Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Feeding Dogs ... The Natural Way

I'm a big believer in natural feeding. Before dogs were domesticated, they hunted and scavenged in packs. They ate animal carcasses, so their diet was made up of meat, offal, bones and partially digested vegetable matter from the digestive systems of the animals they caught 

source - wikipedia

To my mind, it makes perfect sense to feed my dogs a diet which is as close to this as possible. This is why I feed my dogs using BARF principles - that's Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, not up-chuck :)

When dogs were first domesticated they were fed scraps, leftovers from whatever their owners ate. For convenience, this developed into tinned dog food bulked out with filler food such as mixer or biscuits. At some point in the past we got lazy and some bright spark decided that dog food could be condensed into little dry balls of kibble

Ever wondered why kibble never goes off? Because it's stuffed full of chemicals and preservatives, that's why. Ever wondered at the unnatural coloured pieces that some dry food contains? It's full of colouring. What for? Colours are of no earthly use to dogs, it's just chemicals after all. Dry food contains grains, wheat and fillers, refined sugars, salt and chemical flavourings. Many other, far nastier ingredients have been found in commercial pet foods - I'm not going to go into detail here but I will leave info below if you would like to research yourself

Would you eat processed food every day? Do you think it would be good for you, that you'd thrive and be a picture of health? Research suggests that a natural diet is healthier for dogs and when you think about the ingredients of commercial pet foods it's not hard to see why

So what do I feed my dogs?

I don't stick to a rigidly BARF diet but I do stick to the BARF principles for their main diet. They also have leftovers of our meals, nothing gets wasted in this house. Their daily diet consists of one meal per day, in the evening, made up of raw meat and a vegetable mix which I make myself

I buy their meat from the butcher, it's basically all the offcuts minced up. I feel better knowing that it's actually fit for human consumption (not that you'd want to try it!) I weigh it out, bag it up and freeze into daily portions. I have a huge freezer in the garage which purely houses the dogs meat and bones. They have bones several times per week - raw, never cooked. Cooked bones splinter and are extremely dangerous. They have raw, whole eggs a couple of times a week and tinned pilchards at least once

As a rule the vegetable mix consists of greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, ginger, garlic and linseeds. Plus any other veg I've got lying around, usually green beans (which they love!) all blended up in the food processor

I didn't discover natural feeding until Jessie was five months old. She was a nightmare to feed, she refused to eat kibble unless it was well disguised with cooked mince/gravy/pilchards in tomato sauce .... unrecognisable basically. I was determined not to make silly mistakes that would make this worse - I refused to hand feed her and I removed her bowl after 10 minutes, whether she'd eaten or not. I wasn't going to pander to her, I reasoned that she'd eat when she was hungry. But when she got to five months old and she refused food for a week, I was desperate. She was supposed to be a growing puppy but she was skin and bone. I'd been researching alternatives and happened across the BARF diet. It made perfect sense to me so I decided to give it a go. I can't tell you how amazing it was to see how my puppy attacked and enjoyed her food once I stopped trying to force her to eat kibble. I started off gently with a pack of raw beef mince and moved on to offal and bones, starting with chicken wings and moving on to chicken carcasses and lamb ribs. She was a different dog! She started to fill out, her coat gleamed, her teeth were white and - look away if you're squeamish - she produced one small, firm poo per day rather than the three or four large smelly ones I'd become used to!

When I met Matt he was horrified when he found out what Jessie ate. He found me in the kitchen one day hacking up a beast heart into freezable portions and must have thought he'd found himself a right loon! When he told people what I fed my dog they came out with all kinds of rubbish - 'the bones will puncture the dogs lungs', 'the dog will be bloodthirsty and prone to biting' !! What a load of crap! He was soon converted when he started taking Jessie to work with him and people started commenting instead on how happy, healthy and shiny she was

We went on to get Wilson, who was munching on his first chicken wings at just eight weeks old and loved his raw diet. When I worked the dogs and spent a lot of time amongst knowledgable dog people, I was asked constantly what I fed my dogs. They were lean, muscled, shiny and fit. Even our vet has commented on their condition - I take that as a huge compliment!

Feeding your pets is a very personal thing, it's very much the choice of the owner and I'm not trying to tell anyone what to feed their dog (or cat - the same principles apply to them) But you may not be aware that there's any alternative to commercial pet food - I certainly wasn't - and maybe you'll be as fascinated as I was

I'm not going to provide any links for fear of appearing biased - obviously this is a controversial topic and there are many differing views out there. But Google is your friend! If you search terms such as 'barf diet science' and 'commercial pet food industry' you'll be on the right track


  1. I agree, it' so important for dogs to get a 'proper' diet. I used to work for Pets at Home and was majorly interested in dog nutrition. I can't stand the likes of Bakers and Pedigree.

    Your dog look very thankful for it, look at those shiny coats!

    1. Ugh, Bakers is the worst! All that colouring! xx

  2. Awesomely timed post, hubby and I are just about to get our very first puppy!
    Thanks so much for sharing, I'm off to Google barf diet (not barfing-ick!)

    Michelle x

    1. I was so hoping for a comment like this! Best of luck with your puppy :) xx

  3. Brilliant - thanks for this Rachael! We've got 2 terrier puppies who don't like the kibble much so i'll be looking into this further. Our JRT is particularly fussy about everything put in front of her. xx

  4. I've just been converted to a similar thing for cats, but not raw food as I live in a small flat with no freezer/storage space. But i've moved my cat from dry kibble to good quality (90%) meat wet food tins and the change in him was almost instantaneous.

    Glossy fur and boundless energy. He's like a kitten again.

    As I say, it's not quite raw feeding, but it's down a similar line, and obviously much better for the animal.

    Glad raw is becoming more public though... Many people life in ignorant bliss of the food they're feeding their pets.

  5. This is incredible! I've often thought about stuff like this because obviously, commercial food was not available hundreds of years ago and people still had dogs/cats etc then.

    Me and Jack plan to get a dog once we're settled etc, not for a few years I don't think but come that time I will definitely consider this, thank you :)

    Hope you and bump are doing just dandy!

    Amy x
    -A Little Boat Sailing-

  6. Great post!

    Not all dry food is bad food though. There is a decent choice of grain free alternatives out there now, thanks to the likes of Orijen, Taste of the Wild etc, however they're very expensive especially in comparison to BARF.

    Abbie is currently fed on a grain free kibble diet with all natural treats, although not BARF it's a choice I made when we had to maintain her weight due to a condition she had.

    Now that the operations are over and her weight can fluctuate slightly, I'll be introducing her to BARF.

  7. This is so interesting! It's not something I'd ever thought about, but it makes such perfect sense. And your dogs look SO healthy, you can tell it's doing them nothing but good!! xx

  8. Hey there! :) I was just blog-browsing, searching for good ones to follow and I discovered yours! Coincidentally enough, I'll be going to the UK (specifically Lincoln!) for University in October and I'm from Singapore so it's a pretty big step but finding your blog made me so happy because you're from Lincolnshire :)


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