We've reviewed dog foods annually for 17 years now, and we try, every year, to tell you something new about the food you feed (or should be feeding!) your dog, something you may not have known before. We also tell you how we define and identify good-quality foods, and how to tell them apart from the products of lesser quality. And finally, we give you a list of foods that meet all of our selection criteria and meet our approval. We're doing all that again this year, but in a slightly different format.
Identifying a top quality dog food is not that difficult; I’m going to tell you how to do it in just a minute. But it may be difficult to find dog foods of this quality if you live far from an urban center or an independent pet supply store run by someone with more than a passing interest in canine nutrition. It may be even more difficult to afford some of the dog food brands listed; quality pet food ingredients cost more. But it shouldn’t be at all hard to see the improvements in your dog’s health if you’ve been feeding a low-quality food and make the switch to products of this quality.
Dog food manufacturers are supposed to list specific names for each ingredient in their formulations. Each food, vitamin, mineral, or other chemical (preservative, color, flavor, binder, etc.) that has been approved for use in a dog food is supposed to be listed in a certain way on the product’s ingredient list. There are formal descriptions of each ingredient – and all of these are listed in the annual “Official Publication of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)”.
In every one of Whole Dog Journal’s canned and dry dog food reviews, we tell you how to identify the hallmarks of a top dry dog food as well as the attributes of a low-quality dog food. In “Whole Dog Journal's 2012 Dry Dog Food Review,” we tell you what specific parts of the dog food label you need to scrutinize to make sure the product is a high-quality, “complete and balanced” diet. We also list some 48 companies that make, between them, hundreds of foods that meet all of our selection criteria for a top dry dog food; those products are listed, each with a highlighted example, in the February issue.
Ingredients are listed by weight, so you want to see a lot of top quality animal protein at the top of the list; the first ingredient should be a named" animal protein source. "Meat" is an example of a low-quality protein source of dubious origin. Animal protein "meals" should also be from named species (look for "beef meal" but avoid "meat meal")."
Here is Whole Dog Journal's Approved Dry Dog Foods List for 2012. In addition to our list of this year's top dry dog foods we show you how to interpret the ingredient list on a dog food label, what ingredients are best, what the "best by" date really means, what to expect from a manufacturer's customer service department as well as ways to determine which of our top foods is best for your dog. Every year, new manufacturers enter the dog food market and established manufacturers come out with new formulations. Whole Dog Journal's Approved Dry Dog Food List analyzes each to determine which foods belong in the top tier of quality.
While researching this year’s dry dog food review (which starts on the facing page), I was struck by the overwhelming prevalence of two big trends in marketing and formulation. I’m not sure any pet food company is immune from these tactics – and I’m not yet convinced they will prove a benefit to dogs or dog owners. The first tactic is the “No!” approach. You know, “No Corn, wheat, or soy!” How tame those claims seem now. I’ve seen dog food bags and pet food company literature that proudly proclaims products free of beef, dairy products, eggs, pork, potatoes, and yeast.
Whole Dog Journal readers have learned how to identify the best commercial foods when they shop for their dogs. But whether you feed dry kibble or canned food, even the best commercial diets can be improved with the addition of appropriate fresh foods. Keep the following things in mind when adding fresh foods to your dog's diet.
How should you select the right dog food for your dog? Over the years, we've spoken to literally thousands of dog owners and industry experts and they have at least a few hundred different approaches to the task. We'll briefly discuss some of the most prevalent factors used by owners to support their dog food buying decisions and then we'll tell you how we recommend choosing your dogs' food.
The eight products we reviewed in this article are intended to appeal to dog owners who are interested in a “holistic” and/or “healthy” food for their dogs. None contains artificial colors or artificial preservatives. But none can hold a candle to the products on our “approved” foods list. Each misses that mark – some miss by just a bit, and some miss by a country mile.
Here is Whole Dog Journal's Approved Dry Dog Foods List for 2011. Along with the list of this year’s approved dry dog foods we’ll explain on what criteria you should use when selecting a food for your dog. Some of these criteria range from price, ingredients, a manufactures’ past history and the size of the manufacturer. All of the products that made the list have met our selection criteria – including our newest criterion, that the company discloses the name and location of its manufacturers.
Several of our eagle-eyed readers caught an error in dry dog food review in our February issue: “In the February 2010 issue, the picture of the approved dog foods includes Nutro Ultra but it is not listed in the article. Why the discrepancy?” “I see that Nutro Ultra is included in the photo on page 3; its caption says ‘these are just a few examples of premium quality foods.’ However, it’s not included on the ‘approved foods’ list. Can you clarify?” “I noticed that the Nutro Ultra Holistic food is in your picture, but I couldn’t find it in the actual list of approved foods. Is it one of the approved foods?”