We love dogs. We also love men who love dogs. So, imagine how we feel about Brandon McMillan - the best looking dog trainer ever! It's safe to say we're in love. If you haven't seen his show, Lucky Dog, it's currently available on CBS All Access and is a great binge watch for anyone who loves dogs (or men). It's a feel good show where Brandon rescues troubled dogs from local shelters and trains them to become perfect companions for their new families.
As much as we love the show, we found ourselves wondering how he does it - getting difficult dogs to sit and stay in a couple of days. So, we were thrilled two years ago when he finally published his book, Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dogs in 7 Days. We immediately purchased several copies and honed our training skills. Since then, we've recommended this book to many puppy families looking to work on basic commands. While we love the book, we still felt something was missing - it's sometimes hard to convey the motion of hand signals or commands by written word (okay, maybe it was because you don't see Brandon himself in the book and again, he's really easy on the eyes).
Enter the recent MasterClass announcement and our excitement to learn that Brandon now has his own dog training class! If you aren't familiar with MasterClass already, it's a great platform where you can take classes on various topics - we've learned tennis from Serena Williams and cooking from Gordon Ramsey. These classes were both great, but the ability to watch Brandon McMillan train his dogs - LIVE - has been a blast. In fifteen video lessons (totaling about 3 hours) Brandon shares his simple and effective training system to help you develop trust and control with your dog. He covers sit, stay and down - as well as problem areas like barking and digging.
MasterClass is billed at $15 a month and offers a 30 day money back guarantee. We simply can't recommend this enough for all those new puppy owners wondering how to create the perfect companion. If you decide to try it we would love to hear what you think!
We specifically ask our Guardian Homes and owners NOT to ask strangers on Facebook what to feed their dog. The majority of owners on forums are not veterinarians, do not properly research animal nutrition and often recommend foods that are poorly rated simply because someone else suggested them (or their vet sells them). We wrote this post to share what we feed our own dogs and the options (kibble, fresh and raw) we share with our owners. We do not cover foods sold in many veterinarian’s office but would recommend you research those options as well. If a food is recommended and you would like to read a neutral review, we suggest using Dog Food Advisor to look up any food. You may be surprised at what you find from some of the most commonly recommended and expensive vet suggested brands. Please note for us to recommend a food it must have a 4.5 or higher rating with at least 30% protein and real meat as the primary ingredient.
Please remember that we aren't veterinarians, but we are very careful and picky about what we feed our dogs. We talk to our vets. We do our homework. We talk to other breeders. We read labels. We study dog nutrition. We know that when breeding dogs, proper nutrition is the foundation to healthy animals and we've seen first-hand which brands work best on Cavaliers, Cavachons and Cavapoos. We also know that every owner and every dog is different. We do not judge other people's decisions on what to feed, as long as they are doing the best they can for their dog. We would encourage owners to investigate all of the following options:
KIBBLE - Kibble is only a small part of our dog's diet; however, most owners prefer kibble as the primary source of their dog's nutrition. We would encourage you to also consider adding home cooked and / or raw to your dog’s menu if possible. If you plan to feed only kibble, it's vitally important that you choose the best one you can afford. Kibble can often get a bad rap due to recalls, poor nutritional value and low-quality proteins but some are better than others. Here are our choices (based on where you prefer to shop):
PAWTREE OPTIONS - We were approached to test PawTree kibble on our dogs and have really enjoyed this company. We have found their claims to be true (less food, less poop, healthier dogs) and our dogs enjoy their products. We are currently feeding a rotation of Salmon & Sweet Potato, Whitefish & Brown Rice and Chicken & Oatlmeal formulas. We are also in love with their raw treats and superfoood seasonings (for that picky eater in the pack). By joining their PawClub and setting up an EZ-Ship these products enjoy free shipping!
1. Instinct Original Small Breed Dog Food (Grain Free) - This is a grain free option whose first five ingredients include chicken, chicken meal, chickpeas and tapioca. We only recommend this for dogs who require a grain-free option. Contains 39% protein.
2. Diamond Naturals Small Breed – This is a grain inclusive option whose first four ingredients include chicken, chicken meal, cracked pearled barley and ground white rice. It contains 30% protein.
1. Nulo Freestyle Small Breed (Grain Free) – This is a grain free option whose first four ingredients include Deboned salmon, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal and salmon meal. There is chicken in this recipe so it’s not suitable for dogs who are allergic to chicken. This kibble contains 34% protein.
2. Wellness Complete Health Small Breed – This is a grain inclusive option whose first four ingredients are Deboned turkey, chicken meal, salmon meal and oatmeal. This kibble contains protein. This kibble contains 31% protein.
HOME COOKED - Many new dog owners get confused with the difference between "raw feeding" (which is based on foods that are not cooked) and "home cooked" which is simply preparing your dog’s food at home from ingredients such as lean meats, vegetables and carbohydrates. This is easy to confuse. For example, we will share a puppy loaf (below) which can be served raw or cooked - it would fall in both categories.
While we do make home cooked meals for our dogs, we find it a challenge to provide all the nutritional elements necessary. We also find from our owners that truly nutritionally balanced home-cooked meals can also be time consuming, more expensive and frustrating (to make sure your dog gets all the nutrients needed). A few of our favorite recipes can be found on Damn Delicious and Food.com. We also regularly add grilled or dehydrated chicken or boiled eggs to our dogs other meals.
Luckily, today's dogs also have another great option which is "home cooked" meals delivered to your home. Many are less expensive than you may expect. Our dogs currently LOVE Ollie. This is also a great option for dogs who need a limited ingredient diet for allergies.
RAW FEEDING - This is a passionate and controversial topic. Those who support raw feeding feel that anything less is acceptable. Meanwhile, new dog owners find raw feeding confusing, time consuming and not often in line with their vet's recommendations. If you have an interest in raw feeding a Cavalier or a Cavalier hybrid, we suggest you turn to Dt. Judy Morgan. Her recipe for puppy loaf is a great introduction to raw feeding.
Another great option to get started in raw nutrition is using freeze dried and frozen raw products available through retailers and your local specialty dog food store. We rely heavily on freeze dried raw when we travel, want to introduce a new dog to raw gently and want to supplement with raw. These products provide raw benefits without you having to grind, chop, measure or mix the ingredients yourself! Here are our suggestions to help you get started on raw feeding your dogs:
1. Primal Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Food – This brand has tons of flavors and are a breeze to serve. You literally just re-hydrate the nuggets with water (or bone broth) and serve.
2. Instinct Frozen Raw Bites (Grain Free Options) – Also available in patties. Another reputable brand with a wide variety of flavors. This is a grain free option that contains 85% beef and organs. Stored in the freezer, you do need to thaw these prior to serving but they thaw quickly.
AMAZON.COM OPTIONS – Please note that we don’t purchase frozen products from Amazon so this only includes their freeze dried options.
1. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried Raw Dinner Patties – Another brand we love for travel but not all the flavors are created equal. We were surprised to learn that some of the flavors are not highly ranked so please keep it to Chicken, Venison Blend or Rabbit in this option.
2. Vital Essentials Beef Entree Mini Nibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food – This is a great grain free option that is beef only (for those sensitive to chicken). We do not recommend this as the sole food in your dog's diet as
Let us conclude by again repeating that nutrition plays a fundamental role in your dog’s health. You shouldn’t be afraid to try a few different things to see how their skin, coat and energy change. At the end of the day, dog food is a personal choice based on your dog, your time and your budget. Don't surrender that choice to strangers with little to no knowledge of any of those factors and always discuss any dietary concerns with your vet first.
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