How do you know what dog food to feed your dog?

Dog eating bone

As a new dog parent I need to know what dog food to feed my puppy. I have been asking other dog owners how they choose. There were a tremendous range of answers and one gentlemen delighted in telling me he fed his dog two weetabix with warm milk.

It seems deciding what dog food to give your new puppy is just as difficult as deciding on what to feed a new baby.

There has been a demographic shift over the last few years. More people live alone, retired people are living longer and the millennials are waiting longer to get married and have children. Therefore more people are treating their dogs as if they were children with the time, money and emotional space to devote to them. This is being termed ‘pet humanisation’ and it is helping develop pet products. That’s great news for the pet food industry.

Why is there is so much choice in dog food?

Pet food is big business.

Twenty years ago I started my puppy off on Pedigree Chum. A lovely can of meat in jelly and some dried dog biscuits. With the growth of the pet industry has come a diverse range of different foods for our dogs and it’s a minefield!

Different dog food

The range of wet and dried dog food is staggering. There is puppy food, small breed dog food, working dog food, large dog breed food, senior dog food (over the age of 8), obese dogs, dog food for dogs with allergies or easily upset stomachs, oral care and joint care. The list goes on.

Different dog food

And now to add to the confusion is a new wave of raw dog food. Basically mince (chicken, duck, beef, lamb, tripe and fish) mixed with offal and vegetables.

In 2016 the UK pet food industry was examined by the Pet Industry Federation (PIF). It found that pet owners spent £675 million on dog food with more natural dog food overtaking standard dry food. Although a report by the Mirror said that dog owners spent on average £393 a year on dog food. If there are 8.5 million dog owners in the UK, that equates to £3.4 billion.

How is dog food different to years ago?

Different dog food

Pet humanisation (treating our pets like humans) influences new product development in pet food. Food products for dogs are now more like human food. They are designed to attract human taste buds and are often marketed as the healthier option e.g. non GMO, organic, grain free, raw. Dog owners want the best for their dogs and their health comes at a cost. Just as people spend more on their own food with superfoods, premium products and convenience meals, they now do the same for their dogs.

And it doesn’t stop at the health benefits. For some it’s also a lifestyle choice. In the US Pet Brands like Young Again Pet food promises anti-aging benefits and Natural Balance offers a vegetarian option.

Internet retailing is also changing dog food choice. We now have the convenience of online purchases delivered to our door and regular ordering so our dog is never left without food.

So how do you know what to feed your dog?

Dog owners are very interested in the list of ingredients in their pet’s food. We look at what’s included in our food on the packaging and we do the same for our dogs. Unfortunately it can be very confusing with the terms meat and animal derivatives, analytical constituents etc.  The Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA) who aims to be “the credible voice of a responsible pet food industry” has developed its website to offer information to all us pet owners with some very informative factsheets and video (see below).

Pet Food Manufacturing Association – worksheets

Who manufactures dog food?

Did you know that 90% of the pet food sold in the UK are from just 4 companies.

Guess which ones?

  1. Mars – Pedigree, Cesar, Pal, Chapi, Royal Canin, James Well Beloved
  2. Nestle – Bakers, Bonio, Winalot, Proplan, Purina
  3. Colgate-Palmolive – Hills Science Plan
  4. Proctor and Gamble – Eukenuba, Iams

Different dog food

These companies have the lions share of the pet food market and this will continue due to their large marketing budgets.They can afford the large, lucrative advertising campaigns and supermarket deals. This doesn’t mean they offer the best dog food in terms of dietary and health benefits although they may be the cheapest. Bakers and Pedigree are still the biggest brands.

So who supplies the best dog food?

When you are deciding on dog food, you may decide to just go to the supermarket and see what’s on offer. You may have a recommendation from a friend or colleague or dog breeders. Or you may believe that the best food is the one recommend by your vet.

9 out of 10 vets now recommend foods from one of the big 4. Have a look next time you are at the vets! What I have since discovered is that food sold through the vets often means monitory incentives for the vet and the big companies ‘sponsor’ nutritional modules at veterinary schools.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to go into the small independent pet shops. They often have great advice on products that you might not see in the supermarket and they also allow dogs into the shop!

Ultimately the choice of what to feed is yours. The dog’s happiness and health is our priority and if that means Weetabix for breakfast, so be it!

 

What does your new puppy need?

Coco the Doberman
Meet the new addition

In my last post (which was an eternity ago) I raised the question of what a puppy actually needs when they arrive in your home. In a world where we are bombarded with marketing experts who show us what we must have, it’s hard to know what is essential.

Having now shared my home with our new puppy for two months, I can now answer that question. You may have already guessed, as it’s taken me so long to write another post, but the answer is time!

hourglass full of red sand

In an ideal world you really need to not have a job, social life or indeed any other commitments which will take your focus off your puppy for more than 10 seconds.

So what else do you need for a new puppy?

Back in June I wrote that you need ‘care and attention’. I should have said you need ‘eyes in the back of your head’. Four pairs of eyes would be useful, along with quick reaction times, a good standard of fitness and a life devoid of anything else except watching and training your puppy!

4 pairs of eyes

‘Eyes in the back of your head’ are good for the times when you believe your puppy is at one end of the room as you try to sort out the laundry only to find your puppy has managed to get to the washing basket undetected and is now eating a pair of socks.

‘Four pairs of eyes’ are good for when you believe your puppy is still sleeping peacefully on the lawn outside when in actual fact they are finding escape routes out of the garden, pulling washing off the line, digging holes and eating fox poo all in a matter of seconds.

Coco chewing slipper

‘Quick reaction times’ are necessary when your puppy decides to squat right in front of you to do a wee or poo and you have to scoop them up to get them outside. This skill is also essential when they are running off with your latest bank statement or other paper document, flip-flop or slipper or seem to be chewing on something when breakfast was finished two hours ago.

Man doing press ups

‘A good standard of fitness’ is required to keep up with the ninja style moves of your puppy, as they run one way and then another, as you chase them for the above items.

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating slightly here but you get the idea. Yes, they still need feeding, love and exercise but from the moment you get your puppy, you will be active until they sleep.

Understand how a puppy ages

If every human year equates to seven dog years then at the age of 8 weeks, when you bring your puppy home, they are like a baby of one year and four months. They are walking (just) but sleep a lot and everything is new to them. They are more cautious and afraid of new noises and experiences and will want to stay by your side. Everything they do is cute and funny. We reward them for biting our noses and digging little holes in the garden.

At the age of 12 weeks, your puppy is similar to a two year old ( 1 year and 9 months old). A moving, inquisitive creature who gets under your feet and into trouble. We call the baby years, ‘the terrible twos’ and the same applies to puppies!

dog looking sheepish

They will love to dig holes in your manicured lawn and enjoy watching you fill it in so they can dig it up again the next day. When they ask to go outside and then two seconds later come back inside again, you will find a wee or poo by the back door but in the house. They will not want the chew toys you bought and prefer your expensive trainers, kindly left by the back door for them. Your hand, jumper and ankles are also very good chew toys that your puppy will enjoy. Puppies will sleep a lot but normally when you need them to go for a walk before going to work. And they will continue to become more inquisitive, bolder and stronger. And as they get older, their cute little ways are now not so funny.

Puppy as entertainment

Those of you old enough will remember the slogan ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ when the country had a growing problem with people buying a puppy as christmas present and then getting bored  and unable to cope with a growing dog into January. Now, sadly it seems we have to say the same for the summer holidays. A report in the Times on Sunday this week stated that there had been a large number of calls to rescue centres around the country about giving up the family dogs who were only wanted to entertain the children for the summer holidays. Dogs Trust had an increase of 50% in calls about rehoming unwanted dogs last Monday and Tuesday when the children went back to school.

Child jumping in air with dog next to him

This phenomena coined “Mary Puppins” is not new. Lots of people buy a puppy for the summer holidays so the children can play with it and be entertained. The problem is when people realise that they don’t have the time to dedicate to it, especially with everyone returning to school and work after the holidays. Battersea Dogs home reported that they had an increase in calls in July and August about rehoming pets because the owners wanted to go on holiday!

Do you have the time?

This morning I was walking with a fellow dog owner who complained that his dog never returned to him when called. When I asked him if he had tried dog training classes he answered that he didn’t have the time. He also never had the time to take this dog to puppy classes and only got the dog for the children when they passed their piano and violin grades!

So this is a plea for anyone thinking about getting a puppy. Just do me one favour and ask yourself, “Do I have the time?” because this really is the most important thing a puppy needs.

Mum hugging puppy