How Mind.Body.Bowl. Evolved

It all began with puppy food…

Tiffin as a puppy at the woof works

Before we (my boyfriend, Rick, and I) brought Tiffin home from the breeder I spent hours researching puppy food because I wanted to make sure she was getting the very best stuff.  I only considered dry food because I didn’t know raw or dehydrated food existed and canned food was too expensive.  Also, my parents had always fed dry food to our family dogs.  I found, what is now my Go To Resource: allaboutdogfood.com and chose a premium puppy food for my little fur ball. 

From that moment, I became obsessed with dog food and dogs’ nutritional needs and was constantly checking allaboutdogfood.com and other websites and blogs to learn more.

Improving Duke’s diet

As I began to realise the benefits of good nutrition I tried to persuade Rick to change Duke’s food to a premium adult food but it took a while to convince him.  The reason why Rick was reluctant was because Duke had always suffered from a sensitive stomach which resulted in diarrhoea for Duke and sleepless nights for the both of them.  I did however, with Rick’s permission, begin introducing Duke to fresh foods including raw broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, blueberries, apples, banana and yogurt.  I then began adding super green supplements, similar to Super Healthy Dog, to their foods each day and over time we began to notice improvements in Duke’s health. 

There was a point where we didn’t think Duke would actually meet Tiffin but within 6 months of Tiffin arriving he was more energetic, smelling a lot better and his digestion had definitely improved.  Also, he had muscle wastage disease on one side of his head and that hadn’t got any worse in the recent months plus he had a lump on one of his front legs, which when removed didn’t grow back.  As Duke was such an old dog when he had his operation, the vet took blood tests beforehand to make sure it was safe to operate.  Everything came back clear which was a little bit of a shock but also completely fantastic!!  We often got comments from people who couldn’t believe he was such an old dog.

improving duke's diet at the woof works

I Still Feel Guilty About This!

It got to a point where Tiffin had transitioned to a premium adult food and I felt really guilty for feeding Duke a poor quality food.   As Rick had seen the vast improvement in his dog we transitioned Duke to the same food as Tiffin.  After that Duke and Tiffin were always fed the same foods and Duke’s health continued to improve until the last 3 or 4 months before he passed away.  If you’re interested in finding out what I’ve fed to the Tiffin and Duke, please see my blog here.  In hindsight I do wish I had changed Duke’s diet much earlier but I’m grateful that he did benefit from a more nutritious diet and was mostly healthy for his long life. 

Nutrition Is Only One Piece Of The Jigsaw

mind.body.bowl the woof works

Since starting The Woof Works in 2014 my mission has been to help dogs live happier, healthier and longer lives but until recently I haven’t completely known how I can help dogs live the very best lives.

For a time, I concentrated on canine nutrition but I always felt like something was missing…I felt that nutrition was only one piece of the jigsaw. 

My Thoughts…

The following thoughts kept cropping up, which made me realise that a happy, healthy dog needs more than just a healthy diet:

  • If a dog eats a healthy diet but doesn’t get enough exercise she won’t be 100% happy or healthy…
  • If a dog eats a healthy diet but isn’t trained to do what her owner wants her to do both owner and dog won’t be 100% happy…
  • If a dog eats a healthy diet but she often gets bored because she isn’t learning new skills or playing games she won’t be 100% happy…
  • If a dog eats a healthy diet but she suffers from separation anxiety she won’t be 100% happy or healthy…
  • If a dog eats a healthy diet but her owner doesn’t notice her limping due to pain she won’t be 100% happy or healthy…
Rachael The Woof Works

BUT the missing pieces of the jigsaw didn’t fall into place until I began to consider the differences between my own dogs…

The Differences Between Duke & Tiffin

Duke was a very different dog to Tiffin and only partly because he was so much older.  I’ve had quite a lot of fun writing down their differences in the table below. 

You may like to write down the differences between your own dogs either if you have more than one or if you want to compare your dog with previous dogs you’ve owned.  It’s fun and fascinating!

TiffinDuke
8 weeks to 2 years14 to 16 years
Working Bearded CollieSpringer Spaniel
FemaleMale
Very healthy - has been to the vet a couple of times for a thorn in her eye and a rash on her tummyHe had muscle wastage on one side of his head and a lump of his leg which was removed when he was about 15. His health improved after we brought Tiffin home due to diet and an increase in exercise and mental stimulation but he began to decline 3 or 4 months before he passed away - he had very weak back legs, became deaf and went blind.
Needs a lot of mental stimulation and exercise as has lots of energySlept a lot and didn’t need much stimulation but enjoyed it when we played with him
Enjoys human attention when she wants itEnjoyed human attention all the time
Overly SensitiveVery hardy dog
Very agileLike a bull in a china shop
Likes to know where we are on walks Didn’t really care where we were - too busy sniffing
Has to be taught how to do things e.g. retrieve, swim, give her paw, play tugInstinctively did things e.g. retrieve, swim, give his paw, play tug
Learns ‘house’ rules very quicklyIgnored or forgot our ‘house’ rules e.g. waiting in car before we released him for a walk & staying out of the way when we cook.
Mischievous - has eaten two blocks of butter that were on the kitchen counter, lies on the kitchen table when we’re out, chewed through a laptop cableMaybe too old to be mischievous. I’ve heard lots of stories about when he was younger which made him sound very naughty e.g. running away and chasing birds
Loves her foodLoved his food
Gets frustrated e.g. in the agility ring and gets annoyed by younger dogs being too hyperVery content & patient. Never got annoyed with Tiffin as a puppy
Prefers to sleep on the slate or wooden flooring than a bedNeeded the comfiest bed with pillows and would position the pillows just right before settling

So, as you’ve read, Tiffin is very independent but has a lot of energy and loves to play and learn and Duke loved to sleep and was very content just be with someone; mostly Rick. 

I spent a lot more time with Tiffin teaching her new skills – especially as a puppy with toilet training etc – and playing to keep her entertained and rid her of her excess energy.  I began taking her to agility when she was a year old, we train weekly and I teach her new tricks to get her to use her brain.

As Duke seemed content to sleep I didn’t think too much about whether he needed entertaining, his brain needed stimulating or he needed more exercise than his daily walks.

BUT my thinking changed when we asked a canine massage lady to come and see him because his back legs were very weak and he was having trouble walking.  I quickly learnt that all dogs need strong healthy bodies to help them into old age and that there’s so much that can be done with dogs at any age.  I watched as the massage lady taught him to use his core muscles and learnt the importance of body awareness.  It was so sad to see Duke struggling with his back legs and to think that we could have prevented it from happening!

The sessions got me thinking about what else I could do with Duke to help him live a better life and I started playing the nose game (see blog post) with him to get his brain working and he absolutely loved it!  To see his face light up when the scented toy was wafted under his nose, even if he was sleepy, was priceless.  If I had started when he was younger I’m sure I could have taught him many tricks and skills.

Despite Their Differences, My Dogs Had The Same Needs 

So, within the last six months of Duke’s life I learnt that my dogs, even though they were really different in age and personality, needed (and wanted) the same things to THRIVE: 

1. A healthy diet and the right nutrients

2. Mental stimulation – they wanted to learn!

3. A healthy body that’s fit and well 

When I think back to how Duke was before Tiffin and how he was in the months after, it’s clear that his health and happiness improved significantly.  Initially I thought it was only because of the changes I made to his diet but he was also getting more exercise, playing more often and using his brain to get one over on the naughty puppy.  I’m confident that the combination of all these things helped Duke live longer.   

Mind.Body.Bowl Was Born!

mind body bowl the woof works' approach to looking after dogs

A dog’s wants and needs fall quite neatly into mind.body.bowl:

  • Mind: training, tricks and games
  • Body: fitness, health and wellness
  • Bowl: diet and nutrition 

It doesn’t matter how old your dog is, how clever she is, what breed she is…your dog needs (and wants) the three things listed above. Every skill, game, task and diet can be adapted to your dog’s capabilities, desires, body condition and dietary requirements.  Nothing needs to take up too much of your time and everything can be introduced slowly.  And by spending more time with your precious pooch you will be strengthening the bond that you have with your dog.