We are Olivia and Iain Patz who run an agility club called Bark Zone in Southampton and compete our dogs to international level.
Let’s give you a bit of back ground on us to start with. We are a family of three with six dogs! We have two working sheep dogs (Leo and Dappy), three border collies (Imp, Streak and Heck), and one crossbreed rescue (Ferdinand). So our dogs are a massive part of our life with all of them working in agility, but then being at home as a family with all our chickens and guinea pigs too. We require high energy levels for when they are training and competing, but they need to be able to chill and relax when not.
We have been feeding raw dog food for about nine years now, we started feeding raw to our first dog Leo when he was really struggling on a kibble diet. He suffered with gooey eyes, almost constant diarrhoea and itchy skin. We were in and out of the vets trying to find out the problem to no avail. We were constantly changing brand of kibbles based on recommendations to help the problems exhibited, and Leo would be fine for a month then go back to his poorly ways. Then my trainer at the time got a sponsorship from a raw dog food company and we did some research we thought what have we got to loose? We changed Leo over to raw and over a couple of weeks the changes in him were just incredible! His skin had cleared up, his eyes were clean and we can honestly say he has not had diarrhoea since changing him over! But best of all he has only been to the vets for his routine check ups and Leo is now 10 years old.
So when we got our second dog Dappy, we started him on raw the day we got him. The development in him was completely different to what we had with Leo. He has much better muscle development and definition, his general health has always been better only needing to go in for regular check ups, and he has more bone! Dappy and Leo are full brothers a year apart, so you could really see the difference in them from what a decent diet makes.
As you can see from the picture, Dappy is the Blue Merle and Leo is the black and white. This picture is quite powerful in showing the difference between the
two of them, Dappy showing the better physique compared to Leo’s skinny undefined structure.
Since then, all of our dogs have been brought up on raw. We are even more lucky that 3 of our dogs have been brought up on raw as soon as they were weaned from mum’s milk! Each one of them has a lovely shiny coat, great gums and teeth, and a great consistent healthy weight. We have also found that raw feeding really helps with their lean muscle development, this makes them more powerful. So for us in agility, it is so important to help attain the quickest time over a course.
Furthermore, it also helps their muscle recover much quicker because of the high quality protein.
Each of our dogs have a personalised exercise plan to keep them fit and in the best possible condition for the requirements of agility. Depending on where we are in a year will depend on how much and what they are doing. We believe that it’s fundamental that our dogs are allowed complete time off from training agility, but this does not mean we want them to lose their fitness.
So in our off season (generally November and December, but can start earlier and can be extended, depending on what our calendar looks like for the new season) they get a daily walk lasting around an hour, and get the chance just to be dogs. We also aim for one core fitness session a week with them to help maintain a base level of fitness. We also let them go on runs with Iain but they don’t pull as much if at all.
Then we hit our pre-season build up (January, February and March)…keeping up their daily walks in all weather, these are not just important for their fitness but for their mental well being. Being allowed to sniff around, play with each other, and go to places that aren’t just the garden. We also start back to our once a week aqua treadmill sessions; we love that they can do an activity that allows them to build muscle tone which puts less stress on their joints. They also have six weekly physio sessions to make sure they don’t have any injuries. They go on runs with Iain but are more Cani-cross running so are required to do intervals of pulling too.
We start adding in equipment training too, this is all done on low height to start with to help build fitness. Over the three months, the jump heights are then
lifted so by the end of March they are full height and competition ready. Raw feeding is a massive part of their plans, as a great diet helps with energy levels and recovery.
Onto competing season, through the summer we are at shows most weekends with each dog doing 6-8 runs over two days depending on the show, there are also a couple of longer shows which are a week long. For this we up their food to help with the extra work they are doing. We still feed raw even when we are away in the caravan, we have a 12v fridge which is perfect for their food to fit in for a week. We have also got food delivered to the longer shows!
We have been sent so many links saying that raw feeding is dangerous to us and our seven year old daughter as the dogs will be carrying disease from the meat. In the nine years we have been feeding raw none of us have got ill, we treat it like you would any raw meat, keep frozen, defrost in the fridge and keep refrigerated.
Wash your hands, wipe the side down, wash the dogs bowls after feeding, and if the meat smells off don’t feed it, which it never is, as all the raw food we have ever got is from passionate companies.
Also another ‘bad thing we hear about raw feeding’ is that dogs get the taste of blood and can never be around live stock and will always have to be on the lead! Well this is crazy, all six of my dogs share the garden with 20 free ranging chickens and the house with two guinea pigs, none of them have ever even looked at them.