It doesn’t matter what the topic is, we humans are going to find something to argue about. Someone always knows better, and nowhere has that proved truer than in our own community of dogs and dog lovers. We’re all guilty of it, myself included. Whether we’re debating the humane use of training tools or which nail clippers work best, you can be sure things are going to get heated, especially if it’s taking place on the Internet. (Cue dueling keyboards.)
While having opinions and engaging in thoughtful discussions is great, endless debates over dog care can really suck the joy out of being a dog owner. One of the No. 1 things that gets the masses riled up these days is dog food. In fact, Dogster author Dr. Eric Barchas just did an excellent piece on the ideal diet for dogs.
Growing up, our family dogs on the farm ate Ol’ Roy and table scraps. I was a child and certainly didn’t know any different. This may be hard for some hardcore dog-foodies to understand, but the dogs were always healthy. Their coats were shiny, they weren’t overweight, and they lived long, happy lives. Regardless of that latter fact, I vowed to do “better” when got dogs of my own and learned about the grain-free movement.
I purchased high-end grain-free wet and dry dog food to feed the little darlings. I just couldn’t understand why anyone else would feed their dogs any less, and fully advocated that people fed their dogs the very best that they could afford, even if that meant cutting back on their own food budget. Fortunately, I didn’t stay on that bandwagon for long — some humbling life experiences taught me some very valuable lessons on loving dogs and caring for them.
My first experience involved some friends of ours. They loved their dog dearly, and had just adopted another one from the local shelter. I knew they took great care of their dogs, including giving them enough exercise, attention, and grooming, so it was a surprise to me when I spotted the dog food bag — Beneful. I couldn’t keep myself from commenting about the food, particularly the fact that the notorious Dog Food Advisor rated it at only one star. They agreed it wasn’t the best, and then went on to explain how sick their oldest dog had been, and Beneful had been the only thing that he could hold down. He was healthy and happy, so who was I to judge?
My second experience was perhaps the most humbling. I was in the process of taking a three-legged, intact male hound mix back to an owner’s home after another of the dog’s wandering escapades. I was fully prepared to launch into my speech on keeping your dog at home, but I’m glad I let him speak first. He was so glad to have his baby back. He had found him 12 years ago as a tiny puppy on a creek bank — alone, cold, and scared. He took him in and fed him with a rag dipped in milk until he was old enough to handle wet food. He couldn’t afford to have him neutered, but his other dogs were fixed because he adopted them from the shelter. He feeds them “whatever he can afford,” so it varies from month to month. He lives on a fixed income, and his only real joy is his dogs. I offered him assistance in any way I could (a trip to the low-cost spay/neuter clinic, some flea prevention, and dog food), but he politely and firmly refused. (Of note, the dog hasn’t gotten out of the fence again since then.)
That moment was like a lightbulb going off in my head. This man didn’t have a lot of money, but he did have a lot of love. He was caring for his dogs as best he knew how, and, honestly, they weren’t unhealthy. They could have used some better flea prevention (he stated he uses dips) and a good bath, but they were all at good weights and clearly overjoyed to be in the presence of their owner. Some might argue that these dogs should be removed from his care and given to someone who can afford better, but I say this is a case where love conquers all.
My third and final experience was a little different. It involved less of the owner/dog relationships and more of a single person badgering those owners. This particular person, whose name I cannot disclose due to privacy and safety reasons, has made it a life mission to be the authority on dog food. While it’s great to have an opinion and be passionate about the way you care for your dogs, this constant belittling of other dog owners’ feeding habits has certainly not gained this person any favors. In fact, as a rule, most of the people around this person make it a point not to discuss dogs at all, if possible, and that’s pretty sad.
We should all be able to share about our beloved dogs without fear of judgment. We should be focusing less on what people are putting in their dogs’ bowls and more on the overall well-being of the dog, and the health of the human/canine bond.
Do you judge others on how they feed and care for their dogs? Are you sick of people who do? Or do you think people still need to be educated? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.
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About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.