Kerri Bee from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers looks at healthily feeding dogs and what to avoid

Obvious I know, but what a minefield!


feeding dog

Please don’t accept what breeders or other people recommend at face value and certainly don’t fall for the marketing techniques of the pet food industry. Do research dog food as much as you can and make an informed choice. It’s ok to try a few, see what your dog likes, and ask for samples. There is a confusing array of foods out there and many are full of cheap fillers, little real meat, and pumped with salt and sugar and have vitamins and coat conditioners added rather than them be naturally occurring within the food. Be very aware that ones that look appetising to you, may be ill-advised for your dog. Foods that look like meat and two veg, may well be just that, or they may be soya, flavoured with cheaply and coloured to look appetising.

Not so long ago there was the choice of mass produced commercial food or making your own at home but there are now some foods that attempt to bridge the gap and some established manufacturers are improving their ingredients. These foods offer convenience with assurances of all natural ingredients, no colours or additives, hypo allergenic, some are organic and so forth. Some are very expensive because they do have good meat as the main source, but some are pricey because they are just marketed to make you think you’re getting a perfect diet. Less well known brands may have good ingredients but cost less because they aren’t known well. As with human food, it is a good idea to learn to read food labels so that you can make the right choice for your dog’s health and your own pocket.


A Very Brief Guide To Dog Food Labelling

Ingredients have to be labelled with the greatest ingredient first and the least last. Look for foods where the first two ingredients are specifically named. These will probably be a meat and a cereal, so make sure they are named i.e. ‘chicken’, ‘rice’ and so forth. Avoid maize based products.

Avoid products which contain ‘derivatives’ of meat, just ‘meat’ or ‘animal fat’ or any general terms like this. ‘Meat meal’ is fine as long as it is named i.e. ‘Duck meat meal’ this just means dried, ground duck.

Don’t worry too much about protein content as labels can be very misleading. Many people say that high protein levels cause over activity or behaviour problems and neither is scientifically proven, in fact low protein levels have been proven to cause behaviour problems in some cases. Labels are very misleading because they give the total protein content including the cereal and vegetable proteins that your dog cannot use as well as meat protein. Look instead for equal or higher meat content, checking for all the cereals not just the first one in the list – they often split them so they don’t look as much.

If you buy small bags, check the ingredients on the corresponding large bag in the shop – small bag labels don’t have to be as detailed by law.

Avoid foods that contain EC permitted additives, or have the additives listed by name or ‘E’ number. Most details should be in the ingredient list but they may be elsewhere on the packet as well.

Avoid BHT and BHA (preservatives), these are banned in human food in most countries as they have been found to be carcinogenic in animals (cancer causing).

Be aware that many popular brands contain very high levels of sugar which cause higher activity levels, tooth decay and also make it more difficult for the dog to accept a healthier food.

There is no definitive answer to whether dry food or moist food is better, see what your dog likes and just make sure it’s healthy.

If you want your dog to enjoy dry food more, try using some of the pet mince you can buy locally. Don’t teach your dog that by refusing food he will get tastier’ and tastier things added, just see what makes it more palatable for him.

Try feeding food in food dispensing toys – much more fun for your dog and make help him enjoy it more too.

Don’t buy dry foods in too big packets for your dog’s consumption. As soon as food is opened, the vitamin content starts to deteriorate so use airtight containers and don’t buy too much.


Biologically Appropriate Raw Food

Many people ask me about raw feeding and the best advice I can give is to point you in the direction of a couple of really good books.

‘Real Food for Dogs and Cats’ by Kymythy Shultz 

‘The Barf Diet’ by Dr Ian Billinghurst

More and more people are switching their dogs to raw foods and seeing remarkable benefits but it is important to read up on it and find a feeding plan that suits you and your dog. *


General Rules

Dogs should be fed a diet that is high in bone content and contains about 50% liquidised fruits and vegetables (half meat half fruit & veg). Fruit and veg should ideally be over-ripe and definitely liquidised and mixed with mince.

Bone content can be provided by buying meat from suppliers who mince the bone too, or by feeding lots of raw meaty bones. The meat should be varied and of the best quality you can afford.

Provide fresh organ meat once a week, e.g. liver, heart etc. Liver can be too high in vitamin A for dogs so feed sparingly, heart is a good option.

Dogs do not need cereals or rice or pasta and these are common allergens and even when dogs are not actually allergic they do not suit their systems well. Things like buckwheat, millet and Quinoa can be added as fillers if you want to.

You can choose how ‘convenient’ you want your dog’s raw diet to be. Companies like Natural Instinct mince the meat with vegetables and brewers yeast and kelp, so you can just defrost and serve. Other companies provide meat chunks and minces that you have to add your own fruit and vegetables.

It is easy to DIY through a local butcher but you will probably pay more. A number of companies make BARF feeding really easy.



kerri beeKerri Bee holds a foundation degree in Canine Behaviour and Training from the University of Hull. This particular qualification included a very strong element of practical dog training, teaching and counselling people and canine behavioural work as well as a high level of study in all things canine. She is also a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (no.0999). She runs training classes and one-to-one consultations in West Pembrokeshire. Visit her website.


* Since time of writing BARF diets have become very easy to feed, and there are many food companies who produced ready prepared raw food that can be bought from pet shops frozen or can be bought mail order. Long gone are the days of needing to prparing the raw diets at home, although many raw feeders still prefer that option.