Dog trains man

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

First Results Start To Show From Our Raw Diet

I wish I had made a "before" photo. These are Kenzo's teeth, now 4 months into our switch from kibble to a raw fed diet. Most of the tartar on his teeth is gone. An amazing result. Kenzo's vet was as delighted as I was during his yearly check-up. His teeth are doing a lot better.

Kenzo and Viva benefited differently from their raw diet. Viva, at age 8 now, always had healthy teeth, also in her kibble days, and there was not much to improve. For Viva the main benefit was a complete energy boost, that showed quite early in the diet switch.

She needs constant and balanced training for her spondylosis, so her renewed energy is a great help in battling her back-issues. Not too much training to strain her, not too little to keep the joints flexible and muscles strong. We always had to stimulate her to really use her muscles, as strong muscles are essential to compensate for the spondylosis, but that is history now.

On a raw diet she is much more willing to go the extra mile, chase the ball one more time, and use those muscles to keep them fit. A joy to witness. Kenzo benefits too, as they play a whole lot more together, and Viva doesn't give up anymore after a couple of runs.

One of the surprises was that Kenzo's after the switch never had any stomach trouble, where before he always responded sensitive to any change or addition to his diet. His digestive system seems also to have benefited.

During the weekdays we feed them minced chicken with tripe, some cooked veggies, mostly broccoli and carrots as they love those, a vitamin-A supplement, fish oil, and - only for Viva - glucosamine. In the weekend they also get some organic yoghurt with eggs, some offal, and a huge lamb bone for crunching and working those teeth.

I always hung on to kibble because I thought it to be convenient. Now I am surprised how easy it actually is to feed raw and find it just as convenient.

The only thing that still freaks me out is when they crunch the bones. I always keep an eye out and are ready to rush to the vet if we would get unlucky. So far they do their chewing quite fine and methodically.

If you think of switching to raw, you can start by lurking in the Raw feeding facebook group. They have some great start up guides, and the people in it are very helpfull and non-judgemental. It helped me a lot answering the practical questions that follow along the way, like how do I ensure a balanced diet, how about worms and other parasites, how about salmonella, etc. Questions I will focus on as well later on this blog.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Viva's Inner Cat

We are well into our first month of raw feeding now, after we recently made our first baby steps. To my surprise, the first effects are already starting to show. Viva has gotten a lot more playful and self-entertaining. She even invented a new cat-and-mouse game with the raw bones we give her:




still staring...





The days that Kenzo was the most playful of the couple, or that Viva needed him to engage in some play, are now over. And it is not just the bones. She is a lot more active when we play fetch and she runs through the house with her squeaky toys on her own initiative. It is too early to tell if this is caused by something underlaying, like her allergies, even though we thought we had them managed, or if this is something completely new. Either way, it is a feast to see her enjoying herself.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Going Raw in Baby Steps

Kenzo's facial expression after each raw meal reveals it all. Welcome to the dog equivalent of experiencing michelin stars and haute-cuisine. Every meal is now a feast.

We are making baby steps going raw. I keep a close eye on how Kenzo & Viva are responding to their new menu, mainly by doing a daily poo inspection and also following any change in behavior or energy.  The first week they still had kibble in the morning and only raw in the evening for just the first consecutive three days. Everything still looks good, and moving into the second week, it is all raw for evening meals. By next week, when everything is still good, we will go raw around the clock.

After Jan Wolfe gave us the final push to give a raw diet a try we tried to prepare as good as we could, yet it was daunting to actually start, just as Jan described. Like Jan, watching Kenzo & Viva chew through their first raw chicken bones, I too wondered if I would have to rush to the vet later that day. And every worry I had about raw feeding before, from salmonella to not-balanced diets, returned to hunt me, until my mind was spinning.

Viva growling in the dark...
It was fun to watch how differently they got reacquainted with their raw side. They both took everything out of their bowls and started to move it around in the house - while I was running after them and cleaning up after them where the chicken touched the floor, inspired by the salmonella ghost that was whispering in my ear.

Viva basically devoured her chicken, it couldn't go fast enough, while she was speeding to the darkest corners in the house she could find. We were just doing so good with her resource guarding issues, and I knew we had to start all over with that, when I heard that once familiar growl that send both me and Kenzo a meter up into the air. We'll have to return to feed them separate again, going forward.

Kenzo was very curious at first, and he inspected his chicken very thoroughly, sniffing and licking it, before he was content, and started chewing and eating.

Sourcing the food turned out to be a challenge, as we live in the supermarcado-big-city. I wanted to pay our local butcher a visit, but the reasons why I never come there all came back at once as I saw the doorknob of his shop. Instead, I took a drive and went to one of the more "fancy" butcher's downtown.

Apparently he already had a very good clientèle for his chicken carcasses and other left overs, so I ended up buying one of his organic whole chicken's for Kenzo and Viva's first raw dinner. With a price tag of 200 Danish Kroner (35 USD), they ate better than us that day.

Happily one of my Facebook friends, Torunn Kolberg, came to the rescue, and tipped me "Vom & hundemat", a Norwegian product of raw minced chicken, tripe and liver, that Torunn feeds her dogs in Norway. We were lucky, as it was available in Denmark as well, and I had a "dealer" close by. And on entering his shop, I discovered it was a raw diet Valhalla with everything between heaven and earth, when it is about raw feeding. We hit the jackpot, sourcing problem solved.

I only had to add some veggies and fish-oil - one day I added some brown rice too - and dinner was served. And a bone for dessert. Funny enough Kenzo loved the minced meat even more than the "pure" chicken, and this time it was Viva that was a little more reluctant. Maybe because it was minced? It only took her a day though, to return to her old devouring self.

And a big plus was, they didn't run around the house with their meals and ate it nicely from the bowl once more. I could put the cleaning detergent back into the cupboard. Excellent, as especially when you eat haute-cuisine, you have to mind your table manners.

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.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kibble quest

A quest for kibble? Yes. Kibble. Dog food conveniently delivered in a large bag. What about home cooked or going raw? It crossed my mind. But I have to admit that home cooked dog food in my case is wishful thinking. Feeding raw has my interest and I will keep my eyes and ears open on how it will develop further. But for now it is kibble. Because it is convenient. But how to find a quality that ensures a long and healthy life for my dogs. Surely that must be possible?

I chew this during your quest
Inconvenient doubts

The products we have been using so far were brought to us by the sponsored recommendations from the breeder (Techni-call), the dog training school (Olivers) and our vetenerian (Hill's Science Plan). My own clumsy attempts to find higher quality dog food lead me to Regal Pet Foods and CANIDAE.

Kenzo, our dog, thrived on all of the brands we have used so far and had no health issues what so ever. But would it stay that way on the long run? The list with recalled kibble is staggering long. And why use money on a bag that mainly contained cheap fillers like corn and wheat but was marketed well for a high price, if a bag of quality food could be attainable for almost the same amount?

Welcome to the jungle

Finding better information on dog nutrition to sustain my kibble quest was not easy. I went to a seminar on dog nutrition, read a couple of books, and spent hours of reading and browsing on the Internet, if not days. Only to find out that it would take a PhD. degree, preferably in nutrition, to be able to call myself capable of making a good choice. Suppliers are just to sophisticated in their marketing. As an example try to Google "corn in dog food". You will find as many experts arguing in favor of corn as you will find arguing against it.

I am not going to try to be another expert, you have to make up your own mind. If you go corn, or no corn. If you go organic or not. If you accept meat byproducts. Want fruits and vegetables in your dog food, and so on. That said, I hope you go no corn, organic, do not accept byproducts, want fruits and veggies. And while we are at it, lets add Omega3/6 fatty acids to that list. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

When it is time to find the kibble that meets you criteria you should try the Dog Food Rating Tool on the website. It was a big help to me.

How does it work

The Dog Food Rating Tool asks you 31 questions about the ingredients list of your dog food. It delivers a great recommendation of what could be improved, but also tells what was good about the ingredient list. Why certain questions are asked is explained along the way. Which helps to understand why a certain result is reached.

Here is an example of what the Dog Food Rating Tool told me about Orijen Adult, the brand I chose as the kibble we are going to use from now on:

Your score is: 109 out of 100

Grade: A+


Fruits: The grade was raised because the food contains fruit. Higher quality foods are adding fruits to maximize nutrients not found in other complex carbohydrate ingredients. This is another distinguishing characteristic of super premium pet foods.

Vegetables: The grade was raised because the food contains vegetables. Vegetables are a great source of complex carbohydrates and are being added to higher quality super premium foods to improve specific nutritional values.

Fish Oil: The grade was raised because the food contains fish oil. Fish oils are excellent sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. They contain Omega 3 Fatty Acid. They are excellent sources of much needed Essential Fatty Acids (EFA).

Hormone-free and Antibiotic-free: The grade was raised because the meats are hormone and antibiotic free. Some manufacturers of super premium foods are certifying the meats to be hormone and antibiotic free. We believe this is a good practice and helps distinguish super premium brands.

Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin: The grade was raised because it contains glucosamine and/or chondroitin?. Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements which improve a pet’s joint health. Some super premium foods are incorporating these supplements in their ingredients. At K9 Cuisine we favor foods that contain glucosamine and chondroitin.

Above is the result for Orijen Adult. I was in doubt on two of the questions. One was the "is the food baked or extruded?". Orijen Adult is steam cooked. Which is a fancy name for extruded. And a question if the food contained salt. Orijen Adult contains a little sea-salt, but would that count as salt? Also I misunderstood their claim to be "biological appropiate" to be organic. Which it is not. I run the Tool twice with different answers and it scored lower as a result, but still an A, instead of an A+.

If you are on a quest too, try the Dog Food Rating Tool, it is a great help. Kudos to the people of for bringing this tool. Anthony Holloway, CEO and founder, even answered my questions on Twitter and gave me some leads to quality dog foods that are exported to Europe. That made it much easier for me as not all brands are available outside the US.

But is it convenient?

The downside of my whole quest is that I did find quality, but found myself challenged on the convenience side. I learned that in Denmark, we are way behind the US on dog nutrition. Walking in a pet shop brings the usual brands: Hill's, Royal Canin and Eukanuba, together with one or two more obscure ones. But not necessarily of a better quality then the former mentioned.

The brands that deliver quality are usually from the US and Canada and are hard to get. They don't run all the products from a brand, but only one or two. With Regal Pet Foods I ran into a delivery problem. With CANIDAE I couldn't get a bag that hadn't passed the expiration date. For Orijen I found only 3 shops (thankfully with Internet shops) that carried the brand.

I guess that on my quest I found a business opportunity too, that would just need some good marketing ... ahum.

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