Ahhh spring. Finally the weather is mild enough to let the dogs lie outside and chew on bones. I just love watching my dogs chew on real, fresh bones. Of course, I would never give my dogs cooked bones (I know most of you know already that cooked bones are brittle and tend to splinter. Don’t ever give them to your dog.), but I love giving them the kind of fresh, raw bones that are safe–the large joint bones or large long bones from beef are my preference.
The first time I watched dogs chew on real bones I was astounded. Okay, that sounds pretty strong, but I had not anticipated how much exercise and skill it takes to chew on a bone. All of the parts of a dog’s mouth, including the jaw muscles and different types of teeth are engaged in tearing, pulling, grinding and chewing. It was an epiphany watching them work out over a bone… “Oh! That’s what all those different kinds of teeth are for!” Chewing on large bones not only provides exercise, it must be so wonderful for dogs to be able to do it. Talk about doing things that you are good at and that you enjoy! Bones satisfy both of those criteria for dogs, and it is a joy for me to watch them do it. I spent a couple of minutes yesterday watching Lassie go to it.. I suspect she was in the state of flow that Csikszentmihalyi talks about as a route to true happiness. (I was taught to pronounce it “chick sent me high”!.. and I’m missing some accent marks, don’t know how to add them in the blog!)
I realize that there are lots of strong feelings about feeding bones, not feeding bones, canine nutrition, etc. It’s interesting how much things have changed since I got my first Border Collie, who was fed Purina Dog chow from the supermarket and lived 15.5 years. Now my dogs get lots of fresh real food, high quality canned food, organic vegetables. Sometimes I have to stop myself from feeling guilty that I’m not feeding them well enough, and these are dogs who get custom made dinners every night (along with meat and vegetables, Lassie gets Steel-cut organic oats, Willie gets a sardine added to every dinner, etc). How to feed a dog is certainly is a hot topic: sometimes discussions about food get as heated as ones about politics. I try to avoid arguments about food, and keep my perspective relatively simple: I feed varied, high quality food, giving each dog the protein source I think is best for them. It’s not all raw and it’s not all cooked. I’ll write more about feeding dogs if you are all interested, but for now…
here’s Lassie flowing in bone bliss:
And here are some photos new lambs: I got to watch Rosebud give birth last night (I have photos but they are pretty graphic, not sure that squeamish viewers would want to see!).
Here she’s licking off her first lamb, about 2 minutes after its birth. She swallows the sac, which provides nutrition, helps to dry off the lamb and prevent hypothermia and stimulate the lamb to get up and look for milk.
This next photo shows her licking off her second lamb, born about 2 minutes before the photo was taken. The first lamb was born about 10 minutes before, and is making her first attempt to stand. I’m happy to say that all are doing well, last I checked–full, fat bellies and warm, toasty mouths, all signs of happy, healthy lambs.
B & C says
We love your blog and photos and books. Thank you so much!!
What is your opinion of the baked bones sold at natural grocers? Are they safe? Our Goldens have knawed on them, sometimes for months and months w no breakage. And we don’t leave them alone for bone knawing parties.
Are the raw bones safe as far as bacteria/contaminants? Seems like they would have same risks as raw meat?
Thanks and Woof
B & C
Thanks for this post! I do have one question regarding it, however. I’ve considered giving my kibble and cooked meat-fed dog some bones for chewing and for her teeth, but I’m completely baffled as to what are the best kinds of bones. I know cooked bones are bad, but what raw bones do you suggest for someone to feed their dogs?
Kaiser Soze says
This is completely unrelated, but I had to share it… it made my morning:
Trained or spontaneous? I don’t know, but it still made me laugh.
Rose T. says
What an interesting story about bones and diet. I’d love to hear more about what types of bones you provide your dogs and how you make sure their “homemade diets” are nutritonally sound.
The pictures of the lambs are beautiful. So cute!!!
Bernie McCarthy says
This entry is not about your current subject but I couldn’t figure out where to ask about this. I was very interested and saddened to learn that your wonderful Luke died of ehrlichia (and you don’t even live in the area of the country that has much of it). I had never really trained a dog until I got Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a mini Aussie, six and a half years ago. I adore her and continue to work on training her almost every day. We retired a little over a year ago and proceeded to try out my husband’s dream of living on the island of Aruba. Last year and this year Buffy traveled with us, in a carrier, under the seat in the plane. During both visits Buffy had acute episodes of ehrlichia but recovered quickly on medication. I want to learn more about how to protect her from more episodes. The vet here said that on Aruba the only way to keep a dog away from it is to put them in “a glass box.” He was really saying is is just not possible. I have researched it on line but still have more questions. How can I learn more?
I, for one, would love to hear more of your viewpoint on feeding. I’ve been trying to research the topic, but it is very difficult to have confidence in what I’ve learned.
Kelly Ladouceur says
My dogs just love bones, but with a resource guarder, I don’t give them very often. He was my first dog with issues, and I didn’t know what to do about them for a long time. Now he’s 9.5 years old, and I don’t know if I can change his pattern or not.
I just finished reading Dr. Dodman’s book “If Only They Could Talk” about human/animal relationships. He is convinced that protein plays a role in an animal’s behaviour, or he certainly makes it sound that way in his book. I can’t say that I either agree or disagree, since I have been very fortunate in not having to worry about that level of fear and aggression in my dogs. But I know he feels that lower quality foods and foods with high protein levels can contribute to a dog’s behaviour issues. It’s all very interesting, anyhow.
Liza Lundell says
My dogs adore raw bones. I give them in the morning before I leave for work. The local butcher will cut marrow bones into about 2-3 inch lengths for me (the dogs are basenjis, fairly small). However, I have to note that my girl (she’s 9) fractured both carnassials and had a variety of worn or broken teeth pulled when we pulled those. Just sayin. It’s a trade-off. Did keep her gums much healthier than anything else. I haven’t started her back on bones, yet, but she does sometimes steal her father’s bone in the evening and suck out the marrow he misses. He’s not as dedicated a chewer as she is.
I love watching my dogs chew bones. They look so blissed out. In addition to the way they use their mouths and teeth, the way they use their neck muscles and also their dew claws fascinates me. I never thought watching a dog do such a very basic “dog thing” could be so interesting.
I’ve read your books and many articles, and faithfully follow your blog. I’m a huge fan. I have always wondered what your thoughts were about food for dogs. I can’t think of anyone whose thoughts on the subject I would value more since I believe nutrition plays a role in behavior. Yes, please write more on feeding dogs.
Cindy M says
I feel very fortunate that I have access to a butcher who will save bones for me during deer season. He processes the deer and gives me the forelimb and hindlimb assemblies afterwards. I have a large freezer and can make these fabulous treats last several months. My ridgebacks’ teeth are beautiful, their coats are shiny, and when someone has to be left home from a lure coursing or agility trial, it lessens the pain significantly if I give them a bone to make up for it. Their systems evolved to eat carrion and rancid stuff, so the issue of bacteria/salmonella is more an issue for US, not the dogs (unless they are sick or immunocompromised). I sometimes think my dogs like the bone better if it’s had a chance to sit in the yard and ‘ripen’, or if they’ve buried it and dug it up again. They will consume a large portion of the bone, and crack the long bones to get the marrow. It used to worry me to see bone shards around the yard, but their stomach acids are quite capable of digesting the bone, as long as it’s RAW (as evidenced by poops that dry up and turn into white dust after a bone meal). If a piece doesn’t go down correctly, they will barf it back up and chew it until it’s right — another rather icky, but perfectly natural thing for dogs to do. I know some people might be mortified by the whole bone idea, but it definitely works for us.
kim g says
i would love to have your input on how much protein dogs should have that are territorial. i have read that lower protien is better, but since the kibble i give to my dogs is grain free it has 30 percent protein. the 2 premixes i also give them ,dr harveys and honest kitchen are a little lower in protein and some of the food is organic .
After reading The Other End Of Leash (For The Love Of A Dog is on its way) I was really curious as to your thoughts on diet. I am 22 years old and rescuing my first non-family dog at the end of summer, so I’ve tried researching the best diet that is as economically friendly without sacrificing nutrition. Please, please, please talk more about diet and bones! Thanks.
The topic of diet and nutrition is very interesting to me. I recently put my dog on a raw food diet and i know she is much better for it. She would often leave her kibble and I just couldn’t believe kibble could give her everything she needs. I also give her raw bones and I too find it fascinating to watch her eat them. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about how best to feed her and would love to hear more of a discussion about this topic.
The biggest problem I have is with my cats. Since they were kittens I have free fed them kibble. I work long days and I read somewhere that cats like to eat often in small quantitites. But I can see that an addiction has been created. They are addicted to that kibble and they are overweight. The local vets here sell all different kinds of cat (and dog) food and they have a food for every ailment. It became a ridiculous cycle – they would tell me to put my cats on one food and then a problem would arise and they would say switch to this food. And it’s all food they sell of course. They claim it is great food because it has been tested but I no longer believe it.
The other issue is drinking water – my cats drink a lot of water and I always thought that was good until I talked recently to a new vet I have found who practices in a different way – a holistic vet, he’s wonderful. He told me that cats evolved as desert animals and that it is unnatural for them to drink a lot of water. In the wild they would get the water and liquid they need from their hunting diet.
I feel horrible that I have let this happen – my vet says that the manufacturer puts stuff in the kibble to make the cats want to eat more and I can see that’s true. They want it all the time – a pattern and an addiction has been created that will be hard to break. But I want to do better for them so in consultation with my vet I have a plan to gradually move them onto raw food. My goal is to throw away the kibble by the end of the summer -wish me luck!
Okay, I’m convinced! I’ll write a blog next week about what I feed my dogs, but it will begin with the following:
1) I am not an expert on nutrition, far from it, 2) I don’t necessarily think what I feed my dogs is what anyone else should feed their dogs and 3) I don’t always feed my dogs the perfect diet. (and 4, I should add: I don’t always eat the perfect diet myself, although I suspect that my dogs and I eat better than ‘most’.. just like the people on Garrison Keiller’s show are all smarter than average!)
Nutrition – one of my favorite dog-related subjects and thank you, for bringing it up.
If I think back through the years and all the garbage, my dogs had to endure…….. Oh dear!
The first dog I ever owned I adopted out of a German Animal Shelter and that was long before the BARF-diet was even “invented”. I would take a big bucket and take it to my local butcher shop where he would fill it to the rim with goodies like throat meat, green tripe, femurs, head meat, ears etc.etc. My dog was thriving on this diet and I had no clue it was good and species appropriate for her. Without wanting to hurt the feelings of all you sheep lovers out there: The best loved food was always uncleaned, green (and VERY smelly !) sheep stomach. A doggy delicacy I would get from the local Turkish butcher . The best thing yet: I got all this meat for FREE !! Nowadays I have to buy the meat for the dogs at the supermarket and I am still looking for ways to get it cheaper somewhere.
In ’87 I moved to the States and that was also the end of my healthy dog when I had to switch her over to kibble. 🙁 She started having skin problems and ear problems and the vet’s answer to those problems was Prednisone. I’m still mad at myself for not knowing the facts back then. Unknowlingly I was causing this discomfort and even though, my shepherd mix girl lived to the ripe old age of almost 15, the last couple of years of her life must have been agony. 🙁
My current pack gets a mixture of “Honest Kitchen” and raw meat/bones and they are happily reaping in the benefits of all the research I have done on canine nutrition. Live and learn………..
There is a very interesting article published by the Animal Protection Institute about dog-food and the production thereof: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/facts.php?p=359&more=1
It sure made my skin crawl !
The pictures of those lambs are a d o r a b l e and I envy you for having had the chance to watch the miracle of their birth. I hope they will all grow up into strong ewes and rams ! 🙂
I experimented with cooked homemade food for a while following the Pitcairn model. Then dropped off because it got to be quite a lot of work. In hindsight the Pitcairn model is much higher in grain than would be ideal but it does keep the costs lower.
But my Greyhound, now, coughs up some of her kibble or leaves it in her bowl. Which brings me back to looking at homemade or raw diets. Preferably there would be a way to do raw that wouldn’t be lots more expensive than buying high quality kibble.
As a general note, Whole Dog Journal has a really good overview series on cooked homemade, raw food, packaged alternatives like Honest Kitchen, and then case studies, that you can order copies from their website: http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/
I’d be interested in your thoughts on diets and also if you see a behavioral connection with different diets.
I would be very interested in hearing more about your views on nutrition. I have heard this topic debated as hotly as the recent presidential election.
I have just recently discovered your blog after reading For the Love of a Dog. Your book had a profound impact on me. I learned so much, about more than just dogs! You are without a doubt a very talented teacher. You have a great skill for explaining and breaking down information to make it easy to understand! My first degree was in Psychology and really enjoyed revisiting much of that. If only I had found it that interesting then…..
In an old entry you mentioned the possibility of a Podcast, I would be very interested if you were able to put one together. I would pay, and I wouldn’t for many others.
I have been dying to know what you feed your dogs! Please do share your insight with us. I fed my dog a raw diet when she was a puppy, but she lost interest and I switched her back to a mixture of dry and wet Natural Balance. It seems like she develops diarrhea a lot more now, so I haven’t given her marrow bones to chew in quite a while. I just want to feed her what she needs to make sure she’s healthy and happy.
It’s always interesting to hear what people think about feeding their dogs (and cats!). I started feeding raw meat and veggies in 2000, after adopting a 6-yr.-old golden retriever who had all kinds of allergies and arthritis. I used to mix up my own fresh meat and veggies myself, but now I purchase a fresh frozen raw diet from a local company called “A Place for Paws” which makes really good stuff.
I particularly found the story about the dog that was adopted from a German shelter interesting. That is so amazing that Sabine was able to get all that great food for FREE! Now, we are paying top dollar for this stuff!! Amazing.
But I feel very strongly about the importance of feeding dog fresh meat, some veggies and raw, meaty bones. The dogs tell me that they prefer it, too!!
To reply to a couple of commenters and also what you’ve mentioned about protein, it’s really a case of common sense. If a dog has an active life then it’s fine to feed them a high protein diet. For a less active or older dog they really don’t need as much. The same applies to humans of course.