Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Essentials: Things learned early - Food and Treats

Food and Treats:
When we picked up Zuko, the breeder suggested a raw food diet mixed with Eukanuba kibble. After the pet-food fiasco a few years ago, I just couldn't get on board with Eukanuba. With our cats, we were feeding them Wellness crunchy and wet food. The concept of raw diet was a new experience for me - our vet even said that when he was in college, he would have told us "no way" on raw diet - but now, through experience, he has seen many "mysterious" problems just go away on a raw diet. The food the breeders used came from a local source near them in the South Bay and wasn't easily accessible to us. After asking around and listening to the local dog community, we switched him over to Primal nuggets and Wellness kibble. I like the idea of having a kibble he is use to for those days when we are traveling or for emergencies (earthquake kit). However, something with the Wellness didn't sit well with him and we finally moved to Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet and have stayed with that ever since. He loves the Natural Balance enough that I can use the kibble as treats!

For daily good-dog treats, we buy the Natural Balance crunchy treats and Zuke's salmon treats. The Zuke's are great training treats and he loves them (because they are stinky I suspect). I also buy these dried salmon strips I see in the local pet store and when we come across a dog bakery, he gets a special treat now and then.

Food Allergies:
Shibas are known for food allergies and while we've never done a full scientific process to prove it, corn and wheat in large amounts seems to give Zuko squishy poos. As a puppy, it didn't take much for him to have soft poopy. Too much cheese in training class, a cornchip found on the floor, etc. In general we avoid all corn and wheat products and limit cheese to some of the treats used in training. Soy seems to come up as an allergen in dogs, but Zuko likes edamame so we go with that as a treat when we have some. Must be the Japanese dog in him!

Training treats:
I am so going to get flaming emails on this one: we use Hormel turkey pepperoni as the "dog crack" for Zuko. He will do ANYTHING for turkey pepperoni, even - on a good day and when he is hungry enough - recall and come back to us at the dog park. I know processed food, especially something like pepperoni is B-A-D for dogs. That is why it is used only when Zuko needs the highest possible motivation. Our heirarchy of training treats:
  • Kibble. Yup, his daily kibble.
  • Zuke's salmon treats
  • Cheese - usually part-skim mozzarella but the vet bribes him with spray cheese.
  • Turkey pepperoni
In training classes, I bring all the above and as he gets more tired or distracted, I switch to a higher power treat. When working on recall, I go straight for cheese and turkey pepperoni - this is just one area where I do not want to fail. 

Table Scraps:
When I was growing up, dogs got true table scraps - fatty pieces of meat, gravy, mashed potatoes - anything and everything. On a recent trip back to Ohio with Zuko, I caught my grandmother trying to feed Zuko raspberry cheesecake! (I caught it in time - thank goodness). So in the traditional sense, Zuko does not get table scraps.

However: He gets carrots when I'm cutting salad (after doing a sit, down or something - he works for his food always). He gets bits of hardboiled egg, plain salmon and tuna, smoked salmon, plain steak (not the fat), a bit of a hamburger and even duck salami once. I have heard both sides of the argument: this is bad - period ... or by letting him have bits here and there, he gets use to a variety of foods and should he ever eat something off the ground or has to switch food, it is less traumatic. We do it because we love our little guy and share our life with him - and that includes our food, within reason. We strictly avoid all the deadly foods and keep everything in small amounts only. He does NOT get pizza, even though he swears he can handle it!

Feeding Schedule:
Zuko works for all his food - always. He is feed twice a day: first thing in the morning and about 6pm in the evening. We learned early that a standard routine is essential to knowing his potty times. He's pretty darn predictable and when he is not, it is because his big meals have changed times. He is asked to do a "sit" and "wait" for his food bowl. We started this day one and he has never been food aggressive or snatchy with his food. With treats, he must always do something, even if it is just a simple sit.

-- Posted by Fuzzbutt's people

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