For today’s blog post, I asked several established raw feeders if they’d be willing to share advice for raw dog food beginners.
What’s the number 1 thing you wish you would have known when you started making your own raw dog food?
5 of the raw feeders I contacted got back to me, and I’ll add my 2 cents as well.
Now without further ado, here’s what everyone had to say!
Advice For New Raw Feeders, From Raw Feeders
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- Raw Feeders Advice #1. Kimberly Gauthier From Keep The Tail Wagging
- Raw Feeders Advice #2. Ruby Balaram From Real Dog & Feed Real
- Raw Feeders Advice #3. Mariah Pierson From Paws Of Prey
- Raw Feeders Advice #4. Scott Marshall from RawFeeding101
- Raw Feeders Advice #5. Amy Marshall from PrimalPooch
- Bonus: My Advice
- Advice For New Raw Feeders, From Raw Feeders: Bottom Line
- Related Reading
Raw Feeders Advice #1. Kimberly Gauthier From Keep The Tail Wagging
Kimberly is the raw dog food blogger behind Keep The Tail Wagging, and she also hosts 2 podcasts:
Back in 2015 when I first looked into making the switch from kibble to raw dog food, I got a lot of helpful starting points from Kimberly’s blog!
Here’s Kimberly’s Advice:
Commercial, pre-made raw is the easiest way to feed a fresh food diet, but it’s expensive, too, and I have multiple big dogs.
When I learned about raw food co-ops a year into feeding raw, I was on the verge of giving up.
That’s because I couldn’t afford to feed my dogs a raw diet, and one of my dogs couldn’t eat kibble.
Raw feeding is a fraction of the cost today, thanks to our local co-op. And I’ve scored great finds at local outlet grocery stores.
Raw feeding doesn’t have to be expensive!
There are many resources that make raw feeding affordable and accessible for pet parents.
Raw Feeders Advice #2. Ruby Balaram From Real Dog & Feed Real
Ruby is the founder of Real Dog, a very unique dog subscription box that I had for my own dogs when I lived in the States.
She also launched the Feed Real Institute that teaches workshops and courses in the raw feeding space.
Here’s Ruby’s Advice:
I wish I had known that supplements don’t have to be part of every single meal.
You can feed your dog a complete diet with a variety of fresh foods and balance over time.
A few years after feeding raw for quite some time I learned about a simple concept called pulse dosing.
That means you feed supplements as needed, not as a regular part of the daily diet.
Also, that you take frequent breaks from supplements, especially because they can be harder on the body to digest.
Feeding real food doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.
Larch arabinogalactan is high on my list of supplements.
It’s a tree bark powder, so a natural source of fiber, but unlike other fibers it’s a PREbioitic, which feeds the existing probiotics in the gut.
When my dog has an upset tummy, I like to feed Larch Arabinogalactan alone or with slippery elm bark powder to help restore/maintain proper gut flora.
It’s also known to boost the immune system.
So I like to feed it periodically, especially when there are “colds” and “viruses” going around.
I also like medicinal mushrooms and rotate between turkey tail, chaga, maitake, reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps.
Whatever mushrooms I fed my dog, I also add to my smoothies!
I like feeding mushrooms generally for their:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Antioxidants and adaptogenic effects.
A New Take On Oily Fish
Lastly, early into raw feeding, I stopped considering oily fish/Omega-3s a supplement, and more of a staple in the Real Ancestral 6x Diet.
In almost every meal, I include small oily fish or salmon/mackerel to help offset Omega-6 imbalances.
They’re also a great source of Vitamin D, which I often see supplemented because not enough fish is in the diet.
Raw Feeders Advice #3. Mariah Pierson From Paws Of Prey
Mariah is the raw dog food blogger behind Paws Of Prey where she teaches raw feeding for dogs, cats, and ferrets!
She also has a GREAT YouTube channel on raw dog food that I highly recommend you subscribe to.
I wish I had her filming and editing skills, ha.
Here’s Mariah’s Advice:
I wish I wasn’t so scared about making sure every meal was perfectly balanced every single day.
I know this may sound a little contradictory since I talk a lot about the importance of nutritionally balanced meals on my YouTube channel.
But lately, I’m seeing so many pet owners fearful of even starting to raw feed their dogs because they are scared of nutrient deficiencies.
This is certainly something to keep in mind, and it’s great to strive to create a perfectly balanced meal.
But the reality is…our dogs are resilient creatures.
Their body knows how to handle a meal that’s a little low in zinc for a week. They’re not going to break.
The best way to learn is to start doing it.
It’s much better to feed a slightly unbalanced fresh food diet for a short time than to feed a balanced commercial diet that’s loaded with:
- Starchy carbohydrates
- Low quality animal protein
- Tons of synthetic nutrients
You don’t have to be an expert to start feeding your dog raw.
As long as you strive to continue to improve their diet as you continue learning, your dog will flourish.
Raw Feeders Advice #4. Scott Marshall from RawFeeding101
Scott is the founder and raw feeder of Raw Feeding 101 where he offers consultations, guides and courses on all things raw dog food.
He also hosts a complimentary Facebook group for raw feeders of all feeding models. It currently has just shy of 80k (!) members, and it’s free to join.
I recently joined it myself and love that it’s free of drama, which is rare these days in raw feeding Facebook groups.
Here’s Scott’s Advice:
Geez, only one thing I wish I had known when I started making my own raw dog food? 🤪
When I started feeding raw, I started with DIY, so starting raw and starting to make my own both happened at the same time.
With that in mind, there are A LOT of things that I wish I would have known.
At the same time, if I didn’t experience all of those learning curves, I wouldn’t be able to teach people in the same way that I do now.
All that being said, I wish I had known I didn’t need to pick a particular camp or “method” of feeding raw to associate myself and my dogs with.
There are so many different ways to feed raw food to our dogs.
Premades, DIY, DIY whole foods, DIY ground, ratio diets, NRC, AAFCO, FEDIAF, PMR, hybrid diets, etc…
There isn’t a “ONE RIGHT WAY”.
This isn’t the Matrix, there is no Neo, there is no “The One Perfect Way”.
Make your raw dog food YOUR way.
I just had this conversation with a consultation client tonight.
Now, I’m a BIG fan of using data to our advantage, and using that nutritional data to provide the very best diet that we can.
Making sure we’re not missing out on common nutrients like vitamin E, iron in puppies, and so on.
But that doesn’t mean I agree with people who will criticize someone for feeding 67mcg of iodine when they should have been feeding 65.
That’s insane, lol!
My point is, BE FLEXIBLE.
Don’t be a premade feeder, don’t be a DIY feeder, don’t limit yourself by associating with one particular “camp” of raw feeders.
Pick and choose aspects from different methods that you like to meet the nutritional standards that are so readily available to us today.
Meeting AAFCO or NRC requirements isn’t as hard as people think and there’s a long list of ways to get there.
Don’t get complacent and settle for an unbalanced diet (there are too many resources and information out there these days for that), but don’t be rigid in your pursuit either.
Feed balanced premade one day, balanced DIY another, and just say screw it and have a fun, “try something new” day the day after that.
Is meeting nutritional requirements important?
But dogs are resilient and will be just fine through our stumbling, learning, and experimentation of what works best for them and us.
Raw Feeders Advice #5. Amy Marshall from PrimalPooch
Here’s Amy’s Advice:
For me, it’s so hard to choose one piece of advice.
I would tell new raw feeders to be realistic and that there will be trial-and-error when making your dog’s raw food.
Not just in the ingredients included and figuring out how to balance it, but also in your:
- Ingredient sourcing
- Meal prep system
- Methods, and
Everything will be so dependent on what works for your lifestyle.
Because what works for one person might not work for another.
Everyone’s DIY dog food product and the process looks so different.
So get your hands dirty and give DIY raw dog food a try, even if it doesn’t go smoothly, because you WILL learn what works.
Here are a few examples:
Be realistic about your level of knowledge in canine nutrition and interest in seeking that knowledge.
If you plan to prepare homemade meals, you don’t need to be a nutritionist.
But you need to know what nutrients dogs require. Also, what ingredients or supplements those nutrients are in so you can make a balanced meal.
Balance over time is excellent in theory.
But only if you understand what’s needed and how to provide that balance over weeks instead of days and remember to implement it.
If you love learning about this stuff, great!
If you don’t have the interest or time to learn, that’s fine too.
You can find or purchase recipes that will instruct you on how to make balanced meals without investing time in learning canine nutrition.
Get a system for finding and sourcing ingredients that work for your dog and your budget.
Then, establish your meal prep system, where you’ll prepare food, how much food you’ll make at once, and how often you’ll do meal prep.
Being organized and developing your own process is indeed half the battle.
Ultimately, to be successful in making your dog’s food, it has to be pleasant enough and convenient enough for you to continue doing it.
You will not likely keep it up if it’s too complicated, frustrating, or too much work.
So get started, but be prepared:
You will experience trial and error at first, but that will lead you to find a way that works for you and your dog.
Finding a sustainable way to make your dog’s food will make this a habit that lasts.
Bonus: My Advice
On a similar note of what Mariah and Scott said, I wish I would have realized that raw feeding doesn’t have to be as complicated as it’s made out to be.
I say that because this year, I wrote an ebook in an attempt to break down the math in raw feeding.
That’s after I kept getting the feedback from my newsletter readers that they struggle with figuring out the individual raw dog food ingredient amounts.
Having said that, this ebook only helps people who are interested in a spreadsheet approach of raw feeding.
But it's not the right resource for people looking for a common sense approach - which is certainly another way of feeding raw!
It makes sense when you think about it, too.
Because here's the thing - do you use a spreadsheet to feed yourself and your family?
I don't, and I also don't know a single human being who measures out their daily nutritional intake.
So why are we being told that's the only way to feed our dogs?
Food for thought for sure, and I'll revisit this topic again soon.
Advice For New Raw Feeders, From Raw Feeders: Bottom Line
Thank you to Kimberly, Ruby, Mariah, Scott, and Amy for taking the time to share what you wish you had known in your early raw feeding days!
I couldn't agree more with everything you said.
Here's a quick recap:
- Knowing how to keep raw dog food affordable
- Pulse dosing your supplements as necessary
- Achieving nutritional balance over time
- Trying different raw feeding models
- Expecting trial and error
Here's one last piece of advice from me:
If you're a raw dog food beginner, don't let others bully you into believing that DIY raw feeding has to be complicated.
If you WANT to make it complicated, you most certainly can.
But you don't have to.
As always, I'd love to hear from you.
Please leave your feedback and thoughts in the comment section below this blog post!
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