I have chosen to feed my dogs a raw diet (BARF). This consists of raw meat, bones, fish, offal, fruit & vegetables. If you choose to feed raw it is important that it is done properly, and there are many ways of feeding raw food to dogs, but I have chosen to follow the Ian Billinghurst method, and for anyone wanting to feed this way I suggest you read his books ‘Grow your pups on bones’ and ‘Give your dog a bone’. I also had a good mentor with Jasper’s breeder, if you can get your breeder to help that is great, but not all breeders are open to raw feeding, so if you can’t get the help from the breeder, or maybe your dog was from a rescue, then of course Ian Billinghurst’s books are a great reference.
I am not suggesting that feeding your dog with a brand of dog food is wrong; whatever suits your dog is right for him/her. I also understand raw feeding may not suit everyone, but it is what I do and it is what suits my dogs and I believe would suit the majority of dogs.
A puppy is never too young (once weaned) to be given RAW bones, it doesn’t matter on the size of breed either. NEVER EVER feed roast or cooked bones these are the ones that can splinter and cause serious damage. I do not understand why pet shops sell these and why they are allowed to is even more of a mystery to me!
The main part of my dogs’ diets consists of chicken wings, carcasses, legs and the meat from the chicken, they also have lamb breast quite frequently, I do feed them ox tail and a small amount of offal too. I rarely feed them mince meat or any meat without the bones, they rarely have beef or pork (except for the ox tail), and they usually have a marrow bone (for recreation) on the go, which is about all the beef they have.
If you think about it, chicken and lamb are young animals, therefore the bones are soft (when uncooked) so quite easy for dogs to crunch and digest.
When Jasper came to live with us at seven weeks he was already on a half raw diet, the breeder knowing I was going to feed raw. Within a couple of days with us he started to pick out the raw food and leave the dog food, so his change over was much quicker than we intended.
Raw chicken wings formed the majority of Jasper’s diet, (and still do) but initially I was nervous about feeding them whole so we minced the wings and added all the minced fruit and vegetables, bio yoghurt and raw eggs (complete with shells) adding vitamins and flax seed oil and thoroughly mixed this forming individual portions – this can be frozen if you make a large batch. The vegetables and fruit should always be either minced or put through a juicer, this way the dogs can digest it, if it is not made into a pulp you will probably see it will come straight through the other end. So either mince, juice all fruit and you can also very lightly steam the vegetables. If you think about an animal that has been killed in the wild - the stomach contents have already been digested this is the consistency that the vegetables and fruit have to be for your dog.
It is important that a dog’s diet is varied and balanced, but each meal does not have to be balanced, as long as the balance is maintained over a period of days.
How much to feed on a raw diet? A growing puppy requires approximately 10% of his body weight each day and a full grown adult requires approximately 2% of his body weight. Portions can always be increased or decreased depending on whether the dog is gaining too much weight or not putting enough weight on. Also increasing the ratio of vegetables and reducing the meat will help if your dog needs to lose weight and vice versa if he needs to gain.
When I first fed Jasper a whole chicken wing, as I mentioned I was a little nervous, so I held the chicken wing with my hand in a garden glove or sometimes held them in garden pincers and fed it to him that way, he really got the hang of it immediately, and it is far better for them to eat this way rather than minced as it keeps their teeth really clean and free from plaque.
Henry our gorgeous golden/collie cross who we rescued (courtesy of Irish Retriever Rescue) took to his raw diet from day one. The only problem we had with him initially is he did try to swallow his bones whole, (well all his food really) so we had to be patient and hold these for him while he ate them and eventually he realised that nobody was going to steal his food from him and now crunches his bones properly.
We do occasionally have foster dogs here and I always feed them a raw diet, and none have had a problem with this, no tummy upsets, and all seem to know exactly what to do.
Occasionally if I run out of raw food it is very easy to give a tin of pilchards in tomato sauce, or cottage cheese or tuna, or even yoghurt with honey, it is an easy way to feed a dog, a bit confusing at first but I think most people would soon get used to it.
Treats –I make liver treats for the dogs. I simmer liver in water with a couple of cloves of garlic for about 5 minutes then cut into small pieces and place them in the oven to crisp up – the dogs love them. They also have a small amount of Edam cheese in treat size, or whatever cheese we have in the fridge, I never buy dog treats as they are full of additives and usually very fattening, the one exception I have found are Neem Bark Chews http://www.neemgenie.co.uk/ I also give Henry whole carrots which he loves to crunch and both my dogs enjoy very ripe pears or bananas which I will sometimes give them for a treat.
Kongs are excellent to keep dogs occupied but I never fill them with the stuff that you spray into them out of cans. One of the things I do is mash up banana and mix with yoghurt and pop them in the freezer, the dogs love these, there are lots of healthy things you can put into kongs.
Now, my dogs do have a varied and healthy diet, that is not to say they never have cooked food, any steamed veg we have left over can be added to their meals, and the occasional cooked meat (never cooked bones) is great to feed or use as treats.
If ever they have a tummy upset then I will give them boiled mashed potatoes with nothing added, or a hard boiled egg.
There are some foods that should not be fed to dogs but the ones that spring to mind and can be found in most homes are:
Quite often when we are out with the dogs, people comment on how well they look, their coat and their stamina and the times we have heard the comment ‘they would be a brilliant advert for dog food, what do you feed them?’