You enter your favorite retail store (we all know it’s Target), you turn to the right (after you grab your coffee at Starbucks, of course), you walk past the soaps and shampoos and beauty products, medicines, and then… BAM!! 600 different dog foods! Overwhelmed is an understatement for what you may feel, because unless you have some sort of background in animal nutrition, how are you supposed to know which food is best for your dog?
If I'm being honest with you, the answer to this can be complicated, and will vary on so many different things; breed, size, age, stomach sensitivity, allergies to grains, and the beat goes on (ba da da dum da dum… that one’s for you 90's kids)
So where do you begin…
You know them better than anyone
The best place to start is to watch your animal closely. There is nobody better to decide what your animals eating habits should be, than you. If you can pay close enough attention to your dog, many times they will show you what it is that they need. This can be tough, and you may not know what some of these signs may mean, but knowing what is wrong with your dog, is a great place to start.
Some things to watch for:
Urine killing your grass
Urinating more often than usual
If you see things like these, there is a good chance that the problem may lie with their current diet. Now, I am no expert, but I have been through many of these scenarios with my own dogs in the past. Many times a change of diet and a healthy amount of exercise can quickly fix many of these issues.
That all being said... When you see any of these issues arise in your dog’s habits, the best answer to how to fix them, is to consult your veterinarian first. There is always a chance that these issues are not diet related and in that case may need medical attention. But if it is diet related, they can help steer you in the right direction on what food your dog needs.
Ok so buying the food…
You’re probably going to hate me for saying this, but it is ultimately up to you to decide. I personally went through half a dozen dog foods before my dog was at a health level that I was happy with. There are so many options out there now; grain free, pure grain free, organic, high protein, low protein, puppy, senior, and sooo many more. And on top of all that, each of the 100 brands has their own version of each. So, though I can’t give you the magic dog foods that are perfect for all of your dog’s needs, I hope I can help guide you in the right direction.
The Formula matters
I am not going to bore you with all of the specifics of why, but trust me when I tell you, if you have a puppy, get them puppy food. If you have a large breed dog, get them large breed dog food. If you have an old dog, find them a senior dog food. Though you may have to try a few brands until you find the right fit for your dog, these formulas are meticulously calculated for the needs of those specific dogs, and will almost always be the best choice for your dog.
Does it taste good?
A simpler yet sometimes overlooked aspect of choosing the right dog food is palatability. If the dog doesn’t like how it tastes, it may not eat it. Less food consumption may equal lacking the correct nutrients which will always result in issues for your dog.
Keeping a consistency with feeding your dog can work wonders for their digestive systems. If their body is ready to receive food and nutrients at the same times everyday, it will be much better at breaking down and delegating nutrients to the places they need to go. Many people have different views and methods to how they feed their dogs, but overall, it’s up to how best it fits your lifestyle and schedule. And then keeping that feeding schedule as consistent as possible.
There are a plethora of forums and articles online to help guide you in the right direction for your very specific dog needs. There is most likely somebody out there with a dog very similar to yours, that has similar needs and problems, and can help you save some steps to finding the right food for your dog.
For example, my dog’s urine was killing the grass, so we researched. We found that it was due to her body breaking down her specific food in a way that her urine was filled with large amounts of nitrogen. Thus, when she squatted to pee, that large amount of nitrogen, concentrated in one place in the yard, burned the grass and killed it. So we switched to a higher quality, grain free food, and have not had a problem ever since.
This worked for my dog, but does not mean it will for you. Just like humans, dogs are all built differently and break down foods and nutrients in many different ways.
So. Test foods out, watch your dog closely, and watch how they respond. They will tell you what they need if you are really listening. (disclaimer: dogs can’t actually talk to you)