You have a lot of options when considering what to feed your puppy, dog, or your pack! Considering we feed a number of large dogs we tend to devote a weekend day at home to prepping a few months worth of food whenever possible. Below are the guidelines, amounts and percentages, and ingredients we use. Do your research and consider your family, your schedule, your dog and his/her health, what ingredients are available to you and more before preparing your own meals. Read one if not more good books on the subject and seek out links with information on feeding a Raw or Natural diet.
Raw Vs Cooked Meats -
We feed all meats, bones, organs and eggs raw. If you are uncomfortable with this concept you can compile all of your meaty ingredients into a pot of water and boil until VERY soft. Then, put the meaty bits and bones and the water they cooked in through a blender and puree until you have what will look like canned dog food. Do not feed whole cooked bones. Blend them up first. This is especially good for puppies or making the transition from kibble. Our meaty bits including muscle, skin, organs, tongues, bones, and especially eggs (usually daily) make up about 65% of the diet we feed. Most of our bones are from whole chickens so we make it a special point to provide muscle meat and organs from a large variety of other animals.
Sources for meat can include sales your grocery is having, marked down or discounted meats nearing their sale date (use or freeze as soon as you get home), wholesale suppliers like Costco, etc. We especially like to contact local farms who raise their own meat animals and local butchers - both good sources of the odds and ends most people don't eat such as organs, bones, and tongues. There are a number of Co-Ops devoted to raw feeding resources as well. We encourage you to buy local, grass fed, and organic whenever you can find these.
Being big believers of variety and recognizing the added benefits of some dairy products we do offer them at about 10% of the diet we feed. Because we have access to fresh raw goat's milk we often use it for growing puppies who benefit from the added fat, protein, and calcium. But we also make our own yogurt and soft cheeses such as cottage cheese to add to our dogs' diet. Yogurt has proven to be especially helpful in providing additional calcium to our big, growing young dogs as well as relieving upset stomachs of dogs who are suffering allergies or gas, transitioning to a new diet, under stress or anxiety, or for pregnant and nursing mothers as additional fat and calories.
We don't feed any grains. Rottweilers are especially a breed prone to excess weight when fed too many carbohydrates. Dogs do not actually fully utilize carbohydrates and so do not require them. Grains are a nice inexpensive source of calories if you choose to add them, but we have eliminated them. We've found many dogs also have allergies to grains so eliminating them has eliminated that issue for us. Some dogs may benefit from the addition of grains based on diet restrictions, disease or other conditions and this should be discussed with your Vet.
Fruits and Veggies -
We do feed both fruits and veggies, though significantly more veggies than fruits. These make up the other 25% of the diet we feed. We offer apples, bananas, melons and other safe fruits as occasional treats. On any of our days devoted to making dog food a head of time we empty out the freezer and raid the garden for lots of fresh veggies. We tend to rotate which veggies we are feeding based on seasonal availability and what we have growing in the garden. Whether you grow these yourself or make a stop by your local farmer's market we recommend you choose fresh, organic or naturally grown foods. It isn't unusual for us to make a squash mixture including a few types of zucchini, crookneck squash, butternut squash, pumpkins and other fleshy summer and winter varieties. Another mixture might be devoted to some root vegetables such as some carrots, yams or sweet potatoes, and red or yellow skin potatoes. And another mixture yet might include some greens, broccoli, cauliflower, celery and more. Usually we will make all 3 mixtures, load up the freezer, and rotate when we are feeding each day.
Remember to provide variety. Next, remember too cook them. While dogs again do not need these carbohydrates - veggies do provide beneficial fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. Cooked vegetables are more readily digested and the nutrients contained within are more readily digested. We like to chop up the chosen veggies and put them in a large pot with a small amount of water to steam them. Cover and cook lightly until tender; time varies depending on the foods. We leave all skins on when doing this - even tough skins like on pumpkin. We also usually leave seeds. Once the veggies are soft and tender we leave the pot too cool for an hour or two. Then, we scoop the cooked foods into bags and freeze. We usually make a lot at once (20-30 pounds, or a few pots full) because we are feeding lots of big dogs. If you have a dog who is picky about veggies, or are feeding young puppies, or are making the switch to raw and want to mix veggies in with your dog's current food to get them use to them you could purée the cooked veggies and then store.
Supplements were by far the most overwhelming part of a Raw and Natural diet when I first started researching the concept many years ago. There are truly hundreds of options and you should decide what works best for your dog. We feed a mixture of oils that we combine in a gallon jug a head of time - Flax (1/4), Salmon (1/4) and Olive (1/2). About an ounce per day per large dog (100 or more pounds around here)! We also give a daily chewable dog vitamin with adequate calcium and vitamin E.
We feed 2 meals per day and don't necessarily separate the meat or bones from the rest of the ingredients. We try to mix up the ingredients and make sure to offer a couple different ingredients from each category (meats and bones, dairy, fruits and veggies) each week. While they may eat the same thing a few meals in a row, we change it up every few days based on what we pull from the freezer to thaw! 1 to 3 percent of the dog's weight is the starting guideline we use when feeding. We carefully monitor weight, coats, movements, sleep patterns and elimination to determine if we should feed more or less to any given dog. Pregnant and nursing dogs will get as much as 5 percent or more of their body weight in food per day. Dams should maintain good, healthy body condition from breeding through weaning. If your bitch suffers joint pain, diminished coat quality or excessive shedding, or noticeable weight loss during any stage in her pregnancy or during nursing you are either not feeding enough or not feeding the right things - or both.