‘Ask Honey!’ is a series of posts where we answer questions from the public on the blog. Due to the huge volume of messages we receive, I’m afraid we can no longer reply to people individually but we will select some questions to feature here on the blog from time to time.
* Please note: I am not a professional dog trainer or behaviourist and can only give advice based on my own (limited) research & experience. It’s often best to consult a professional who can assess your dog in “real life” because many problems are too complex to advise over the internet.
This is one of the questions we were asked in July:
(this is from a new reader, Radha)
I just found your blog today, and literally spent the ENTIRE day browsing it. Hsin Yi, thank you so much for this fantastic blog. It’s a wonderful storehouse of information for Dane owners, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for it. Now, I’m going to be adopt a gorgeous Dane from a person who bought it without researching the breed. She was apparently ‘too much to handle’ even though she’s only two months old!
I have two questions:
I know you feed Honey on raw meat, but that’s going to be quite a problem for me. You see, due to religious beliefs, no one in my house in comfortable bringing raw meat, especially beef or lamb or pork inside the house. Honey is such a beautiful girl, and, as mentioned in some of your previous posts, is healthy because of her diet. I’m not going to deprive my girl of any meat, but I think she can have only chicken or fish once a week or so. So can you recommend a good diet for her. I’m really not sure I want to feed her on dog food only, and my dad believes that dogs should eat some proper food, i.e, human food like rice or something. But I’m really stumped. Any suggestions?
And at what age exactly did Honey start drooling like CRAZY? Just want to be prepared. And also, I read somewhere that you can train your dog to lap up their drool. Have you heard of this? And what’s your opinion on it?
Oh, and what camera do you use? Because the pictures you take are of really amazing quality.
Thanks again for the lovely tips, and I’ll be following your blog from now on, Honey!
Thanks so much for your nice words and I’m so pleased you find Honey’s blog useful! Congratulations also on your new puppy! About your questions -
Choosing a food for your dog
I’m afraid I can’t “recommend” a specific diet for you – only a vet or pet nutritionist is really qualified to do that. I can only tell people what we do with Honey and put all the information about her Raw Diet on the blog (you can see the link in the menu above) – and hope that people might find that useful. Every dog is different and as you said, every household & situation is different, so what works for me might not work for you or anyone else. I’m afraid it might be a bit of trial and error for you to discover your own “best diet” for your puppy.
All I can say is that whatever you decide to feed, please check the Ingredients list and use that as your guide – don’t go with the marketing blurb on the front of the packet or whether it is “recommended by vets” or emotive phrases like “moist, meaty flavour”…trust me, I used to work in advertising and one of my accounts was actually a dry dog food and it was our job & skill as writers to find ways to use words that could trigger certain emotional responses in people, to get them to buy things! So don’t trust anything it says on the packet – just look at the cold, hard facts – which is the list of ingredients. The true test of any food is what is actually in it.
We fed Honey a premium dry dog food for the first 3 yrs of her life and she did very well on it. But we chose one which had some kind of “meat” as the first ingredient on the list (eg. in the form of “chicken meal” or “lamb meal”, etc). The first ingredient listed is usually the one in the highest quantity and often, a lot of companies will use a grain as the first ingredient because it is cheaper and is therefore a “filler” – they might just add a bit of fat or meat meal later, to give it more flavour. Most of all, avoid anything that says “by-products” – like I once saw a very well-known, international brand list “chicken by-products” as its first ingredient. Ugh. This often refers to things like feet and beaks and feathers…things with very little nutritional value. The dry food we fed Honey had “duck meal” listed as its first ingredient, followed by “brown rice” (for the grains, I prefer healthier, whole grains like brown rice to things like corn.).
In general, if you look at dog foods in a pet store, there will be the big, commercial, well-known brands and then there is usually a section of the more “natural” or “holistic” brands which are often more expensive but may have better quality ingredients. But again, please check the ingredients list and compare – don’t just go on the name. I have seen brands with names which are a variation on the word “organic” and a picture of green forests & wildlife on the front but there is nothing organic about them or better in their ingredients! They are just marketing the same product differently. In advertising & marketing, we called it “niche” placement. Unfortunately, there is no law against choosing a misleading name like that – so use your common sense and check the ingredients.
There is also now a range of commercial dry dog food which is “grain-free” – I haven’t fed these myself and I don’t know if they would be available where you are. I know they are popular in the US, as there is a growing feeling now that dogs – although omnivores – are fed far too much grain than they are designed for (because of course grains are cheaper than meat to use in pet foods) and this is the cause of a lot of modern pet dog problems, such as digestive issues and skin problems, etc. I’m not saying this is true or not – but I do personally feel that in the wild, a dog would have evolved to eat more meat in his diet than grain (since he would not be hunting biscuits! ) – therefore a diet which has a higher proportion of high quality protein (in the form of meat, eggs or fish) is a better one.
In Honey’s case, since she is on the Raw Diet, most of her food is protein – with a small proportion of fat, bone, vegetables and grains. Some people on the Raw Diet do not believe in adding grains but I believe in balance – so we do add some whole grains to Honey’s diet, in the form of oatmeal or rice (preferably brown). But it would probably only amount to about 20% of her diet in total, as opposed to being the main proportion – which is often what happens with commercial dry dog foods.
Some people do feed a mix of commercial dry dog food and raw meaty bones, such as raw chicken wings or necks – and their dogs do fine on it and it is really beneficial to their teeth and for providing fresh nutrients. Other people believe that you shouldn’t mix raw and dry dog food because it makes it harder for the dog’s stomach to cope with the constant changes (they say the dog’s stomach needs different acids to digest the raw and adapts to that – then gets messed up when they switch to dry biscuits at the next meal) – I think it all depends on the individual dog, so you have to just try and see.
I have to say that I am quite “relaxed” about things and don’t follow extreme rules – so I’m quite happy to switch Honey temporarily back to a high quality dry dog food for convenience – for example, if we’re going away with her on a doggie holiday for a few days or like when we were staying in that B&B in Newcastle when we were still househunting for a place to rent. We just switch her back to the Raw Diet when we’re back to normal routines. To me, it’s no different to us humans eating a slightly different diet when we’re on holiday.
Adding human food?
With regards to adding human food, I think it’s fine if you want to supplement your pup’s meals with healthy human foods from time to time (ETA: obviously except for the things which are actually poisonous to dogs – see Life of Riley’s comment below). Again, there are different opinions – some people believe you should never feed human food of any kind and the pet food companies always warn you about upsetting their “complete & balanced” dog foods by adding anything else. I have to say, I’m sceptical about that – I believe in “everything in moderation”, rather than in extremes. Also the Raw Diet philosophy is about “balance achieved by variety over time” – therefore we don’t believe in one food being “complete & balanced” – unless you’re an astronaut in space, eating those weird vacuum-packed bars!
So if you want to give your dog a bit of cooked chicken or fish (or even other things) from time to time, I don’t think that’s going to cause a disaster (make sure NO COOKED BONES though, especially chicken ones. They are very brittle and sharp and dangerous. Chicken bones are fine raw as they are soft but they can be lethal when cooked).
We add “healthy leftovers” to Honey’s dinner all the time – it might be a bit of leftover mash potato one day or some roast chicken the next or some leftover vegetable soup or a bit of leftover rice or some old fruit or leftover sardines from making a sandwich….basically, anything that’s not too heavily spiced or sauced or too oily (although I do confess to giving her bacon drippings on her food sometimes! )
Also, you have to see what your own dog is like – this is what I meant about trial & error. Some dogs have much more sensitive stomachs (and unfortunately, a lot of Danes are renowned for this) – and can’t cope with much variety and need to stick to bland foods. Honey has a stomach like a nuclear reactor – she can pretty much consume anything and have no problems. I’m lucky this way as I like to be able to “share experiences” with her and so I sometimes let her taste things or give her some human “naughty” foods as a treat – but I wouldn’t be able to do this so easily if she had a sensitive stomach.
I always remember taking her up for a daytrip to the Sunshine Coast when we were living in Brisbane and on that day, she had: fish & chips, bread buns, calamari, raspberry ice-cream, potato crisps, waffles, several dog treats and a LOT of sea water when she was playing at the beach. I was convinced she would puke up in the car on the way home – but she just carried on as normal and ate her dinner with gusto and was fine the next day as well. We were quite shocked! ;-) But of course, I am not recommending that you give such things to your dog on a regular basis! Honey only gets these things as a treat when we’re on holiday or on special trips. I feel that if your normal diet is healthy, fresh, nutritious & balanced, then it’s fine to be “naughty” occasionally – if your stomach can cope with it!
What about the DROOLING??
Um…I have to say that Honey has ALWAYS drooled like crazy! No seriously, she didn’t drool so much as a tiny puppy perhaps but I think that was only because her droopy jowls weren’t so developed!
I do think that it is pot luck with it comes to Danes – not all of them drool like Honey – she’s probably one of the worst! I think especially if they are the “finer” type of Dane and have “tighter” faces – ie, not such heavy, exaggerated jowls, then they probably wouldn’t drool as much. Honey is an European-style Dane so she has more mastiff-type features – a more solid body and a much more pronounced “Dane head” with the sharp blockish profile, wrinkles on her forehead and big, droopy jowls. I personally prefer this look and wouldn’t trade it for anything – despite the drool! But having said that, there are also Danes with heavy jowls who don’t drool as much as her – so I think it may be an individual thing. I guess you just never know until your Dane grows up – you might be lucky!
Also, I must add that some people believe training with treats encourages drooling – and this is probably true. Honey can start drooling terribly at just the thought of food – if you’re rustling a plastic bag and she thinks there might be treats, there will be a puddle forming around her ankles. And you don’t want to see the flood on the floor as she is waiting for her dinner to be prepared…!
But again, I personally wouldn’t NOT train with treats, just to prevent the drooling. It’s just a fact of life that I’ve got used to, living with Honey.
In any case, she drools at other times too – such as on walks, when she is too hot – or when she gets excited or stressed – she even drools in her sleep!
We just have lots of slobber towels handy around the house and resign ourselves to having dried slime on our sofas and on our walls (I go around periodically and scrub them off! ) and I wear “dog clothes” most of the time and only put on my nice clothes when I’m on the way out the door!
Can you train your dog to lap up their own slobber?
I have to say, I have never heard of anyone training a dog to lap up their own slobber. I’m a bit sceptical – but if you know how to do it, then please do tell me! Of course, I’m not saying it can’t be done – I think almost anything can be trained if you have the time & patience and figured out a way to communicate to the dog what you want…but I personally think it would be a huge challenge. Mostly because Honey isn’t even aware she is drooling most of the time – she’s not bothered about it, the same way dogs are not bothered or aware of mud on their paws or dirt on their faces – so I would have a hard time communicating to her just what it is exactly she should “clean up”. It would be like teaching dogs to pick up their own poo, I guess – a VERY useful skill! But first you’d need to convince a dog that it’s not OK to just leave a poo lying there on the ground! A hard concept to get across, I think, since it goes against a natural behaviour.
On the other hand, Honey will happily eat up her own vomit – a lovely fact that I only discovered one day when she regurgitated her breakfast in the corner of the room (dogs will sometimes regurgitate things if they haven’t chewed them properly or eaten it too fast) and when I rushed back with all the cleaning materials, I found that she had already done the job for me and eaten it all back up! One of Honey’s grosser habits – but I have to say, very handy! So now I just leave her to it.
One of the negatives of the raw diet is that dogs will sometimes regurgitate the raw meaty bones (eg. chicken wings) if they haven’t chewed them properly – it’s no big deal, they just have a 2nd go at it. Honey does this from time to time – usually straight after the meal. So now we’ve learnt our lesson and we leave her outside in the garden for about 10mins after her meal (she is fed outside in the mornings, when she has her raw meaty bones such as chicken wings; in the evenings, she is fed indoors because she has BARF patties which have ground up bone and so are less likely to cause regurgitation).
She is actually also quite good about telling me if she feels “pukey” – and will go to the front door urgently and ask to be let out. If I’m not around for some reason or miss her signals, she’ll do it right by the front door – or go to a corner of the room. Very thoughtful!
I find her habit of eating up the vomit quite handy because if she does, then I know it’s just normal regurgitation and nothing to worry about. But if she doesn’t, then it means that she really isn’t feeling well and is puking because she is having stomach troubles or whatever. This has only happened about three times in her lifetime so far.
But I certainly didn’t “train” this behaviour – it’s just something she does naturally!
* I’ll have to tackle your camera question in another post!