Frequently Asked Questions

How do you find the time to cook for your dog? I do not have time to cook for myself or my family, I certainly have no time to cook for my dog.

I do not consider that I am cooking for my dog. I cook for my husband and myself and share these meals with our dog. I think that one of the main things that the primary care giver can do is provide a wholesome and nutritional diet for those under their care. If this becomes important to you, than you will "find" the time.

We live in a world that is so fast paced, that sometimes we have to make compromises regarding how we spend one of the most precious things we have   -   our time. We have to make conscious decisions between what we want to do, what we have to do, and what we should do. These decisions many times conflict with each other.

Choosing to prepare healthy and nutritious food for you and your family may cause you to compromise time expenditures elsewhere. The time to shop and cook the foods may have to be stolen from other things - time spent on the computer, an extra half hour sleep on the weekend, delays in completing a favorite project, or putting off updating your web page.

Many times, its a matter of simple reorganization, or learning to do two things at once, and sometimes three and four.

If I know that I have a particularly trying week coming up, I take (beg borrow or steal) a chunk of Sunday to prepare for it. I will prepare two separate meals, one for Sunday, with leftovers, like roasted chicken, and something like a beef stew that will taste better after it has aged for a day or so in the refrigerator. Between the two, I have three of the four meals (I never count Friday for weekly meals, that always takes care of itself) for the week. I cook specifically for leftovers, for both the human and canine members of the family.

While the microwave is perfect for vegetables, and for reheating leftovers, simmering all day in a crockery cooker is also an excellent option. Start them before you leave for work. Roasts take time, but once you put them in the oven you can do other things. And while everyone suggests Chinese stir fry for a quick meal, they are not the ones chopping and blanching the vegetables and mixing the sauces. I save the "quick" Chinese food for days that I have plenty of time.

Preparing home cooked meals for your family is primarily a matter of mind set. And once you make up your mind to do this, you have won half the battle. The rest is taken care of by your creativity and your ability to focus your energies, and re-channel when necessary. Its not that difficult.

How do you know how much to feed your dog?

When you are coming over from commercially manufactured foods, I suggest you feed close to the amount (by volume) of what you were feeding. If you were feeding four cups, divided into two meals, keep the portions for the natural foods the same. Remember that more of the natural foods will be absorbed by the dog, so just use this as a starting point.

If you are good at math you can start feeding your dog based on his ideal weight as an adult (if you know what that is). You want to feed about 2 to 3 percent of your dogs ideal adult body weight if they are adults, a higher percentage for a puppy. For a 50 pound adult dog, this would translate to about 1 to 1.5 pounds of food in total for the daily meals. If you feed twice a day this amount will be divided in two portions. This is only a guide. In general large dogs will eat a smaller percentage of their body weight, and small dogs will eat a higher percentage of their body weight. My Great Pyrenees at about 100 pounds, eat approximately 1 and a half pounds of food per day.
And use common sense. In the beginning, if your dog leaves food, cut back the amount for the next meal. If all the food is eaten, and the dog is still hungry feed more. You and your dog will eventually come to a correct amount to feed.

Not all dogs will regulate their food intake. In this case, you will have to intervene. If the dog gains too much weight, cut back on some of the food offered. If the dog is too thin, up the higher calorie foods (perhaps by increasing the amount of fat and protein).

In this area, common sense goes a long way toward a healthy dog.

Do you always feed your dogs what you make for dinner?

No. Sometimes the food is too expensive (like shrimp or grilled Ahi tuna), or it is something that I do not want them to have, e.g. cured ham. Whatever it is, I always give them a taste of what they have smelled cooking.

There are also meals that are prepared just for them. I like them to get organ meats (usually liver, sometimes kidneys) at least three times a month. That is not on our human menu, and neither is the Jack Mackerel or canned salmon or sardines that I like them to get once a week.

If these "dog only" dinners are not being fed, I will either pull out some frozen leftovers, or cook some ground turkey or do the almost rare roast beef. On some occasions, they will get most of the ingredients, but before the dish is finished. Lasagna for them may be the cooked broken noodles, mixed with meat sauce and some ricotta cheese. Neither Cajun nor our new Patou are crazy about Chinese style foods, so most times when I make these dishes, I will pull out the cooked meat before I add the sauce. I give this to them with the cooked vegetable and the rice.

How do you travel with your dog and still feed them properly?

Feeding your dog naturally where the entire family eats basically the same foods, makes traveling with your pet easy. There are only a few considerations: - travel with a cooler, can opener, some staples, and try to get rooms with kitchenettes.

Our dogs travel with us on vacation. When we travel on business, we prefer to board them.

But vacation can mean either by car or by boat. Either way, we start out with certain staples like canned salmon or sardines,  and a well stocked cooler. We have lots of turkey breast, jars of peanut butter and jelly, and loaves of whole grain bread. Other non-junk foods are cottage cheese, hard cheeses, carrot and celery sticks, and pieces of fruit. We freeze small containers of yogurt and bottles of water which act as chill packs. As the bottles of water melt and the containers of yogurt thaw, we use them. When the water is gone we buy ice and jugs of spring water.

If we are at a motel with the kitchenette, or a rented vacation home, and we are eating in, it is the same as at home. Locate a food supply, buy what you need, then make it. I enjoy "eating off the land" and in places like Tampa, Florida, you can meet the shrimp boats and buy outrageously good shrimp. New York State has wonderful fresh picked corn. Maine, of course, has lobster. Some of our best meals have been simple dinners highlighting the local specialties.

But I am on vacation too, so mostly we eat out. I will order a full meal, and share it later with my dog. Many restaurants serve such huge portions, I can eat all I want and have enough leftovers for the dog. Other places may offer specials on complete meals. I'll eat the soup and salad, pick at an entree, then go for dessert (well we are on vacation.). The entree goes into the doggie bag. It is usually chosen with that in mind and would consist of a meat, a carbohydrate and veggies. Certain parts of the country are not too great with veggies, so sometimes no vegetables. The dogs don't mind - they too are on vacation.

There are drawbacks to this. Sometimes the food is downright horrible. Then we salvage what we can (a roll, a baked potato), go back to the room and open a can of fish, or pull out some cottage cheese.

Usually toward the end of the vacation, we are all so relaxed we get into the anything goes spirit. And our diet reflects this - perhaps an Egg McMuffin for breakfast, and a take out hamburger for supper. Yes, for all of us.

After all, we are on vacation, and we eat so well all the rest of the year, and sometimes - a little junk food is really ok.
Then we go home and the dogs will protest. They will refuse the usual dinner. We call this a one day fast. Usually not a two day fast. They figure it our pretty quickly. Back into the routine. And good again until next time.


Is there a significant difference in feeding our dogs cooked meat as opposed to raw meat?

According to the "authorities" there is, especially concerning the enzymes in the raw meats which are destroyed by heat. And if I owned a healthy sheep or steer and had a close friend or relative butcher it cleanly, I wouldn't hesitate for a minute to serve it raw.

But today's slaughterhouses are high volume, and under inspected. E coli is a normal inhabitant of an animal's intestine. Beef contaminated with E coli has come in contact with fecal matter.

In the early 80s I was purchasing meat from a slaughterhouse. It was supposed to be beef and chicken trimmings and organ meats, ground and flash frozen. I lost two of the ten Great Pyrenees in my kennel while feeding this food. Rushed to the vets with bloody diarrhea, and dead by morning. The only findings on these autopsies was an excessive amount of E coli in their intestines. E coli is a normal inhabitant of the canine intestine, only the amounts were out of balance.

While I was cooking the meat, I either was not cooking it long enough or bringing it to a high enough temperature.

The other eight dogs were OK, which is why we did not immediately suspect the food.

And I know lots of people will say that if your dogs are healthy, they will be able to withstand any of these problems. Probably. If the food is usually good, an occasional meal of tainted meat might be OK. But we are all creatures of habit. I got my meat at the same slaughterhouse for years. The butcher got his chicken and beef from the same suppliers year after year. And knowing what I know now, these butchers never heard of cross contamination. So I would guess most of the food my dogs got was contaminated. Eight survived. Two died. I don't like those odds.

I have been advised that certain parts of the world do not have a problem with raw beef - Australia in particular. And there may be other places.

But as long as I am in the US, and buying my meat and poultry over the counter, I will cook it and recommend you do the same.

How do you find a veterinarian who will work with you and won't blame every problem your dog has on your feeding them a actuarial diet?

This is a tough one. When we moved from New York to New Jersey I was was faced with this problem. I used Patou's annual check ups and heartworm tests to explore different veterinary practices. Patou was 9 when we came to New Jersey, and looked like a four year old. The first two veterinarians I took him to remarked on his excellent physical condition.

I admitted on both occasions that I was feeding him a home prepared diet. Both reacted with indignation, and said that I was doing irreparable damage to him by feeding him in this manner.

I then called the New Jersey Veterinary Association and asked for the name of a Holistic veterinarian. I took Patou to see him. He said, very simply, "He is in wonderful shape for a dog his age, and whatever you are doing, keep doing it." He is our veterinarian.

I am certain that vets have seen the results of dogs fed a poorly conceived home prepared diet. And cynicism is the result. But by the same token, a veterinarian who sees a dog sparkling with good health should accept the owners decision to prepare a natural food diet for their dog.

I have been told to NEVER NEVER let my dog eat chocolate or onions, that these are very bad for dogs and will make them sick. Some of your recipes call for onions. Are they OK? And what about chocolate?

Chocolate can be fatal to dogs, and different chocolates have different levels of toxicity, and they all vary on the size of the dog and the amounts consumed. (See the emergency food section for more information).

Onions can also be toxic to dogs, but all of the reports on this indicate onions in LARGE amounts.

Throughout the book I discuss the need to eat a variety of foods, but all things to be enjoyed in moderation. My dogs have never shown any ill effects from the onions I use to enhance the flavor of the foods I cook.

Your pets trust you to make the best decisions possible for them.  My goal is to help you keep your dogs healthy, not to cause them harm. Eliminate chocolate from their diets. But on the onions and the garlic, let your conscience be your guide.

Won't feeding my dog "table food" turn him into a pest when we sit down to eat dinner?

Do not confuse nutrition and behavior, although feeding and behavior (both good and bad) frequently go hand in hand.

I recommend that you feed your dog in a set location at basically the same time every day. The dog is very logical and can easily distinguish the difference between the food he gets to eat, and the behavior of begging for food at your table. The owner or well-intentioned guest sometimes has difficulty with this.

If you never feed your dog from the table you will never have a dog begging at the table.
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What do you say to people who tell you to never feed your dog table scraps?

First of all we must define "table scraps". If it is indeed scraps that you yourself would not eat, and if you didn't have a dog they would be thrown in the garbage, I would have to agree with them. If these scraps consist of chicken skin or fat trimmed from your steak, they shouldn't be consumed by either man or his beastie.

However, if this person is referring to what I call "natural foods", e.g., pieces of roast beef, green beans or mashed potatoes, then they are incorrect. These supply nutritional diversity to a diet limited by commercial foods, or are part of a sound natural food eating program.

And if the person is rude enough to continue along this track after a polite explanation, I have on occasion become as rude as they are. I ask them where they got their Ph.D. in canine nutrition, and if that still doesn't stop their prattle, I tell them to mind their own business.  

What is a good meal for a dog?

I have been asked this question many times, and I usually respond with a question: What would you consider a healthy meal for yourself? The answer is usually the same: chicken, rice and broccoli. And this is perfect, because it contains the three cornerstones of the diet - carbohydrates/grains, proteins and vegetables

Why would any one want to cook for their dog?

I don't consider it cooking for my dog. I cook for my husband and myself and share these meals with our dog. The foods that I prepare are wholesome and fresh.

I believe our health is directly related the kinds of food that we eat and that many diseases are associated with our life styles. I would not eat, nor would I serve my husband, food-like stuff that comes prepackaged or out of a can. Scientists are just scratching the surface on the nutritional elements available in different foods. Beside vitamins and minerals, natural foods may contain phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, or omega-three fatty acids, all known to improve the way the body functions. Variety is important. Natural foods, particularly the vegetables, offer this huge variety.

And when you bake a sweet potato, you know exactly what you are getting.

Dogs can't digest human food, can they?

Before the advent of pet food manufacturers, dogs ate what their owners ate. My breed, the Great Pyrenees, have been around for over 3000 years. They were eating human food up until the last century. And thriving.

There may be a slight learning curve while a dog's body adjusts to the variety in a natural food diet, especially if that dog has only ever eaten commercial foods.

But yes they can.    

What benefit can you expect from feeding a natural diet?
You can hope for a long and healthy life for your dog. And, if you are like some of our friends and acquaintances, you will improve your diet and expand the range of foods that you eat as well.