So three years after this was originally published, it's time for a little update. So if you are one of the few people who check in here from time to time, thank you and I hope you enjoy.
In the world of dog food there is an abundance of mythology and folk lore surrounding what constitutes a good dog food and kibble manufacturers have a kibble for every budget out there! Many companies cater to our instinct to provide the best we can afford to our four-legged family members using powerful modern marketing strategies which take advantage of our instincts and desires by leveraging our biases, and ignorance. Yes, it's like that.
Most likely, just as you have done, we have poured over tons of dog food comparison websites in search of the kibble with the most stars or dog bones a particular website will dare honor a kibble with.
About eleven years ago now I found The Dog Food Project when I was living in Spain and this is where I learned most websites use flawed and/or biased grading systems to honor kibble with stars or dog bones as they see fit.
In short, effective marketing equals popularity. Popularity drives demand and demand drives price. Meaning popular doesn't mean better or more cost effective.
So how do you avoid buying the Ol' Roy's and Beneful's of the dog food world, which are considered to be the worst dog foods ever produced? Just as important, how to avoid the Gold Plated and Hyper-priced dog foods, like ZiwiPeak and K9 Natural that really aren't worth the extra money - in our case feeding those diets would cost us over $3,000 per month to feed our brood! Presently we spend about $68 p/month to feed our four Drents.
Selecting a good dog food really comes down to a few things, and it requires some time and energy on your part. So here is what The Dog Food Project has taught me:
1) Understand the Label
2) Know what to Avoid
3) Recognize the good stuff
Now you know, not all of the 'bad' ingredients aren't as bad as we have been "taught" and not all the 'good' ingredients aren't as good as we have been "taught". You have the basics down, it is time to read some labels and make some choices.
Has your dog shown sensitivity to an ingredient? Can you be sure it was actually the ingredient you think it was? Did you have an allergy panel run? The FDA recently published an article that links grain-free diets to certain health problems! So unless you have an absolutely clear reason to go grain free - why bother with it.
What is your budget? How many dogs do you need to feed? What is their activity level? and so on. You will learn there are a number of very affordable high-quality kibbles hiding in plain sight. Most are made by the big companies like Purina, Eukanuba, and Royal Canin... Sure they have low range feeds, but they also have put tons of R&D money into their 'hi-line' feeds. There are also a few other manufactures out there who cater to providing for the working dog which also tend to represent very strong value propositions e.g. getting a lot for your money and your dog!
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I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Forty some years later this is what you get.