Choosing the Right Dog Food

When I bring up the discussion of dog food choices with people they often seem a little confused. What does that have to do with training? If they like eating it that's good enough, right?

Dogs need a variety of nutrients to stay healthy. Just like kids, they don't always pick what's good for them first. It's up to you to make healthy decisions for them.

Dogs need a variety of nutrients to stay healthy. Just like kids, they don't always pick what's good for them first. It's up to you to make healthy decisions for them.

Well, not really. Just like with people, what your dog eats can have dramatic effects on their overall health and energy level, and of course their weight. And just like with people food, what they want to eat a ton of because it tastes so good is NOT usually the healthiest option.

Feeding a low quality diet to your dog, no matter how much they like the taste of it, can produce a series of issues. This includes hyperactivity, early tooth decay, obesity, skin problems, bad breath, excessive body odor, loose stool and even eating feces (sometimes a sign that they are looking for additional nutrition). So if you can't focus well and feel sluggish on junk food, how do you think your dog feels when they are living on it? Certainly doesn't help them focus on training, that's for sure!

Additionally, while low quality foods are often significantly cheaper per pound, your dog will tend to eat a larger volume of food to feel full and try to get the nutrition they need. My husky Sasha regulates her own weight within 2 lbs all year long and only eats when she's hungry - on Science Diet (I only recommend this when there is a need for one of their prescription diets) she was eating 5 cups a day to maintain this. On Blue Buffalo Wilderness she eats less than 2 cups per day! So it's more expensive for the bag of food, but she doesn't have dog breath or dog odor, she no longer has loose stool and she eats less than half as much food each day.

So how do you choose the right food? For starters, if they sell it at Walmart or a grocery store and it didn't come out of the produce section (I use carrots and green beans as treats) then it is NOT a good food. If it feels greasy when you touch it that means they likely sprayed animal fat on it to add flavor - also bad! If it's made in fun/cute shapes of various colors this means that they are marketing it to your emotions and not your dogs needs. Bad sign. Also be sure to look at recent recalls and avoid brands that have been on these lists in recent years.

In the end what it boils down to is reading the ingredients on the back of the bag. A real MEAT (not corn, soy, rice or any kind of grain) needs to be the first ingredient. Then you should see fruits and vegetables in there somewhere. You DON'T want to see "by-products" listed. Basically, does it sound like something that you would happily ingest all the components of if the were laid out on a table in their original form? If you can say yes, then you've made a good choice!

Hope this helps everyone! 

Jess