Providing the best balanced diet for your working dog can be daunting. There are so many different options out there that promote many different benefits, it can quite easily become overwhelming. We spoke to our friends at Rawgeous Pet Food Co. who gave us their best tips and tricks to finding the best raw diet for your working dog.
Many of us have questions about our dogs diets:
What does a balanced diet mean in dog terms? Does diet really make a difference to a dog’s health, happiness and performance? How does a working dog’s lifestyle and breed affect its nutritional requirements? Is raw the choice for me? Lorraine Sweeney from Rawgeous Pet Food Co. will try to answer some of those, but first let’s start with the basics …
What Do We Mean By A "Working Dog"?
The true definition of a working dog is broader than the FCI and the Kennel Club’s ‘group 2’ classification which focused on larger dogs ranging from the Alaskan Malamute through to the Tosa, and including a lot of Mastiff or Mastino breeds. These dogs typically weigh between 75 lbs (34kg) – 160 lbs (74kg). However, the description of a working dog isn’t really determined by its breed specification under the kennel club, but by its breeds original intended use.
Ask yourself the simple question: “Was my dog’s original breed meant as a companion pet, or designed to do a specific job?” If it had a ‘job’ or purpose, it is a ‘working dog’.
Here are some obvious examples of working dogs (note the crossovers in breed types):
Types Of Working Dog
Shepherding Dogs: All Collies and Sheepdogs, German and Belgian Shepherds, Cattle Dogs, Anatolian and Caucasian Shepherds, Tibetan Mastiffs
Protection and Police Dogs: Mastiffs, German and Belgian Shepherds, Rottweiler, Doberman, Bullmastiff.
Hunting Dogs (including sight and scent hounds): Wolfhounds, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Deerhounds, Pointers, Spaniels, Beagles, Foxhounds. Hunting Dogs (other): All terriers.
Nordic and Spitz Type: Huskys, Malamutes, Japanese, Finnish and Norwegian Spitz breeds.
Water Dogs: Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Portuguese Water Dogs, Some Spaniels, Poodles
As you can see working dogs include a wide variety of breed types and nutritional requirements will vary greatly depending on a dog’s size as well as its level of activity. With all working dogs you will get a LOT of energy in the growing phase, but don’t be daunted by that. By and large (with the exception of some terrier breeds) working dogs are alert, smart and therefore very trainable and with the right training they can be a happy, loving part of your family.
Feeding Nutrition Using A Raw Diet To A Working Dog:
There are a few things to consider in feeding raw food to working dogs. As with all dogs: size, age, maintenance weight and level of activity will influence their appetite and nutritional requirements. An active working dog will not only need enough food to maintain energy and performance levels, but the right kind of food.
What to Look for in dog food: It is crucial that your dog’s diet contains the right balance of high quality ingredients to meet its nutritional needs.
Dogs are hypercarnivores. They survive in the wild by hunting prey and eating it whole. At times they will consume berries, leaves and whole vegetables. Their digestive system was designed for a diet primarily based on raw meat with a careful balance of fat and omega oils, calcium and probiotics to maintain gut health. Marrying these properly is the key to a happy, healthy dog.
If you want your dog to be its healthiest and happiest, we would recommend a raw pet food diet made with the highest quality premium cuts of fresh meat, mixed with bones and a small amount of offal alongside a balance of vegetables and natural supplements
Here’s a simple introduction that Rawgeous Pet Food Co. have put together to how to ensure the best diet for your working dog:
Step 1. Feed your Dog Raw:
Working dogs are designed to find nutrition quickly whilst on the go, and then get back to work quickly. Nutrition should be in the freshest, most easily digestible form to ensure it is easily absorbed and available to the animal.
Here’s a comparison in human terms: We take supplements to boost our vitamin levels. But we know that it would be better for us to eat a diet full of fruit and vegetables that are naturally high in vitamins? When we eat an orange, for example, the vitamin C is found in its natural form, quickly digestible but crucially stored alongside gut friendly dietary fibre and a particular mix of antioxidants and vitamins including: calcium, folic acid, magnesium, B vitamins and minerals that protect against diseases and boost your immune system.
When dogs eat fresh meat and bones, their system processes essential proteins, omega oils, fats, and vitamins quickly in their purest form and refuels their body on the go, as they were designed to do by nature.
It is also critical to understand that dogs are designed to get 70-80% of their moisture through the food they eat, not their water bowl. If your dog is fed, and walked / otherwise stimulated but it still seems anxious and restless this may be because of dehydration. How restless are you when you are thirsty?
Muscle Growth and Maintenance
The thing all working dogs need to have is strong muscles, to enable them to work for long periods of time. Whether pulling, hunting, retrieving, or shepherding working dogs need their strength and endurance. They are true canine athletes and again if we look at our human athletes it is easy to see why a well balanced, highly nutritious diet is critical.
Modern sports science recognises that fresh, healthy, perfectly balanced meals are key to performance. Over reliance on supplements can lead to injury and failure. For dogs to have strong muscles, but more importantly to have a good ligament and skeletal structure to support the work of these muscles, they must have a diet based on fresh high quality protein, fresh bones and the right balance of vegetables and natural supplements. Dogs can survive on meat and bone alone, but for optimal nutrition we need more from a raw diet.
Step 2: Supplement Naturally
Meat, bones and offal are the staple of a good dog food, but natural supplements will ensure a dog has optimal nutrition. These include:
- Fish Oils: that support joint growth and maintenance, tendon and ligament strength.
- Vegetables and Fruit: When shredded and minced these provide essential vitamins and minerals which help nutrient absorption.
- Seaweeds: These are natural probiotics promoting gut health.
Kefir: Nature’s best prebiotic
With a balanced diet of raw meat and the correct supplements you can power your dog from the inside out.
Step 3: Read the label
Here are things to look out for if you want to understand what’s really in your Dog’s Dinner:
- The Ingredient List: Does it just say ‘chicken’? Or does it give a part of the chicken? or is it a chicken byproduct (such as meal).
- Percentages: Does it clearly state the percentage of each ingredient?
Additives/Preservatives: What are they and what use are they to your dog?
Where are the ingredients from? Farm / Supplier / Source.
- Quality and Transparency are key. The more information a producer gives you the better.
How Much Should I Be Feeding My Dog(s)?
Once you’ve followed steps 1 – 3 and you’ve found a high quality, balanced raw pet food from a producer that you trust, you can work out exactly how much to feed your dog.
- Weight: Raw/Fresh guidelines suggest 2% of a dog’s body weight as a maintenance
- Puppies: Raw / Fresh guidelines suggest a daily maintenance feeding level of 5% for a puppy – a slightly percentage than for an adult because a puppy is growing fast.
- Activity: If your dog has a high level of activity e.g. if it’s working (whether on the farm, retrieving or hunting) you will need to feed more than the maintenance feeding level. So feed 3% of the dog’s weight for active working dogs.
- Above all, always remember that you should feed to condition. (Condition is a small layer of fat on the lower ribs).
It can seem daunting introducing a new diet, for you and for your dog. Transitioning to raw may not be an instant win. To a dog who is used to kibble or processed food, a pure, natural diet rich in probiotics and proteins will challenge its digestive system, so an initial period of loose stools, or upset stomachs is normal. That’s just the dog’s tummy adapting to the new diet and things will soon settle down.
Handling raw might also seem challenging but providing it is high quality meat, with rigorous testing protocols and it has been stored in your freezer until you’re ready to use it. Then you can treat it just as you would any raw meat you’re preparing for a meal. Take the meat from the freezer the night before you feed, defrost the meat thoroughly in the fridge, wash your hands before and after handling, clean any surfaces where you have placed the raw meat, and clean the dog’s bowl after they have finished the meal. You’ll run more risks preparing the chicken for a Sunday roast!
Visible Benefits of Raw
Feeding your dog a diet that it was designed to eat in the wild will quickly have visible benefits. Your dog will have a glossier coat, cleaner teeth, smaller stools, stronger muscles, brighter eyes, and that is just what is easily measurable.
The immeasurable is in their temperament. Well fed dogs are less anxious and calmer; easier to train and to settle into a work routine. You will notice higher levels of energy and strength, but perhaps most importantly for every owner, you will see a happier dog at home.
Quite simply: A happy dog starts with a healthy gut.
Still Need A Helping Paw?
If you still have questions or concerns about feeding raw, transitioning to a raw pet food diet, or the right quantities to feed a puppy or adult, you can contact the team at Rawgeous Pet Food. They’re available 24/7 to advise on any aspect of your dog’s diet, training or development. They’d be happy to help. Click the button below to visit their website:
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