So, these are my babies Raven (Great Dane) and Roman (Catahoula Leopard). In this post I wanted to share with you some of the ways I am practicing waste-consciousness as a dog owner.
First things first. Puppies gotta eat! Ever since adopting Raven as a one-year old puppy, I have been on the never-ending roller coaster of food allergies (common in large breed dogs) and trying to find the perfect protein fit for my girl. I am not a stranger to food trials, allergic reactions, and being at my wits end trying to figure out what to feed her– so if this is your pain, I am happy to share testimony and tips in the comments section. Things got so bad when we first moved to Los Angeles that I had to put her on a completely vegetarian diet, cooking and preparing ALL of her food. A common misconception with danes is that they’ll eat you out of house and home, which could not be further from the truth (until she became a vegetarian). Usually, because of their low metabolism and chill demeanor, my experience has been that Raven eats less than most smaller dogs (even one’s in the 20-40lb bracket). During her vegetarian year, however, I would cook pots and pots of rice, quinoa, and barley. Chop dozens of apples, bunches of broccoli, kale, spinach, peas, lentils, berries (when on sale), carrots, sweet potatoes, and a few other things. And I would do this faithfully each and every week. Despite her three square meals a day, it was hard to keep any weight on her and she was ALWAYS hungry!!! P.S. purchasing food to try also gets expensive, but with the help of my vet, I literally tried every hypoallergenic food out there!
All of this is to say– the princess is 9 years old this year and there is NO WAY I’d be willing to jeopardize her health and go back to (albeit unintentionally before) a zero-waste dog food lifestyle. That being said, I think it is pretty easy to practice conscious consumerism when selecting a holistic dog food brand. I’ll save all of the politics and preferences for how to go about doing this, but this is what we landed on with Raven. Acana is a brand I trust and I am hopeful in the coming years they may even be one of the front runners for adopting alternative, recyclable/refillable, or biodegradable packaging for their pet products. Until then, they are still worth every penny to us because Raven is happy and healthy and I am not cooking for my dog every day!
Check them out: http://www.acana.com
Raven has alway done better on fish proteins, so we feed her the Acana Pacific, which is one of their Regional Dog Foods (Canadian Salmon, Herring, and Flounder). This dog food is made with fresh (never frozen) ingredients and also passes human consumption tests.
If you are still interested in transitioning your pets to zero-waste feeding, good for you! Here are some resources that might make that transition easier. Things like Raw Food Dog Feeding, and Vegan Dog Feeding are more and more common.
There may be better things out there, but this can help get you oriented.
Full disclaimer: I have never been a big proponent of “treat-training” dogs. In my opinion, in fosters food motivation and food aggression which can lead to annoying habits such as begging and selective obedience. These opinions aside, I LOVE to spoil my dogs, so it is tough not giving them love in the form of food all the time. Bottom line is– Corey and I don’t treat very often– a big part of that has been because dog treats are toxic waste (period). I invest too much energy, love, and money into these precious goobers to being feeding them pure garbage (that I have to pay for).
That all being said, I did learn a thing or two while Raven was a vegetarian about what human foods dogs can eat that can be used as a treat and also to boost their health. If you are pursuing a zero-waste and/or waste-conscious lifestyle, there is a triple bonus: fruit & veggie scraps become dog treats! Here are some things that do not make it to our compost, because I treat them to the pups when I’m in the kitchen:
- carrot bits & peelings
- bruised or moldy strawberries
- apple peels & cores (seeds removed)
- kale & collard green stems (they like leaves too, but those we eat!)
- peanut & nut butters (check in small amounts, Roman actually has an allergy to peanuts)
- berries of all sorts: fresh or frozen (I feed bruised or moldy blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries)
- pomegranate seeds
- broccoli stems
- cauliflower stems
This last Christmas my mother-in-law made the pups some homemade dog treats, which they LOVED! So this is always an option too! With this dissertation looming, baking homemade dog treats is just not where my labors should be at present– but perhaps one of these days!
Here is the dog treat recipe adapted from my mother-in-law:
“Peachy Keen Chewy Oatmeal Dog Cookies”
- 2 Cups Rolled Oats
- 3/4 Cup Water, Divided
- 1/4 Cup Diced Peaches, see note
- 1 Tblsp Canola Oil
- 1 Tblsp Molasses, blackstrap
- 1/4 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- I Cup Whole Wheat Flower
- 1 Tsp Cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In large bowl, stir together rolled oats and 1/2 cup of the water.
- In a food processor, purr the peaches, canola oil, molasses, vanilla, and 1/8 cup of water.
- Stir the peach mixture into the oats.
- Add the flour, cinnamon, and 1/8 cup of water.
- Using a large fork, combine all the ingredients. The oats will want to stick together.
- Break apart the oats until all the flour is incorporated.
- Prepare a cooking sheet.
- Using a 1 inch cookie scooper, scoop cookies onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Flatten each scoop to make a flat round cookie shape.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Turn off the oven and let the cookies cool in the oven.
- If you and your dog can’t wait, cook completely on a wire rack before serving.
Storing– This dog cookie will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Freeze the cookies for up to 6 months.
Yield–Using a cookie scooper, you will get 2 dozen, or 24 dog cookies.
If your pups love stuffed animals as much as mine do, waste-conscious toy options can be tough to come by! Admittedly, this is the area I think we will have the most difficulties transitioning over to. My current operating principle is cost (where can I find the cheapest toys, and lots of them? ROSS, in the kid/baby or dog sections!). And my second one (which is closer to waste-consciousness) is which toys are going to last the longest?
We have not purchased any toys since Christmas, so they have been slowly dwindling down to just the most durable ones, which are:
a Kong, a Nylabone, a huge rope toy, and some limbs/scraps of a few stuffed animals.
All this to say, we are ready for a toy make-over in our home!
Anyone have any luck with waste-conscious dog toy options? We really really need an option similar to a stuffed toy, My dogs will play with Kongs, ropes and chew toys, but only for so long before they get bored. They will drag a stuffed animal toy around until nothing but its tiny limbs are left, which Roman proceeds to chew up and swallow (waste-free right!?) Here are the ideas I have so far:
- Antlers (treats?)
- Himalaya Chews (treats?)
- Other toys by Kong
- More interesting kinds of rope toy
This is something that is soooooo simple and that I just recently adopted since pursing a more waste-conscious lifestyle. Each time I go to refresh the dogs’ water bowls, instead of throwing the water down the sink, I use it to water down my compost or patio garden. This is an especially great tip if living in a drought stricken state like California. It does take a little forethought and a bit of habit-practice walking outside instead of to the kitchen. If your dog bowls are too convenient to your kitchen sink to make the trek outdoors, consider placing one of your watering cans in the kitchen and dumping water into it instead. During the summer, our pups usually are licking their bowls dry at least once a day so there is less water waste, but for winter months, this new practice will really decrease wasted water. ***A side note, consider doing this with you access bottled and cooking water as well!
This one is pretty simple too! If you have a yard, purchase a pooper scooper and either transfer dog waste to a hole in your backyard, compost pile, or (last resort) your trash. This method is the best because it saves money and bag waste.
The second best option (that I have found), and the one that we use since we don’t have a yard, is biodegradable doggie bags. These are made from cornstarch material (mostly) and not of plastic. Overtime, they will mummify your dog’s waste before integrating it (over a long period of time) into whatever refuse site it lands in. Still not the absolute best option, but it is a better move for long term impact and works against the devastating effects of plastic bags.
That’s it for now! Will keep you updated on our toy finds. Stay tuned for other waste-conscious solutions for pet owners:
2. Exercise & Play