Treats We Love

Dogs love treats, all kinds.  Unfortunately, some treats are better for your dog than others.  For my dogs, it's meaty type treats all the way.  My dogs get treats on average every other day.  It varies - sometimes they get something daily and sometimes they'll go a week with no treats.  Depends.  And of course, the smaller the dog the less treats they should get, and the smaller the treats have to be.  But all the treats I mention here can be cut up or broken up into smaller pieces for the 'lill ones.
PureBites liver treats are freeze dried liver treats.  Ingredients: liver.  Simple.  My dogs love these treats.  They're small and can easily be broken up into even smaller pieces, so I use them for training a lot.  We practice our sits, stays, and even high fives with these bites of liver goodness.  We have also tried and enjoyed the chicken PureBites, but the liver ones are the favorites.

For a larger treat we have two that we alternate.

The girls go crazy over the Merrick Texas Tooth Picks.  However, they're pricey, so they're more of a 'special treat'.  It takes them a while to chew one of these, and they get a decent tooth cleaning out of it.  Amelia does not do so well with rawhide, she tends to throw up big chunks of rawhide, but she's ok with the tooth picks.   And the ingredients?  Beef tail.  That's it.  Love it.
Dehydrated duck or chicken breast strips are another regular treat.  These don't do much for cleaning the teeth, but are apparently delicious.  Ingredients:  duck breast, or chicken breast.  Awesome.

And the most well received treat the girls get is a beef knuckle bone.  This is the joint part of the beef femur bone cut in half.  I get these from my local butcher.  Some butchers charge a nominal fee for these and some will give them to you for free.  Some may even ask how big your dog is and cut it up for you accordingly.  Others will need you to tell them to half the bone, or quarter it, depending on the size of your dog.

  I try to give them each a beef knuckle at least every two weeks, but more often once per week.  I like the knuckles over the femur bone with the soft bone marrow because they have to work harder at the knuckles, and it cleans their teeth much better.  Also, be careful of the femur bone, because Amelia once chewed through the dense side and then got it wrapped around her jaw pretty tight - luckily I was able to remove it.  But I have heard of instances where the vet had to remove it with a bone saw.  So make sure if you give them femur bone parts you watch them carefully and discard the bone once it's a clean ring of bone (marrow and meat removed).

I know that giving raw bones to your dog is controversial but I highly recommend it.  Bone not only cleans their teeth, but it also is a great source of minerals for your dog.  They enjoy chewing them, and hence are not chewing your shoes.  Raw bones do not splinter the way cooked bones do, so it shouldn't be too hard on their digestive system.  People also often ask me if the bones are stinky or messy.  They're not stinky at all.  Smells like raw beef.  They are a bit messy.  My advice is to give them to the dogs outside when and if the weather is right.  Or do what I do.  Designate a cheap area rug as 'the treat rug' and teach your dogs that they can only eat their bones on those rugs.  If they move, take the bone away and put it back on the rug.  It doesn't take long for them to get the hint.

And if you ever see a pack of coyotes around a campfire roasting a chicken, let me know - we can consider giving our dogs cooked bones.  Until then, raw is the only way to go.  Cooked bones of any kind produce shards and can damage your dog's digestive system.

Also remember, raw bones go bad very quickly, so give them to your dog as soon as you get them from the butcher or you can also freeze them. So if I get more bones, I'll wrap them individually and throw them in the freezer.  Then I just give them to the girls frozen.  They don't seem to mind.  Do not store raw bones in the fridge, they will get smelly and bad very quickly.

So bottom line on dog treats: keep it simple.  My girls will not touch a dog biscuit (unless it's homemade - but that's another post).  The good stuff is more expensive, but that's life.  Better to get fewer good treats than more crappy ones.  Which also happens to be my philosophy on chocolate - for myself of course!

What are some of the treats your dog loves?


Two Dogs - Twice the Work?

Yesterday, a dog park friend asked me if having two dogs was twice the work of having one dog.  She is the proud mamma of the sweetest and gentlest grey hound ever.  And he needs a doggie buddy.

My family has always had only one dog.  Three kids and one dog was my parents' limit.  And even though my dogs are litter mates, I got Amelia first.  Kitty just kind of joined our pack later, and we just didn't have the heart to give her up.

I'm glad I have the two dogs now, and would not have it any other way.  They are definitely not twice the work of having one dog. It's not twice the work to take two dogs to the dog park.  You're already going, so whether there are two dogs or one is not that different.  As a bonus, on the days when you're the only ones at the dog park, your dogs can still run and play together, and get more excercise than just one dog would.

And it's not twice the work to train two dogs.  I find that my dogs will learn from eachother.  And if one sits quick and gets praise or a teat, than the other one will sit right away.  Doggie peer pressure.  Also, if I call them and one comes running, the other will most likely follow.

Of course having two dogs is more work than one dog.  I have to cook twice the amount of food each month.  I have to wash two dogs when it's muddy, and I have to clean twice the amount of dog hair.  The price tag of two dogs is also higher, especially at the vet. 

But I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.  My dogs are so much more active because they play together and chase squirrels on our hikes together.  They also keep eachother company when I'm not there.

So if you're considering getting a second dog, I highly recommend it.  Millie, Kitty and I are having a great time together!


Dog Kibble Rating Scale

 Like everything else we buy, quality of kibble on the market varies tremendously.  A lot of times, the 'you get what you paid for' rule applies, but dog kibble can be tricky.  Sometimes you end up paying more for the advertising and not the quality of the ingredients.  And unfortunately you're not eating the kibble yourself, and your pooch can't tell you how the kibble tastes and how they feel after eating it. 

A while back I found a scale that is very useful for evaluating the ingredients in kibble.  Here's how it works:

Start with a grade of 100:
1) For every listing of "by-product", subtract 10 points
2) For every non-specific animal source ("meat" or "poultry", meat meal or fat) reference, subtract 10 points
3) If the food contains BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin, subtract 10 points
4) For every grain "mill run" or non-specific grain source, subtract 5 points
5) If the same grain ingredient is used two or more times in the first five ingredients (i.e. "ground brown rice", "brewer's rice", "rice flour" are all the same grain), subtract 5 points
6) If the protein sources are not meat meal and there are less than two meats in the top three ingredients, subtract 3 points
7) If it contains any artificial colorants, subtract 3 points
8 ) If it contains ground corn or whole grain corn, subtract 3 points
9) If corn is listed in the top five ingredients, subtract 2 more points
10) If the food contains any animal fat otherthan fish oil, subtract points
11) If lamb is the only animal protein source (unless your dog is allergic to other protein sources), subtract 2 points
12) If it contains soy or soybeans, subtract 2 points
13) If it contains wheat (unless you know that your dog isn't allergic to wheat), subtract 2 points
14) If it contains beef (unless you know that your dog isn't allergic to beef), subtract 1 point
15) If it contains salt, subtract 1 point

Extra Credit:
1) If any of the meat sources are organic, add 5 points
2) If the food is endorsed by any major breed group or nutritionist, add 5 points
3) If the food is baked not extruded, add 5 points
4) If the food contains probiotics, add 3 points
5) If the food contains fruit, add 3 points
6) If the food contains vegetables (NOT corn or other grains), add 3 points
7) If the animal sources are hormone-free and antibiotic-free, add 2 points
8 ) If the food contains barley, add 2 points
9) If the food contains flax seed oil (not just the seeds), add 2 points
10) If the food contains oats or oatmeal, add 1 point
11) If the food contains sunflower oil, add 1 point
12) For every different specific animal protein source (other than the first one, count "chicken" and "chicken meal" as only one protein source, but "chicken" and "" as 2 different sources), add 1 point
13) If it contains glucosamine and chondroitin, add 1 point
14) If the vegetables have been tested for pesticides and are pesticide-free, add 1 point

94-100+ = A
86-93 = B
78-85 = C
70-77 = D
69 = F

For more info, check out The Dog Food Project.

Based on this scale, here's how some of the kibbles on the market score:

Authority Harvest Baked / Score 116 A+
Bil-Jac Select / Score 68 F
Canidae / Score 112 A+
Chicken Soup Senior / Score 115 A+
Diamond Maintenance / Score 64 F
Diamond Lamb Meal & Rice / Score 92 B
Diamond Large Breed 60+ Formula / Score 99 A
Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Ultra Premium / Score 122 A+
Dick Van Patten's Duck and Potato / Score 106 A+
Foundations / Score 106 A+
Hund-n-Flocken Adult Dog (lamb) by Solid Gold / Score 73 D
Iams Lamb Meal & Rice Formula Premium / Score 73 D
Innova Dog / Score 114 A+
Innova Evo / Score 114 A+
Kirkland Signature Chicken, Rice, and Vegetables / Score 110 A+
Nutrisource Lamb and Rice / Score 87 B
Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Puppy / Score 87 B
Pet Gold Adult with Lamb & Rice / Score 23 F
ProPlan Natural Turkey & Barley / Score 103 A+
Purina Beneful / Score 17 F
Purina Dog / Score 62 F
Purina Come-n-Get It / Score 16 F
Royal Canin Bulldog / Score 100 A+
Royal Canin Natural Blend Adult / Score 106 A+
Sensible Choice Chicken and Rice / Score 97 A
Science Diet Advanced Protein Senior 7+ / Score 63 F
Science Diet for Large Breed Puppies / Score 69 F
Wellness Super5 Mix Chicken / Score 110 A+
Wolfking Adult Dog (bison) by Solid Gold / Score 97 A

Although I personally cook most of the dog food my girls eat, they do also free choice feed on kibble.  I feed them either Kirkland brand kibble or Nature's Variety Prairie food.  Both good quality but one significantly more pricey than the other.  My girls definitely prefer the Nature's Variety, but digest both well.


Homemade Dog Food Recipe

The question I am most asked is what I feed my dogs. The answer is both simple and complex.  They eat dog food.  But about 80-90% of the dog food they eat is cooked by me.  Not because I spoil my dogs and have nothing better to do, but because good quality dog food is hard to find and expensive, and I like to know exactly what my dogs are eating.  I, myself, try to avoid boxed/packaged/processed foods as much as possible.  Why wouldn't I want that for my dogs?

And the other 10-20%?  They free choice feed on some high quality kibble.  This way they can supplement their caloric needs on days when they have been more active.

So how does one make dog food anyway?

I buy what is in season (tends to be cheaper and fresher), what looks good in the store, and what is priced well. I try to buy good quality ingredients. As such, the food does vary somewhat from batch to batch. The dogs do not react to this variation in any way. Feel free to vary ingredients depending on what is available in your area or what you have in your freezer/fridge/pantry. It helps to be friends with your butcher to get good meat variation at great prices.  The key is to stick to the proportions of Meat, Vegetables and Grains.

Ingredients: Meat (approx 40% total by volume)
Pork (including: shoulder, hocks, chops, leg)
Beef (roast, stew, shank, tendons)
Chicken (stewing hen from farmer's market)
Turkey (legs, wings)
Veal (breasts, chops)
Other as available (venison, moose, bear, lamb, etc)

Wash meat and add to boiling water, skin, bones and all. Cook until falling off the bone. Lately we have been puttng the pot into the oven and letting it cook slowly overnight. The beef tendons should be very soft and signifcantly smaller. Take meat out of pot and chop when cool enough to handle. Strain and save liquid. Discard all bones as cook bones are brittle, often break into shards, and can cut up your dog's digestive system. Add cut up meat back into pot.

Ingredients: Vegetables (approx 35% total by volume)
Sweet Potatoes
Purple Yams
Chinese Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Brussel Sprouts
Green Beans
Chinese Long Green Beans
Any other veggies in season (avoid: onions, eggplant, peppers, tomato, citrus, corn, soy)

Fresh or Frozen Parsley

Process all veggies in food processor, until chopped. Most veggies can be shredded in your food processor. Shred cabbage first, add back to meat and simmer until well cooked (while you process the rest of the veggies). Add water as needed. Add some salt, though it should be very underseasoned by human standards. After cabbage is cooked, add the rest of the veggies and bring to a boil. Simmer with veggies for 5-10 minutes.

Ingredients: Grains (25% total)
Roasted Buckwheat (10-15% total)

Make sure there is enough water in your pot to completely cook the grains and that the pot is boiling. Add grains to pot and bring to a boil agin. Add garlic and parsley. Stir and cover and let sit in a 250oF oven for 30-40 minutes, or until grains are cooked.
Cool completely before giving to your dog.

We make huge batches of this food and freeze in portions. Defrost and serve.

Welcome to The Playful Pooch!

I love dogs. All dogs. I have had dogs since I was a child. When I was in graduate school, and way too busy for a dog, I earned precious extra cash dog sitting. I got to live with, take care, and play with over 50 different dogs of all sizes and breeds. I created this blog to share with you what I have learned, what I've observed, and the dog gear I've tested along the way. 

I just started this blog today, so it's still in construction.  Check back soon for exciting changes and lots of new posts.