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In the May 2015 issue, you’ll find the first installment of what is planned as a regular column in WDJ: Pet Food Profile. I’ve had the privilege of touring lots of dog food manufacturing plants over the years, and have learned a lot in the process. I’d like to start sharing more information about the companies I’ve been invited to visit, and try to describe what makes each company unique from the others. Who owns these companies? How large are they, compared to their rivals? What is their mission, their identity? Where do they make their products? Where are the products sold, and how are they marketed?

The purpose of the column is not to review their foods, or tell you what foods you should feed to your dog. Instead, I’d like to help you distinguish the companies from their competitors, and educate you a bit more about pet food manufacturing. The actual process of mixing and cooking (extruding, baking, or canning) dog food is actually quite simple. What varies quite a bit is everything else: Where do the ingredients come from, what form are they in, and how are they stored? How long are they stored? What sort of manufacturing plant are the foods made in, and how is the process overseen so that mistakes in measuring the ingredients don’t happen? What about sanitation? Storage?

I’ll get into all of this minutiae over time, as I take a close look, one by one, at the companies that make the foods that appear on our “approved dog food” lists. As the series develops, I’d welcome any questions you have about dog food manufacturing, or about specific companies. I’ll do my best to answer your questions, or to get the answers for you.

Speaking of questions, I received lots of questions and comments three years ago when I wrote an editorial about my and my dogs’ experiences with rattlesnakes. I indicated that while I live in an area where these snakes are common, I have not and would not even consider participating in a snake avoidance training “clinic” that involved shocking my dogs with a shock collar. A few people praised my decision, but many accused me of putting my dogs’ lives at risk.

I don’t just blindly walk anywhere and let my dogs do anything they want when we walk on the trails! I avoid certain trails at certain times of the year, especially late summer (when the baby rattlesnakes are born and plentiful); I watch my dogs closely; and I practice all sorts of snake-avoidance behaviors with them daily – things like leave it, back, wait, and come – so if we do happen to see or hear a rattler, I can quickly direct them away from the snake.

I’m pleased to report that there are now a number of trainers who teach snake-avoiding techniques without shock; two are profiled on pages 10-11. The author of that profile, long-time contributor CJ Puotinen, also offers a wealth of information about venomous snakes, treatment for snake bites, and snake-bite “vaccines,” starting on page 5.

Rounding out this late-spring issue are articles on protecting your dog from foxtails, a review of canine first-aid kits, and more.