When Rick Woodford’s dog Jackson was diagnosed with lymphoma, the sick canine started to lose his appetite. To entice him to eat, Woodford started creating his own mixture of food for his four-legged best friend.
It was mostly turkey, carrots and green vegetables, but it did the trick and soon Jackson was eating again. He even had the energy to go on walks and chase the new puppy around the yard.
However, Jackson also started to gain a lot of weight, so Woodford began reading up on canine nutrition. Soon, he’d started a dog food business and written a book titled “Feed Your Best Friend Better.”
Now Woodford has three dogs — Flynn who eats everything, Duncan the picky Chihuahua and Frank the skeptical eater — as well as a new book of homemade dog food recipes your pup is sure to enjoy.
We recently talked to him about "Chow: Simple Ways to Share the Foods You Love with the Dogs You Love."
MNN: What inspired you to write this book?
Rick Woodford: I know that many people are busy and may not want to cook every meal for their dogs, so I wanted to provide information that would encourage people to incorporate more fresh foods into the dog bowl, whether it be a few scraps from the cutting board or a quick and easy meal using many of the same ingredients you would use in your own meals.
How did you research the recipes and create them?
Creating a recipe starts at my nutritional database where I compare ingredients and adjust proportions to reach nutritional guidelines for dogs. I look at ingredients for their benefits and try to use combinations that have some synergy like the Pre & Pro Yogurt & Banana.
Once I know how much of each ingredient I want to use, I figure out how to cook it through trial and error. I try different cooking methods and timing of each step to figure out how to make the recipes simpler and more practical. Each recipe is tested at least three times, so my freezer gets full pretty quickly during testing days.
What was the taste testing like for the recipes?
Since all the recipes use the same ingredients you would use for yourself, I tried quite a few. However, it really came down to whether my crew of canines would like them.
Flynn eats everything, so no problem there except for him whining for more. Duncan was a little reticent to try some of the more obscure ingredients, and I had to use my chicken liver cheat recipe to get him to finish a few things. But then there's Frank, and he was the new dog to our house, so it was always surprising to see what he likes and doesn't like. Mostly with Frank it was giving him different ingredients to try and he would carry them off for a deeper investigation. As time went on Frank was increasingly willing to try new foods, and now he eats just about everything.
Did Frank, your most skeptical eater, have a favorite recipe?
The minute I opened a can of clams to make the first batch of my Clam Bake recipe Frank started sniffing at the air and camped out in the kitchen until the meal made its way to the bowl. It was the first time he ever finished a meal before Flynn. The next recipe, Chow on the Clams, was met with similar enthusiasm. Of all the foods that I had given him, I thought clams would be the most difficult sell. It turns out clams are on Frank's top 10 list.
Below, Woodford shares a couple of the homemade dog food recipes from his new book.
Banana Grrrranola Bars
(Photo: Cody Wellons)
This is the easiest dog cookie recipe you'll ever find. Patting it out with wet hands prevents the dough from sticking to your fingers.
- 3 tablespoons coconut or olive oil, plus more for cookie sheet
- 3 cups oats
- 1 ripe banana
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 to 2 tablespoons water, if needed
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with oil.
- Pulse the oats in a blender for 30 seconds, or until they are reduced to a fine powder.
- Add the banana, oil, and cinnamon and pulse for another 30 seconds; the dough should come together in a ball.
- If the dough is not coming together, add a tablespoon or two of water, and pulse again for 15 seconds.
- Wet your hands and pat out the dough in an 8-inch square on the prepared cookie sheet. Cut the dough at 1-inch intervals in each direction, using a pizza cutter.
- Bake the cookies for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Yield: 64 cookies
- 10-pound dog: 1-2 cookies
- 20-pound dog: 3-4 cookies
- 40-pound dog: 4-5 cookies
- 60-pound dog: 5-6 cookies
- 80-pound dog: 6-7 cookies
- 100-pound dog: 8-9 cookies
- Calories per cookie: 22
- Protein: 6%
- Carbohydrate-to-protein ratio 7.6 to 1
- Total fats: 23%
- Antioxidants: 5%
Sharing cauliflower with your dog can be as simple as chop and serve; however, both you and your dog could use a daily dose of turmeric. Cauliflower has plenty of nutritional benefits, and it makes for a low-carb and tasty vehicle for the most powerful antioxidant-laden food in your kitchen.
- 1 head cauliflower (about 5 cups after chopping)
- 3 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove the stem from the cauliflower and chop the florets into 1-inch pieces.
- Toss the cauliflower with the remaining ingredients on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. The cauliflower should be lightly browned and tender.
Yield: 4 cups
- 10-pound dog: 3 tablespoons
- 20-pound dog: 1/3 cup
- 40-pound dog: 1/2 cup
- 60-pound dog: 2/3 cup
- 80-pound dog: 1 cup
- 100-pound dog: 1 1/4 cup
- Calories: 2%
- Protein: 4%
- Total fats: 1%
- Carbohydrates: 5g
- Potassium: 14%
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 9%
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 25%
- Vitamin B9 (folate): 43%
- Vitamin K: 51%
- Antioxidants: 9%