By Linda Cooper (Megwellin).

I have now been feeding my Spinoni the B.A.R.F. diet for more than 10 years. Basically nothing has changed in 10 years except that I’m no longer considered weird or hippy (well in some things) and you can now buy every thing you need already packaged in neat little bags should you not want to do it from scratch.

I order my raw bones and raw minced meat from a company and they deliver to my door.  I’m lucky enough to live in the country so am able to get fresh rabbit as well.The fresh vegetables I buy weekly and spend one evening a week mincing up the veg and bagging it for the freezer. I used to do it every day but even I have progressed to preparing in advance. 

I don’t add the eggs or yoghurt or any other ingredient at the time of freezing, I add those when it comes to feeding time.

Every thing can be done in advance but I choose to do it this way.

One thing I find interesting is how different people interpret the diet.  

Ten years ago most vets were very much against this diet but I’m glad to say that they have now realised that it’s not dangerous at all, and that dogs become healthier, happier and more content on the diet. What vets and the majority of doggy people forgot was that a wolf, fox or any other wild dog can’t walk into Tesco or Sainsbury’s and get their food.  The surveys done over the years about the problems our domestic dogs have are rarely seen in the wild dog as they don’t eat all the additives dog food manufactures put in. When I first started using the diet I already had dogs that were happy and content on what they were being fed.

Bones are fed RAW so they are not dangerous. Cook them and they become dangerous. If you already have a Spin and want to try this diet, give your dog 1 chicken wing. Most dogs take it, spit it out to have a look that mum isn’t trying to poison them, then they give it a lick or two, decide that it might be ok after all and give it a quick bite first to make sure this thing isn’t going to bite them. Spit it out again to have another look before picking it up and munching it till it’s all gone. Occasionally the spitting out and looking and licking goes on for a while but mostly it’s gone within no time at all and your dog is looking at you for more please, thank you mum.

It’s as easy as that. Honest. 

I’m always being asked on how many chicken wings you should give your dog.  Honestly, I don’t know. Over time you will decide for yourself just how much is enough to keep him just right. Every dog is different on how they burn up there food and some dogs can eat more than others and of course some dogs are bigger than others. So how can I best explain to the first timer on how many chicken wings to give there dog?

Well let’s say that you have just bought home an 8 week old puppy and you want them to be on the BARF diet. The books tell you that you change the diet in one go & I believe that this is the way to go. So after a few days and your puppy is well settled in, introduce the diet. Let’s say for arguments sake that your puppy is on 3 meals a day. You want to give your puppy at least one meal that is a vegetable mix and 2 meals that are bones. For puppies it is much easier to either cut the wing into 3 or 2, and feed them that rather than the whole wing. I would give one wing and see how he gets on and have another one ready so that he can have 2 if he wants another. That should be enough to start with.

As your puppy grows you will be able to see if he is not getting enough or to much. You give the puppy more wings as he grows, but I think 4 wings a day is more than enough for any small puppy. Remember that it is the bones that put on the weight and the veg gives the vitamins and helps push every thing through. Always look at you puppy. Learn what your puppy looks like. We all want to see plump puppies. We do not want fat puppies.You will soon learn from looking at your puppy that it’s time to add another chicken wing. Just because your puppy tries to tell you he’s hungry doesn’t always mean that he needs feeding.

Dogs really love this diet, so don’t be tempted to give too much too soon.As your puppy grows and gets older you will cut down the amount of meal times. Once Henry & Millie got to two meals a day I kept at that.Mainly because I feel that the amount of food they eat is too much for one meal and I have always been conscious of bloat so Henry and Millie have the bones in the morning and the vegetables in the evening. To see a pile of 8-10 wings, which they will eat as they become adults, is quite frightening. You think they will never eat it all and if they do they’ll go pop. I have also given mine a chicken carcass. These you can buy very easily and it’s very tempting to cut it up but it’s more fun for your Spin to leave it whole so they can get to grips with it. Henry & Millie do love to go off with a huge carcass and have a good munch. It’s a bit like watching the Lions at Longleat It is also very good for the older puppy as it strengthens their neck and chest muscles and above all any dog that eats bones have wonderful strong, clean teeth. An added bonus is that their breath is more pleasant. 

So let’s look at vegetables. What can they eat? Every thing except green potatoes, lots of cabbage and any thing from the onion family. Try and give your Spin a wide variety of veg. That way you’ll cover all the vitamins.  When I first started I remember having a list of vegetables on a cupboard door. That list had veg containing all the vitamins the dog should have. Over the course of a month I would cross them off and by doing that I got to know what they had or hadn’t had. Don’t try and do it all in a week, a balanced diet should be over a reasonable time so a month is about right. If I was ever in doubt I would give a vitamin tablet crushed up as well. Can I just say here that if you want to give vitamins by all means do but be aware that some vitamins have side effects, i.e. to much vitamin C causes diarrhoea?  

Other things to add to the vegetables is garlic, cider vinegar, yoghurt or kiefer, raw eggs even things like herbs and tomato paste, marmite, stock cubes, brown pasta (cooked). Any thing you like, but I hasten to add, not all at once. Remember variety is best. I’ve given my dogs all sorts of things in the past and they have only ever turned their noses up at goose. So go for it. Don’t be afraid. One thing Henry & Millie just love is Baked Beans. They have a lot of sugar & salt in them so they get them as a treat now & again.  You can give any thing like that and of course if there is any left overs from your meals then they can have that to. Any food that you give them like that is of course processed and contains a lot of sugar & salt and the additives we are trying to avoid by feeding this diet. So although it’s great for a change I personally wouldn’t feed my dogs that on a regular basis.  

I always mince the vegetables in a food processor and in doing that the puppy or dog can’t pick out what they like and leave what they don’t

Now for Fruit. Again they can have any thing you want to give them. Please just one thing I should say here is if you can’t eat skins then don’t give it to your dog.   Kiwi, Oranges, Satsumas & Bananas I peel. To this you can add honey, coconut, fruit vinegars & any amount of dried fruits, ie dates, apricots mango cranberries the list is endless, but be aware that currents, raisins and sultanas are harmful to dogs.

I always give a fruit meal rather than a fruit and veg mixed meal. It’s me I suppose. The thought of eating carrots along with bananas in the same meal doesn’t do any thing for me, so I give either a veg meal or a fruit meal but you can mix the 2 together. Believe it or not some dogs have a sweet tooth. Millie loves a fruit meal where as Henry always looks at it and then thinks “Oh well I suppose I’d better eat this”. He really isn’t bothered but knows he’ll have to wait till morning before he gets any thing else. Bless him.  

When I feed a veg meal I have learnt over the years that dogs will not eat just veg on its own. I don’t now why but they don’t so for this reason I add minced chicken, tripe, mixed meat, liver, hearts, kidneys or pilchards, what ever I have in the freezer or cupboard. Again I order this and it comes delivered to my door in 1 lb tubes or blocks. Word of warning. Liver and kidneys can give your dog an upset tummy. If you give your dog 4 oz of minced chicken or tripe each day, fine, but if you can give 4 oz of liver each day you could have problems to clear up. Don’t give them liver more than once a week. As I said I get a lot of rabbits here. They love rabbit. They also have lamb breast and lamb ribs. They love them. Again be aware that lamb can give some dogs tummy upsets.You can also give Beef bones but they are not as good for dogs as the chicken. I tend to buy the large beef bones as a treat, as an extra to their normal food. Like all dogs they like to just gnaw at them and it can keep them happy for hours if they are really big. I can’t say I buy them very often. 

If you have an older Spinone then personally I would start with 6 chicken wings and 4oz of veg plus the yogurt, eggs and mince. Once they realize that this is normal food I’m sure that within a few days you will be increasing the amount.It is not so important about the amount of veg they get (Henry & Millie have approx 4 oz plus all the extras) as to what vitamins they are getting and they only need enough to make sure they can go to the loo.Another bonus of this diet is that their body tends to use most of it, so very little is expelled out the other end and another bonus is that it is far less smelly. 

Millie was already eating the B.A.R.F diet when she was mated. Not once did I ever think of feeding her any thing else. She got very hungry through the latter stages of her pregnancy so I did give her three (3) meals a day so that she could cope with the amount of food she needed as of course as she got bigger & bigger there was less room for food. I did look for better quality of meat for her. Millie had the very best. I read the Billingshurst book very carefully & followed the instructions he gave.

Mother & 10 beautiful puppies were born. I have to say that her litter was the most even puppies I had ever bred. Straight away I knew that the quality was far better than I had ever produced before. I know from other dog breeders that have had the courage to continue with the diet on their pregnant bitches that they say exactly the same way. The most satisfying part of getting other people to feed this to their dogs is the comments I get back. Even better, when a vet tells them that their dog is in very good condition. The coat, eyes & teeth all improve. “What ever you are feeding them must be right”. Ten years ago I would never have heard that.Any thing that keeps my gorgeous Spins fit, happy, healthy and out of the vets then as far as I’m concerned must be ok.If you want to try your Spinone on the diet he will enjoy it. You will see your dog change in very subtle ways that only you will be able to see. When your vet tells you that your dog is in fantastic condition, you will know that you are giving your Spinone the very best.

So what about new borns? Yep, they’ve been fed the right from the start. As soon as they start to move around the whelping box I would cut up a couple of wings & put them in the box. The hardest thing is to stop mum from eating them. They learn about the smell & as they start to lick them they are learning that this is what they will be eating. As they get older they will start to suck, & chew them.When weaning time comes I mince the wings. I bought a heavy metal mincer. The sort you clamp to a table top. I gave the puppies that as soon as I could and they all took to it like ducks to water. Because they are still feeding from mum there isn’t any immediate rush to feed them the veg. But when you feel the time is right do exactly the same as you would for the adults.You see it really is that easy.


Two 3 week old puppies enjoying a raw chicken wing.
Two 3 week old puppies enjoying a raw chicken wing. Photo courtesy of Alyson Mills.

The quality of the puppies is fantastic when you feed mum the B.A.R.F. diet so don’t go & undo all that goodness by putting puppy on processed food. You will see a vast difference from any other puppy you’ve had.As a breeder of several breeds I have had to deal with fussy dogs and dogs that just won’t eat. Not any more. If you have had doubts about this diet in the past I would say to you that I have been doing this for over 10 years and never regretted it and I wouldn’t feed a dog any thing else. So have a go.

Linda Cooper (Megwellin)