Wednesday, July 17, 2013

5 months ago I lost a rather large chunk of my heart, My Andretti was cut loose his mortal coil, far far too soon.

He will never leave me; he is my heart, he is my soulpartner and I am his. 
Windrock Sin City Playboy, CD, RE

"Andretti Ducati" Stine

5 months ago my heart, my love, Andretti passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. My tears have not stopped falling, I think of him almost everyday. I miss his soft browness and his unflagging dedication to making me think I wasn't the #1 in his life. But I was, and he was my #1, and we both knew it. I pine for the connection he and I had at a very base level; he was mine and I was his, there was never one moment in our lives that I questioned that. 

For 8 1/2 short years Andretti was my constant companion and a great ambassador of the breed. He was a confident, happy and outgoing soul who wore many hats and excelled in so many ways. He could course, but loved the lure maybe just a bit to selfishly. He was a fiend for agility, but was far to accident prone to ever participate without giving observers heart palpitations. He was an obedience champion, but told me when he was finished showing off to judges for titles to prove it. He only thrived in the conformation ring once he became a veteran and people would clap for him due to his age, otherwise he found it mind-numbing. He taught more veterinary students more things than anyone cares to remember, and saved so many lives by donating fresh blood every time he was called upon. He loved children madly, even though we have none. He tolerated cats, a lot. He worked the ranch like a professional, supervising all tasks horse, sheep or chicken related. He managed the pack flawlessly, policing all fun and reporting any and all insubordination. He was a peacekeeper, setting the example for all newcomers, permanent or transient, human, canine, feline, equine. No matter, Andretti set the flavor and tone and nobody ever challenged it. 

Andretti was the perfect dog for me. When I was asked what I was looking for in a puppy, I said personality. I wanted a confident and clever dog, I got that and more. I'll never know how Kim knew that he and I were meant for each other but I am forever grateful for her matchmaking skills. 

Andretti died in my arms, it was just him and me and the silence that comes with death's passage. The moment his heart stopped beating, a piece of my heart died forever. He was my first greyhound, and he will forever be my best greyhound.
Godspeed, Andretti, I'll see you on the flip side. I promise.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Obedience Training as a Core Value

I will say it and stand behind it: Good Dog owners obedience train their dogs.
D-Square and Andretti Ducati in a sit-stay. It was a good 5 minute photo session while the sun went down and I got the lighting. Nobody moved even an inch.
 It's like saying Good Parents teach their children basic manners. A well mannered child is most often enjoyable to spend time with (even if you're not really a 'kid person') A rude and unruly child is a pain in the butt to even be within earshot of for anybody. Same goes for dogs. A well trained dog who respects the obedience rules that are expected of him is very often a pleasure to be around, even if you're not a "dog person", an untrained spoiled fur-child is almost always a pain in the butt for even the most hard-core dog lover to tolerate.

With my dogs I do a lot of 'competition' events.
  • We do Conformation Showing, which I call "Standing and Looking Pretty". Contrary to popular belief, the most successful show dogs MUST have excellent basic obedience skills. They must stand and stay rock solid to be viewed and handled by a complete stranger. They must have excellent leash manners and move fluidly with their handler, they must be in tune with their handler and be able to anticipate what they will be expected to do based sometimes on only the handler's body positioning. A dogs keen attention to it's handler is a valued attribute in the conformation ring.
2 year old Darby Crash (GCh. Aragon Aroi Silver Lining, RA) giving me his full attention in a very busy show ring at the AKC Eukanuba Invitational Dog Show in December 2010

  • We participate in Lure Coursing, which is a test of speed, agility and basic chase instinct. Every dog must be willing to come when called, practice basic leash manners and respect other dogs space. They must play nice with other dogs and be able to control themselves under extreme excitement. 
D-Square (DC Windrock Luck be a Lady Eldomar, FCh.) competing lure coursing in Livermore, CA.
  • We compete in Obedience and Rally trials, both of which test a dog and handlers ability to communicate with each other and respect each others space. Obedience competition is the ultimate test in a dogs ability to follow and respect the commands his handler gives him. The dog must have extreme devotion to reading and understanding his handlers verbal and more often non-verbal cues. Attention is a non-negotiable requirement.  (Actually, K9 Agility is the ultimate test of teamwork and control, but for this write-up we're going to say it's Obedience)
Andretti Ducati (Windrock Sin City Playboy, JC, CD, RA) heeling like a pro during his last leg of Novice competion. He got his CD that day (and stung by a hornet). This was in 2007, he has since retired from Obedience competition.

  • I take my dogs everywhere: into The City (San Francisco), to public markets and fairs, to restaurants (only those that allow dogs), on shopping trips, on road-trips and to so many miscellaneous public venues it's impossible to list them all. Needless to say, impeccable dog manners are absolutely non-negotiable. Whichever dog I take with me into the public's general reach, be it just one or all 4, must be calm, collected and under control at every moment. They cannot bark, shy, lunge, bounce, pull at their leash, invade other dog's or person's personal space, get underfoot, touch/mouth/lick/taste/grab food or objects. They must do what I ask them to do the first time I ask them to do it, without making me constantly repeat the command, raise my voice or pop the leash. They are required to pay attention to me in addition to their socializing, enjoying and observing everything that's going on around them. I know this seems like a lot of stress to put on a dog, but really it's not because all of my dogs have the basics practically laser engraved in their brains.
What are the basics? Well, good question. The 'basics' are probably a little bit different for every dog owner, but for us they consist of a few core-training behaviors, and these are as follows:
  • Sit, Stay
  • Down, Stay.
  • Stand, Stay. 
  • Come
  • Heel
  • Watch or Look: to get the dog to make eye contact and regain his attention
  • Easy: to ask the dog to be calm or slow down
  • Off: to ask the dog to back off or stop a behavior
  • Back it up: to have the dog back up a few steps to give me a little room to move or reposition him
  • Okay: to release the dog from a requested behavior or to allow the dog to follow a behavior he wants to do
Andretti performing the "long sit" in a large mixed class. Nobody is allowed to move in this exercise; no laying down, no investigating your neighbor, basically, no having fun. Just....sitting with the handlers at the other end of the ring. Borrrrrinnnggg.

    We've also added a few non-traditional behaviors for socializing in large crowds:
    • Get close: to get the dog to snug up very tight to my leg as we heel through a large crowd
    • Forge: to have the dog stride out and forge a path close in front of me, single file, usually applicable in a heavy crowd where there's no room directly next to me
    • Leave it: to have the dog damper down or turn off his interest in something he's keen on investigating
    • Go Say Hello: to encourage the dog to greet a stranger in a polite, controlled manner
    And a few for visiting stores/shops that allow dogs:
    • Stay Tight: keeps the dog pivoting with me as we maneuver through a sometimes tight store
    • Back It Up: puts my dog into a voluntary straight back up, again to get out of a tight space in a store where there is literally no room to turn around.
    • Be Small: for when unwitting folks get stompy footed around my dogs, they attempt to become very small and inconspicuous. Andretti has (on his own idea) taken this to mean lay down under a bench or table until the crowd of rude foot-flingers passed by. It worked, and the shop owner was beyond impressed. 
    • No Touch: This means no nose-investigating things on shelves, or food on tables; no touching anything. 
    • Throw down; This means to relax and settle in for a very long down, both Darby and Andretti will flop down on their sides and pretty much take a nap on this command. 
    "Throw Down" is especially useful in restaurants that allow dogs. I can put down a pad, tell them to throw down, and they don't move. They don't bother the waitstaff or other diners, it's what keeps us welcome an many places (even some who don't openly advertise as 'dog friendly', but are on a case by case basis. We are unfailingly an exception for them)

      Phwew! That's a lot of basics!! But each and every one of them has a show ring application for conformation or Obedience/Rally and more important, every one of them has a real-life application.

      Lyric, Andretti, Darby, Whisper and Echo executing a long, unleashed Down-Stay at a public dog show in 2009. Three grown-up dogs and 2  six month old pups trying so very hard to do what we were asking them to do. 

      One of the most practical applications, aside from public manners, has been a unique combination of commands; back-it-up, down and stay. It comes together as the command we call "Perimeter". I know that sounds like a mouthful, trainers usually suggest that obedience commands be short and simple. However, for this one I purposely chose a four syllable word because it gives the dogs time to hear it and obey it before the end of the verbal command.
      What is "Perimeter"? 
      Glad you asked. After being very frustrated with a mob of 4 dogs crowding the front door everytime someone would knock, or one of us would put the key in the door upon arriving at home, I decided that there was no excuse for a pack of otherwise very well trained dogs to behave like such an unruly mob. My little brain spun...they all know and respect 'sit' and 'down'. Hmmm. They all know and respect the 'stay' command. Hmmmmmm. They all know 'back it up' real well. I did the math, and started teaching the combined commands in steps. All of this without front door stimulus, but in the area of the front door/entry hall. Back it up......with a target of the edge of the hardwood flooring and the carpet. This is where the front entry hall turns into the living room. Perfect, this is where I want to see the dogs when I enter the front door from the outside. Working with one dog at a time, with lots of treats, the command, and a fair bit of foot stomping at first, 'backing it up' to a 'target' of the carpet was achieved. Every time the dog would follow the command, retreating backwards smoothly with eye contact, I would reward with 'okay' and treats the moment they hit the carpet. It took only a few times for each of them to get that concept. After they had that down, I bumped up the expectation to 'back it up', and then 'down' the moment they hit the target. This was easy, as down is one of everyone's best tricks. And then the easiest part, 'stay'. 'Stay' is an anticipation game in this application, everyone pays very close attention for the release command, which garners a huge display of praise and a treat, and sometimes a huge jackpot (triple treats) on random occasions. Once each dog had each part of the command solid, I started asking for "Perimeter! Back it up, back it up, down, stay.........Okay!!!" combined with me moving forward as they retreated to the target area. This is what the practice of the combined commands looks like with Darby. Normally I would not tell him to come and then put him directly into a back up/perimeter. This was only for demonstration of his understanding of the word.

      I was very happy when they individually 'got it', but was amazed and beyond proud when they all grasped the concept and performed it, together as a pack, after just a few tries. It proved to me that solid individual training is imperative to any type of group compliance. We reenforced the command many times before I moved the operation OUTSIDE the front door. When a command is taught solidly, it can usually be given effectively from a distance (or in this case from behind a closed door) with very little retraining. This is what it looks like after about 2 days of training, from behind the door:

      This was about a year ago July, and the command has only become more reliable since. Guests can now come over and not be mobbed. We've advanced to being able to release one dog at a time, and then return them to 'perimeter', until the initial excitement has worn off a bit. It is the epitome of practical application of combining basic obedience commands.

      Now that I've had my say, for the ULTIMATE in teamwork and control, check out these two very VERY greyhound specific Agility sites; two people I am personally honored to be friends with. Helen Hamilton, DVM of Aragon Greyhounds is the breeder and part owner of Darby Crash and a longtime friend of mine. She has some of the most accomplished obedience, agility, conformation and tracking greyhounds of all time, in the history of greyhounds. And I'm not talking about one dog accomplished in just one or two of those things, she has multiple dogs accomplished in ALL OF THOSE THINGS, EACH DOG!!!  Jennifer Bachelor of Never Say Never is a friend whom I met through Helen and has visited Stine Ranch on one occasion and always leaves nice comments on my FaceBook page. Oh, and one of her greyhounds is GOING TO BE A REAL LIVE MOVIE STARLET in a real live movie with Mark Whalberg (Markie Mark, remember?), Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) and Ed Harris (you know, Ed Harris.)!!! I'm serious! Check out her blog to find out which one!

        Saturday, December 10, 2011

        Darby Crash is going to be in a book!!!!!!

        True story!!!

        Project Dog! (if you flip through the sample spreads, Darby is the second page!

        A couple of months ago Kira Stackhouse of Nuena Photography contacted me about having one of my greyhounds be the AKC purebred representative in her new hardcover book Project Dog! Project Dog is a 'coffee table style' book that features over 170 purebred dogs, one page for the AKC registered representative, and the opposite page for the purebred rescue/adopted representative of the breed. The entire book is over 300 pages of beautiful photography and a complete question/answer biography for each chosen dog! We were SO HONORED that she chose us!! Kira is a very talented and creative photographer based in San Francisco, this is the largest project she's taken on to date, and it is completely a labor of love. Love for dogs!!!

        We met Kira in San Francisco at the California Museum of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, the setting she chose for Darby's photo shoot. It was raining, of course. San Francisco in October = rain. Pleh. But it didn't stop Darby's enthusiasm.
        Post- professional photo shoot, in the rain, on the way back to the car where it was warm!
        When all was said and done, Darby and I sat down and filled out the questionnaire for the biography and then sat back and waited. After a few days Kira sent us the proof for his page.

        Here's Darby Crash's spread in the book;

        All total, it took Kira over a year of hard work (she quit her full time marketing job to take on this project), but the book is finally done! It went to print about 4 weeks ago, and the first 100 copies have been delivered for Project Dogs official launch party tomorrow at Wags Hotel (a posh doggy daycare and overnight dog-care hotel) in San Francisco. Darby Crash is one of the 50 dogs who have been chosen for the runway show at the peak of the party!! I'm using a lot of exclamation points because we are so excited to be a part of this project.

        Saturday (today) is the Launch Party in the city! Q and Art the Husband are tagging along for wine, cheese and doggie appetizers. We'll get to pick up our copies of the book while we're there. I'm so dog is in a real book!

        For any dog lover (greyhound or otherwise) this is a fantastic book. The photography is creative and professional, but what's even better are the biographies and personal stories of each and every dog in the book. You start out looking at the pictures of all the different breeds, but then you get drawn into each dog's unique story. Before you know it you've spent an hour reading and haven't really gotten past the breeds starting with the letter C! If you're interested in getting one for yourself or someone you know who loves dogs, go to The Project Dog Book Page and order one. You will not be disappointed, and somewhere in there, Darby Crash will be staring back at you from his very own page!

        Thursday, December 8, 2011

        Pretty nice for a bunch of ranch dogs......

        The Fall GCNC specialty was especially special for my hounds! They swept up in Sweepstakes with DSquare (shown by my sister Laura who's NEVER shown a dog before, or even been to a dog show for that matter!) getting Best Veteran in Sweeps. Gulp....they're VETERANS now, when did THAT happen?!? Oh well, I'm very happy with Dee; she's a Dual Champion and is aging very gracefully. Shes EXTREMELY functional, she earns every win she gets. Kudos to DC Windrock Luck be a Lady Eldomar, SC (her fancy name)
        We're not going to tell her she's 'old'
        Andretti got Best Opposite Sex Veteran being shown by 15 year old Shelby, who also has never shown a dog or been to a dog show. Andretti is an awesome teacher dog, Shelby was elated to be able to handle him and win win win at this show. I'm so very proud of my Brown Dog, he is my most wonderful boy and will always be my heart. I'm secretly tickled that hes a veteran now, because I can show him in veterans classes at specialties. I had him neutered before he finished his championship and I regret it, if only because prancing around the show ring with Andretti is fun. He has a sense of humor and is a pretty good snob, and that's fun to show. And although he's not the 'ideal', he is a handsome and well put together dog, and I'm proud of that. Go go Windrock Sin City Playboy, CD, RA, JC! It's a rare occasion I get to shout out his 'fancy name', so there you go!
        Andretti thoroughly enjoyed hanging out in the ring with Shelby!
        As always, Dretti injured himself just in time for the specialty. Go Andretti! If it's not one thing, it's another with him.

        Andretti showed in conformation, but not in obedience. Apparently you can show in the 'stand and look pretty' classes with stitches, but any type of performance class strictly prohibits any stitchery. And we're okay with that, I didn't want him jumping with stitches anyway (although I had no problem with him zooming around the yard and jumping up and down retaining walls with stitches. Go figure.)
        Darby Crash won Best of Opposite Sex (to Best of Breed!) in regular classes. There was a fair entry of greyhounds, and I'm more than a little proud of him. Big Handsome!
        Not even 3 years old yet! GCH Aragon Aroi Silver Lining, RA (or Darby Crash, it's less of a mouthful). 

        After regular classes there was a costume class, I went all out this year and got everyone dressed up. It was pretty cute, and probably the largest costume class the GCNC has had that anyone can remember. Even Q got into the act this year. He makes a damn cute bat.
        Andretti was a farmer. Agricultural Brown. And none to pleased about it.
        I think the baling twine collar and leash made the outfit. It earned him a placing in the costume contest. 

        Dee was a ballerina. She didn't like it much at first, but warmed up to it when she realized everyone was pretty tickled with her.
        She was blinding in her bling
        Girl dog in a short skirt. Very wrong, I know. But it earned her 4th place in the costume contest!
        Darby Crash went as Count Darbula, and even had his own bat! I can't believe he didn't get a prize for that. Nobody else had an accessory dog. Feh. Whatever!
        I have exceptionally tolerant dogs. 
        There were clowns (Mariska and Sonny!)
        and a ladybug
        a hula dancer and sort of twisted butterfly
        Evil, toothy clowns. 

        It was pretty busy that weekend, but the dogs had fun and the weather was really decent (last year it poured rain and was MISERABLE). Darby Crash came close to passing his first Novice Obedience try, but oh well. I was pretty stressed out showchairing this specialty, and I'm pretty certain he picked up on that. He did a decent job, and I'm extremely proud of him for giving me the effort and a good attitude. He's a really fun dog to work obedience with, he's wicked smart and goofy happy. That's a winning combo for a greyhound in the obedience ring. We're gunna try again in January in Palm Springs. ;)

        Sunday, October 23, 2011

        Greyhounds and Agriculture

        Farming is NOT something Andretti is very keen on. Mostly because of the shirts he would have to wear.

        Sunday, February 6, 2011

        Raw-rrrrrr Diet's what's for dinner!

        A little over 2 years ago I started feeding raw diet, mostly as a bit of an experiment.  I did my research (mostly online, of course. The internet is good for some things) and have 19 years as a Registered Veterinary Technician and all the experience (and other people's experiences) that brings. In researching I concluded several things:
        • There is no One Way. Feeding raw is about as individual as the dog and the person feeding the dog. 
        • Feeding raw is not for everyone, or every dog for that matter. It's not the end all be all.
        • Feeding raw can either be very very simple, or very very complicated. It depends on the person feeding and the pre-set level of neurosis, anxiety, creativity and self education that individual brings to the game. 
        • There has been a 'study' done on just about argument for or against raw food diets, and there are  many incidents of old, outdated data being sited for or against feeding ANY diet, raw or processed. Data is data; look at the study design, how long ago the study was done (the most commonly sited studies are dated 2002, some earlier), the number of study subjects, the duration of the study, the methods used to gather and record the data. Know what qualifies as normal results and what qualifies as abnormal. Having worked in the Biotech industry for 5 years I know how results can be 'creatively interrupted' (skewed) to fit the researchers wants and needs. Be careful with what you buy into.
        In practice over the past 2 1/2 years I have concluded the following solid beliefs:
        • Feeding raw is not 'simpler' than feeding processed kibble on a daily basis. It's not as difficult as most people imagine. But nothing could be simpler than tearing open a bag and scooping out daily feedings of "nutritionally balanced", dry and sanitary kibble, right?
        • Feeding raw can be far cheaper than feeding a kibble-n-canned diet, or conversely, more expensive. Depends on how you buy your meat, where you buy it, what kind of meat you buy, in what quantity, etc.  The exact same can be said for commercial brand kibble/canned food.
        • Raw diet results in far less solid waste (poop!) and drastically reduced gaseous secretions (farting).
        • Dental health is much improved feeding a raw diet
        • Tailor the diet to fit the dog, no 'one rule' applies to all. 
        The biggest obstacle to starting feeding a raw diet is this:

        What to feed them?  
        Kibble and canned food is simple; give 'em a scoop of kibble and half a can of whatever-processed-mush twice a day and call it good. Wash the bowls every now and then. But raw food? Major confusion! It's actually pretty easy. Here's what we choose from:

        Meats (regularly)
        Chicken backs/leg quarters/wings/feet
        Chicken livers/hearts/gizzards
        Turkey necks
        Beef brisket
        Ground beef (high fat)
        Beef heart
        Lamb breast
        (when available, on occasion)
        Venison (fresh, all parts minus skin/head and spine parts/gi tract)
        Mutton (fresh, all parts minus skin/head and spine parts/gi tract)
        Fish (no raw salmon, no shellfish, no foreign farmed fish)

        Lamb Breast processing; cutting board and a sharp cleaver.

        Vegetables and Fruits(regularly)
        Everything except onions, garlic, grapes and raisins (these can be toxic in even small amounts)
        Everything raw is ground in a food processor to break down the cellulose in order to be digested
        Sweet potatoes are cooked
        Canned kidney beans/black beans/sweet red beans
        Olive oil

        Grains (semi regularly, on occasion)
        Wheat germ, flax seed, quick cooking barley, farro, quick cooking dried sprouted beans and lentils, wild rice, quinoa (all in small amounts, grains are cooked)

        Eggs (regularly)
        raw and cooked

        We have 10 chickens pumping out eggs daily, obviously I feed the dogs eggs. We'd be awash in eggs if I didn't.

        Dairy (regularly)
        Whole fat yogurt
        Cottage cheese

        Supplements (occasionally)
        Fish oil capsules
        Vitamin E capsules
        Multivitamins (whatever I'm taking)
        Glucosamine/Chondroitin (special circumstances)

        Veggie-sludge, eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, wheat germ and ground beef. Yuck.

        This is a big list, but it's by no means everything that can be fed. It's what we choose from.  To skinny it down even further? Here's what I actually feed:
        Frozen chicken backs in bulk, it's how we roll.
        • I feed once a day on average, around 4pm. Chicken backs or turkey necks. When I buy a huge beef brisket, they get beef without bones for a few days. Same goes for the lamb breast. Then we go back to chicken backs and turkey necks.
        • About 4 times a week I feed an additional morning mini-meal consisting of ground beef or small chicken parts
        • They get a few bites of organ meats about once a week. More if I find it in bulk quantities. 
        • Veggie mix is sporadic, mixed with dairy and raw eggs about twice to 3 times a week. Sometimes not at all until I make up a fresh batch. 
        • Grains are few and very far between. Usually a quinoa, or cooked farro....most often leftovers from our dinner. 
        • Supplements are sporadic as well, if I remember to take mine, the dogs get theirs. Multi-vitamins are Women's Formulation with the folic acid and other girl stuff, mostly because I'm a girl and Dee is an intact female as well. Figure it can't hurt.
        • Everybody gets some of my breakfast: scrambled eggs, an omelette or oatmeal everyday. I get VERY LITTLE BREAKFAST based on this feeding system, each dog gets a mouthful or two. So why am I still so fat???

          How to Feed Them?
          • I feed outside on the back lawn about 80% of the time. If it's super cold or super rainy they eat inside out of pails or in a crate (I lay down dog blankets on the carpets). If I'm working in the garden at feeding time and they're all confined to the dog run, they'll eat in the run. 
          • I watch them eat, their meals are handed to them individually. It's actually a very soothing break in the day to spend 10 or 15 minutes observing my dogs while they eat. It also gives me an opportunity to give each dog a quick health/attitude assessment. Lack of appetite never goes unobserved around here. 
          • Food pails are washed daily, or as they are used. 

            How Much to Feed Them?

            • Darby Crash (92lb intact male greyhound, 2years old); 1 1/2 - 2 lb meat per day
            • Andretti Ducatti (80lb neutered male greyhound, 6 1/2 years old); 3/4 - 1 1/4lb meat per day
            • D-Squared (69lb intact female greyhound, 6 1/2 years old); 1-1 1/2lb meat per day
            • Q (17lb neutered male Italian Greyhound, 4 years old); 1/3-1/2 lb of meat per day
            Andretti Ducati, Dee Dee (D-Square), Darby Crash and.....Q (photos from January 2011)
              • Veggie mix is usually about 2 tablespoons of ground veggies/yogurt and cottage cheese each.
              • Wheat germ and flax seed are sprinkled on the veggie mix.
              • Fish oils and other oils are about 1 capsule each, when I remember to give them.
              • Multivitamins are snapped in half, quartered for the little guy, when I remember to give them. 

              This is how I feed, it is by no means the only way to do it though. I get a lot of questions and comments about feeding raw food. Here are some of the most common;

              What about the bones? I've been told never to feed bones. Won't a dog choke on bones? Aren't they sharp, couldn't that cause a punctured stomach?
              We draw the line when dinner is the size of her head.

              Dogs are well equipped to process bones, from the moment it hits their mouths to the moment it hits the lawn (end of the line, poop-style). If you take a look inside a dog's mouth you'll see those pre-molars and molars are big and sharp; extremely efficient at crushing and grinding. Their front teeth and the big canine teeth grip and position the food, the back teeth break it into 'gulp-able' pieces. Contrary to what it sounds like while they're 'chewing', dogs do not really chew their food like we do. They crunch up the big pieces and swallow it whole. All the big work is done elsewhere, starting in the stomach.

              The industrial strength acid in a dog's stomach softens and almost completely dissolves bone matter. How do I know this for sure (beyond a veterinary specific education and skill-set)? Well, sometimes they vomit. It's not uncommon for dogs to vomit occasionally on a raw diet (or any diet, for that matter; puke happens). Being a vet tech, I get a little obsessed over vomit. :) So on the rare occasion that it happens, of course I inspect it. When there has been bone in the vomit, it's usually quite pliable (fingernail soft). I'm sure that somewhere out there is someone whose dog has had a piece of raw bone cause some internal damage, but in almost 20 years in veterinary medicine the only bone issues I've seen have been from cooked bones. COOKED BONES ARE VERY DANGEROUS FOR DOGS, NEVER EVER GIVE A DOG COOKED BONES. Cooked bones will puncture an esophagus, a stomach, intestines. They can lacerate gums and can puncture the roof of a dog's mouth. DO NOT FEED COOKED BONES, EVEN AS A SUPERVISED TREAT.
              Some types of raw bones can be hazardous to a dogs mouth;

              • Round marrow bones can get stuck on the bottom of a dogs jaw. If the hole in the center is large enough to loop around the bottom canines you get to take a trip to the ER to have it sawed off! Been there, done that several times (not my dogs, clients dogs at the Emergency Hospital). Always good fun! 
              • Marrow bones and other very hard beef bones (soup bones, rib bones) can fracture teeth if the dog chews too vigorously on them, sometimes even just bites down on them wrong.  Very hard long-bones, rib bones and large vertebrae (spine bones) should just be avoided as a general rule.
              For these reasons I very closely supervise the dogs when I give them these types of bones, and that is very rarely. Literally on a rainy day, when they gnaw on them indoors under watchful eye. When the meat and marrow is gone, the bones get taken away. It should be noted that even close supervision will not prevent tooth fractures. So your best bet; don't give them at all.

              Doesn't raw meat have bad bacteria? What about Salmonella and E.Coli? Couldn't that make my dog sick? I have kids, I don't want them to get sick, and besides, my dog gives me kisses and I don't want to get sick because of bad bacteria. 
              Yes, raw meat comes with bacteria on it. Yes, Salmonella and E.Coli are on that list. Yes, studies have shown that dogs pass Salmonella out the back end (in their feces). Will it make your dog sick? Probably not, unless your dog has an underlying immune system weakness or some other disease process that makes his GI tract susceptible to bacterial overload.
              Dogs have an enzyme in their saliva that has some antibacterial properties, this is a good start. They have wicked strong stomach acids that will dissolve almost anything and is not conducive to bacterial growth. Dogs can hold food in their stomachs for up to 8 hours while passing small amounts of digested food through a fairly short intestinal tract. Even if the 'bad bacteria' survive the stomach's acid environment, they're unlikely to have enough time in the intestines to reproduce to the point of dangerous overload (again, if your dog has an underlying disease process that slows the GI tract we're in a completely different ballpark). This is opposite what we as humans do; we pass food out of the stomach quickly, but hold it in a much longer intestinal tract for up to 60 hours. Sixty. No wonder we get sick so easily. So yes, studies will show that Salmonella spp. is cultured from the poo of dogs fed raw diet. It's also cultured from the poo of dogs fed commercial brand kibble. Sure, it's cultured from the raw food you propose to feed your dog, it's also been cultured from random commercial kibble and it could also be cultured from the 3-day-dead ground squirrel your dog just gulped down. And indeed, just like everywhere else in life you find dangerous bacteria, you and your children and grandma could get very ill.
              The solution is simple: good sanitation. 
              • Clean food prep areas, feeding areas (unless it's the backyard like me), feeding bowls as if you were going to be inspected by the FDA and your mother....and your pediatrician for good measure. 
              • Invest in a case of food prep gloves. This is my best suggestion for the 'grossness factor' when feeding messy sticky bacteria laden raw meat: WEAR GLOVES. They're cheap, you can wash them and re-use them if you're worried about landfills and the future of the planet, but seriously, food prep gloves are where it's at!
              • If you have kids who play in the yard where the dog deposits his bacteria-tainted (studies have proven!) waste....clean it up religiously! No poo = one less thing for your kid to put in his or her mouth and get sick from. Better yet, teach your kids about good hygiene and how to spell Salmonella. Even better? Give them a pair of gloves and a poop scooper and teach them how to help keep themselves safe. More on poo later.
              • If you're worried about your dog kissing you on the face and giving you a wolluping dose of deadly bacteria maybe you should institute a "dog-kiss-timeout" immediately after feeding time. Give that super-antibacterial dog spit time to work. However, consider this; This is an animal who routinely roto-roots it's own butthole with it's tongue (hygiene!), eats cat turds from the litterbox, licks other animals junk and taste-tests every good pee-spot in the neighborhood. This is the same tongue he turns around and uses unabashedly on your face or heaven forbid, in your mouth. If you cannot bring yourself to restrict "kissie time" or find that indeed, your dogs tongue has seen the inside of your mouth on more than an accidental occasion, perhaps this is a good time to re-evaluate your relationship with the dog. You can love your dog, but please, don't LOVE your dog. 
              • On a serious note, if you or someone in the household is immune compromised, an infant/ very young toddler or extremely aged perhaps raw diet is not a great idea. If your dog has a weak immune system or GI disease, it is possible that a raw diet would cause more trouble than good. 
              What about parasites? I've heard feeding raw meat will give my dog worms! Gross!!

              Yup, worms are definitely on the Gross List, and some percentage of some types of raw meat may actually be host to an encysted form of worm (not the actual long wiggly worm, the short non-wiggly larval form).

              But let's be realistic; your dog is more likely to get tapeworms (from fleas), heartworms (from mosquitoes), roundworms (from soil or eating infected rodents),  hookworms (from wild animal poo, soil or eating infected rodents). Regular visits to your vet with twice yearly fecal exams and a yearly heartworm test in addition to heartworm preventative and flea control will pretty much cover any parasitic concerns, meat born parasites included. That being said, one of my biggest concerns with the parasite issue was/is Trichinosis, or 'Pork Roundworm'. Not to be confused with Trichimoniasis, which is a nasty little STD and has absolutely nothing to do with raw food diet. No, this is Trichinella spiralis, a roundworm rarely found in pork from the US, and sometimes found in wild boar and some other wild game (boar and cougar). There's a lot of information online about this parasite and being very careful about undercooked or uncooked pork products, however, there have very very few reported cases of human infection in the US in the past 12 years and of those cases, most were determined to be from wild game or meat sourced outside of the US. US regulations on how and what pigs are fed have all but eradicated this problem in US raised pork. As for my dogs? I don't feed any form of raw pork. No need to, with all the other choices. If you do decide to feed uncooked pork though, do your research and know this (thank you Wikipedia):
              • Freezing pork less than 6 inches thick for 20 days at 5 °F (−15 °C) or three days at −4 °F (−20 °C) kills larval worms.
              • Freezing wild game meats, unlike freezing pork products, even for long periods of time, may not effectively kill all worms. This is because the species that typically infects wild game is more resistant to freezing than the species that infects pigs.
              My dog wouldn't know what to do with a raw meaty bone. He'd probably choke on it.  

              My guess is that your dog would probably figure it out. The first time I gave mine raw meaty bones, all but one of them gulped them down almost whole, and then promptly threw the whole mess up looking pretty much like it did before it went down. Much re-chewing ensued. My temptation was to take a cleaver to the whole chicken leg quarter to 'help', but having done my research I resisted that temptation. By letting the dogs chew them into digestible form they are less likely to gulp their food, less likely to choke on anything (I've never had a dog choke on a raw bone, that's not to say it couldn't happen though). I want my dogs to chew, that's how they get the dental benefits of raw bone diet (see the photos below, they are not photo-shopped or otherwise altered). Chopping it up, or buying it ground with the bones defeats that purpose. For some people purchasing frozen prepared/packaged ground raw meat and bones with brand names like Bravo and Primal (it is sold online and at some high-end pet stores, or you may be able to get your butcher to do it for you) settles their 'bone apprehensions', and for them I say do whatever makes you comfortable. I'd rather spend that extra money on something else, my dogs can do the job themselves. Even the little guy. In fact, especially the little guy. Go figure.

              So how do I switch my dog over to raw diet?

              There are a couple of ways to switch a dog over, I recommend researching online (I provide links at the end of this blog) and choosing the best method for your dogs. As for my dogs? One day they were eating kibble, the next day they were eating raw food. We did not mix the two because kibble and raw food digest at different rates and I wanted no issues with food sitting in their gut too long and causing problems. This worked beautifully. When I got Darby Crash he was only 6 months old, so I did feed a high quality kibble and raw diet because frankly I didn't want to take any chances with his bone and muscle development. I am NOT an expert on this subject, and haven't been doing it long enough to have complete confidence that I wouldn't be jeopardizing his growth. Maybe in a few years I'll laugh at myself (I know people who raise Deerhounds and other large breeds on raw food from the  day they're weaned with no problems, so I know it can be done), but it wasn't a chance I was willing to take with a growing pup.
              Yes, this is Andretti as a little puppy scarfing out of his feed bucket, he got kibble as a puppy too.

              Can I still give my dog treats? Do they have to be raw too???

              Yes, you must carry raw chicken parts in your pocket at all times! I'm joking. Of course you can still give treats, but be forewarned. Raw diet has made such a drastic difference in the amount of gas my dogs have that when I've given processed treats (anything with processed grains like typical dog bisquits) the gas comes in large gagging waves about an hour or two later. So, I've gone to giving dehydrated meat treats like liver jerky, cheese bits and things like that. 

              Not quite as inexpensive as a box of Milkbones, but I can and do put a price on those killer fart clouds. This brand averages about $10 a bag. I think there's a complex formula you can use to calculate the dollar amount per fart based on how many kibble treats each dog ingests to produce a noticeable amount of gas. But I'm not very good at math, so I just fork over the cash for the good treats.

              I travel a lot with my dog, kibble is easier.

              It sure is, but then, a lot of things in life are easier. I hack everything up into bitesize bits (hotels hate it when your dog drags raw food across the carpet) and prepackage serving sizes with the food sealer. On a 14 day trip across the country in the van, I had about 10 days worth of food in a cooler that we just restocked with ice.(as previously stated, I'm really bad at math). For the remaining 4 days, I hit the grocery store.  In the future, I may just purchase some of the Bravo or Primal raw ground diets for back-up and to compensate for my poor math skills on long trips. ;)
              Tools of the Trade; Let's Make This as Easy as Possible
              • A large, cheap meat cleaver and a heavy chopping block. Asian markets usually sell them for about $10. Pick up a knife sharpener and you're in good meat-cleavin' form for a good long time. (I got a cheap sharpener at our local camping/outdoor supply store) You can find chopping boards at the grocery, sometimes thrift stores. Make sure it's thick. You won't be wimping your way through meat chopping.

              •  Lots of gallon size zip-locks, or better yet a quality food sealer. A good one will run you about $160 at Costco, but if you do a lot of processing for a lot of dogs a commercial sealer would probably be a good investment. A commercial sealer from Cabela's will cost you about $500, but will out perform and definitely outlast a string of the cheaper FoodSaver models. 

              • A food scale, with a bowl-style weighing basket. You can pick one up at Target or Walmart for around $20-$30. I prefer my 'dial' scale vs. a digital one, and it should weigh up to 10 lbs of food

              • A large chest or upright freezer that holds about 15 - 20 cubic feet. This keeps us AND our 4 dogs in food for months at a time. 
              Thank you Sears

                • A couple of 4 quart metal feed buckets or other deep containers to hold food in the refrigerator in between thawing and feedings. 

                • A case of medical grade latex gloves or food service gloves. This makes safe food handling a lot easier, and kind of cuts down on the yuck-raw-meat factor (if raw meat grosses you out) 

                I'm finicky about my gloves, non-medical food service gloves would work just fine too. Heck, even a pair of dish gloves would get the job done.
                • Industrial size Lysol wipes and antibacterial counter spray.


                The internet is an excellent resource;


                So is the library, or Amazon, or any other book dealer;

                Dr. Ian Billinghurst's BARF diet
                Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals by Lew Olson
                Dr. Ian Billinghurst's book on Bones and Raw Food
                Raw Dog Food - Make it Easy for You and Your Dog by Carina MacDonald

                There's a lot of information in the above listed links. I agree with some of it, disagree with some of it, and giggle over bits of it. But all of it has served it's purpose; their combined education, information, statistics, experiences and scientific facts enabled me to make decisions about feeding raw food to my own dogs. 

                My parting suggestions:
                • Do your research.
                • Talk to your vet and their technicians about your plan; do not expect an enthusiastic reception. Many vets know very little about raw feeding having been led through veterinary school by the sponsoring hands of major pet food producers. A good vet will help guide you though and should be able to answer any questions you have.  
                • If your dog has medical issues (kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, etc) do EXTRA RESEARCH and consult with veterinary specialists before starting a raw diet. Being in control of exactly what goes into your dog could turn the tables on the disease process and give you some advantages (such as in a reduced salt heart disease diet, if you don't add the salt, it's not there in any effectual amount). On the flip side, you could make it worse by not balancing nutrition levels (kidney disease is the big one that comes to mind). Cancer? Be careful if your dog is getting chemotherapy, a suppressed immune system is not something you want to mess around with (but in some cases, what do you have to lose with trying?)
                • Consult with people who are feeding the diet to their pets. 
                • Read read read; books, websites, studies from universities and independent research facilities.
                • Talk to Veterinary University nutritional consultants. 
                • Take everything all of these people say with a grain of salt; don't buy into any one fanatical idea; sample from them all and decide what makes sense to you and your dog.
                • Build the diet to what works for your dog. This is especially true when deciding how much to feed. If he's too chubby, decrease the quantity of food and/or the fat content in the meat. If she's too thin, increase the quantity and feed high fat calorie meats. . 
                • Gauge feeding amounts and frequency based on your dog's body condition and energy levels on the new diet. Just because you start out feeding a certain amount doesn't mean you have to continue with that amount. 
                • Variety variety variety...don't get stuck in a rut. That can be nutritionally dangerous
                • Remember how much effort you put into you and your own family's diet; try not to freak out over organically raised hormone free meat and precise vitamin/ mineral and protein/carb ratios for your dog while you feed your spouse and children  fast food and processed/prepared/packaged foods thick with artificial colors flavors and preservatives. Keep it as simple as possible. 
                • Supervise feedings to avoid your worse fears: bone choking and food aggression. Besides, it gives you a little quality observation time with your dogs. It's kind of relaxing.
                • Keep children away from feeding dogs (this holds true for kibble or raw food). Don't invite trouble.  
                THE BEST PART IS......
                  Besides being in control of exactly what goes into you pet, some of the best things about feeding a raw diet are;
                  • Being able to stop using Safeway shopping bags to pick up after your dog at the park; a sandwich baggie will be more than enough! And, if it's in your yard? Give it about a day or two and it turns white and breaks down into little crumbles. Not gross, NEAT.
                  • The farting has decreased massively. So much, in fact, I can tell when they've gotten into the cat food in the barn or if they've gotten processed grain treats because the gas kicks in and I remember what greyhounds are noxiously known for. I LOVE being able to take the dogs in the car and not crank the windows down as a necessity! 
                    • Clean tartar free stink free mouths! My 6 1/2 year old greyhounds and a 4 year old Italian Greyhound:
                    Andretti (greyhound), no dentals in 6 1/2 years. 
                    Q (Italian Greyhound) 4 years old, no dental cleanings ever, just naturally clean teeth and healthy gums.

                    As a disclaimer, I'm not a nutritional expert. I'm not a PhD. I didn't do my Masters in Microbiology or Digestive Science. I'm not a Veterinarian. What I am is a Registered Veterinary Technician with about 19 years experience in Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, Regular day practice, Avian and exotics, Internal Medicine and a 5 year stint as a Research Specialist in a local biotech lab's vivarium working on diabetes, obesity and cancer research. This is my diet of choice for my 4 dogs, 3 active greyhounds and one Italian Couch Potato. So far, so good!

                    Darby Crash eye up a gopher in the back yard. He did not manage to catch this one.