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Dog Diets: Will a Dog Prefer Homemade Dog Food?

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Author: Tricia Edgar

What’s on the menu? There are many different kinds of food that people feed their dogs, and sometimes it seems like dogs will eat almost anything!  Veterinarians don’t always agree on what the best, healthiest food to feed your dog is, but many believe that a homemade diet, both cooked and raw, is more nutritious for dogs than canned or dry food.

A dog can’t order off a menu, but can we figure out what he’ll prefer between canned food, dry food, homemade raw food, or homemade cooked food? Let’s see!

Problem:

What foods do dogs prefer? Is a dog’s food preference connected to how healthy the food is?

Materials

  • ½ cup ground, lean meat
  • ½ cup pureed apples and leafy greens
  • Blender  
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup canned dog food
  • ½ cup dry, store-bought dog food
  • ½ cup measuring cup
  • Stove
  • Frying pan
  • Spoon
  • Dog
  • 2 identical food bowls

Procedure

  1. First, it’s time to be a chef.  Take your lean ground meat and divide it into two equal parts that are ¼ cup each. Set it aside. In a blender, puree an apple and some leafy greens, such as lettuce. Measure these into two ¼ cup portions. Mix up one of the ¼ cup portions with a ¼ cup of lean ground meat and place it into a bowl.
  2. On the first day at dinnertime, set out two bowls: one with ½ a cup of canned food, and the other with ½ a cup of the raw food you made. Which one does the dog go to first? Record the results.
  3. On the second day, use the meat and blended fruits and vegetables that you set aside, and cook these until they are lightly browned. For dinner on the second day, set out the half cup of cooked food and half a cup of dried food in two identical bowls. Which one does the dog go to first? Record the results.
  4. Continue the experiment over the next few days, trying different combinations of food to see what your dog likes the best. Try to do each combination twice to make sure that the dog chooses the same food in each pair.

Results

Dogs will usually prefer the raw food, but a dog’s preference also depends on what food it’s used to eating.

Why?

The domesticated dogs we keep as pets today used to be wild dogs. A wild dog like a coyote or a wolf hunts for food, and eats it raw. Depending on the type of dog, it might eat small animals like mice or it might hunt in a pack for larger animals.

Many thousands of years ago, dogs and humans began to work together. Dogs could guard the places where humans lived, hunt and track, and were also helpful for carrying and collecting things. As dogs and humans became friends, dogs started to eat human food given to them as well. Today, we have many different types of dog food for our pets.

Given what dogs eat in nature, you might expect that your dog would like to eat raw food. This might be the case. However, this preference can depend on the dog.  If your dog is used to eating dry or canned food, it might eat that out of habit. Just like humans have foods that we’re used to and eat all of the time, so do dogs! To find out, you can try this experiment with several different dogs and note what they usually eat at home before you begin testing other kinds of foods.

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