May 29, 2012

Lots of our breeders have expressed an interest in sharing ideas and weaning and raising puppies on our foods so we thought we’d do some interviews with some of our longest standing breeders to start the discussion!

Arana, a Great Dane breeder in our program, has been feeding Honest Kitchen since 2003!

1. Lucy: Please tell us about your breed and what you love most about them.

Arana: I have been a Great Dane fancier for the last 25  years.  What I love most about this breed is that if properly bred, they are loyal, dependable and loving companions that enrich our lives and everyone around us - almost everyone has positive childhood associations with this breed.  Danes are so much a part of my life and family, that I can't imagine life without one!

I have owned Great Danes since my sister gave me my first Dane, a harlequin,  about 25 years ago.  I have never owned another breed since.   I knew virtually nothing about the breed back then, but it started a passion for the breed that has continued for a lifetime.  Years later,  I added a blue companion Dane who lived 13 years.  She was followed by a blue male great Dane who was my first show dog and who traveled with me for many years.

Owning Great Danes has brought people into our lives from all over the world, and we enjoy lasting friendships with people in the breed.  Breeding a litter has taken me more time, as I believe it's important to understand the breed, genetics and pedigrees before attempting to produce litters.  Our breed, like all breeds, has its share of health issues, and so having mentors (I have been lucky enough to have several old time breeders in all colors over the years) is essential.  Although I intend to breed a very few litters in my lifetime, my objectives are to breed healthy, beautifully tempered companions for people - like many breeders, we try our best to improve with each litter and to make a positive contribution to the breed.  Although I don't breed often, I am continually studying pedigrees and learning everything I can about health issues and genetics of this breed.  And I co-breed with very experienced Dane breeders; collaborating with a few trusted breeders has been invaluable.

2.      How long have you been feeding Honest Kitchen products to your dogs?

I started feeding Honest Kitchen in about 2003, when I bought a black Great Dane with serious gastrointestinal issues (she was never bred).  I may be one of your oldest customers...  This Dane was much loved, and I began to do a lot of research on super premium dog foods in order to find something that she could tolerate - that is when I found Honest Kitchen, Force in a small pet store in Laguna Beach.  The company was young, and available only in very few stores.  Since then, I have mentored a lot of Dane owners and breeders on the importance of good nutrition, and am proud to be in the HK breeders' program.  Although I use Honest Kitchen with other foods, HK has been the only constant in the diets of my own Danes.

3.      What is your biggest showing / breeding accomplishment?

My biggest showing accomplishment was with my blue dog, Cash.  I bought him as a pet at eight and a half months; he was a bit shy but very loving and I wanted a companion for my blue girl (who was purchased as a show dog but didn't turn out to be a show dog).  After about a year, and with lots of mentoring from handlers and exhibitors, we took the leap into the show world.  He loved the show ring, and finished as an American Champion before going on to winning multiple Best of Breeds, Group placements, and finally becoming the first blue dog in the history of the breed to win an All Breed Best in Show.  I think just as exciting was making the final cut at the Westminster Kennel Club breed ring; we had friends and family with us and it was a great experience.

4.      What are the key things you look for when interviewing a prospective new puppy person?

Great Danes are wonderful dogs, but they are not for everyone.  They need to live indoors with the family, as they need a lot of love and attention - and don't do well when left alone.

I like prospective puppy owners to do a lot of homework about the breed, including researching pedigrees, interviewing other breeders and puppy buyers, understanding the importance of health checks and proper nutrition for giant breeds.  Danes love to have a job, so homes that are interested in integrating their dog into all aspects of family life, participating in performance activities and therapy work make wonderful homes.  It helps if they have had experience living with giant breed dogs and understand the expense of feeding and taking proper care of Danes over a lifetime.  Almost all of my prospective puppy buyers have patiently waited for the few litters I breed or recommend, and nearly all of them have spent time in my home with my dogs.  I like to know as much as possible about the homes my puppies go to, and in general, do not place breed-able dogs  - and I expect to have a relationship with each of them for the life of the puppy.

My greatest breeding accomplishments have been in helping breeders who have questions regarding pedigrees and health issues and in brainstorming about what pairings might produce improvement in health and conformation.  Temperaments are as important as anything and I am very proud of the temperaments out of my stud dog and my girls.  I am very proud of our newest hopeful,  little Neve, who is our newest home bred hopeful; a singleton puppy out of a healthy, long lived pedigree on dam and sire's side.

5.      Any tips for other breeders, on weaning a litter onto Honest Kitchen?

I am currently weaning our new puppy (who is six weeks old today) on HK Force.  This has been a seamless transition from her mother to formula to almost 100% HK Force today.  I started weaning at about 3.5 weeks with a modified formula from some old time breeders; but instead of using baby rice cereal, I used HK Force.  I gradually increased the Force while decreasing the formula, and have had terrific results.  I will definitely use this formula and process again.  Once the puppy is about two months old, I will begin to use a lower calorie kibble during her high growth stage (as close to 350 calories/cup as possible) and "dress" her food with Force until she reaches adulthood - I use about 1 c. of hydrated Force for every 4 cups of kibble by the time they are 6 months old.  This has been a successful protocol for several breeders I work with who also use HK in their weaning programs; every dog is an individual and so the formula is personalized to some extent.   In my opinion, there is no doubt that a high quality diet contributes greatly to the health of the dog - and ultimately reduces vet bills over the life of the dog.  For me, HK Force has been invaluable for all life stages as part of my Danes’ diets.

This was my first experience using Love during a pregnancy.  The dam of this litter was fed HK Love from about a month prior to breeding until now - as it has all the nutrients and calories I look for throughout lactation.  Her skin and coat have been beautiful throughout pregnancy and caring for her puppy.  She will go back to Force beginning this week (Week 6) and continue this; if bred again she will go back on Love throughout her pregnancy and lactation period.  I've been extremely happy with how well she's done.