

Think about the what you need your dog to do? Hopefully you will keep their routine similar on a day-to-day basis. If you are going to go on a long hike, you need to think about giving your dog a bigger breakfast before you go and perhaps taking a small meal for them to have at lunchtime, while you are in the pub! Of course if you are going to run around with your dog, doing agility for example, you need to feed them early enough so that this is digested. Don’t feed immediately after exercise either.

Quality of poo

Well if you own a dog, you will come face to face with this issue on a daily basis! We have to pick up after our dogs, so we do become invested in what is coming out of them. A dog with an upset stomach is not nice for them or you. Border Collies are notoriously fussy, picky eaters. They certainly don’t eat everything! As a breed, they often have digestive issues and are quite sensitive to different foods. They are by no means the only breed to suffer in this way – poodles are quite sensitive to allergies, which obviously can affect poodle crossbreeds as well.

Border Collie
My healthy diabetic dog

Tailor-made dog food

For me, I like a nice complete food that is easy to feed. I was recommended to feed Royal Canin when I started breeding and it works for me. That doesn’t mean I feed it indiscriminately to my dogs. Luna has a diabetic version which helps maintains her health really well, despite her diabetes. I obviously feed the younger dogs a version for puppies and junior dogs, while the older dogs have a senior version.

In addition I add extra bits for interest. One of the main criticisms of feeding kibble is that it’s boring. Personally, that is not an issue for me, as I have bran flakes for my breakfast every single day. I like it, it’s easy and I don’t see why I have to have variety for breakfast. Again, the amount of variety your dog wants will vary from one dog to the next.

Border Collie puppies
Puppies!

In my opinion, feeding raw meat to dogs is fraught with difficulties. It’s harder to manage from a hygiene point of view – see the government’s handling guidelines. The reason I don’t routinely feed it to my dogs is because they’re not bothered about it. It’s certainly not their favourite.

I have tried feeding my dogs Aardvark kibble containing insect protein. I love the idea of replacing meat with insects in our food. Again, the dogs weren’t that fussed. So I stick to what they eat, what keeps them the right weight and fitness. I add raw carrot and goat’s milk powder for a bit of extra tastiness. Lucky dogs! Here’s a video of Ounce, fussiest dog ever, picking through different foods.

Remember..

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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

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