How Do You Choose The Right Dog Food?

23 Jul


If anyone you know has adopted a dog after you did, then you’ve probably been asked more than a few times, “what do you feed you dog?” The pet food industry is an extremely lucrative market, and one that’s constantly evolving as companies, new and old, churn out new varieties of dog food each year. This makes the world of dog food very confusing. It can be difficult to figure out just what food is best for your dog, along with what you can afford.

So, how do you choose the right dog food? Here are a few things to consider, to help you narrow down your food options when you’re standing in the dog food aisle.

A little disclaimer: there are more factors involved in the decision of what to feed your dog than we are able to (or feel qualified to) cover here. If you’re looking to do some homework on store-bought pet food, to find out what’s right for your dog, these tips will certainly help. This post does not cover making your dog’s meals from scratch or raw feeding, as we simply do not have the background research or experience level to talk about these diet options in detail.

Consider Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs

The first way to narrow your choices is to consider your dog’s nutritional needs. A puppy will need vastly more calories and protein, compared with a senior dog who may need fewer calories and more fiber or supplements. Activity level and the size of your dog are also things to take into consideration. If you have several dogs, this may mean that one bag of dog food might not cover every dog’s nutritional needs.

When taking your dog’s breed, size, or activity level into account, your veterinarian or your breeder (if applicable) are great sources of information when it comes to finding out the nutritional needs of your specific dog. Just be wary of anyone peddling a highly specific brand or company—they may be getting a kick back based on what they promote, when other brands of food may also have the nutritional values you’re looking for.

Now that you have an idea of the type of food you want—senior, puppy, active lifestyle, etc.—it’s time to do some research.

The Problem With Dog Food Labels

The label on a dog food bag, unfortunately, doesn’t provide a lot of usable info to pet owners. It will say that it meets certain minimum standards; however, these standards for dog food are extremely low, so accepting them at face value may mean your dog still is not getting adequate levels of all the nutrients they need.

There is one exception to the terrible labeling of dog food. Look for the phrase “complete and balanced” on the bag. It means that this dog food will contain proper levels of all the nutrients essential for your dog. This claim is much more regulated by the government: a company making this claim must be able to support it with data from food trials or lab analysis.

Last, any high quality dog food will have an 800 number listed on the bag. You can call the company and ask questions about the nutritional value of their food. Specifically, ask about the digestibility of the food—this gives you what percentage of the material in the food can be digested by your dog. A digestibility of above 80% is usually fine, though a quality pet food supplier should have numbers above 90%.

A Note On Buying Local

While I’m usually all about buying locally, when it comes to buying dog food…be very cautious. Any dog food that has not been shipped across state lines is not required to be regulated at all. This lack of oversight can be very dangerous, should you end up buying a formula of dog food that’s been created without any testing of it’s nutritional value. While very low cost dog food from big brands may not be very good for your dog, the same can be said of some high-end “boutique” brands.

Simply put, if you’re going to pay top dollar for a dog food, do your homework! Especially if you haven’t heard of the company.

5 Tips For Bonding With Your Dog

22 Jul


I have a confession: sometimes, when Topher is jerking me around in class or fraying at my last nerve with yet another reactive outburst… I stop liking him very much. I know! It’s a terrible thing to say! But when you own a reactive dog, stress and frustration can become a part of your daily and weekly routine; it’s important to try your best not to hold onto those feelings, not to let them negatively impact your bond with your dog.

Even if you don’t have a reactive dog, there are lots of ways to further bond with your pet! A strong connection with your dog can go along way, from giving you more patience in dealing with their less favorable idiosyncrasies, to helping them feel calmer and more balanced overall.

Create A Routine

When you establish a routine for things like feeding, walks, and playtime with your dog, it’s like making a promise with them. The more you’re able to keep that promise by adhering to your schedule, the more your dog will trust you. It also means they’ll be able to handle the occasional upset to the schedule with greater ease.

Make Up Little Rituals

Just like people, dogs appreciate the little treats and kindnesses you show them day to day. Establishing small rituals makes everyday actions just a little sweeter. For example, Topher gets a small spoonful of peanut butter as a morning treat, and another small treat right before bed. This started because he needed eyedrops several times a day, and giving treats was an easy way for us to help him adjust to being given medication. Now, it’s just another small way we show Topher some love.

Find (Or Create) Activities You Both Enjoy

Life with your dog is a team sport. Nothing will make your pup happier than doing things with you. Doing something fun with your dog reinforces the feelings that spending time with your dog is enjoyable—and this is key when you have a reactive dog, if you’re going to training sessions or getting into other stressful encounters. Whether it’s going on trail walks like Ivana and Archer, or just hanging out on the couch watching TV, find something you and your dog can both enjoy, and pursue it together.

Get On Their Level

One of Bryan’s favorite things to do with Topher is sit on the floor with him. A little face-to-face interaction is great for your dog, whether it takes place on the floor or on the couch (if they’re allowed up there!). A dog who will look into your eyes, even briefly, is a dog who is showing you respect and trust. Show you appreciation with praise, or pets or other affection.

This isn’t to say you should be staring down your dog. Staring and looking are certainly different things. And if your dog is uncomfortable with eye contact, don’t force them. As your bond with them grows, it will get easier.

Listen To What Your Dog Is “Saying”

At any given time, your dog may be providing you feedback about their overall level of comfort. It’s on you to listen, and respond appropriately. If your dog is reacting to something or clearly uncomfortable in a certain environment, it’s your responsibility to advocate for them. Get them training to aid them in learning to accept new people, environments, etc. Or, protect them from situations where they might feel forced to defend themselves. The more you can understand and respect your dog’s feelings, the stronger your bond will be.

We Want To Hear From You, Our Readers!

21 Jul


One of our favorite things about the community we’ve built here with Good Dogs & Co. is how many stories we get to hear about our readers’ pets. We think pet stories bring us together in shared experience, in ways other tales (ha!) may not. And we want to hear more from you!

We’re looking for readers to share their experiences with their pets. You can submit your own story by heading to our submissions page, and filling out one of the forms. Here’s a brief reminder of the stories we currently feature weekly!

Adoption Stories

These are essays from owners about their pets. If you have a story to tell about your dog, how they came into your family or otherwise, we want to hear it. Whether you rescued your pup from a shelter or otherwise unfortunate situation, or conducted a multiple-breeder search for the right pup, all stories are welcome. Submit these stories here.

Breeder Spotlights

Being a breeder takes hard work and years of dedication to refining a line. We have nothing but respect for people who have dedicated yourselves so wholeheartedly into really preserving the great qualities of the breeds we love. Share your story with us—we think it’s fascinating work!

Rescue Spotlights

It takes tons of hard work and dedication to rescue animals, and we’re honored to help rescues by giving them our community platform for a day to showcase their current efforts. All you have to do is brag a little bit about the great work you do so well!

Don’t see an option that fits what you want to write about? Please contact us! We love hearing about pet owners’ unique experiences and challenges, and occasionally feature interviews from owners and pet industry professionals. If there is a good fit, we will also occasionally accept pitches for DIYs, recipes, and other articles. Any ideas are welcome!