What do you feed your dog? Most likely you have discussed what brand of dog food is best, either with you veterinarian, your breeder, a friend or someone in your pet feed-store. You have been exposed to loads of advertising at dog shows, on TV, in the press, all telling you the reason you should feed their food. Like most people, I am definitely programmed by advertising and trust the claims the different companies make are true. So how do you choose?
As you may already know, I have been breeding and showing dogs for 50+ years (I bred my first Schnauzer Champion in 1950) with great success- 1000 + Giant Schnauzer Champion titles to date. I personally feel that to really, consistently produce top quality animals, selecting and breeding only the best is important, but just as important is to feed your breeding stock correctly. What is the best way to feed your dog? How do you know it’s the best? How do you decide what’s best for your dogs? I will now tell you my way of feeding and how I came to this point in my life.
We are definitely influenced by our peers and I can remember apprenticing in a Greyhound kennel in 1950, during my summer vacation. The breeder was very successful, with many Best In Show dogs and is today an All Breed judge- judging over the entire world.
She told me to go and cut some fresh grass and mix it into the dog’s food. Also, remember there were NO dry dog foods available in 1950- everyone fed their dogs table scraps such as old bread, trimmings from meat, vegetables, lots of bones, eggs, etc. To this I was told to add fresh grass cuttings. Eventually I came to the United States in 1960 and by 1965 was feeding several dogs of my own. I used to buy meat and chicken , cook it and mix it with grains and vegetables.
Then one day I was judging a graduation at a local obedience class. In the first place was an Irish Wolfhound- a magnificent big male. I complimented the owner not only on his success (it’s not easy to train a big Wolfhound) but also on the looks and structure of his dog. He told me he fed him RAW meat and vegetables. I of course reacted like most people, saying was it safe to feed the meat raw? I’ll always remember what he said, “Well I’m a bachelor- I don’t like to cook for myself, so why should I cook for my dog? My dog is healthy, loves his food, so why should I cook it? Anyway dogs in the wild eat it raw and they thrive on it”. “Common Sense” of course, but sometimes someone has to point it out to you. So I went home- stopped cooking the meat- which was a mess anyway, with cleaning pots and pans, grease stuck on the stove, etc. and guess what? My dogs loved it and they thrived. Years went by, I started adding vitamins, etc. and I had very healthy animals. Then one day a lady stopped by the ranch and gave me a bag of dry dog food- a new brand, with chicken and meat in it. She told me I never had to mix food anymore, it was already done- everything was in the dry kibble. Believe me it was convincing- instead of having to mix the meat, vegetables, etc. and pass it out to the dogs, I could now just fill up a bucket, free feed the dog and that was that. How extremely convenient- the dogs could eat when they wanted and no worry that they didn’t get enough to eat, etc. Convenient- it was terrific and of course I was convinced all the nutrients were in the bag- everything a dog would need. The dogs ate it and they looked fine to me.
As I have been very sick myself, diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease after extensive surgery, in 1964 I hadbeen forced to take care of myself. No doctor seemed to know why or what to do with this disease. One day when I had lunch with a pilot on a layover (I used to fly around the world as an airline stewardess for 26 years), he was appalled at my choice of food. I used to eat like most people, lots of sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs. Chocolate cake, cooked meats, etc. He told me to eat right, like lots of fresh fruits, salads and vegetables or I would soon get worse and die. He was very interested in nutrition and gave me a book called “Vitamin E- Your Way To A Healthy heart” written by Dr. Shute-who, by the way, was a Doberman Breeder and judge from Canada. Anyway this book changed my life.
I immediately started taking Vitamin E myself and giving it to my dogs. That was 40 years ago and I still take Vitamin E, and am in better health today than I was in my twenties. But best of all, it got me interested in nutrition. I read, asked questions and experimented with myself and my dogs, to see if I could come up with the perfect diet and supplements for my Crohn’s Disease and, of course, for my dogs.
As you know, hip dysplasia is a devastating experience for a breeder- an otherwise beautiful dog will have to be taken out of your breeding stock. But that is only one health problem- there are many, many, more- cancer being one of the biggest problems in all dogs and breeds today. So many people like to think all these different problems are genetic, we just have to breed better dogs!
Well, this is where I disagree, after experimenting with literally thousands of dogs- hundreds of litters over the last 50 years- clinically observing what seems to work. Over the years I have tried every dry dog food sold- in some cases the clinical observations were so disastrous I was appalled. You may want to read the just published book “Foods Pets Die For” by Anne Martin, very interesting.
A breeder and/or owner should observe their dog and see if he/she is healthy. The skin and coat is the easiest way to tell- anytime your dog has a hotspot, you are in trouble. Bad skin and coat are usually the first signs to tell you that your dog is not in good health- that some internal trouble is brewing. Don’t just give a flea bath and put on some solution- that’s just a band aide. Look deeper- what are you feeding your dog? Is he in good health as you thought? Is his immune system working at peak performance?
Now this will amuse you. After all the years of experimenting with all the diets advertised, I have come a full circle, and have come to the conclusion that what breeders fed in the fifties and sixties- and of course long before that, all the way to the beginning of recorded history- is the best diet for dogs, RAW meat and bones.
It’s so simple, so “common sense” and yet this simple concept is very difficult to convince dog owners to follow. If you just think about it for a few moments- what does a coyote, wolf or wild dog eat? No cooked and processed food in a bag or can but all of the prey it may have killed, whether it is a rabbit, rat, sheep, deer or bird. Wild carnivores are also known to eat berries, fruit and roots, as well as the predigested grass in the stomach of the deer, as an example.
So “common sense” tells me to imitate this diet of the wild carnivores as closely as I can, and I must tell you, with great success. Not only do my dogs look and act better than ever, but they are never sick. Their coats glow, their eyes sparkle and their energy is abundant. They don’t get hip dysplasia or any other bone weakness (bruised and dislocated knees are a common problem with large breeds, this completely disappeared). They live a long life and, if you give plenty of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E and COQ 10, you can help keep cancer at bay too.
So for the last 20 years we have fed lots of raw meat, our pups are weaned on RAW hamburger mixed with fresh RAW milk. RAW liver is a miracle food, full of live enzymes, which are very important. So of course I had to try it. The dogs love it and they thrive. Now they all get raw liver 3-4 times a week, pregnant and nursing bitches every day. Then of course, they get all the other organ meats like heart, tripe, kidney, etc. all ground up together, or chopped in big pieces. AND BONES, don’t forget bones- RAW! We give every dog, including puppies starting at 6 weeks old- raw knucklebones at least 2-3 times a week. Not only is it great for their teeth- it also keeps them sparkling white until they die of old age. Bones are loaded with calcium, minerals and the trace minerals. Plus of course, chewing keeps them busy and entertained and the puppies will leave your valuables alone, they will prefer a raw bone to your new shoes.
“Give Your Dog A Bone” is the title of a new book written by veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst of Australia. UPDATE: His new book is called “The BARF Diet”—BARF stands for bone and raw food. This book is an absolute must for all dog owners to read. This book came to my attention when I was visiting England, where Dr. Billinghurst had given seminars about his knowledge in nutrition. It seemed like all my dog friends in England were so interested that they all had started feeding their dogs RAW CHICKEN WINGS AND NECKS, and they loved it. So of course I had to try it- even if I had put up the normal outcry and objections- chicken bones are dangerous, they will get stuck in the dogs throat! After you have read the book “Give Your Dog A Bone” –which I highly recommend- you will understand why 60% of your dog’s daily diet should be raw chicken wings and necks and of course other parts of the chicken, too. Dr. Billinghurst goes into details about mineral contents, how he has treated thousands of dogs successfully on this diet for over 20 years. I will now quote Dr. Billinghurst- “There is an incredible difference between cooked chicken and raw chicken. Have you ever tried to chew on raw chicken? It is TOUGH. The bones on the other hand, coming from 10-week-old birds, are extremely soft. Once your dog has crunched through that flesh, the bones are very safely crushed. Contrast this with cooked chicken. The flesh is beautifully soft, while the bones have gone brittle and splintery. These are dangerous! DON’T FEED COOKED CHICKEN BONES TO YOUR DOG. Chicken pieces, the carcass, the wings, the necks, whatever, I now consider to be the most important meaty bone for our dogs. There are a number of reasons for this. An obvious and important reason for their availability. Because chicken is now a major human food, and much of it is being deboned, it is freely available at bargain basement prices. Some chicken outlets are even paying people to dump it!...Raw meaty chicken bones can be fed to the very old, the very young, the very sick, in fact to any dog at any stage of life. They have the best essential fatty acid content of animal bones. They are beautifully balanced with respect to their bone to flesh ratio, and when raw, they are soft and safe. This is why wings and necks are so good for puppies. Plenty of bone for their bones. The wings are a rich source of bone marrow, rich in blood forming iron. The next big objection you’ll have is, what about bacteria like Salmonella, etc., again here is a direct quote from the book. “Raw chicken does of course carry bacteria e.g. Salmonella. Also campylobacter jejuni. These are absolutely no consequence to a healthy dog. However, after handling raw chicken (and remember you do this all the time when you prepare chicken meals for the family), wash your hands before eating and sterilize all utensils, implements and cutlery, etc. used in its preparation. It’s that simple.”
I was so impressed by Dr. Billinghurst’s ideas and expertise, they basically reinforce my own ideas of how to feed your pet or show dog with great results. We now buy and feed 500 pounds of chicken necks and wings weekly and it’s a riot to see the dogs go for them, whether six week old pups spending lots of time chewing, or the adults who make two crunches and they are gone-they all love it.
To complete the diet, you need to give vegetables and vitamin supplements. I urge you to read the book “How to Keep Your Dog Healthy the Natural Way” by Pat Lazarus. This book is excellent, written by 24 veterinarians. If you read this book and the book “Give Your Dog A Bone” by Dr. Ian Billinghurst or even better the updated version called “The BARF Diet”, you will have come a long way in understanding the nutritional needs of a dog. All three books are available at dog shows, from Direct Book Sales or you can contact us. We have all three available and buying these three books will be the best money you ever spent.
After reading these three books you will see that lots of people all over the world feed raw meat and bones with great success. I also urge you to add a basic multiple vitamin on a daily basis (like Pet Pals), as well as vitamin C. There is a new supplement out called M.S.M.-Methyl Sulfonyl methane- which we also recommend to our puppy buyers, as it complements Vitamin C and makes the cartilage stronger, to prevent arthritis and hip dysplasia. We guarantee our dogs to be free of hip dysplasia, if they do not clear OFA at two years old we will give you a free pup-on the condition that the puppy buyer follow our diet which consists of raw meat, raw bones, raw chicken, vegetables and a good multi vitamin, Vitamin C and M.S.M. If you follow this diet, and give your dog plenty of exercise, you’ll be amazed how quickly hip dysplasia and many other health problems disappear from your lines. Of course there are all the diehards who blame every thing on genetics. I wish they would give this a try. I did and am amazed at what a difference it makes.
In every family, dogs or people, there are many things we may be predisposed to-like heart attack at an early age, cancer, arthritis, etc. That does not mean we’ll get them, if we use “common sense” and prevent them with good nutrition, plenty of fresh air and exercise. I certainly have proved it and very rarely have to replace any dog for hip dysplasia or any other health problem, if the dog is kept on our diet. Nothing is 100%-but isn’t 95% pretty good?
If you seriously want to improve the health of your dog, increase his life span, prevent arthritis and cancer, please read the books I have discussed. If you are interested in more information on exactly how we feed our dogs with good results—just give us a call or drop a line or fax and we will forward our feeding schedule to you. You can even find it posted on our website www.skansen.com
Dogs have filled my life with love, excitement, friendship, companionship, everything one can ask for—now I feel it is my turn to speak up for them and share my experience in feeding successfully. Your dog will love it and be so grateful for that raw bone—it will be like Christmas for him every day. I promise you’ll see improvement in all areas—bigger litters,, longer lifespan, no stiffness and arthritis in young or old dogs, shinier, healthier coats, etc. You’ll find it is easy and fun to feed and you will soon appreciate why it is so important for your best friend to eat live food full of enzymes and not just processed food.