Thor's breeder sent him to his first new home with a packet put together by the Iams Company and a recommendation to feed Eukanuba. So that is what his novice owners bought. I advised them to switch to a higher quality food and, since their cat eats Wellness, that was my suggestion. When I worked (for 3 years) in an animal shelter, we saw hyper dogs brought in for surrender on a regular basis. Often, they were being fed Eukanuba. There seems to be something in the formula that contributes to overactivity. I also explained to Thor's owners the advantages of a higher quality food in terms of feeding less, smaller stools, longer life. They did a shopping comparison but felt that the higher cost was prohibitive.
When Thor came into my home, I started to transition him from Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy food to Artemis Medium/Large Breed Puppy food. I liked the ingredients list on the Artemis bag and the fact that it was listed on the Whole Dog Journal's recommended foods list for 2010 (and had been for some years).
The following, adapted from the WDJ recommendations, are what I look for in a dog food.
1) First, I look at the food. I want a food that is brown. Multicolored (yellow, orange, red, green) foods contain artificial colorings that I don't want my dogs eating. I also look ( on the ingredients list) for artificial flavors, preservatives, and added sweeteners. My dogs don't need those.
2) Next, I read the ingredients. I want to see two animal proteins in the top three ingredients or three in the top five. I want the exact type of meat specified, i.e. beef, chicken, salmon instead of meat, poultry, fish. "Meal" (chicken meal, etc) is a fine ingredient and ensures plenty of protein in the food.
3) I also want to see whole grains, fruits and vegetables. But these should be a bit lower down on the ingredients list. I like it when ingredients are "organic." Note: corn is a cheap source of protein and often found in lower quality foods; there is some evidence that corn may promote aggression in susceptible dogs. In addition, corn is commonly contaminated with aflatoxin, a mold that can be deadly when ingested. There have been cases of canine deaths due to aflatoxin contamination in dry dog foods.
4) By-products are to be avoided. These may include such things as chicken claws and beaks, cow hooves, organ meets
5) The most important thing about any food is that your dog thrives on it. I am looking for shiny coat, high (but not out-of-control) energy, alertness, digestibility. The last means that stools should be small and well-formed. Thor's have always been a bit loose. Which is why I am exploring alternatives.
While on the mix of Eukanuba and Artemis, Thor's stools were pretty sloppy. I started adding yogurt to his meals which helped a bit. Once the Eukanuba was gone and his diet was only Artemis and yogurt, his stools were better, but still not best. Sherry Holm, owner of No Place Like Holm (in-home boarding for dogs) told me that she feeds her boarders Taste of the Wild. Even with the diet change and stress of boarding, her boarders do not get loose stools. Pretty good recommendation. So I bought a bag (pleased that it is less costly than Artemis). Have been mixing it with Artemis for Thor for several days. His stools are getting goopier and he's having in-crate accidents. Apparently, he is a digestive nightmare. I'll keep looking.
Many people feed raw diets designed to mimic what they might be eating were they living in the wild. I tried raw with three dogs many years ago. Two of my three did not do well on raw. So I am reluctant to try it again. That said, there are now pre-made raw foods that are more readily available than they used to be so the need to prepare one's own foods is eliminated. That certainly makes the option more palatable (to me!). I have also been warned that I should not be handling raw foods because of my illness. Raw foods (and stools from raw-fed dogs) can carry salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. That is not a problem for dogs whose digestive system differs from ours and can handle these contaminants. But it may be problematic for me since my meds lower my immune system. I would have to be ultra-vigilant in preparing a raw food diet for my dogs. Despite this reservation, I am planning to look into Oma's Pride, a prepared and complete raw diet.