Nutrition | Nutrition Nutrition en-us Wed, 23 Oct 2013 02:00:00 -0700 Wed, 23 Oct 2013 02:00:00 -0700 Orion <![CDATA[5 Reasons to Throw Away Your Dog's Food Bowl]]> Feeding your dog from a food bowl is quick and convenient, but is it really the best way to deliver your best friend’s daily allotment of calories? After all, dogs developed as scavengers with keen senses of smell and finely honed problem-solving capabilities. Trainers in zoos and aquariums have been using their animal’s meals to provide stimulation and enrichment for years, and there’s no reason we can’t take a page from their book for our pet dogs to further their training and adjust their behavior.

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Dogs don't come to you already trained. Dog training by Shutterstock.

Using your dog’s food to enrich his life can be nearly as quick and easy as scooping a portion into a food bowl, and the benefits are immense. By slowing down voracious eaters, enriched mealtime can make the meal seem larger and could reduce the risk of bloat. Dogs on diets will feel more satisfied having worked for their food, and could even burn a few calories in the process! Picky dogs are often more interested in food if it’s presented as a fun puzzle for them to solve. Best of all, mental exercise is every bit as tiring (if not more so!) than physical exercise, so working for his food could help to make Fido a little easier to live with. As we all know, a tired dog is a good dog.

Here are a few easy ways that you can put your pup’s abilities to work and make mealtime more fun for both of you. These are just a taste (ha!) of the many different options available for you and your dog, so my hope is that you’ll use these suggestions as starting points and let your creativity guide you to further enrichment activities. 


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1. Give him a hand

Hand-feeding is one of the easiest ways to deliver your dog’s food, and there are all sorts of wonderful things that it can do for you. Hand-feeding a new dog or puppy is a great way to start your relationship off on a positive note. Shy dogs can likewise benefit from the trust fostered by feeding them their meals. If your dog gets sharky when you try to feed him treats, hand-feeding his food can help him learn to use his mouth more gently.

2. Play dress-up

Get your dog used to items he has to wear by introducing them during mealtime. If your dog dislikes his Gentle Leader, jacket, booties, or the dreaded “cone of shame,” put the offending item on before mealtime. Immediately after dressing your dog, feed him, then undress him as soon as he’s done eating.

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Lots of dogs without homes need food or other goods. Dog dreams by Shutterstock

Within a few meals, your dog should start visibly brightening at the sight of the formerly unpleasant item, since it always predicts wonderful things. Note that if your dog really, really hates wearing something, you may need to up the ante by feeding special meals for a bit. But hey, that’s what gravy was made for!

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Kong toys with food inside will turn mealtimes into a game. Dog chases Kong by Shutterstock

3. Scavenger hunts

Dogs evolved as scavengers, and most dogs really enjoy getting in touch with their roots with a good old-fashioned “find it” game. If you feed messy foods, consider hiding your dog’s bowl throughout the house for him to sniff up. Those who feed kibble or other less-messy diets can hide the food outside the bowl for even more fun. Consider hiding each individual kibble somewhere different (one piece on each stair step, one behind each chair leg, etc.), or just throw the whole lot amongst the grass in your backyard for your dog to search out.

4. Puzzling it out

Puzzle toys such as Kongs, Twist 'n Treats, and Buster Cubes can combine toys and food in new and interesting ways. Make the puzzle easy in the beginning so that your dog is successful, and gradually increase the difficulty as he figures out how to make the toy work. You can feed your dog’s entire meal from a toy and throw out his food bowl altogether!

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If it’s safe to do so with your dog (i.e., your dog won’t ingest non-food items), you can repurpose empty plastic water bottles or cardboard boxes as cheap, disposable puzzle toys by cutting holes in them and filling them with food.

5. Teachable moments

Here’s a training confession: I don’t feed my own dogs or any of my foster dogs out of food bowls until their behavior is perfect. Why waste calories? Instead, I dole out handfuls of food throughout the day when I like what the dog is doing. Lying quietly on your dog bed? Have some food! Chewing on a dog toy instead of my shoes? Here’s some food! Going potty outside? Good choice, have some more food! Dogs love learning this way, and I would much rather catch my dog making good choices than wait for him to screw up and punish him. 

Whether you feed raw or kibble, cook for your dog or feed canned food that looks more appetizing than the stuff you cook for yourself, there are lots of ways to provide your dog with his daily meals that go well beyond slopping it in a bowl.

We’ve just scratched the surface here, and I’m curious to hear how you serve your dog’s meals! Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below. 

Sara Reusche, CPDT-KA CVT, runs Paws Abilities Dog Training in Rochester, MN, and writes about dog behavior issues at Paws Abilities.

Read more by Sara and about canine feeding: 

Wed, 23 Oct 2013 02:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-training-behavior-tips-5-reasons-throw-away-food-bowl
<![CDATA[Why I'm Okay With Feeding My Dogs Nothing But Dry Food]]> Editor's Note: Food is a controversial subject here at Dogster. It's only natural: we care about our pets and want to give them the absolute best. In our list of Dogster Values, we note that we believe in feeding your pet the best food you can afford; if that happens to be kibble, we won't judge you for it.

The post below is NOT a sponsored post -- it is the author's opinion, which we're publishing (as we regularly do) in the spirit of debate. You can agree or disagree, but please be civil. And please tell us what you feed your dog and why you do it in the comments area below. 


I find it strange how nervous I can get just talking about what I feed my dogs. The topic of whether to feed wet or dry, organic or conventional, raw or cooked seems to have reached a fever pitch, especially online. And I assure you, I am not here to try and change anyone’s mind. We all have to look at the information available and make our own decisions for our dog and our household. But I thought I would say a little about how I chose the dog food that I buy.

I want to use a dry food for two main reasons. One is that my older dog has some worn and broken teeth and my younger dog has a congenital issue that causes plaque intolerance, which requires that I keep her teeth very clean. I use a water additive and brushing but still find a dry food is a good idea for maintaining the dental health of both. The second reason is that it is convenient and easy, and I think it is better to admit that is a factor rather than pretend that it is not.

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It can be hard to decide what to feed your dogs. Woman and three Chis by Shutterstock

One of the biggest concerns with kibble is that it is quite high in carbohydrates like starches from foods such as grains and potatoes. Wolves clearly would not have eaten very much of those materials at all, just trace amounts from the stomach contents of prey animals. So the question is, just how different are dogs from their wolf ancestors? Is eating a diet relatively high in carbohydrates bad for them?

Erik Axxelson and a team of researchers completely sequenced the genomes of wolves and dogs, and what they found is that dogs differ in two main area: 27 genes that affect the brain and nervous system, and ten that affect the stomach. The changes in the genes of the dogs allow them to be much more efficient in breaking down carbohydrates like starch all the way to glucose, so that it can be absorbed. So, good news for my conscience, dogs have evolved to be able to use plants sources of nutrition. But that is not really the whole story.

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Jack Russell and kibble by Shutterstock

Another study led by Adrian K. Hewson-Hughes showed that when dogs are given the choice, they want to get most of their energy from fat and protein and only seven percent from carbohydrates. Most studies find that animals given naturalistic choices have what is called “nutritional wisdom,” and will tend to pick the foods that are best for them. And these dogs selected a diet much closer to the ancestral wolf diet and well out of the range offered by most dry diets.  

One reason for kibble being high in carbohydrates is that they are an ingredient necessary to be able to extrude and dry a stable dry pellet of food, so making a low-carb kibble is actually quite difficult. Formulations are unlikely to get much below 20-percent carbs, and they lower they go, the more they are going to cost. Now, in my case, the days where I had to decide between buying dog food, human food or gas some weeks are fortunately in the past, so I can go for the bigger-ticket brands if I think there is a good reason to do so.

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Lots of dogs without homes need food or other goods. Dog dreams by Shutterstock

Also, my dogs don’t have any health concerns known to be aggravated by a high-carbohydrate diet, so all I am trying to do is to balance my reasons for feeding dry, which I have already mentioned, with the dogs natural tendency to eat a low-carbohydrate diet (which is probably optimal for them). So my own personal decision has been to stick with dry diets, but to choose ones with relatively low levels of carbohydrates to try and balance the issues that concern me.

Other people make other food choices for their dogs, and I think it is important that we respect each other’s choices when they are made responsibly and for good reasons, especially because each dog is going to have different health and nutritional needs. And even when we disagree, a civil conversation is going to be more helpful than a polarized debate.

We are discovering new things about dog nutrition all the time, and new products are coming on the market constantly. It seems to me that so long as we can share the information we have discovered and we all are trying to make the best decisions, we as dog owners will be able to help one another make the best decisions possible for our dogs. And that is the most important thing.

What do you think about my decision to feed my dog only dry food? Do you agree with it? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.   

About the author: Emily Kane is a New Zealand-born animal behaviorist of the throw-back radical behaviorist type, albeit with a holistic-yuppie-feminist-slacker twist. She spent many years as an animal behavior researcher and is now more of an indoor paper-pushing researcher. Her early dog-related education came from Jess the Afghan Hound and Border Collies Bandit and Tam. It is now being continued by her own dogs and extended dog family and some cats (and her three aquatic snails Gala, Granny and Pippin -- they think of themselves as dog-esque).

Read more on feeding your dog:

Fri, 26 Jul 2013 12:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/feed-my-dogs-only-dry-dog-health-food-carbohydrates
<![CDATA[Yaffbar: Energy Bars for People and Dogs to Share]]> My dogs and I have always shared most foods, condiments, spices, and even supplements. But when it came time to hitting the road with portable snacks, it's always been a church-and-state separation. For convenience's sake, I've packed my pockets with dedicated doggie-nibble baggies, keeping those apart from my own on-the-go snacks.  

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Yaffbars come in three fetching flavors: Honey Almond Cranberry, Blueberry Carob and Banana Peanut Butter. Photo: Steve Yensel

Well, we're no longer doing that, thanks to a delicious new product called Yaffbar. It has the distinction of being the world's first "people food" energy bar that you can devour on your own or share safely with your favorite pup. And it takes its quirky name from the Old English term yaff (to bark). 

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Desiree could hardly wait for the wrapper to come off the Yaffbar. Photo: Steve Yensel

When the manufacturer, Mudd+Wyeth, first offered me a sample, I didn't have high expectations. Then I read the ingredients: With components like alcohol-free vanilla extract and brown rice syrup (instead of refined sugar), Yaffbars are as pure as anything I would concoct myself -- and that's saying something, because I'm not only a purist at heart, I'm a certifiable health nut (or, as Dogster EIC Janine Kahn calls me, health nerd). Plus, Yaffbars are free of wheat, dairy, and caffeine. 

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Yaffbars are made with natural ingredients that are healthy, safe and delicious for dog lovers and their pups.

So I split the swag with my sweetheart German Shepherd in a taste test, and the results were impressive. But don't take it from me -- here's some ocular proof. When I set up an impromptu photo shoot of Desiree and me sharing the Yaffbars, I brought along three, one of each flavor: Banana Peanut Butter, Blueberry Carob, and Cranberry Almond. Well, all three disappeared in seconds, and in her feeding frenzy, Fraulein Desiree nearly chewed off my chin as a chaser!

After the Yaffbars were all gone, she would've gladly devoured the empty wrappers if I hadn't held them in a viselike grip. (Note to self: Never leave these wrappers, or garbage bags containing them, lying around -- dispose of immediately!) I regret that I can't describe what, exactly, Desiree loves about these tasty treats. But I can tell you, from my mere human point of view, that Yaffbar's texture is what sets it apart, striking precisely the right balance of moist and chewy, yet not cloyingly gooey. 

So move over, Larabar, Luna Bar, Clif Bar ... I hereby pledge allegiance to Yaffbar. I suspect your dog will, too. Check it out here. 

Mon, 11 Feb 2013 06:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/yaffbar-energy-bars-for-dogs-people