Feeding for our Mental Health

Feeding our dogs and dog food in general is a very emotional topic. With all the different options to feed our dogs and so many polarizing opinions on what is “best” for our dogs, choosing not only what kind of food, but what brand.

But what I want to talk about is not how to choose what is “best” (if that is even something we can say 100%) But the mental toll that feeding our dogs can take on some.

The mental toll can be from choosing what dog food and the stress of trying to choose what is “right” or from trying to do what we perceive is “right”

Over the last couple of years i became obsessed with trying to find the “right” food, the choice that would ensure my dogs lived as long as possible, as healthy as possible. My constant research, would eat up HOURS of my day. Each blog would be contradicted by the next. Every article, every Facebook feeding group, every YouTube video would say something different than the last. Making trying to choose that best food a very stressful and time consuming part of my life, along with the intense fear mongering from some groups was to the point of unbearable.

I settled on feeding DIY raw/cooked for my dogs, feeling that would be the option that would make my dogs live their longest, healthiest life.

Making food, buying food, and feeding all four dogs a new time consuming part of my life. My days were now filled with either meal prepping, or putting together their food each day, in between my job, teaching, and having a life. And even then, feeding raw/cooked, my Facebook feed was filled with all the things i was doing wrong, or could do better.

I couldn’t hold on to the amount of work and time that DIY took.

Now let me say I have NOTHING against those who feed raw/cooked, it just didn’t work for me.

So I left the DIY raw/cooked route and went to feeding commercial. Mainly freeze dried (Grandma Lucys) mixed with Simple Food Project. I felt like a weight was lifted.

So here is the thing, I am doing the best I can do. The best that works for my mental health. The constant prepping, looking for the best deals on buying food, and trying to balance all their meals became such a toll that i was miserable.

And I know people do this all the time for their dogs. And i know there are ways to meal prep, but I felt like I was spending more time on food than i spent training or playing with my dogs.

Switching to a commercial lifted the mental load, maybe my choice isn’t the “best”, but it is the best for me, and for my dogs who now have my attention instead of reading books or the internet. I now feed my main food and add things along the way, some commercial raw, fresh veggies, eggs, yogurt, etc.

And I do what I call DIY days, where i feed no commercial and feed a complete DIY meal. And these meals happen when I am in the right mind set to do so. When I WANT to DIY a meal for my dogs, when I want to go shopping, and assemble a meal. I may do this for one day, or earlier this month I did DIY cooked for an entire week.

For me and my dogs this is what works.

My advice is this, if trying to find the “best” for your dog is causing more stress than joy, change it.

We are all doing the best we can not only for our dogs, but for ourselves. If the mental load is too much, leave it behind, and do the best you can.

Published by Amanda Nelson

Amanda Nelson is well known for her distance handling skills, and she has been traveling the country and teaching seminars for 20+ years. She has traveled around the world to Australia, Japan, Netherlands, England, Switzerland and the Philippines teaching all levels of agility, with nearly all dog breeds. Amanda focuses on teaching teamwork as well as how to create a strong connection between dog and handler. She works with all styles of handling, from running with your dog to distance handling. Amanda tailors each training session, large or small, to the dog and handler to help bring out the best in the team. Her training techniques consist of a large amounts of targeting, food rewards, and toy rewards. Creating a fun learning environment for the dog encourages a fast, fun, and motivated dog in the agility ring. Amanda uses a combination of Upper Body Cues, Lower Body Cues, and Verbal Cues. This system was derived from the natural cues that most dogs read and pick up quickly. Handlers are taught how to use all of these cues, together, to create a customized handling system that can be tailored to their unique dog. All of these techniques have resulted in Amanda earning numerous titles with her dogs including the MOD SQUAD award, Purple Achievement Cup, and over 40 NADAC Championship titles. She has won the NADAC Championships multiple times, including winning the Super Stakes and Starter Stakes division. She has also been Top Bonus Dog, Top Purple Dog, and Top Dog of the Year several times in NADAC.

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