How diet can impact a dogs behaviour

Labrador puppy tugs and bites at the leash

How diet can impact a dogs behaviour

The implications of diet on puppy brain development and subsequent trainability and socialisation, cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, when a dog misbehaves or doesn’t seem able to focus, diet is rarely considered.

We know that high-Glycaemic Index (GI) carbs contribute to numerous chronic illnesses and inflammation in dogs, but did you realise that they could also negatively affect brain function, behaviour and trainability? 
Image of processed carbohydrate food i.e. bread. pasta, wheat

What is the difference between high-GI & low-GI foods?

Carbohydrate foods that are broken down quickly by the body and cause a rapid increase in blood glucose have a high GI rating.

Low-GI foods are those that contain carbohydrates that are digested slowly, which means energy is sustained for long periods of time.

Happy puppy dog running on playground green yard

How does this affect my dog’s behaviour?

Have you ever experienced a child who becomes wildly hyperactive shortly after consuming sugary food or drink and then crashes into sleepiness an hour later? High GI foods which contain corn, wheat and starches create similar mood swings in dogs. After ingesting dry foods dogs experience a ‘sugar high’ in the form of hyperactivity (the zoomies) and a resulting lack of focus and negative impact on a dogs behaviour.

Pet parents often mistake this as ill-mannered and uncooperative behaviour when it is actually food related. The high is followed by a low which can cause dogs to become sleepy, lethargic, moody and irritable.
Labrador puppy giving high-five with owner
High glycaemic foods can also lead to hunger-related behavioural problems. Simple carbohydrates digest and absorb fast, leaving dogs feeling hungry again quicker. This effect can lead to undesirable begging behaviours or even munching on inappropriate “foods” such as shoes and furniture.
Labrador pup laying down on belly

Essential amino acids in protein

Tryptophan and tyrosine are amino acids found in high levels in meat proteins, and act as building blocks to neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters play an important role in regulating everything from heartbeat and digestion to behaviour and mood. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter that promotes a feeling of calm, relaxation and well-being. It is found in large quantities in meats such as Turkey, which is why we feel calm after Christmas dinner. When Tryptophan crosses the blood-brain barrier it can double serotonin synthesis in the brain. Insufficient levels of dietary tryptophan have been associated with aggressive behaviour, depression and elevated stress hormones such as cortisol. Tyrosine, the amino acid precursor to dopamine, has been shown to improve stress hormones and is also found in high amounts in meat. Dogs who suffer from anxiety benefit from a raw diet because of the high bioavailability of Tyrosine and Tryptophan in meats such as beef, chicken, turkey, and salmon.

Put simply, dogs are calmer and easier to train when fed a diet high in a variety of quality raw proteins and low in synthetic nutrients and processed starchy carbs.
Labrador puppy urinating on rug

Toilet Training

Dry feed dogs and puppies need to drink significantly larger amounts of water to maintain normal bodily functions this is due to the fact dry dog food can only have 10-12% moisture to help extend it’s shelf life. Where as fresh raw food contains up to 60% moisture. A dog needs to drink 4 cups of water for every cut of kibble to make up the moisture content lost during the production of dry dog food. Dry food also requires a lot of water to be digested and broken down. Kibble is coated with palatability chemicals and salt simply to encourage dogs to eat it. This combined with the lack of h20 in the food increases their thirst.

Raw fed dogs and puppies maintain a higher level of natural hydration as the food they are consuming contains water. This makes it much easier to toilet train puppies as they don’t have their head in the water bowl as often and consequently need to pee less frequently. They also pass less solid waste matter as dry food contains a large portion of indigestible filler ingredients.

Canine Nutrigenomics by W Jean Dodds DVM and Diana Laverdure.
Feeding Dogs: The Science Behind The Dry Versus Raw Debate by Dr Conor Brady PhD.

How to introduce a new dog to your existing dog

woman playing with her dogs in her sofa at home.

How to introduce a new dog

Where? How?

Introduce the dogs to one another off-territory (not at home), at a location where there is a reasonable level of other people and on-lead dog activity, and a large amount of space.

Have the two dogs at the location separate from one another for at least 20 minutes before attempting the introduction – aim to identify each dog’s current base-line emotional state in this environment (see Dog Communication below). If either dog is highly stressed in the chosen environment, abort the introduction and re-think a more comfortable environment for both dogs.

dogs meeting on lead

  • Both dogs will be on-lead. Inspect all equipment such as leads, collars, harnesses to ensure they are in good working order and well-fitted so they cannot be pulled off the dog.
  • Existing family dog is handled by its favourite person; new dog is handled by another family member or a dog trainer.
  • Start at a distance of approximately 30-40 metres and aim to walk beside one another – avoid walking directly at each other.
  • Avoid tight leads. Either, or both dogs, might need to be turned away from the other if they display over-excitement or discomfort (see Dog Communication below).
  • Ensure “happy voice” is being used by both handlers to convey to the dogs that the situation is relaxed and comfortable for their people, even if the dogs are feeling uneasy. Scolding or growling voices are at risk of the dogs associating the agro to each other; that would not be a good start.

dog body language: image 1 Jack Russell unsure showing the whites of the eyes, image 2 jack russell yawning, image 3 jack russell leaning away and ears pinned back

Dog Communication

Look for it! Signs of stress in dogs include:

  • Licking lips or nose
  • Yawning
  • Hiding behind person
  • Tail tucked
  • Ears back
  • Flushed inside of ears
  • Whale eyes (whites)
  • Panting
  • Taking food treats roughly
  • Leaning away or trying to move away
  • Excessive attention seeking
  • Standing tall, on tippy-toes
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Not wanting food treats that are normally highly desired

It would be unusual for none of these signals to be seen in this situation. Observe the intensity and frequency of the stress signals/behaviours, from the baseline observed before the other dog arrived.Dog standing behind another dog

Canine Social Competence

A socially-competent dog will respond to signs of stress in another dog, by attempting to reduce or remove the social pressure. Many signs of stress in dogs, double as “calming signals”, including yawning, lip-licking and looking away.

Additionally, the socially-competent dog will display relaxed body language, reduced focus on the stressed dog by sniffing the ground or being distracted by something else in the environment and will ignore emotional outbursts of inappropriate behaviour from the stressed dog (they often seem to look away in embarrassment for the other dog!!)

Socially competent dog behaviour includes:

  • Approaching an unfamiliar social being (dog or person) indirectly in a calm and respectful manner.
  • The dogs should meander around and gradually approach one another, rather than rushing directly. Handlers of each dog can guide their dogs on-lead to perform this behaviour.
  • Looking at the unfamiliar person or dog with soft eyes and then breaking eye contact to remove the social tension.
  • When the dog looks at the other dog, the handler should use a happy voice and then use a food treat to turn the dog’s head and eyeline from the other dog, rather than allow him to stare for longer than is comfortable, or worse, hold hard eye-contact.

Two dogs meeting while walking at park

  • Showing some disinterest in the other dog by displaying interest in something else in the environment such as a scent on the ground.

Handlers can achieve this behaviour in both dogs by tossing food treats on the ground for them to sniff out (still at a distance from one another). Aim to toss the food while the dog is looking at the other dog – in the hope that the dog will associate the arrival of food treats with the other dog (because that was the object of attention at the time the food treat arrived).

  • Removing oneself from a socially uncomfortable situation, rather than rushing in and making a fool of themselves (so to speak).

Handlers should look for increased frequency of stress signals or attempts at socially incompetent behaviour such as barking, lunging, rushing at the other dog, hard eye-contact or not taking the normally highly-desired food treats; and respond with quickly retreating the dog, whilst continuing using their happy voice. The handler may need to be assertive to insist the dog retreats away from the other dog.

Both dogs must be allowed to maintain distance or move further away if they want to – avoid trying to rush either dog; it will take as long as it takes.

  • Head-to-tail is the dog equivalent of our hand-shaking.

If all has progressed well to this point, ensure the head-to-tail is allowed only until one or both dogs stop or move away. Avoid excessive standing around that will start to feel awkward and result in a spat because one or both dogs didn’t know how to politely diffuse the social awkwardness.

Instead, now is the time to go for a walk together. The dogs can enjoy exploring their surroundings in the presence of one another. Ensure that the distance between the two dogs varies – move them a few metres apart to provide a “breather”, before returning to walking closely again.

Tip: Rushing the dogs or encouraging them to move closer is not helpful. The process will take as long as it takes!!

Jack Russell terrier jumping over fence

Avoiding Over-Arousal

Make a list of the existing dog’s favourite things in the world. Life might revolve around favourite toys and games; or perhaps food is the centre of the universe. Picking up the dog lead or car keys might cue hyper-excited, out-of-control behaviour.

A family member returning home might be met with mayhem. In a hyper-excited (over-excited) state, the dog has reduced thinking capacity and will be more likely to react without much thought in the current out-of-emotional-control situation. If the new dog is present in these situations, it might find itself on the receiving end of a redirected or unintentional snap or bite and this could well be the onset of relationship problems between the two.

Ensure that both dogs are managed (use leads, a dog crate, different rooms, child-gates, etc) during times of potential over-stimulation. You won’t necessarily know the triggers for the new dog, of hyper-excitement, so err on the side of caution and assume that anything to do with food, toys/games, going outside, coming inside and anything that over-excites the existing dog, could be potential problems.
Jack Russell terrier walking and looking up at owner with caption "I like you; good things happen when you're around"

• One dog enters the room – the other dog is praised and petted and maybe even receives a food treat.

• The dogs are fed their meals, food puzzles, food-stuffed toys and bones in one another’s company. Consider securing each dog by lead so that they are unable to intrude on the other.

• Use only happy voices when both dogs are present. In the event of poor behaviour, consequences are most effective; your voice doesn’t need to add drama and intimidation; and risk being associated to the presence of the other dog.

For example: both dogs are in the living room with the family when one dog starts barking at a real or imagined noise. You can mark the behaviour as incorrect with your voice in a neutral tone, “Nup! That’s not acceptable behaviour!” or whatever. You must immediately interrupt the behaviour and remove the dog – the backyard or a crate.

The punishment is loss of freedom and social access; your aggressive voice is not needed. In fact, your scolding voice might be interpreted by the barking dog as you giving your support. Your actions are so much clearer than your aggressive voice.

Introducing a new dog to your family can be highly satisfying and rewarding for all. However, if the presence of the new dog is causing ongoing stress to the family or either dog, the situation is simply not viable.

A qualified dog trainer might be able to help, but in some cases, two individual dogs are never going to be comfortable in each other’s presence for a range of possible reasons.

Quality of life of both dogs and the family is likely to be detrimentally effected and consideration will need to be given to rehoming one of the dogs for everyone’s best welfare.


Top 5 tips for preparing your dog this Christmas

Jack Russell dog sniffing at gold bauble on Christmas tree

Top 5 tips for preparing your dog this Christmas

The decorations are appearing in shops and at home, school holidays have started and everyone is (or should be 😉 ) starting to get into the holiday spirit. The energy will be up, there is more activity around the household and our dogs will start to notice this change in the atmosphere.

Dogs love routines and to be honest the majority of dogs like to take their time in meeting new people and can struggle when there is an influx of strangers into their home. So it is important that you take the time to plan and try implementing our top 5 tips to help  your dog to enjoy this time with your family and friends.
dog end of outdoor table, sniffing at food being served

Tip 1 – Advance notice of the rules!

If you have family and friends coming over to visit for the day or staying for an extended period of time, it is important to let them know ahead of time the rules of engagement for interacting with your dog.

Advance notice of these rules will help keep structure for your dog as well avoid any bad habits developing during this time. Rules such as

  • Not being allowed on beds,
  • No food from the dining table,
  • Let the dog approach you instead of reaching out to the dog (especially important for nervous, unsure or anxious dogs),
  • Leave the dog alone when eating or sleeping this is especially important for young children to understand. etc.

dog by pool with a group of humans

Tip 2 – “Let the dogs out” when all humans are settled!

When family and friends first arrive there is generally a lot of excitement, some squealing, hugging, maybe even some shouting. This can be quite overwhelming for our dogs!

If your dog is crate trained or has a safe space in another room, let your family & friends know that while your dog is in their create/safe space no one is to interact (look or touch) the dog. Once the humans have settled down and your dog has time to adjust to their presence then you may want to let them out to meet the humans in a calm manner.

If you are interested in learning more about crate training check out Vicki Austin’s guide here.
Jack Russell surrounded by wrapping paper

Tip 3 – Keep decorations, wrapping/packaging away from your dog

Whilst it can be fun and tempting to allow your dog to tear open wrapping paper and boxes, these can cause obstruction issues if swallowed. Plastic packaging can cause cuts around the mouth if your dog chews on them and most importantly if batteries are included in the gift make sure the dog does not get a hold of them and swallow them otherwise it may be a trip to the emergency vet for an expensive stay.
dalmatian sniffing at food scraps on table

Tip 4 – Pet proof your garbage

With so much food preparation the kitchen and bins are going to be smelling AMAZING to your dog, so make sure all food is stored securely. All garbage is put away straight away and your dog cannot access it. Empty the bins often, don’t let them get too full so that your dog can get to it.
Jack russell training in down position

Tip 5 – Brush up on your dogs obedience training

In the lead up to friends & family arriving, set aside 10-15 minutes per day to practise your dog’s obedience training either with their daily portion of food or their favourite treats, so that both your dog and your family remember what the rules are. If you have an exuberant dog, you want to consider doing some training with your dog just before your guests arrive so that your dog is mentally tired and less excited when your guests arrive.

Remember, it only takes a little time and effort to ensure your pet will be safe and happy – the last thing anyone wants is having to spend holiday time with your pet at the vet or your dog developing any reactivity due not having the space and time to adjust to the changes around them.

Enjoy the festive season and have a great time together!

Stop pulling on the lead!

Stop pulling on the lead

It is a common request of dog owners to help them train their dog to stop pulling on the lead. But as all good dog trainers know, stopping dogs from doing anything is not the way to approach the problem. Instead, we need to identify what it is we want the dog to do instead of the problem behaviour.

Why do dogs pull on the lead anyway?

It can’t be comfortable! Some dogs even gag and choke on the tight lead. Punishment techniques are no fun for dog or person and not easy to master for the average dog owner. All too often, when a corrective jerk on the lead is applied or the owner yells, the pulling typically returns after just a few seconds, or minutes if you’re lucky. So why do they keep doing it?

Because it works for them! Or so they think. I’m sure in their minds, many dogs believe that they have to pull on the lead in order to progress forward; if they didn’t pull, they would be standing still. Think about it: what happens when the dog pulls on the lead? They move ahead. You could say, that every step you take with the dog pulling on the lead, is reinforcing the pulling by the fact that the dog is moving ahead.

Reinforcement of pulling stops now!

There are many techniques that ensure pulling is no longer reinforced. Every time there is the slightest tension on the lead, the walker could:

• Immediately stop-dead; no further progression on a tight lead;

• Immediately take two or three steps backwards; no further progression on a tight lead; or

• Immediately turn and walk in the opposite direction. Initially, you will probably be walking in circles!

It’s not easy to be successful with these types of techniques alone, because: pulling on the lead probably has a strong history of success and reinforcement; the dog walker would need to be absolutely consistent in ensuring that any degree of pulling is not ever successful again (if it works occasionally, they’ll continue to check if it will work now); and it’s really tedious for both dog and person.

Show the Dog What to do Instead of Pulling

Sorry, but there is no easy way around training the dog. You’re going to need to commit to a training programme. Groan! Hey… look on the bright side: you love your dog so you’ll probably actually enjoy the training once you get started; and your dog will definitely enjoy the special interaction with you.

Set up for Success!

• Identify your dog’s favourite food treats. Don’t be lazy! If it’s cooked chicken meat, then so be it! Get a good supply of whatever treat your dog deems to be top of the pile – divide it up into small quantities and keep a good supply at hand in the freezer.

• Get yourself a quality food treat pouch. Plastic bags are the worst! My favourite is The Trainer’s Pouch, from two of my favourite people, Jenni and Ryan Tate.

• Ensure your dog has a high food drive before conducting a training session: his next meal is due or overdue. If your dog lacks food drive generally, you might need to do a little investigation – it’s not natural for dogs to be picky eaters. Adjustments might be needed.

• Before you head out for a training session ensure you are comfortable: you’ve been to the bathroom; had a drink and something light to eat; you’re wearing your comfy joggers and they’re double-knotted; your clothing is comfortable if not fashionable; and you’re not due to be anywhere for the next 30 minutes minimum.

• Ensure the dog is comfortable: had the opportunity to toilet; had a drink but nothing to eat recently; and is comfortable in the training environment.

• Find a training location that is minimally distracting for the dog. The aim is to avoid competing with environmental distractions for your dog’s attention. Accept the fact that your dog will be in training sessions, not going for a walk as such, for some time yet. You might need to load the dog in the car and travel to a location where he is allowed off-lead, such as a friend’s yard, whilst undergoing lead training.

Start Training

• Decide where you want the dog’s head to be whilst walking with you, because that is where the food treat will be delivered. Commonly, we advise delivering the food treats on the outside seam of your pants, at the dog’s nose height.

• Do whatever it takes to get the dog’s head to the correct position, facing the same direction as you. You might move yourself to the correct position so that you can deliver a food treat. You could hold your hand full of food treats to the dog’s nose and manoeuvre him into the correct position.

• The idea is simple! Deliver food treats when the dog is in the correct position. Take care not to allow the dog to push your hand forward or wide of the correct position. Food treats will only be delivered when the dog’s head is in the correct position.

• Reinforce the position heavily with praise and food treats. It’s a great place to be for the dog.

• Initially, aim to deliver food treats continuously: as soon as the dog swallows, the next one is there. It’s like there’s a food tap above his head in that magic spot. There is no reason for the dog to move out of position.

• Keeping your food-loaded hand on the dog’s nose, take one step forward continuing to deliver continuous food treats. Repeat at least five times.

• Now try taking a right-about turn on the spot – still delivering food treats continuously.

• Take three steps forward – continually delivering food treats.

• The first aim of our training is to get the dog to move with us whilst holding the nominated correct position.

• Start combining randomised number of steps and turns, speeding up, then slowing down, continuously delivering food treats. Try a left-about turn where the dog has to move out of your way.

• Once your dog is enjoying the challenge of moving with you in the correct position in order to gain food treats, we’ll start to randomise their delivery. Hold position for two steps – reward – hold position for three steps – reward – hold position for one step – reward – hold position for right-about turn and two steps – reward.

• Now our aim is to have the dog chasing the food treats

• Continue to randomise delivery of the food treats, sometimes stretching it out longer than ever before and other times delivering a treat after just one or two steps.

• Get the food treats out of your hand – keep them in the food treat pouch. Now you can mark the correct position with a ‘Good’ or click, then reach for a food treat from the pouch to deliver to the dog.

Some Extra Considerations

• If the dog moves forward of the correct position, forward movement must be halted. I find taking my hand short down the lead towards the dog’s collar and simultaneously taking two or three backward steps, is most effective. Keep the lead short so that the dog cannot move away or even sniff the ground. Hold this position for ten seconds before stepping off again. A scolding voice is not necessary – the dog has lost forward progression and no interesting alternatives are available – you can be speaking in a praising tone of voice – the fact is the dog has lost!

• If you start training lead walking, but then you take the dog for a run to the shop to pick up a bottle of milk and let him pull like a steam train because it’s not a training session, give up now!! Your dog needs you to be consistent: pulling on the lead is never going to work in any way for the dog ever again!

• If you have a highly practiced and persistent puller, you might like to consider making the dog’s entire food rations dependent on polite lead walking. He’ll starve if he doesn’t walk nicely on lead! Just to be clear: don’t starve your dog! Ensure that he gets all the nutrition he needs but set it up that it is dependent on him finding and holding the correct position whilst walking.

• We need to be absolutely clear as to what behaviour gains reinforcement: Precise correct position is imperative at the outset. As the dog’s learning progresses and he is offering correct behaviour (because it’s in his own interest to do so and pulling on the lead is pointless anyway), you might choose to relax a little and start to blur the boundaries of the ‘correct position’. Your choice!

• If it’s all too hard, and it often is, because the dog is so practiced in pulling on the lead, you might like to consider equipment that will reduce the effects of pulling on the lead. Walking harnesses are popular at present and do make walking some dogs more manageable. Head-halters are probably the most effective tool to reduce pulling. However, they must be correctly fitted (snug/tight) and the dog must be conditioned to wearing one, rather than just forcibly putting it on the dog. Jean Donaldson gives a great demonstration of conditioning her Chow Chow to wear a Gentle Leader.

Remember how much you and your dog love one another. They really don’t mean to make things difficult for us! We’re supposed to be the cleverer species…

Introducing Steve and Vicki Austin

Introducing Steve and Vicki Austin

Steve and Vicki Austin are Australia’s very best dog trainers and dog behaviourists which is why The Butcher’s Dog is excited to be partnering with them to provide you with the best training tips for your dogs. They have been feeding their dogs The Butcher’s Dog and absolutely loving it! Both Steve and Vicki have an impressive seventy years of combined experience in canine behaviour and training.

“We have seen first-hand the benefits of a naturally balanced raw diet and we are so excited to partner with a company that is as passionate about the wellbeing of dogs as we are.”

Vicki with a recent Puppy Class Instructors group

About Vicki

Vicki is an experienced and respected dog trainer with a strong passion for education. She is a self-confessed ‘nerd’ of the Science of Learning and Behaviour. Her experience ranges from achieving the title of Australian Obedience Champion, being an obedience judge and perhaps most importantly, puppy class instructing.

During her extensive experience in providing behavioural consultations, Vicki became concerned that many behavioural issues in her clients’ dogs could be traced back to poor experiences and advice from puppy classes, so she became motivated to provide specific education in instructing puppy schools with the aim of reducing the numbers of pet dogs being surrendered.

Steve and Bunya in Springbrook National Park in Northern NSW looking for endangered Black-tailed Antechinus for conservation purposes.

About Steve

Steve has provided various handler and canine training services to assist a number of worldwide government agencies and organisations throughout his career. He is arguably the most successful canine scent detection trainer in the world.

He has trained dogs and handlers in quarantine and scent detection for Australia, Japan, New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

Trained dogs to detect koala scent, trained dogs and handlers for wildlife conservation groups to help save endangered species including Bells Turtle, Gould’s Goanna, Earless Dragon and more.

He trained the first truffle detection dog in Australia that found the first truffle grown in Australia! He also continues to train dogs to detect water leaks for Sydney water, among other great achievements!

Truffle Hunting

Steve & Vicki are also passionate about giving back to the community, a couple of projects that we particularly resonated with are as follows:

How they are supporting the Australian Community

Animal Conservation where they provide training to handlers and their dogs for scent detection of various endangered mammals, bird species, reptiles including detecting pests that are a risk to the endangered species.

Defence Community Dogs where they provide training to inmates of NSW Corrective Services to assist with the handling and training of rejected dogs who are then provided at no cost to serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) Members, who need physical and emotional support for mood, depressive and anxiety disorders; including PTSD.

Recommended Read:

Vicki Austin’s guide on how to stop your dog pulling on the lead

Why feeding your dog raw is safe

Why feeding your dog raw is safe

Have you ever heard that raw feeding is unsafe? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. As feeding real food to dogs and cats has grown in popularity, so too has the scary messaging that you could be putting your animal or your family at risk of the dangerous pathogens lurking in raw pet food. Handling any meat has some risks and we always encourage you to practice safe food handling for your whole family, including the four-legged members. But it’s not nearly as unsafe as you may be led to believe and it’s also important to put this in context of our pet’s physiology, and of pet food more broadly.

It goes without saying that our dogs and cats have evolved from animals that always ate their food raw, so really, raw food is how nature intended for them to eat. Whether it’s digging up an old bone or catching mice, dogs and cats are resilient creatures built to handle pathogens that would likely make you or me unwell. Dogs, for example, have antibacterial qualities in their saliva and a stomach that is up to 100 times more acidic than humans, so they’re well equipped to neutralise pathogens.

Is salmonella dangerous for dogs?

Opponents of raw diets LOVE to fear monger about salmonella, and it is true that raw fed dogs can carry and shed salmonella. Bugs like salmonella live naturally in the gut of dogs and cats. Salmonella in their intestines is a very normal phenomenon, so this is actually a very good reason to ensure your pet’s gut health is in good shape, which is best achieved with a fresh diet of living whole foods. Salmonella is actually more dangerous for you than it is for dogs and cats. The place you’re most likely to come into contact with these pathogens is from their waste, which we don’t recommend getting up close and personal with regardless of what they eat! Salmonella are not always pathogenic either – in fact, most aren’t. While there are over 2500 serotypes of salmonella, less than 100 are responsible for causing illness in people.

As many as 44% of clinically healthy dogs are thought to carry salmonella, with up to 15% of household pets shedding it (racing greyhounds and stray dogs tend to have higher levels), and this is for all dogs, not just raw fed ones.

Dry petfood has more product recalls than any other dog food

In fact, salmonella is the leading cause of dry dog food recalls, by a wide margin. When you look at the stats of raw vs dry dog food as a source of salmonella poisoning, in the five years between 2007-2012, the CDC linked 132 cases of salmonella poisoning to dry dog food, and between 2010-2015 there were 19 large recalls of thousands of tonnes of dry dog food due to salmonella contamination in the United States.

To minimise the risk of mycotoxins and salmonella in dry pet food, manufacturers often treat it with chemicals to prevent fungal growth, which can’t be good for them.

Dry petfood has a lot to answer for…

In Dr Conor Brady’s book, Feeding Raw, he states that dry pet food has contributed to the deaths of thousands and thousands of pets in the last decades. And that there have only been ‘a tiny handful of deaths from fresh/raw dog food, with most stemming from people feeding poorly balanced meals to their pets. Further he states that ‘no pre-made raw food to date is documented to have killed a single pet.’ Moreover, Dr Conor has done a huge amount of research on the benefits of feeding raw.

Science backed proof that raw feeding is not only safe, but also better for your dogs health and wellbeing

Dr Conor Brady refers in his book to a ground-breaking study from the University of Helsinki in Finland, where 632 raw fed dog owners were surveyed. It was found that raw feeding resolved 74% of skin issues, 88% of gut issues, 79% of eye issues and 53% of urinary tract issues.

In our own experience at The Butcher’s Dog, we have found that 20% of customers come to us because of ongoing allergy complaints (such as chronic itchy skin, ear and eye infections) due to processed food diets.

Why would raw food be dangerous for a carnivore?

It simply doesn’t make sense for all raw pet food to be considered dangerous. In 2016 the three biggest salmonella outbreaks in Australia were caused by mung beans, bagged salad and bakery products. If you’re not worried about salmonella and dangerous pathogens in the food you eat, then you shouldn’t be losing sleep about them in raw dog food, particularly as healthy dogs have highly effective defences against these bugs. But more importantly, at The Butcher’s Dog we are sourcing the same (human grade) quality of food as you buy from your local butcher or green grocer – because that’s where we get it. As a carnivore, feeding your dog a biologically appropriate raw diet simply emulates the food and nutrition that nature intended. They’re built for it.

We make raw feeding safe

While some raw pet food comes from what is commonly referred to as the “pet grade” supply chain, everything that goes into our food is from the human supply chain. This is a very significant difference, because the rules and food safety requirements between the two are completely different, with far more scope for pathogens in pet grade meat permitted. We make all our food in a fully licenced and NSW Food Authority compliant facility, with strict food safety protocols in place. But most importantly, we’re feeding real food, which nourishes your pet, strengthens their immune system and their natural defences against pathogenic bacteria found in just about any food. This ensures they live a long and healthy life with you, which is really all that matters.

We don’t call it dog food, we call it real food, for dogs

So next time you hear someone mention that ‘raw feeding isn’t safe’, remember, there is a huge difference between ‘normal’ pet food manufacturers and The Butcher’s Dog. You can be confident in saying that raw feeding is not only safe, but it is the best and most nutritional food you can give your dog. Our food is good enough for you to eat, except maybe the crushed bones!

For more information on other raw feeding myths read our blog Common myths around feeding raw food to your dog


Why raw feeding will save you money

Why raw feeding will save you money

As many of us become increasingly conscious consumers, there is more and more thought that goes into all the choices we make when caring for our families, regardless of whether they have two legs or four. Choosing the right pet food is easily the biggest decision you will make for the long-term welfare of your pet.

In a perfect world we would all eat organic food, buy bamboo loo roll in bulk, and wear sustainable fashion from ethical makers. In reality, organic produce is often less convenient, fast fashion follows sought after trends, and not all of us have the space to store months and months’ worth of toilet paper. And these choices all have one other thing in common: they often cost more.

Fresh pet food is an investment in your pet’s health:

There is a perception that fresh pet food falls into this “would be nice” category, and of course we acknowledge this is true for some people. However, buying real pet food, made with wholefood (instead of processed food), raw feeding will SAVE you money over their lifetime. It’s also not as hard on the hip pocket as some will have you believe.

It can be tempting to dismiss the abstract idea of long-term savings due to reduced veterinary costs over the life of your raw fed dog, so let’s dig into it a bit deeper.

Puppy eating raw meal

Itches, infections, growths and cancer affect so many dogs:

According to the veterinary journal Today’s Veterinary Practice, in 2018 the top ten ailments that dogs visit the vet for are:
1. Skin conditions (22% of all insurance claims)
2. Stomach issues
3. Ear infections
4. Eye conditions
5. Pain
6. Growths
7. Urinary tract infections
8. Allergies
9. Cruciate ligament tears and surgery
10. Cancer

In 2019, digestive issues overtook skin issues with 26% of claims, and cancer moved from number 10 up to number 7. That stomach issues are accounting for more than one quarter of all vet visits should be a MAJOR red flag, when the health of the gut is so inextricably linked to overall health.

Dog laying down with cone on head


Scientific evidence is increasingly pointing towards the importance of gut health:

Gut health directly informs our ability to fight infections and disease because at least 70% of our immune cells live in our gut, and it is where we absorb the nutrients from our food. Without a healthy gut it is very, very difficult to remain healthy and disease free, so it’s pretty unsurprising that as stomach problems take the lead, in just one year we see cancer move up 3 places.

No matter which way you look at it, diet can be a major contributing factor for at least seven of these ailments, including the top three, and obesity is a risk factor for at least two more, with processed pet food contributing significantly to high rates of obesity in pets today – more than 40% of Australian dogs are overweight or obese.

These conditions are often preventable (not always – even raw fed dogs fall ill occasionally!) and can lead to high care bills that quickly outstrip any savings made on cheaper food. Unwell dogs simply need to visit the vet more.

Vet conducting ear inspection

Are you spending a fortune on vet bills?

Many dogs are repeatedly prescribed expensive medications for ongoing problems, without ever identifying the underlying issue.

With a consult usually starting at around $100, urinalysis will run you anywhere from $40-150 if pathology is required, bloodwork is the same again.

Skin issues in dogs are common and costly:

A simple course of antibiotics can put you out as much as $50, as can antihistamines for dogs with skin conditions and allergies. Monthly steroid or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory injections or tablets will usually cost at least $100 plus consultation fees every 4 weeks.

All these medications can have a devastating effect on the gut, creating a vicious cycle of illness that is difficult to break out of.

Vet holding needing in right hand, dog in left hand

“My experience with commercial canned and dry pet foods, is that they are a prime cause of periodontal disease in all dogs and cats.”

Dr Tom Lonsdale D.V.M, ‘Raw Meaty Bones’

Dental care is a relatively recent addition to the veterinary industry. Yet regular teeth cleaning is now commonplace and recommended every 6-12 months, in large part due to the popularity of processed foods. It will cost at least $500 for a basic clean plus anaesthesia. Of course, this very quickly increases to many thousands if sedation or extractions are required. Anaesthesia also brings with it other significant risks and should be used only when absolutely essential.

By 3 years of age, most dogs will have oral hygiene issues and gum disease issues, which can be prevented with a raw diet and meaty bones.

Quick tip: bone shaped kibble does not clean your dog’s teeth any better than an Anzac biscuit will clean yours.

The veterinary industry and pet insurance is booming:

It’s estimated that Australians spend $2.6 billion per year on veterinary expenses, with 84% of dogs visiting the vet each year, up from 79% in 2016. This is undoubtedly behind the growing popularity of pet insurance, with many people spending around $100 a month to insure their animal against ongoing vet bills. And while pet insurance may solve the financial issue for pet owners, it doesn’t solve the issue of increasingly unwell pets.

When did we become scared of real, fresh food?

A fresh diet provides dental health benefits for pearly whites, results in natural anal glad expression, is hydrating for renal and UTI support, delivers a steady stream of highly bioavailable nutrients, gut loving probiotics and disease fighting antioxidants, and is the key to resolving skin and digestive conditions for many dogs. So, while it may feel like a gamble to outlay a bit more on food now for big savings later, it’s hard to deny the cold hard reality of how food influences the health of our pets, and the frequency of their need for veterinary care.

Bowl of fresh raw food and bowl of kibble

At the end of the day, all any of us wants is for our pets to live long and happy lives, free from illness or discomfort. In the same way that we make investments in our own health by eating fresh fruits and veggies and avoiding processed sugary foods, we can invest in the health of our pets’ health by selecting a fresh diet that ultimately allows our bank balance to keep thriving along with them.

So exactly how big are these short-term savings?

Not that big, actually. We crunched some numbers on a popular “premium” dog food and worked out what it would cost to feed a typical 10-kilogram dog using their adult dry food, compared to The Butcher’s Dog. We took the price of a 3kg bag from a big pet retailer and used the feeding guides provided by both companies. This what we got:

cost comparison chart


Surprised? Don’t be. These products aren’t just a risk factor for lifelong health problems and increased veterinary spend, they’re also notoriously bad value for money. If you end up needing a specialised “veterinary” variety to combat health issues that may or may not be triggered by the poor-quality food to begin with, you are looking at $4 per day (plus all your vet bills). These are popular high-end brands and they are still full of imported waste products, wheat, corn, rice, soy and chemicals instead of actual nutrition.

You deserve better than that for your hard-earned money, and so does your pet. We’ll resist the urge to make a coffee analogy and simply point out that for less than 50 cents a day you could feed them a completely human grade, species-appropriate, whole food diet that will genuinely support their health, longevity and quality of life.


    • We calculated the premium dry food cost using a 10kg dog consuming 180g per day. At $52 for a 3kg bag, and 16.66 days of food in a bag, the daily cost to feed a 10-kilo dog is $3.12
    • We calculated the “veterinary” dry food cost using a 10kg dog consuming 152g per day. At $52 for a 2kg bag, and 13.16 days of food in a bag, the daily cost to feed a 10-kilo dog is $3.95
    • Purchasing a larger bag of kibble will reduce costs, but increases the likelihood of mould and fat rancidity, and their associated health problems.
    • We calculated The Butcher’s Dog cost using a 10kg dog consuming 250g per day. At $133.90 for the 7.5kg Carnivore Box, and 30 days of food in the box, the daily cost to feed a 10-kilo dog is $4.46