It's a trend now to guilt people into feeding "better" diets. You are criticized and chastised if you feed your dog anything less than a $100 bag of The Best Dog Food on the market. I was there - I used to be one of them. I am not happy about it. I am not on the receiving end a lot of the time. I know how to read god food labels, when I am looking for a food I frequent sites like DogFoodAdvisor.com and DogFoodAnalysis.com. It is important to watch what is in your dog's diet and I am a big believer in feeding your dog a good, healthy diet.
Feeding your dog as a member of the family is important. A healthy diet will limit vet bills, as it contributes directly to your dog's health. As a friend of mine told me, "No one criticizes you when you're doing something right, but they will dog-pile when they think you're doing something wrong." And feeding your dog is one of those things that everyone has an opinion about now.
But, a lot can go into choosing the right food for your dog. There are a lot of factors to consider.
I am a supporter of raw food diets, but understand the limits of feeding such a diet. If you don't have any room for storage of frozen foods, it can be cumbersome and often expensive to buy foods once a week. It can be expensive to feed compared to kibble, in general, if you don't have any bulk suppliers in your area. It might just make you squeamish to handle raw foods.
As much as I want to feed Jax a raw diet I: 1) lack the storage to buy in bulk, and 2) Jax refuses to eat raw meats. I've tried all the tricks in the book. Weirdo dog.
When it comes to kibble, you might be dealing with one of two things: 1) lack of knowledge or 2) a budget. At least, these are the two I come up against the most.
One of my current students has a Golden Retriever who is 11 months old that came from a breeder. The old knowledge says to feed a "puppy diet" until the dog is at least one year old, but often until the dog is 2 years old - this isn't true, and more and more companies are coming out with "all life stage" diets. The breeder told her to feed Purina Puppy Chow. She's an older woman, and since the dog came from a breeder she didn't question the quality of the dog food. She was working with a budget, and so we settled on a better product within the Purina Pro Plan line - not the best, but there was an almost immediate change (within a couple weeks) in the dog's weight, energy level, and over-all appearance.
Dog food with goodies!
However, in some circles, I would be considered a horrible dog person for not recommending EVO or Taste of the Wild to my client.
I have fed everything from Diamond brand dog foods to EVO, trying to find something that would suit my dogs well. My older dog, Howie, had food allergies to contend with, so he was fed mostly raw with a hypoallergenic kibble to supplement. As I mentioned before, Jax won't touch raw, but I contend with an added problem of high metabolism and trying to keep weight on him. I tried Taste of the Wild, I tried EVO... but what he did best on was Purina Pro Plan beef formula. The former dog food critic inside me cringed with each bag I bought, and I was always in search of a "better" food, but each new bag I bought of "better" food would result in a 5-pound weight loss within a week of being on it.
We landed on Dr. Gary's Best Breed. No, it's not the "best". Yes, I've gotten flack for feeding it. But, my dog does fabulous on it. My dog needs grains to keep weight on. So, I end up giving up so-called "quality" to keep weight on my dog. And yes, I've tried Merrick and other foods with "quality grains."
In another scenario, my Aunt's dog could only hold down Beneful. She tried several times to switch him to better foods, but each time it would cause him to vomit - and so, she had to weigh the pros and cons, and in this case, a lower quality food was better than no food at all.
Another friend's Golden Retriever seems to be allergic to anything and everything he eats. She has been in and out of veterinary clinics for the past two years trying to figure out what was wrong with him. The only food that has brought some balance to his life as been the hypoallergenic Royal Canin veterinary diet.
In the end, it comes down to the dog (and human) in question. For families on a budget, Pro Plan is a perfectly acceptable mid-grade food, usually priced around $40 for a 50-pound bag. For others, they are feeding what they're feeding because nothing else works.
I do my best to educate about dog food. I know what "good" dog food is, and teach people how to read labels - what's good to have? What's bad to have? But, it ALWAYS comes down to the individual dog and their families. After all, as a dog professional, you are always schooling the humans, not the dogs.