Natural Dog Care


It is becoming increasingly clear that many mental and physical health problems in humans and animals are related to our increasingly unnatural lifestyles. The good news is that small changes can make a huge difference to your dog’s health!


Dogs are omnivorous; mainly eating meat, but able to make use of vegetables, fruit and carbohydrates too. Wolves and wild dogs have little access to cereals, but feral and village dogs eat humans leftovers which could include cooked grains. Many commercial dog foods contain a large amount of cereals, low quality animal protein (mechanically recovered meat, feet, feathers etc), and sugars, artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. It can be difficult to avoid ingredients such as wheat or beef which your dog may be sensitive to when labels simply state ‘meat and animal derivatives’ or ‘cereal and plant derivatives’. A good diet is the key to good health and if we are shying away from over-processed foods ourselves, why feed our dogs this way?

What is the alternative? An ideal diet for dogs would resemble what they might eat in the wild. Practically this consists of raw meaty bones, minced raw vegetables and possibly cooked whole grains such as brown rice. Some people even feed whole rabbit or chicken carcass, the real complete meal! If you are interested in raw feeding there is plenty of advice available; websites, books and help groups, even some vets understand and advise on raw feeding .Raw feeding is not for everyone; if you have a small house or a large number of dogs it may be difficult. Thankfully there are now many companies producing ‘natural’ and ‘holistic’ dog foods in both wet and dried forms. Look for those who guarantee a fixed recipe and who list ALL the ingredients.


Your dog’s next big requirement is appropriate exercise. All dogs should be exercised every day; both mentally and physically. A large breed dog may need as much as 2hours lead walking a day or an hour free running but mental exercise will tire him out much quicker. Dog breeds have been refined so that they enjoy performing certain tasks, denying them these ‘tasks’ can lead to boredom, destructiveness and even aggression. Think what your dog was meant to do; spaniels enjoy hunting games, collies like to herd but can be focused on agility or obedience, terriers like to dig, retrievers like to retrieve! Invent games which play to these inbuilt drives.


Dogs are very social animals; they enjoy the company of humans and other dogs and should not be left alone for long periods of time. They also need their own space, especially in a busy family home. Creating a ‘den’ from a collapsible crate covered in a blanket can provide welcome relief. Ensure you have your own space at home too; many behavioural problems can be prevented by having clear rules on whether dogs are allowed on the bed, the sofa, upstairs etc.


Dogs need rules. You and your dog will have a much happier time if he has been taught not to pull on the lead, to come back when called, to greet people without leaping on them etc. Modern training methods are based on coaxing and rewarding desired natural behaviours and ignoring, or removing the reward when unwanted behaviours are shown.


All dogs should visit their vet at least once a year. Puppies should be vaccinated against several diseases including parvovirus, distemper and leptospirosis. Vaccination has made these diseases less common, but infected dogs are occasionally seen and even modern medicine can’t always save them. Adult dogs may not need vaccination against every disease every year; your vet will be able to advise you on the local dangers and alternatives to vaccination such as blood antibody testing. Yearly check-ups also allow your vet to spot the early signs of illness and treatment is usually more effective if started early. Many chronic health conditions also respond well to herbal medicines and acupuncture.

© Vicky Payne 2013

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