Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What to look for when looking for dog food...

My 3 year old Maltese, Amie, has recently started to develop fussy eating habits.  I've been told that smaller breeds of dogs tend to be fussy with their food, but I never thought it would come to the point that she would be disinterested in eating all together.  So my hunt for a delicious, well balanced, while nutritious dog food has come into play. 

However, stepping foot into a pet store that sells dog food is overwhelming every single time.  And with all the different types of foods available on the market, such as natural, holistic, and organic to choose from, it would really help if I had some guidance or tips on finding the best dog food out there that would be best for MY dog.

So, I've been searching the world wide web to find the perfect dog food, and have come across a few interesting sites from dog food analysts that have some valuable information to share and thought I would take the time to paraphrase their thoughts in order to give some insight to other dog owners who might be suffering from the same common problem as me and my picky pet.

First and foremost, I think it might be interesting to note that dogs (and also cats) dating back to centuries ago were carnivores; meat eaters.  With that said, their digestive system was originally built to consume a diet rich of meat and protein, and all the grains that have been added to pet foods in recent history have been used as an ingredient to hold kibble bits together, in addition to being cheaper than meat products and used as fillers, not highly recommended for the nutrition of your pet.  This is likely the reason why some dogs suffer from the problem of grain intolerance.

It has also been noted on a variety of sites that while grains contain protein too, meat-protein is of higher quality and more easily digestible for a carnivore.

Having said that, I think it is safe to assume that most dog food specialists advise to look for dog foods with meat, meat, and more meat.

BUT be sure to look for meat products that are identified by species.  This means you should steer clear of products that use unidentified meat listed in their ingredients, such as "animal" or "poultry".  This is equivalent to feeding your dog a sausage or hot dog (consisting of animal by-products that no one really knows the origin of).

For instance, look for: chicken, turkey, duck, lamb, beef, salmon, etc.

If grains are listed, look for good quality grains, such as whole wheat and brown rice.

If you are going for grain-free foods, go for whole fruits and vegetables to replace the grain.

AVOID artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners, or preservatives - if humans try to avoid these things in our own human food, then why would we want our dogs to eat them right? 

NOTE that manufacturers are not required to list or disclose artificial preservatives if they are already contained in the ingredients, most commonly in fish.  So, if you're going for a fish formula, keep your eye out for assurances by the manufacturer that state their fish do NOT contain any artificial preservatives.

Understanding the Ingredients Listed

Ingredients in dog food are listed in order of their weight - those that make up the largest portion are listed first.

"Splitting" an ingredient involves listing the same ingredient as separate items.

For example:  chicken and chicken meal are both chicken products while brown rice, white rice, rice bran, rice gluten, and rice flour at the end of the day, are all rice. 

The reason why you will see manufacturers splitting the ingredients comes down to determining quantity.  If their ingredients consist largely of rice, say 55%, with only 25% meat, but want to make it appear as though meat is the largest component, they simply would list this:

Chicken meal, brown rice, white rice, rice bran, rice gluten meal, barley, chicken fat....

At first glance, it looks as though chicken is the main ingredient, however, combined, rice components make up more than double the chicken content.

Since manufacturers don't disclose the actual quantity of ingredients in their labelling, to the consumer, this can be deceiving, so try to read the list of ingredients in its entirety and mentally add component parts together in addition to determining the quality of those ingredients used.

Don't be afraid to try different meats and changing your dog's diet every few months (or every time the bag of food runs dry).  Changing his food often and exposing him to different ingredients will increase his prevention to developing food allergies and continue to keep your dog interested in his kibble.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Keep Your Dog Calm and Relaxed Through Touch

How often do you, as a human, enjoy being on the receiving end of a nice, long, relaxing massage?

Believe it or not, dogs enjoy them too!!  Massages are the best for dogs to keep them calm and relaxed. 

I use massage techniques to my advantage when I try to get my dog, my sister's dog, or my cousin's dog to sit still when I attempt to groom them.  Most dogs, if you haven't started them in grooming when they were puppies, aren't accustomed to the feeling of a comb or brush going through their fur and worse, getting out the knots.  It can be scary and at times, a painful experience for them.

In order for me to get my sister or cousin's dog to relax under the comb, I often massage their backs and rumps with my free hand, while combing their coats with my other hand. 

The dog enjoys the massage and associates the nice, relaxing feeling with the grooming session et voila! you have yourself a fluffy, nicely groomed pooch.

Here's a video of Amie enjoying her neck rub..

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

FouFou Dog - The Start Up Story

In FouFou Dog's 2nd year of business, CBC Venture contacted Cheryl to feature FouFou Dog on their program that highlighted unique Canadian businesses, covering aspects of the Canadian economy and beyond. Cheryl, Evelyn, and myself were a three person team at the time, working together out of the basement of my parent's house. I remember we were absolutely thrilled and excited when they contacted us and the feature involved months of having them follow us around with their camera crew to shoot random footage of us at work. The CBC Venture crew even followed us to New York City where we attended the 1st annual NY Pet Fashion Week trade show.

Watching the video (posted above) is like taking a trip down memory lane as I am reminded of the cold, dingy basement, with no drywall, nor carpet, where we used to spend 8+ hours a day working.  In the area outside of our "office" were baskets that lined the walls from floor to ceiling with colourful dog apparel and toys.  The picking and packing area consisted of overflowing tables of charms and accessories that we used to fill orders.  I had almost forgotten about this clip until just recently as someone had posted it on YouTube.

At the time of the filming, FouFou Dog was only about 2 years old;  Evelyn was 22, I was 25 and Cheryl was 27. We were a team of young, ambitious, inexperienced ladies with mouths thirsty for fame and fortune. If you watch the video, you can see that we had a lot at stake. The time and money we invested into a company consisting of dressing up your dog was an unorthodox and risky business back then, because none of us were sure if the doggy dressing trend would be a dying fad or not.

I will never forget how incredibly scary and stressful times were back then when we had (as Cheryl mentioned in the video) bank loans, personal lines of credit, and credit cards with balances climbing everyday in addition to our own personal life savings invested.  I very quickly realized just how much money and capital it costs to get a start-up company off the ground.  These days, when anyone asks me about starting up their own company, I always tell them, "You have to have a lot of capital."

Since we were starting up a wholesale company, it meant we needed to stock a LOT of inventory, which is ultimately where 50% of our capital went.  I remember looking around at the walls of dog apparel and accessories we would have on hand and think to myself, "That's all our money sitting there... " 

Being a small Canadian business trying to make a dent in the huge American pet industry, we were maxing out our credit cards in order to attend trade shows in the United States.  To give an idea, renting booth space alone at a US trade show could easily run you a few thousand dollars.  In order to save money, we would purchase IKEA furniture to display our collection at the shows, fill a van with the furniture and as much inventory that we could fit, and make the 8-10 hour drive to the trade shows, sharing a double room at nearby, economical hotels. 

While Cheryl and I have had many heated debates in the past about attending too many trade shows that were out of our budget, Cheryl continued to demand that the trade shows were essential in developing our brand name.  She felt and still feels that it is important to make a presence in the industry where retailers can meet and greet us, put a face behind our company, as well as physically touch and feel our products.  Cheryl has always, and still is, a real stickler for branding.  She always says, "It takes a person 7 times to see your brand name before they will remember it..."  With that said, FouFou Dog has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to date on branding alone: whether it is through physical packaging, promotional items, events, or social media.

If you watch the video, you will also notice that we have spent a lot of time, money, and efforts to make our catalogue outstanding.  On top of branding, it was important for Cheryl to make FouFou Dog, a small time company, APPEAR large and reputable, even if we weren't.  The video mentions going from a 6 page catalogue (from year 1) to 32 pages (in year 2).  Again, the costs to produce this colourful catalogue of glossy, 8 pt, 100 lb stock to portray our entire collection was a tremendous investment that we had to make, which was still pertinent to Cheryl.

Luckily, the stresses and struggles have paid off and the fad of dressing your dog is here to stay while it continues to evolve over the years.  The rewards that we reap from the success of FouFou Dog boils down to the recognition and demand for our name brand, which is what Cheryl has been striving for since Day 1.  It is a great feeling to hear someone mention that they love FouFou Dog or to even ask us where they can buy it.  With balances down to $0.00, lines of credit at our disposal and bank loans paid off in full, the pressure of "making it" is no longer an issue.  But FouFou Dog did not get to where it is today without the stress, sweat, blood, and (as seen in the video), some tears along the way. 

While we have come a long way since we started, I sometimes get the feeling that we've only just begun...