Dog trains man

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hovawarts On A Raw Diet

Today I turn the blog over to Jan Wolfe - raw feeding advocate and Hovawart enthusiast - to learn more about feeding raw. 

Something I have struggled with for a long time, and kibble is so convenient. I also noticed more and more Hovawarts are on a raw diet. Jan gave us the last push to go raw.


Reading Kenzo’s blog, and in particular, about Viva’s health problems, led me to contact Leo to ask him if he had ever considered feeding a raw diet.  It turns out that he has, but had found it hard to find enough information about it to be able to do so with confidence.  He invited me to do a guest blog, and I am delighted to do so.


I started raw feeding my dogs some 14 years ago.  We had a young Labrador with food aggression problems and a speed-eating “disorder”.  He was also a generally difficult dog – we had adopted him from the local rescue kennel at around six months of age and we had no idea of what his early months had been like.  We were advised by the kennel to feed him a certain dry food as it was a complete diet specially designed for a growing dog.  I felt very sorry for him as this dish of brown cardboard pieces would last him about 30 seconds at the very most.  I don’t think it touched the sides.

Tussock as a pup with her first raw snack
Some months later, we were still tearing our hair out with him and to add to the existing issues, he now had very itchy and smelly skin.  It was whilst seeking advice on how to deal with the food aggression that my path crossed the subject of raw feeding.  Raw feeding?  What did that involve?  Bones?  Chicken bones?  Surely dogs cannot eat chicken bones?  How do you make sure the dog gets everything he needs?  So many questions.

But then I bought  a book by Dr Ian Billinghurst and my mind was blown wide open.  The light bulb went on and has never gone out.

It was rather daunting at first – I remember giving Sisko his first bones and wondering if I was going to be rushing to the vet later in the day or week.  I remember his face on finishing that first meal – if he were human, he would have said “Wow!”  I also remember inspecting his poo every day and marvelling at the transformation from monstrously smelly and sloppy heaps to small firm nuggets.


I currently have two hovawarts and one flat coated retriever and all have been raw fed since about eight weeks old.  The eldest is six and a half and the youngest is eighteen months.  Sadly, Sisko the Labrador died just a few months ago at the age of 14 – his teeth were still clean!

Chicken, minced tripe with veggies
The mainstay of their diet is chicken – I buy carcasses from a local butcher, and he also keeps a “goodie box” for me of any bones, scraps, stuff that is past its date for human consumption, or that has been damaged in any way.  I allow them to catch the odd rabbit, and I pick up fresh road kill.  I feed them fruit and vegetables, yoghurt, eggs, fish, cheese, and they are able to graze on grasses and eat horse poo.  I can imagine you screwing up your nose at the last item, but horse poo is actually very nutritious for dogs!  There are also several companies here in the UK that cater for the raw feeding market making it much easier for many people to feed raw.  I do buy a few minces to give my dogs variety.

Should you be interested in feeding raw, or want to research it a bit more, then you are more than welcome to join our raw feeding group on Facebook.  It is a non-judgemental, helpful and often hilarious group where no question is silly and nobody is absolutely right or absolutely wrong – we all feed slightly differently the same way as we ourselves eat differently.  [Note Kenzo: the group has great resources too, like a Raw Feeding Starter Guide and more]

There are also many books to read by Ian Billinghurst, Lew Olson, Kymythy Schultz, Tom Lonsdale, to name a few.


Why give yourself extra work of sourcing food and providing a balanced diet?  Is it not easier to buy “complete” food and be assured your dog is getting everything he or she needs?  Is it not an expensive way to feed a dog?  Still more questions.

When pet food was introduced it seemed a brilliant idea.  Years of advertising has “convinced” us that it is the only way to feed our dogs and cats.  Images of cute puppies and kittens have pulled at our heart strings and we have believed that the people who make these foods have the interests of our animals at heart.  Our conscience was led to believe that we would do our dogs and cats a disservice if we didn’t feed this specially prepared food.

In the early days it was tinned food, and to be fair, it was probably okay stuff!  I remember my first dog ate Chappie and Winalot for much of his life and he lived to almost 17.  Then kibble was introduced.  Complete food.  All you have to give to make your dog healthy and hearty.  But is it?  Are there not now more health issues with dogs?  More cancers, more dental problems, more obesity, diabetes, thyroid problems, skeletal issues, skin problems, allergies, arthritis, compromised immune systems, and so much more.  Dogs seem to be living shorter lives, despite all this researched nutrition.

Do I need to say more?
Granted, there are many other factors involved with the things listed above, but human nutritionists tells us that “we are what we eat”.  They encourage us to eat fresh meat and fish, lots of fruit and vegetables, to avoid processed food, too much salt and sugar, preservatives, colourings, flavourings……. So what do we feed our dogs?  Meat and fish by products that have been rendered beyond all recognition, devoid of colour, flavour, texture, and nutrients.  Add to this mush several colourings to make it look nice, salt and sugar to make it tasty, artificial nutrients to make it complete, then bake it to give it texture.  Finally it is sprayed with a solution containing vitamins and minerals.   Oh, and when your dog has teeth covered in tartare, here’s another product to help clean them, or a special toothbrush to clean them.  Oh and doggy toothpaste, too!

And come to think of it – I haven’t seen many dogs able to bake, use cooking utensils, open tins, or use a toothbrush……  But I have seen dogs catch a rabbit!


Thanks Jan, you have convinced us! Normally I would add a little biography of the author, but Jan is participating in the Hovawart School of Witchcraft & Wizardry as well. So stay tuned, to get to know Jan and her Hovies a little better.


  1. Our vet swears by the raw diet and dogs we know who are on it have fabulous teeth. Not for us though. Pity I say. Have a marvelous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

    1. Why not Molly? What holds you back?

    2. I am curious why not, also. I see you are in the UK so can give you information about suppliers who make it very very easy and convenient if you wish to explore it further. You are welcome to join our group, or you can contact me directly if you wish. Best wishes to you.

  2. I fed my hovawarts and my late German Shepherd on a mainly raw diet for several years. During that time, I also weaned 2 litters of hovies on a mixed diet. The pups were always calmer after a good chicken wings chewing session!
    I have gone back to good quality kibbles for convenience now that I have a young family. But I expect I will go back to raw at some point. It's a great way to feed most dogs.

    1. Exactly what also kept me on kibble all those years, it is so convenient. But now I am really going to try raw now, of course not because I don't want to brush their teeth :)

    2. Hi Caroline - I often wondered if I could ever go back to feeding kibble, but I don't think I could! I did think that perhaps when I get too old it might become a bit too much, but there are more and more companies supplying prepared raw food - all you have to do is keep it in the freezer, defrost, turn into the bowl and you don't even get your hands dirty. I have tried stuff from and they are very very good. Contact me if you need more informaion, or please come and join the group - you will be very welcome!

  3. We're feeding raw and honestly, I actually find it almost as convenient as kibble. I buy the food in bulk and take the extra time upfront to package it into single serving bags before freezing. Then I can just take out a day's worth at a time and discard the bag. No fuss, no muss. Barely harder than kibble. The change we've found in their coat, skin and particularly Felix's allergies is amazing.

    1. It can be very convenient when done your way. And good to hear of the improvements. I can often tell a raw fed dog from the smell of the coat and skin - or lack of it!

  4. I have started just since last November (sorry doggies.....) and the results are truly amazing !! Specially with the oldest dog, she will turn 8 in april 2013 and she is growing younger every day :-):-):-):-):-) she is full of live, her coat is almost renewed and she likes to eat!! She was so 'poisoned' that it took her 5 days to trust and want to eat the fresh meat....she had to dig deep in her brain to realise that she is a dog.......

    1. Not much I can say to that Yvonne except :-)))))))))

  5. As raw feeder myself I would like to point it's important to do some research. It's not as simple as throwing the same meat to your dog every day. The facebook group is one possible starting point but please research both the pros and cons and methodologies.

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