I have been meaning to write this post for a while, but I wanted to have all my ducks in a row before I posted. While I have all the information I need, this is still a pretty touchy subject and I’m sure there are some of you who will object to the way I keep my dogs. This is just a post of my views and the way I do things; I’m not saying that everyone should follow my lead, I’m simply writing about what works for me and what the healthiest option is for my dogs. Therefore, without further ado, I am going to make a statement that will send gasps through many in the dog community and the general population as well….. I feed my dogs’ whole, raw chicken legs quarters. Go ahead, fall on the floor in terror; I will wait for you to catch your breath and digest what I just said.
Yep, that’s right, I feed uncooked chicken leg quarters with the bones left in them to my dogs regularly. Just to set the record straight, I started this when they were puppies, meaning they could not eat any of the bones whole, forcing them to chew everything up before swallowing. This turns the bones into meal and is easily digested. If you started this with an adult dog, they may not chew up the bones, causing them to ingest shards of bone that could do some damage. I would start feeding my adult dogs boneless chicken or look into other options if I were in that situation. Besides, as you will see, the chicken is only a small portion of what I feed my dogs. Also, cooked chicken bones splinter more easily than the raw, so I would not feed cooked bones at any point. That’s not to say that they don’t get cooked meat. I do feed table scraps and use cooked meats, without bones, as training aids. I also feel that I should note here that they do live in the house, but are fed outside for sanitary reasons. Eating chicken is not is not done cleanly by many dogs!
The reason I have decided to write this post is because of the compliments I get about my dogs shiny coats and overall healthy demeanor and I wanted to shed light on how I accomplish this. I have Labrador Retrievers and Belgian Malinois. The former is a breed notorious for health issues associated with being overweight and the latter can be hard to keep weight on and often look too thin. My dogs are appropriate weights for their size, age, and gender and are able to keep up with the high activity level required to each of them. This means that as they age, they have a smaller chance of developing joint issues caused by being overweight and will have an overall longer working life. I can also help to see that they will have a generally better quality of life. Each one of them also has an incredibly shiny coat and shed very little, with very little dander, which helps me out, since they live in the house!
A daily feeding for my personal dogs consists of some sort of organ meat, such as livers or hearts. These can be from any animal, such as chicken, beef, or pork. Really, whatever is on sale when I am at the store, or what the butcher is getting rid of. I stay away from gizzards, because I have not found much research on the benefits of that particular organ from the chicken. I decided to feed mainly organ meats from a very reliable source; I looked at my dog’s teeth (because that is what they use to eat!). I then thought about what their ancestors may have looked like and what they would have eaten before domestication. This brought me to undomesticated animals, such as wolves, coyotes, foxes, and the like. Do a search on National Geographic to see what they animals eat. They all eat meat! And not just any meat; if given the chance, they eat the organs and move on to another animal, leaving the bones and others parts for the scavengers to gorge themselves on. Now, when meat is scarce, the predators obviously consume more of each kill, but that is a story for another post (spoiler alert….my opinion does not match up with most of the hunting community!). Look at your dog’s teeth and then look at a picture of a wolf’s teeth. I bet they look pretty similar, other than the extra tarter that your dog has built up on their teeth! The organ meats are important, because they are full of vital vitamins and minerals that help your dog to thrive.
Now to the bones of the subject…. I switch up what they eat regularly, because like us, they get bored eating the same stuff day after day. That’s where the chicken comes in. For one thing, it is incredibly cheap compared to the most popular commercial dog foods. Currently I get chicken for $0.59/pound. Purina Pro Plan sells for about $33.00/34 pound bag. That works out to $0.97/pound. I also feed a little more than half the amount of chicken that I would commercial dog food, so the cost is cut down there as well. Take my lab, who has the most demanding average activity level of any of my dogs ‘, eats about a pound of raw food a day. This is almost doubled when he eats commercial dog food. Like I said previously, he has been eating uncooked chicken bones since he was about 8 weeks old, so when he chews up the food, he makes a fine meal out of the bones. The bone meal is an important part of the diet, because so many nutrients come from them. If you watch him eat, he will eat his way around the chicken leg quarter, before he starts to ingest it. I know personally that he grinds the bones into a fine meal, because I have picked the chicken leg quarter up and felt to see if any bones are present. Chewing up these bones is also a natural way to clean their teeth. My oldest dog, who is now 5, has teeth that are as white as a puppies teeth and has never been to the vet for a cleaning. I will also feed other cuts of meat when they are on sale or the butcher is getting rid of scraps and what not. They like the variety in their diet! Suet, or pork fat also makes a great treat at feeding time, as well as ham hocks. I stay away from pork and chicken necks and backs, though, because they start out with sharp bones. Why start out with a less than desirable product, when the perfect food is readily available?
I take this a step further with their treats. I get femur bones from the local butcher for them to chew on as well. This is good stimulation for them, and helps with their need to chew, making other things in the house look less appealing! When the marrow has been licked out, I fill them with ground livers and freeze them for a Popsicle treat. I also do this with Kong toys as well. You can see my link to this at:
And finally… grooming. I do very little of this. Mostly, because I would rather spend my time doing fun activities with the dogs, rather than grooming them! When they get dirty, I get out my trusty Furminator and force dryer and go to town on them for about five minutes. If they are muddy, I will hose the mud off them and use the force dryer. The force dryer, furminator combination gets rid of all the dead hair and whatever dust they picked up outside. Like I said in the beginning, my dogs, even the double coated lab, shed very little and have very little dander, so I am mainly having to remove nature from them, because my husband is opposed to having it in the house! They do blow their coats occasionally, so that increases our grooming time to fifteen or twenty minutes. I do this a couple of times a week. Here’s another statement that will make some jaws hit the floor…. I never give my dogs a traditional bath. Bathing gets rid of the natural oils the dogs produce, forcing them to produce more. This is where the “wet dog” smell comes from. Also, they don’t like smelling the way we want them to smell, that’s why most of them will run around and rub on anything they can after a bath, trying to clean the “nasty” shampoo smell off. If you get rid of the dust, dander, old hair, and mud, your dog will smell like they should; a dog, and that is not an unpleasant smell. You could say I am immune to the smells of dogs, because I am around them all day long, but this past Christmas proved my point. I had a house full of family staying with me and my dogs. This included my Mom and Grandmother; both very easy people to get along with, but would never put up with unpleasant smells in my house. The only thing that was said about the dogs were how shiny their coats were. This was a huge compliment to me! So they passed the Grandma test, and in my opinion, this is really all that matters.
You may wonder why I do not site any specific research or proven professionals as reference. I do not feel that this is necessary, because you can look at my dogs and see the results. I have used this diet on many dogs, of various breeds and activity demands, and had the same positive results each time. You can also compare them to other dogs and see the difference. At the kennel, we can look at dogs and usually tell what they are fed, by the way they move, their coats, and body condition. One other indication that I know I am on the right track with my feeding regimen is the feces they produce. It is very small and turns to dust in about an hour after they potty. They are utilizing everything they are eating, making their waste almost nonexistent. There are no fillers in an all natural, raw diet, making the digestion process easier on their systems. This diet also cuts down on constipation and makes the dogs regular, and who doesn’t want to be regular when it comes to matters of the potty! This cannot be said about dogs fed commercial foods. I have also experienced health issues solved by changing to this diet. Occasionally I do feed commercial dog foods for various reasons. I travel quite a bit with all of my dogs. Staying in hotel rooms does not lend itself to the raw diet, so they do need to be accustomed to eating dry foods when on the road. Also, if they ever need to stay at the vet’s office for any length of time, they can eat the dry food that is fed there. I would rather be safe than sorry, so I do make sure that they are acclimated to bagged foods. However, if they stay on these feeds too long, several health issues are noted. My lab develops dandruff almost immediately and goes back to his normal coat as soon as he is switched back. Several of the Mals start to get conjunctivitis in their eyes and start excessive scratching and biting similar to allergies. I could go to the vet and get medicated shampoos and medications to help these problems, but why do that when I can just feed them a better, more economical food?
So just to conclude, I am not saying that you need to start giving your dog’s chicken leg quarters. There is some prep work that goes into starting this diet, and I have outlined that above. However, you can rethink the way you feed your dog, and start to add some staples that get them closer to what their hunting ancestors ate and help them to have an overall better quality of life. And don’t make grooming a chore. You can have a normal smelling, clean dog, with very little effort. They will be happier and you guys will spend more time do fun activates together!