A food topper is a type of supplemental food that is designed to enhance the flavor and nutritional value of your dog's regular meals. They are usually marketed towards those feeding kibble which can often be bland and lack the nutritional punch of other diets. A food topper can come in different forms, including wet or dry and can be made from various ingredients such as meat, vegetables, fruits, and grains.
A food topper is typically added to your dog's regular food to provide additional flavor, texture, and nutrients. It can be a great option for picky eaters, dogs who need extra encouragement to eat their meals (perhaps during a health struggle) or dogs needing an added supplement due to a condition such as pregnancy or a health condition. When chosen carefully, food toppers can provide a variety of health benefits, such as added vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber. When choosing a food topper, it's important to be familiar with the nutrients in the food you are already feeding (the one you are topping). Select a topper to add to those nutrients and fill in gaps. Think of this like identifying gaps in your own personal nutrition and the taking the appropriate vitamin. If you drink a gallon of orange juice a day, you don't need a Vitamin C supplement.
Food toppers can be store bought or homemade. Here are a few of our favorites from both categories:
STORE BOUGHT OPTIONS:
1. Stella & Chewy - Stella & Chewy has some great nutritional products but we're particularly fond of this Magical Dinner Dust in Beef Flavor which is a meal topper / mixer. It's great for diets that need more protein, contains fiber, probiotics and a host of added vitamins and minerals that are great for your dog. We also LOVE their line of meal morsels that you can mix in with your dog's food to address specific issues such as Skin & Coat (with wild caught salmon) and Hip & Joint (with tons of ingredients added to improve join health in older dogs).
2. Instinct Raw Boost Mixers - This is another great raw line with a variety of options that are sure to meet your dog's needs. These toppers also make great healthy treats (and are often less expensive than products marketed as treats). Standouts include their Grain Free Beef mixer (great for dogs on a grain free and poultry free diet due to allergies) or their functional support line which also addresses unique needs in dogs such as Gut Health, Calming Support, and MultiVitamin.
3. Canned Dog Food - While we aren't generally a fan of canned dog food, don't overlook it as a good topper if you are dealing with picky eating or a dog refusing food near end of life. Make sure to use only highly rated canned food with a solid nutritional profile. Our top pick is a lesser known brand, Weruva, whose fun flavors and small can sizes make a good topper when needed.
4. Fresh Pet Food - Fresh home delivered pet food has quickly become mainstream on the dog food scene and for good reason, it's incredibly nutritious, usually human grade, dog for your food that takes the confusion out of raw but is substantially better than most kibble products on the market. Our pick in this category is Ollie and it makes a great topper or mixer for your chosen kibble. Our dogs prefer the beef but all flavors are a solid choice. Click here to get your first box at 60% off.
There are many homemade dog food toppers right in your own fridge that can be a great addition to your dog's diet. Here are a few easy and healthy options:
It's important to remember that not all human foods are safe for dogs, so always check with your veterinarian before introducing new foods to your dog's diet. Also, make sure to avoid foods that are toxic to dogs, such as onions, garlic, chocolate, grapes, and raisins.
In closing, food toppers can be an incredibly useful tool in yit's important to choose a food topper that is appropriate for your dog's dietary needs and preferences, and to introduce new foods gradually to avoid digestive upset.
WILL WORK FOR FOOD
If you are struggling with crate training your puppy, with puppy boredom or with an overactive puppy or dog, this blog post is for you! All dogs and puppies are happier, healthier and easier to train when they are mentally stimulated. One easy way to challenge your puppy is to have them work for their food. Every time we set down a bowl of food, we are missing a great opportunity to entertain and stimulate our puppy. These are also great for fast eaters, dogs that suffer from separation anxiety (offer when leaving) and for in crate entertainment. Oh, and in case you have lacked any "intimate time" since purchasing your puppy, these are also great for escaping to your room in peace for long enough . . .
Not sure how to make your puppy work for their food? Here are some examples:
LEVEL ONE - SNUFFLE MATS AND SLOW FEEDERS
Many breeders use snuffle mats with puppies as a part of the weaning and play process. Start by hiding a few high value treats in this mat and work up to feeding an entire meal. Placing a high quality kibble in the mat will slow your dogs eating, entertain them in a crate or pen and allow your dog or puppy to learn to work to find their food. Most LierChonPoo puppies and dogs will have been exposed to one of these options:
Small Snuffle Mat - This mat is inexpensive and travels easily. It's suitable for both puppies and adults.
Medium Snuffle & Play Mat - We love this medium mat with multiple places to hide treats and food for entire litters, households with more than one small dog or larger breeds. We also love that it's easy to wash and we recommend doing so weekly.
Slow feeders are similar but are simply a mechanism to slow a fast eater and are not as stimulating as a snuffle mat. You can increase the entertainment value of a slow feeder by mixing your kibble with a quality wet food which takes significantly longer to eat when spread on the walls of the feeder.
LEVEL TWO - SNOOPS
Snoops are advertised as being an interactive treat dispenser but we regularly use them as a bowl to feed and entertain puppies by placing a mixture of kibble and other food inside and using it as a bowl. We start these before feeding in Kongs because they are easier for the puppy to manipulate. To make it tougher, you can purchase the smiley face insert; however, we've found it easier to simply put a mixture of food and larger components in the Snoop to make it more challenging. For example, we will introduce these with a small amount of kibble mixed with a few high value treats. Once the dog has acclimated we will replace the treats with some larger pieces of cooked chicken or jerky that make getting to the food more difficult. Plugging the whole in the bottom with a treat or kibble or adding something like peanut butter (never with artificial sweetener) or plain yogurt can also increase the challenge. Snoops can be placed in the dishwasher (top rack) and we love that they are coated with a mint oil to help keep breath fresh. Our young dogs will work on these for 20-30 minutes which is great entertainment while we clean their space, sneak out the door for errands, etc.
LEVEL THREE - KONGS
The Kong is perhaps the most popular "work for food" toy on the market. For puppies, you want to begin with the small binkie Kong and get the multi-pack as you will need multiple kongs in order to keep them cleaned and stuffed. As your puppy progresses and grows (or to feed entire meals), move up to the medium. We have done an entire blog post HERE on how to stuff a kong from simple to more complex. What we will repeat here is that the Kong is a great way to make a puppy work for food and a great way to reward and entertain a puppy in the crate.
LEVEL FOUR - PUZZLES & INTERACTIVE TOYS
It is rare that we use a puzzle or toy to feed an entire meal but it can be done. If you are feeding a high calorie dense kibble such as PawTree, you can actually fit an entire meal in one of these toys.
Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy and Tug-A-Jug are very popular with our puppies but we don't use them as often as they can be difficult to clean and are really only suitable for kibble or treats (no option of mixing in wet or raw ingredients). They can also be a little loud depending on how the dog learns to dispense the treats. Again, if using these frequently, please make sure you are only using high quality single ingredient treats and are factoring in these calories so your puppy or dog doesn't end up overweight.
Puzzle Toys are also fun but with a few warnings. You MUST supervise both dogs and puppies with these type toys as most of them have pieces that can be chewed and even swallowed if care is not taken. They can also be a hassle to clean.
Lick Mats - These popular lick mats are also a hit with our puppies and dogs. We generally pull these out only for special occasions where we want to both reward and entertain the dogs for a while (think furniture being delivered, neighbor stopping by, etc.). In order to successfully use these mats you must find a combination to spread on the mat that is both healthy and irresistible to your pooch. Several of the suggestions we've discussed in Kong stuffing can also work here. For our dogs, we take it up a notch and keep these in the freezer already prepared with one of the following: natural peanut butter mixed with plain greek yogurt, puree pumpkin mixed with peanut butter or yogurt, Ollie dog food spread and re-frozen or Ollie mixed with yogurt.
We hope this post has been helpful and that you'll let us know what works and what doesn't, Please remember that any toy or bowl which doesn't entertain your pet can be donated to your local shelter for a dog in need so it's never a waste to experiment.
HOW TO HANDLE PICKY EATING
Lots of puppy owners claim to have a picky eater, but more often than not we've found the owner might me misreading cues or making assumptions. If not careful, before you know it owners determined to pamper their pup are literally feeding filet from their hand without really understanding the issue.If you aren't careful, it's very easy to CREATE a picky eater. Before labeling your puppy or dog as a picky eater, try these tips:
If you have considered all of these factors and determined that your dog really is a picky eater, here are the steps you should take (in order) before offering filet from your hand.
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.
WHAT TO FEED YOUR NEW PUPPY?
Several times a day, well-meaning members of various Facebook forums will ask other well meaning members what they should feed their puppy. Members who are not vets, are not breeders and have not read the ingredients on their own dogs food will then tell new dog owners what food to buy usually based on what their dog "likes." And then inevitably, others will chime in criticizing the choice to feed kibble in the first place and at the end of the day I imagine many group members regret asking the question as they get a 50+ responses, none of the helpful,
So as not to be a hypocrite please remember that we also ARE NOT vets, but we are very careful 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 also do not judge other people's decisions on what to feed, as long as they are doing the best they can for their dog. Every breed, every dog and every owner is different. We would encourage owners to investigate all of the following options:
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