What should I feed my future dog?

Dog food canisters from Etsy.

Lately, my dog reading focus has been pretty heavy on the health and nutrition side of things. I’ve been scouring Dog Food Advisor constantly and I’ve been writing down all sorts of advice and ratings. I read the (pretty terrible) Natural Dog Care and the (really great) Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs. The latter book especially convinced me of the truth that dogs should not be exclusively eating low-grade, high-carb, and high-grain kibble.

So, this means I want to make food for my dog or supplement his or her kibble with fresh meat and natural food. Therein lies the rub. My husband and I are de facto vegetarians. I say “de facto” because we tend to eat vegetarian six nights a week; I don’t eat any meat myself for the rest of the week. This means we’re not really in the habit of buying a lot of meat. We’ll eat it occasionally and if we go to friends’ homes for dinner, but it’s not a regular part of our menu. We can buy meat, however, and we are blessed to be surrounded by plenty of local farms and butchers who raise and sell organic, free range beef and poultry.

These are my options, as I see them:

  1. Kibble diet: Buy a high-quality, grain-free kibble and feed exclusively.
  2. Half kibble/half homemade diet: Supplement homemade meals with high-quality, grain-free kibble.
  3. Raw diet: All raw meat and fresh foods, all homemade and self-prepared.

Everyone I know who has a dog has them on an all-kibble diet. Most dog owners I know also stick to the adage that “people food” is bad for dogs (a myth quite successfully perpetuated by the pet food industry). These dogs eat the exact same thing, day in and day out, and don’t complain. They get fat, though, and often smell bad and shed terribly. After having read these excellent books, I don’t think I could feed my dog an all-kibble diet and feel good about it. Unless it was a really, really high-quality kibble. I might be eating my words on this in a few months, but from today’s vantage point, I don’t think my conscience would rest comfortably if I gave my dog only kibble.

I’m leaning most toward the half kibble/half homemade diet at this point, at least in the beginning.  If I find out that all homemade/raw is easy and affordable, we might just go for that. The plan would be to mix kibble with homemade recipes, including some raw meats, fruits and vegetables, and recommended dairy products. I think this plan could also help us cut down on the food that we throw away: Dog as (carefully moderated!) trash reducer. I plan on arming myself with books like Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs and other canine cookbooks to make sure that our future dog is getting all of the nutrients that he or she needs.

I’ve read some about raw diets for dogs. They make me a little nervous, for a few reasons: 1) I don’t cook all that well for myself; I’m not sure how reliable I would be at cooking every day for my dog; 2) It sounds really expensive; 3) It also sounds very time-consuming; and 4) It would take some effort to find reliable places to get such raw meats. Maybe I will work up to it. For right now, though, I’m not sure if I have the guts (or capital) to jump into a raw diet.

Either way, it’s a lot to think about, and I’m sure I may think differently about some of these things when I’m actually in the day in/day out grind of having a dog.

What kind of diet is your dog on? What do you recommend? If you feed kibble, do you have a particular brand you like? I’m all ears!


13 thoughts on “What should I feed my future dog?

  1. Doing a 100% raw diet will take a lot of time. I suggest the half and half. I’ve been studying nutrition for a long time for pets, and I myself eat a lot of raw and organic. If you know of a holistic pet food store, I would start there. They often have raw meats there to try and could make your day a little easier. 🙂

  2. Elka is on Taste of the Wild (Wetlands Formula). Though grain free, she doesn’t have any allergies, so her treats and the people food that she gets may very well have grain in them. I’ve thought about doing raw, but have neither the freezer/fridge space, nor the housecleaning inclinations to deal with it.

    From what you describe, I think half and half would work well for you. It removes a lot of the concern with how the diet is balanced, and also a lot of the concern with handling meat. There are also a lot of prepackaged “homemade” or “raw” brands that you can look into, that I’ve heard mentioned. I don’t know about their cost efficacy.

  3. I used to cook for my dog. Cook. Bake meatloaf, saute chicken breasts, etc. The first book I read about pet nutrition included recipes that were all cooked. I did some more reading and learned about the raw food diet. The problem with my dog and raw meat is that he doesn’t finish his whole meal in one sitting. He nibbles throughout the night and it’s gone by morning. That makes me really uncomfortable in terms of having raw meat sitting out. I found myself moving his food dish in and out of the fridge a bunch of times and that got old real quick.

    Anyway, my finances took a significant turn for the worse and I was forced to go back to regular commercial dog food. He doesn’t like it, I don’t like him eating it, but buying human grade food for your dog is expensive.

    Both of our diets are garbage right now (not literally, but we do eat really bad food because it’s cheap) and I’ve decided that has to change. I’m looking into hydroponics so I can start growing vegetables year round. I’ve also started bringing in a little more income so when I’ve unburied myself from my financial crisis I’ll start buying him meat again. Only this time I’m going all raw– no more cooking his meat (except for liver, which should be cooked because of the toxins). Oatmeal (which he likes) is a good source of protein, so he’ll get that in addition to a little meat, so that it’s not sitting out for hours. He likes cheese and yogurt (the yogurt is really good for the upset stomach he sometimes gets), and he’ll eat veggies if I mix them into oatmeal and cheese or yogurt. Brown rice is another good carb.

    My experience is that feeding your dog human food is expensive and takes time and thought– just like feeding kids, and yourself for that matter, but it’s so much better than commercial dog food. I might, if I can afford it, buy a really good commercial food for those nights when I’m running from one thing to another (meetings, rehearsals, etc.) and he needs a quick meal. The fast food of feeding your dog I guess. The other thing, though, was that when I was cooking for him I was also cooking for myself and we were often eating the same thing. I’d make two meat loafs– one with onions (for me) and one without (for him) and baking them at the same time. Just like a little family. lol. That part worked well because I was eating better then.

    I think commercial is easier and more convenient, but feeding human grade food is far better for them.

  4. We feed a mid-grade kibble- it’s not the highest end, but the ingredient list starts with meat and good grains. It’s reasonably priced. Our dogs don’t get food we make for ourselves, but they do get carrots, cranberries (well not all of my dogs have been fans of cranberries), and occsassionally brown rice and chicken. Junebug actually recently had some tummy trouble and the bet recommended boiled chicken and rice, so both dogs got that for a few days and loved it.
    The hard part, when feeding food you’ve cooked yourself, is figuring out the right amount for your dog.
    I know House of Two Bows has done some reviews of the packaged raw (freezedried and others) that give your dog the benefits of eating a homecooked diet without you actually having to cook it or figure out the amounts. If you’ve got the money, you might want to check into going that route.

  5. My focus has been primarily on my dogs exercise and not on their food. After hearing many perspectives on which dog food brand is best, I have settled on a veterinarian formulated food that also offers an opportunity. I have a very public business with my soccer playing Border Collies called Soccer Collies. Now we can offer many dog lovers a great product for their dogs and an opportunity to improve their life as well. We offer the best of both worlds as we bring the soccer world and the dog world together with the intention of rescuing ball motivated dogs around the world. Please spread the world about our dog rescue efforts and examine whether this opportunity works for you as well. http://www.lifesabundance.com/soccercollies

  6. Life’s Abundance is definitely the way to go. Both the wet canned and dry kibble in combination with occasional supplements of cooked food and the healthy treats.
    Kimberly Gauthier, a regular on the Dog Lovers Group just switched over.
    Check out her blog at

  7. We do a little bit of everything. I’d estimate it comes down to these percentages: kibble (35%), raw [including prepared brands like Primal Raw] (35%), dehydrated (20%), home-cooked (10%).

    I myself love food and love a good, fresh variety, so the thought of my dogs having to eat the same thing every day makes me sad. I am not okay with that. But I also don’t think there’s one miracle diet that works all the time for every dog. Diets can be as individualized as the dogs themselves, and it can take a lot of time to find out what works. Some people are into that… I sure am.

    Kibble: we do Acana (expensive) and Taste of the Wild (cheaper) grain-free. We’ve also tried Timberwolf, Natural Balance, and Canidae with some success. We stay far away from Wellness, which they did NOT do well on. Occasionally, we’ll try other brands as well as long as they meet our ingredients criteria.

    Raw: lots prepared at home following roughly prey model ratios. I really like Primal Raw, but it can be quite expensive to feed. Depending on where you live, you’ll often find other local companies that do an equivalent job with good, high quality ingredients.

    Dehydrated: Honest Kitchen all the way. This category sometimes overlaps with raw, because I almost always supplement their dehydrated meals with raw organs, ground meat, etc.

    Home-cooked: yes, time is the main reason why this is so low on the list, as well as nutritional balance. I don’t calculate nutrients strictly as a matter of science, but I think because we keep their foods varied enough, nutritional deficiency really shouldn’t be that much of a concern. It’s really okay not to have every calorie plotted out. =)

    1. Thanks so much, MC! I was particularly hoping to get your two cents, because I know you’ve really done your legwork on this issue. Thanks!

      1. Living in a very foodie-driven area and hanging out (even online) with like-minded dog folks has certainly rubbed off on me.

        The legwork is far from “done” though. I’m always learning more.

        It’s been said before that there’s a lot of dogma in dog food… I’ve certainly seen that before. But I guess I avoid some of those controversial booby traps because we don’t have One Single Food discipline that we would recommend to all — except, I guess, just to pay attention to what you’re feeding.

        As far as the dog food rating sites out there, I do like DFA the best. A lot of interesting info in the comments, but again, I am wary of dogma and paranoia. DFA also seems to publish new articles with some regularity. The value of those kind of sites is how they teach you to evaluate ingredients and read labels for yourself, so you can come to your own decision. But it’s also easy to be complacent because, “Hey, I’m feeding a 5-star food, so everything must be okay!” or feel fuilty because “I’m only feeding a 4-star food…”

        Some other sites that you may want to look at —

        Jen from Inu Baka’s dog food blog:

        Newish blog about raw feeding:

        Dogster Raw Food and Home-cooked forums:

  8. I feed my dogs Solid Gold food and part protein, chicken or beef if we are cooking for ourselves. Some local pet stores that sell Nature’s Variety which comes in a kibble or raw frozen – I sometimes buy the raw frozen for them.

    My shepherd lived to be 16 years old. She grew up on part iams and part people food. I realized that people food wasn’t bad for dogs until I read “The Goldsteins’ Wellness & Longevity Program” which I mention in another post.

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