What is the Best Dog Food to Feed and Why? Advice from a Working Dog Trainer.
Deciding what is the best dog food to feed your dog will drive you crazy!
You sifted through all the information on the internet, product pushes from your veterinarian, and advice from all your savvy dog-owning friends, but you still find conflicting information.
The truth is, even the most educated and experienced dog owners in the industry find themselves nit-picking over the fine details of every choice and will NEVER find a definitive answer. The good news is that if you do a little research and pay attention to your dogs' appearance and performance, chances are you will expand their lifespan and quality of life significantly, even if you don't pick the exact food that your favorite dog guru recommends.
Here is my list of recommendations:
- Learn how to read a food label and decipher common marketing tricks. The FDA published a great article that you can find here: How to read a pet food label
- Do NOT trust your veterinarian's advice on diet, period. I am telling you this as someone who has a degree in veterinary science, worked for many years in an animal hospital, and also teaches nutrition in a small animal science class. Ninety percent of veterinarians will push the "bottom of the barrel" dog foods such as Science Diet and Royal Canin. It is not in a veterinarian's best interest to promote dog food that keeps their clients out of their office. You can trust me on this, or you can do the research yourself. Dogs are medicated, poked, and prodded by their veterinarians for years because of allergy, ear, and neurotic licking problems that could simply be treated by a change in diet. Keep in mind, a trainer needs healthy dogs to work, a veterinarian needs SICK dogs to work.
- Know ALL your choices. You are not limited. Options include feeding raw diets, home-cooked meals, canned foods, kibble, and combinations of these. Every option can be good if you choose the quality carefully AND pay attention to the overall health of your dog.
What do I feed personally and why?
Without a doubt, I believe that a carefully planned raw food diet is the best choice if someone has the time, funds, and ability. The biggest drawback, in my opinion, is that if you are not careful with the handling YOU or your family members will get sick. I know this first hand and have known quite a bit of others that discovered this the hard way! As far as the dogs, they do great, and they have the smallest, easiest to clean poops of any other choice.
Through my career, I have always tried to feed raw as much as possible, and still do with my own dogs. However, it is not always convenient or feasible, so I mostly feed a high-quality kibble as a base and feed raw to supplement. When I forget, and I am at the bottom of my dog food bag, I can always grab something in the butcher section of the grocery store. I order my dog food, and have never found a commercial dog food at the grocery store that I'd give my dogs, so this is a better option.
While breeding and boarding working dogs, I needed food that was not only affordable but kept the volume of feces down. The dogs required enough calories and nutrients to maintain weight and not get sick. Choosing the right food for the kennel was a serious decision, so I did extensive research.
What I eventually was a food called Life's Abundance. I have been using this food for over a decade. You can do a comparison to other dog food brands here: dog food comparison
The reasons why:
- It does not contain any of the poor protein boosters most of us hear about, that cause allergies and health problems: corn, wheat, and soy.
- I DO NOT use "grain free formulas" that use peas and beans to replace the corn and wheat as protein boosters. Therefore, I use the "all life stages" original formula of Life's Abundance. The protein is coming from real meat, and the binders (which all kibble must have) are in the form of rice (which isn't used as a protein booster).
- The food is nutrient dense compared to most kibble. I do not need to feed as much of this food as poorer quality foods. Therefore, a bag lasts me longer and I save money on the cost to feed per day.
- The calcium/phosphorus ratio is perfectly balanced for ALL LIFE STAGES. Therefore, I can feed puppies and older dogs without worrying about imbalances.
- The food is more complete nutritionally than any other food I have come across.
- No trickery on the label. No ingredient splitting or other tricks to make it look like there is more meat than there really is.
- The food has never been recalled. The company has strict standards and a system to notify you in case there ever is one in the future.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, I can attest to the health and performance benefits I've consistently observed through many years of using this food.
Below is a playlist (click on the top left menu inside the video) featuring 3 litters of German Shepherd puppies and other dogs that were all raised on this food by me or my trainers. All my German Shepherds always had ears standing earlier than anyone else I knew, and I always had high jumping athletic dogs with zero joint health problems of all breeds. Even the 125lb mastiff cross in the playlist, raised on the food, was a flier.
Of course, other factors are important for healthy dogs, especially keeping the weight TRIM and using joint supplements, but the right food with the correct calcium/phosphorus ratio is a HUGE factor.
One last point:
My main reason for choosing this food is that I needed to maintain the health of my working kennel. Also, no matter how well a dog is trained, you cannot place a dog with weak joints or poor health into a working situation. In some cases, a trainer can lose a considerable investment on a pup that was raised for two years or more.
A bonus to this food is that it is sold through direct marketing (same reason why the food is fresh). Therefore, I was easily able to sell the same food that I used and recommended. As a professional, I am always making recommendations based on my personal practices. Distributing dog food has been a nice addition to supplement my training income. For any pet professional interested in distributing you can go to this link: Become a distributor
Technically anyone can distribute, but it is easier if people are asking for your recommendation anyway. Personally, I hate being a salesman, although I love to make a living giving advice based off of what I truly believe.
Despite the sales pitch inside this article, it is NOT your only choice. This is just what has worked for hundreds of my clients and me. "What do you feed?", is a common question that I get asked. It is difficult for me to answer questions honestly unless I have had first-hand experience with it. Admittedly, there may be other good choices out there. If you know someone that has had years of success with a particular diet, you may also want to consider their advice.
Here are some helpful links:
Lifes Abundance Dog Food - I recommend "all life stages formula". The original (not the "grain free") and joint supplements for any dog over 6 months of age. It is delivered to you (usually about 2 days after order).
Perfectly Rawsome - This is a good site for someone who has no experience with raw food and wants to go that route.
FDA - Reading Pet Food Label - Everyone should read this.
Feel free to comment of you had success with other diets, especially if you live outside of the US where this food isn't an option.
Living in Panama, I get crappy Kibbel for the price of high quality Kibbel in the US – and can’t even get high quality 🙁
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I am still crazy about Mouse!
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