5 Reasons NOT to Free-Feed Your Pet

Taking responsibility for sharing your life with a pet brings about many decisions that must be made. Among these decisions, pet owners must choose what to feed and how much to feed. Kibble or raw, with or without grain, free feed or serve meals only at a certain time? This is a common question that many pet owners have differing opinions on.

Free feeding is the practice of making food available to your pet at all times. Some people who free feed offer the pet’s daily ration at the beginning of the day, while others ensure food is available to their pet at all times, and the dog or cat can eat whenever he/she chooses.

The number one reason pet owners choose to free feed is convenience. Choosing to be a responsible pet owner means doing what’s best for your animal, even if it isn’t the most convenient option. Most pet care professionals agree that meal time is the most beneficial feeding option for your pet. The Whole Dog Journal gives us five reasons not to free feed your pet:

  1. Meals help teach and maintain clean house habits. The downside to allowing your pet to ingest food at any time is that you never really know when the food will come out! This is especially important when training a puppy or a shelter dog, but should remain consistent throughout the pet’s life.
    When dogs are fed on a consistent schedule, it’s easier for you to develop a bathroom routine. Consistent routines will put less stress on your pet, since he or she can expect to be fed and taken out at the same time.
  2. Appetite is an important indicator of health. Lack of appetite is often the first sign of a pet not feeling well. If your pet has grazed throughout the day, it’s difficult to determine whether your pet is not eating because he is full, or because he isn’t feeling well.
    In contrast, if your pet has been conditioned to eating at a certain time, his appetite allows him to readily eat when food is presented. If your pet turns his nose up at dinner-time, you will have a better indication that he is not feeling well. This behavior may also indicate that it is time to switch your pet’s diet if you have been feeding the same food for a long period of time.
  3. Meal manners for multi-pet households. In homes with multiple dogs, it can make it nearly impossible to monitor each dog’s food intake. It can also create situations where assertive dogs are able to intimidate housemates into surrendering their food portion. If food is continually in the bowl, eating can become a competition between housemates, resulting in an excessive food intake that leads to obesity.
    When dogs are fed meals at a particular time of day, it is easier to remind them to mind their business at dinnertime and keep them concerned with their own bowl rather than a housemate’s. This also makes the pet owner’s life easier when feeding different diets to different pets.
  4. Meals are more hygienic and prevent unwanted pests. If you free feed and have not experienced a pest problem, consider yourself lucky. Leaving food out day to day is an open invitation to ants, mice, and rats. Food should be kept in a sealed container to prevent pest-related issues.
  5. Meals can be used as valuable opportunities to learn life skills. Feeding rituals do not have to be intense training sessions. Feeding meals at consistent times teaches your dog to come when called, and can also be a good opportunity for you to control your dog’s excited impulses. Delivering the bowl to calm, well-mannered dog rewards his controlled behavior and not over-excited behavior. When a dog is motivated to eat, earning a bowl of food is a powerful reinforcer.

With a little tough love, it is pretty simple to transform your pet’s daily grazing into a pet that eats meals when they are offered. To read more on how to switch your dog from free feeding to meal time, please visit The Whole Dog Journal.

Brookside Barkery

9 Puppy Tips to Help You Stay Sane

March 23 is National Puppy Day! Puppy love is a wonderful thing, however, as well all know, plenty of stress comes along with the responsibility of a new four-legged friend in the house. Puppies require a lot of attention, training, and socialization to become confident, balanced dogs. Here are some puppy tips to help you navigate the first few months of pet parenthood.

  1. Bring your puppy to the vet as soon as possible for an exam. Regardless of where you acquired the puppy, you should make immediate arrangements for a vet exam. If you can, bring a stool sample to go ahead and test for internal parasites. It’s important to research the type of veterinary practice you would like your dog to visit. Ideally, your dog will have a lifelong relationship with the vet that you choose, so be sure that your vet’s perspective aligns accordingly. Ask your vet for their protocol on vaccinations, diets, and training. Find a vet that is inviting, friendly, and respects your concerns regarding your dog’s health.
  2. Crate/kennel train your puppy from the start. To new dog owners, crate training can seem cruel and lonely for your dog. However, when used properly, crates can be seen as a safe haven for dogs, and is a great place to retreat when situations are overwhelming or when your pup needs to relax and reenergize. Prior to bringing your puppy home, set up a size-appropriate crate with a soft pad and a few cozy toys. You and your dog both will be grateful to have this space available.
  3. Co-sleep with your puppy for the first few nights. Even if you don’t plan on having your dog sleep in your bedroom, consider making the first few nights an exception. The transition to a new home can be stressful, especially if your pup was just separated from his litter mates. Putting the crate next to your bed for the first few nights allows you to comfort him if he’s whimpering and will give a sense of security having you nearby. Once you have established trust, transition your puppy to the new designated space.
  4. Establish a routine. Just like humans, dogs tend to thrive on a schedule. Dogs build trust and understanding by learning to expect what is happening next. It’s a good idea to establish a little consistency as far as feeding schedules, potty schedules, walks, and bed time. Soon you will notice your puppy develop his own routine and fall into more predictable patterns, which is mutually beneficial.
  5. Create a puppy perimeter. A new space can be overwhelming for a small puppy. Before bringing him home, decide where you’d like him to spend his time so that he has the freedom to explore without the risk of getting hurt or getting into something he shouldn’t. Set up his kennel (unless you plan on sharing a bedroom with him long term), a soft bed, food and water, and toys in this space. Ensure you block off any potential escape points with baby gates or doors.
  6. Be a hands-on owner. Getting your puppy used to being handled is one of the best things you can do for him. A puppy that is used to being touched is much more likely to be comfortable being handled by the vet, groomer, children and adults once he grows up. Make it a habit of touching his paws, mouth, and tail gently so that he’s not caught off guard. It is also helpful to touch him while he eats to avoid food aggression.
  7. Nip bad habits in the butt. It’s undeniably sweet to cuddle on the couch with your 12 pound puppy, but will you feel the same when he’s tipping the scales at 100 pounds? If you don’t anticipate your dog carrying puppy behavior through adulthood, don’t let the behavior become a habit in the first place. Establishing guidelines and being consistent is much more difficult for the pet owner, but it is completely worth it down the road. Decide in the beginning what your plan is concerning dogs on the furniture, where the puppy sits in the car, how food is handled, and which areas are off limits.
  8. Socialize your puppy. Introduce your puppy to everything. You want your dog to feel comfortable around different looking people, other dogs, other animals, places, and noises. It is best to have yummy treats on hand for rewarding your puppy for remaining calm and comfortable in various situations. If your dog hesitates in a particular situation, let him make a step of sniff forward, and reward that by tossing a treat in front of him. Socialization goes a long way in making your dog fee confident and well balanced all around.
  9. Most importantly, feed your puppy a healthy diet. Educate yourself on the type of diet you want to feed your puppy before you make the decision to bring him home. Raw diets are undeniably the most natural and biologically appropriate diet for your pup, but may not be the most realistic depending on the dog owner’s lifestyle and income. Feeding a whole, balanced, nutritional diet will save you money and stress down the road. It’s important to remember that your dog’s diet should be rotated consistently to maintain good gut health. Different life stages will also affect the appropriateness of your dog’s diet.

Minimize Toxins in Your Pet’s Living Space

In observation of Poison Prevention Week (3/19-3/25), the Barkery is spreading awareness about common household toxins in your pet’s living space. Many of the products we and our pets come into contact with are subtle, slow poisons. There is no regulation on thousands of chemicals that are used in everyday items such as plastics, electronics, furniture, foams, and fabrics – essentially everything industry makes that isn’t food.

How Pets Absorb Toxins

The skin is a primary route of absorption. Skin is the largest organ of your pet’s body, and it absorbs like a sponge any chemicals in the environment or products that are directly in contact. Pets can also absorb toxins in their food, especially containing carbohydrates sourced from industrial farming.

Toxins can also be absorbed through inhalation. Many plastics and paints outgas volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are extremely toxic. Non-physical toxic influences can also affect our fur babies, such as electromagnetic radiation from wifi, mobile phones and pet tracking tags.

Light pollution and blue heavy light from TV and other electronics can upset sleep patterns. And finally, the flea and tick control products we give our pets are full of toxic chemicals. All of these cause obvious adverse effects, including death, and subtle toxic harm to others. Whenever possible, we should use natural alternatives to these products.

Common Household Toxins

  • In the Kitchen
    Avoid giving your dog a taste of the following: chocolate, Xylitol (found in sugar-free gum & some peanut butter), grapes, raisins, alcohol, yeast dough, caffeine, onions, macadamias, and mushrooms.
  • In the Garage
    Your garage, shed, basement, or cabinets contain a number of substances that your pet may get into. Keep the following out of reach: dishwashing detergent, bleach, household cleaners, rodent poisons or traps, slug bait, fertilizer, lawn/garden chemicals, antifreeze, de-icing salts, and toxic garbage.
  • In the Medicine Cabinet
    The most common toxins in the medicine cabinet are: hand sanitizer, acetaminophens (Tylenol), Pseudoephedrines (Sudafed), Albuterol found in inhalers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil, ibuprofen, Aspirin), and THC in medicinal marijuana.
  • In the Yard (or House)
    Plants are everywhere, and many are toxic to dogs and cats, including: lily, tulip, azalea, daffodil, foxglove, sago palm, dumbcane, and yew. In addition, cocoa mulch (which has an appealing scent), fertilizers and plant foods should be avoided.

Ways to Minimize Toxins

  • Do Away With Plastics.
    Get rid of all the plastics your pet comes into contact with, including carpets and furniture, plastic food storage containers, bowls, and toys. Invest in stainless steel bowls, glass storage containers and natural fiber toys.
  • Eliminate Artificial Products.
    Products in your home with artificial fragrance should be removed. These contain compounds that are very poisonous, and most are made from the same family of chemicals as pesticides. They include, but are not limited to: fragrances in cleaning/personal products such as air fresheners, floor cleaners, cleaning sprays, perfumes, laundry liquids, shampoos, deodorants, soaps, detergents – the list goes on. To deal with this one, you’ll need to be come an avid label reader.
  • Don’t Use Pesticides.
    Remove all pesticide or insecticide sprays from your home, and stop using them altogether. Fly paper/sticky traps can be used to control insect pests instead. It is also important not to use herbicide or pesticide sprays in your yard, at least not where your dog may roam.
  • Don’t Feed Commercial Pet Foods.
    The carbohydrates in commercial pet foods are sourced from industrial farms and contain Roundup (aka glyphosate). Roundup attacks the metabolic pathways in plants that are also in your pet’s good get bacteria, and poisons them, which can lead to major gut problems in your dog. Look for certified-organic ingredients in your pet’s food.
  • Use Natural Bedding
    Artificial fibers in fabrics are toxic too. Using natural fibers in your pet’s bedding, collars, and clothing can minimize exposure to toxins. It’s also important to wash all bedding, collars, and clothing before you put them on your dog, even if they are natural fibers.

For more on household toxins, please visit Dogs Naturally Magazine, Pet Poison Helpline, or ASPCA.

15 Ways to Help Ease Your Dog Into the Senior Years

Dogs, just like humans, change as they age. They may have less energy, lose hearing or sight, or develop arthritis. It’s our job as responsible pet owners to help them age gracefully into their golden years.

Dogs become senior as early as six years of age (for giant breeds) to thirteen years of age (for small breeds). PetMD offers us 15 ways to help make your senior dog’s life easier.

  1. Install Stairs and Ramps
    For dogs that may have trouble getting on/off furniture or in/out of the car, try ramps or puppy stairs. This can be helpful for dogs with joint issues or that have trouble seeing, and will help prevent injuries.
  2. Prevent Slips and Falls
    Senior dogs lose some traction on their foot pads, and can more easily slip and fall on hardwood floors. Make sure your home’s area rugs are secured with gripper pads so that your dog remains stable when walking. It may also be helpful to trim the hair between the paw pads to prevent slipping.
  3. Check for Vision and Hearing
    Older dogs may have decreased vision and hearing, making it harder for them to navigate. Even if your pet has been trained to stay within the boundaries of the yard, an older dog may wander off and is at higher risk of getting lost or being hit by oncoming cars.
  4. Buy (or Make) Comfy Beds
    Soft bedding or orthopedic beds can help older pets with arthritis and decreased muscle mass by providing extra support and cushioning that the floor doesn’t offer. Making sure your dog has a comfy place to lay down will make his life much easier.
  5. Maintain Predictable Floor Plans
    For dogs with poor vision, rearranging the furniture can cause confusion and stress. Sticking to a predictable floor plan free of clutter will help your dog feel safe and more comfortable getting around.
  6. Schedule Regular Health Screenings
    Seniors should have scheduled wellness exams and lab work every six months. Judy Morgan, DVM, and author of From Needles to Natural: Learning Holistic Pet Healing, recommends a CBC (complete blood count, which checks for anemia, infection, cancer), a Chem Screen (which checks for liver and kidney function, blood sugar, electrolytes, pancreatic function, calcium, phosphorus), a urinalysis (checks for infection, stones, kidney function, diabetes), a thyroid test (checks for over or underactive thyroid), fecal exam (checks for parasites, blood, mucous), and heartworm testing.
  7. Watch for Signs of Illness
    Senior pets are more prone to urinary tract infections, which may be the result of holding urine longer due to limited mobility and less of a desire to go outside. Senior dogs also have a higher risk of developing cancer, so any new or changing lumps should be closely watched.
  8. Make Time for Daily Activities
    Senior pets should remain as active as possible to stay healthy. Strong muscles support the joints that can be weakened by arthritis. Low impact activities such as walking or swimming are best, and physical therapy can also be a great option for pets showing weakness.
  9. Check for Pain
    “Many seniors are very stoic and do not show overt symptoms of pain,” says Morgan. The signs of pain may be more subtle – moaning when getting up, not eating as much, restlessness, or not sleeping. Close observation will help you learn the signs of pain in your pet.
  10. Keep the Weight Down
    Obesity can make mobility issues much worse and put more stress on existing arthritis or joint issues. To help senior dogs with these issues, keep excess weight off with a healthy diet and regular exercise. It is also recommended to add a supplement to help reduce inflammation and protect joint cartilage.
  11. Learn Doggie Massage
    There are many YouTube videos to teach owners how to massage their pups! Massages can help to ease muscle soreness and pain along with providing healthy tissue stimulation and bonding time.
  12. Practice Good Dental Hygiene
    Dental care is just as important for pets as it is for humans, and is commonly overlooked by pet owners. Dental disease is painful for dogs, and may make eating dry food difficult for your senior pet. If your dog is not willing to have his teeth brushed, try dental treats, toys, or food additives to help keep his teeth clean.
  13. Don’t Skimp the Affection
    As your pet ages, physical contact and companionship is more important than ever. Nothing tells your pet that you love them like a good belly rub or cuddle session. Every moment you spend with your senior pet is precious, and increasing the physical connection will strengthen your bond and make your pet more comfortable overall.
  14. Evaluate Your Dog’s Diet
    Talk to your vet and other nutrition experts about what you are feeding your senior dog, and whether or not you should reevaluate their diet. Senior dogs have a higher protein requirement, and may benefit from a specialty senior dog food. Since “senior” dog food labeling is not regulated by any agency, beware of false advertising or marketing to senior pets.
  15. Talk to Your Vet About Supplements for Maintaining Your Dog’s Brain Health
    Talk to your vet about the possibility of your senior dog developing dementia, a.k.a. dog Alzheimer’s. Dogs affected may show confusion and personality changes. Preventative measures can be taken to enhance your dog’s cognitive function. Consider using puzzles, interactive toys, or teaching new tricks on a daily basis.


Age can bring its problems, but maintaining good health starts with responsible pet ownership. Remember to keep your dog as active as possible, feed a nutritional diet, and visit your vet regularly.

How to Make Vet Visits Less Scary

Does your dog hate the vet? Here are 5 tips from Whole Dog Journal to help make your dog’s vet visit stress-free.

Vet visits can be stressful for the beings on both ends of the leash! Veterinary care is a necessary part of responsible dog ownership, and, fortunately, a little pro-active planning and training can help reduce vet-related anxiety for both dogs and their owners. The following tips will help prepare you and your dog for your next visit.

  1. Research your ideal veterinary care for your dog.
    Do you have strong opinions about certain facets of animal care, including feeding raw diets, waiting until a certain age to spay/neuter, or using holistic healthcare rather than Western medicine approaches? It’s perfectly fine to have preferences as to how you’d like to address your dog’s healthcare needs. That said, it’s wise to work with a vet who shares, or at least respects your point of view.
  2. Plan for the cost of your dog’s veterinary care.
    Nobody likes to be hit with an unexpected vet bill, but accidents and illnesses happen, so it’s important to be prepared. Pet insurance can be a great way to ease the financial sting of costly vet bills. It is a relatively inexpensive way to secure the peace of mind with knowing you are better prepared to provide for your pets medical needs. If insurance doesn’t feel like the right choice, consider establishing a separate savings account specifically for your pet’s unexpected medical needs.
  3. Don’t waint until your dog’s minor illness or injury becomes a major one.
    To go or not to go to the vet can be a stressful decision. It can be tempting to take a wait-and-see approach to seemingly minor medical issues. While it is one thing to feel confident in your ability to manage minor issues in an effort to avoid higher cost of emergency care, waiting can often make things worse, and therefore you’d be facing a much higher vet bill.
  4. Familiarize your dog with the veterinarian’s office before your next appointment.
    A simple way to help prevent or reduce vet-related anxiety is to visit the office when your dog doesn’t have a medical reason to be there. Pay attention to where the visit first starts to seem scary for your dog and start there. If he’s fine until you reach the doorway, plan your party for the area just outside of the office, being careful to stay out of the way of clients coming in and out. After a short, fun=fest, return to the car, wait a few minutes, and play again or simply drive home. This isn’y always the most convenient training session, but as compassionate dog owners, we owe it to our canine friends to look after their emotional health and well-being as well.
  5. Teach your dog calm acceptance of being handled and restrained.
    So much of what goes into a vet exam can be made easier for your dog when he’s familiar and comfortable being handled in different ways. Make it a habit to touch your dog all over his body as part of your everyday affection routine, including his belly, ears, feet, and face. Teach your dog to be comfortable being restrained by holding him tight to your body, securing his head for a short period of time, and then giving a treat. Think of training time as a way to help inoculate your dog against future stress!

Choosing a Quality Dry Dog Food

Most of us know that our dogs will eat anything, but feeding your dog a high quality well-balanced food is one of the best things a responsible pet owner can do for his or her pet. A good food serves as a health foundation and will strengthen the immune system, maintain digestive health, keep your vet bills low, and give your dog a longer, healthier life.

Since there are so many options when it comes to dog food, it is important to know what to look for and what to avoid when choosing a diet.

Quality Indications:

  • Lots of animal protein at the top of the ingredients list. Ingredients are listed by weight, so you want to see the top quality animal protein at the top of the list; the first ingredient should be a “named” animal protein source (see next bullet).
  • A named animal protein. Chicken, beef, lamb, and so on. “Meat” is an example of a low-quality protein source of an unknown origin. Animal protein “meals” should also be from a named species.
  • An animal protein meal in a supporting role when a fresh meat is first on the ingredient list. This is to supplement the total animal protein in the diet. Since fresh meat contains  65 to 75 percent water, another source of animal protein should be at the top of that list. Animal protein “meals” – meat, bone, skin, and connective tissue that’s been rendered and dried – contain only about 10 percent moisture and up to 65 percent protein.
  • Whole vegetables, fruits, and grains. Fresh, unprocessed food ingredients contain nutrients in their all-natural state. Keeping the ingredients whole keeps all of their vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants intact.
  • A “best by” date that’s at least six months away. A best-by date that’s 10 or 11 months away is ideal; it means the food was made very recently. Foods made with synthetic preservatives (BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin) may have a “best by” date as much as two years past the date it was made.

What To Avoid:

  • Meat by-products or poultry by-products. By-products are a lower-cost “parts” of an animal other than meat, derived from slaughtered or already dead mammals – beaks, feet, feathers, bone, organs, and so on. Processors don’t typically keep by-products clean or fresh. Because you can never know the source of the meat used to make by-product meals, it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • A “generic” fat source. Such as “animal fat.” The fat can literally come from any fat of animal origin, including used restaurant grease and fats from roadkill. “Poultry fat” is not as vague as “animal fat,” but a specific protein is better, and more traceable.
  • Added sweeteners. Dogs, like humans, enjoy the taste of sweet foods. Sweeteners persuade dogs to eat foods comprised of mainly grain fragments, which contain little healthy animal protein.
  • Artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are red-flag ingredients that should definitely be avoided. Your dog is indifferent about the color of his food, and it should be naturally flavored based on its quality ingredients. Natural preservatives, such as tocopherols (forms of vitamin E), vitamin C, and rosemary extract can all be used as natural preservatives.


For more on quality dog food indicators, please visit:

Healthy Pets with Dr. Karen Becker

Whole Dog Journal


Diarrhea Home Remedies

If you have a dog at home, the occasional diarrhea episode is to be expected. It’s not really a matter of if your dog will experience it, but when. Knowing what to expect when your dog has loose stools – and how to manage it – is good to have, especially before you need it. Dr. Karen Becker gives her recommendation to cure diarrhea episodes at home.

Causes of Diarrhea

There are many causes of diarrhea, but the most common reason by far is dietary indiscretion, which means your pet ate something he shouldn’t have and his body is trying to get rid of it as soon as possible.

If your dog eats a stick or a chew toy, diarrhea or loose stools are commonly the result. Just as your body is designed to eat different foods every day and not have diarrhea, so is your pet’s. If you feed your dog or cat the same food day after day, month after month, year in and year out, then suddenly switch to a new diet, a case of diarrhea is just about guaranteed.

It’s not the fault of the different food — it’s because your pet’s gut has been conditioned to process only one type of food, which is not ideal, nutritionally or physiologically.

Transitioning Your Pet to a Varied Diet

The goal is to diversify your pet’s diet to include a variety of foods with different nutrient contents, which ultimately fosters a diversified gut microbiome, and makes the digestive system strong and resilient.

Up to 80 percent of your pet’s immune system is located within the GI tract, so the more you focus on creating good gut health, the healthier your pet will be overall.

If you want to feed your pet a different food, you have to make the transition very slowly. A slow dietary transition means days to weeks for most dogs, and often weeks to months for cats. Start by feeding 10 percent new food blended with 90 percent old food for several days. Watch your pet’s stool and if all seems well, move to 20 percent new/80 percent old. Keep watching for stool changes and if none occur, move to 30 percent new food and 70 percent old, and so on, until you’re feeding only the new diet. The process should be slow enough that no bowel changes occur.

Treating a Pet With Diarrhea at Home

If your dog or cat is otherwise healthy and his behavior is normal, Dr. Becker recommends to withhold food — not water, just food — for 12 hours. A short-term fast gives the GI tract a chance to rest, repair and restore itself. Tissues can only heal when they’re resting.

Follow the 12-hour food fast with a bland diet. Dr. Becker recommends cooked, fat-free ground turkey and 100 percent canned pumpkin. If canned pumpkin isn’t available, you can use fresh, steamed pumpkin. If you can’t use either one of those, you can use cooked sweet potato or even cooked white potato.

Other Treatment Suggestions

Dr. Becker also recommends keeping some slippery elm on hand. Slippery elm is a neutral fiber source that works really well to ease episodes of diarrhea. It reduces GI inflammation and acts as a non-irritating source of fiber to bulk up the stool and slow down GI transit time.

Give your dog or cat about a half a teaspoon or a capsule for each 10 pounds of body weight with every bland meal. In addition to slippery elm, many pet owners have good luck with herbs such as peppermint, fennel or chamomile. These are especially helpful for the cramping and other uncomfortable GI symptoms that come with diarrhea.

If your dog’s diarrhea isn’t resolving or keeps returning, collect a sample of the stool and take it to your vet. Your vet can test it and do bloodwork to see if an infection is present. It may also be necessary to treat your dog for dehydration in the event that your pup has lost too much fluid.