Reasons to change and vary dog food / Changing dog food to prevent sensitivities / Why dogs develop food sensitivities / Perfect cocker spaniel, dog blog, breed & puppy guide book / Puppy tips, training, cocker spaniel grooming, handstripping, canine nutrition diet advice / (C) Natalia Ashton

Changing food for good

It’s not that our little lives are that uneventful, but this change needs to be documented here as it is pretty important to us.

Last week I changed the boys’ food. Not dramatically, but I did it. They have been eating a chicken based diet for a few years. It’s been great, really. They love it. Almost too much.

I’ve loved it, too, because it was a good recipe, organic and natural, no junk included.

But at the back of my mind I had this silly little brain worm reminding me about food sensitivities and ways they tend to develop. And I definitely did not want my boys to experience that. So I decided to add another source of protein to give them a bit of variety and reduce the risk of any reactions in the future.

Even though the risk of suddenly becoming sensitive to chicken (or any other protein) is minimal, it can happen if the dog is fed the same protein every single day for a lifetime. He doesn’t need to be sensitive to begin with, but his immune system may question the presence of high amounts of a certain protein in the system and eventually react to it.

Of course, the real situation isn’t as simple as it looks here because it takes a lot of factors and underlying reasons to create such a reaction, but I wanted to explain the basics and encourage you to read the Nutrition and Allergies chapters in Perfect cocker spaniel to learn more.

As I like things to be safe and balanced, I chose the same food company and simply picked a lamb option for the pups to try. After three days of a gradual swap, the boys embraced it fully without any complains or issues. I even think they love it more than chicken…

As of today, we have chicken meal for breakfast and lamb – for dinner. I also use both chicken and lamb kibble for training. Coop and Fred are also continue eating their favourite fresh treats and occasional home-cooked dinner (this really is random).

In three months I am planning to add another flavour to the menu, most likely duck. We’ll see how it goes…

Photo credit: Cooper photographed by me

Diary of reactive dog | What is reactivity and how to help the dog overcome reactivity and become resident / (C) Natalia Ashton, Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog

Re-activating happiness | The beginning | Walking into disaster

Fred was named after Mercury. But he turned out to be my Beethoven. No, not the movie giant… The composer. My favourite composer of all times, if I am to be precise.

Far beyond the similarities in hair style, Fred resembles Ludwig in the way he acts… From the gentleness and sensitivity of a being able to compose Moonlight Sonata to mourn the love that was never meant to be, to the madness and outbursts of a man slapping the piano lead, declaring “For such pigs, I do not play !” and storming out of the room.

That’s my boy… The loving, intelligent little boy who became reactive in August 2018…

It took me such a long time to share this. People asked. A lot. And I thought about writing notes for months, too. But a part of me did not want to dissect my pup’s life like a case study because I didn’t want people to misunderstand and perceive him as a “troubled” dog.

And then I realised that whilst I knew what I was dealing with, there were a lot of dog parents out there who had no idea of reactivity or ways of managing it, making dogs feel worse, not better.

I also felt that my diary might be helpful for people who found themselves in a situation similar to ours and are doing their absolute best to get through it, without feeling isolated and alone.

It will take me a few posts to cover everything we’ve done because dealing with reactivity is a multidimensional process. I am not even going to constantly refer to it as “reactivity”. Instead I will focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. The positive ray of sunshine however faint and remote. It’s out there. Hence, it’s not about “going through reactivity” but “re-activating happiness”…

In your dog, in you you, and the life you share together.

So let’s start from the very beginning…

The day it happened… I still remember it. We decided to explore a new beautiful walk, with the woods and the views. The utter perfection in every way. We had such a wonderful time.

We headed back. Excited, happy, tired… Boys were on their leads because we didn’t know the area well. We took the path stuck between a steep, almost vertical heel on one side and a fence – on the other.

The dogs appeared suddenly. Three labs and a boxer. Off lead. Sprinting towards us, no owners in sight. They quickly formed a circle around me and the pups and started bouncing, trying to push the boys to the ground. I tried to cover them with my body, but it wasn’t enough… My husband tried to pull the dogs away, but it was impossible, so he run off to find the owners.

There was growling, but luckily, no biting… And then I heard Fred scream… Like he never screamed before.

Next, the owners run into the scene, still staying away and calling the dogs, “come! come!” – not making any effort to get closer. The dogs ignored them, yet again, so eventually one of the women came over, held them by their collars and told us not to worry because “they wouldn’t bite”…

It was over in a matter of minutes, but that moment changed everything…

We got back to the car. Fred seemed back to his normal self, Coop was breathing heavily and I felt like I could do with a drink, or two, or a sedative… At that point I thought Fred would be find because the boy was so resident and acted relatively calm. I was afraid for Coop known to be extremely sensitive. And deep inside my brain was pulsating three words… “The fear period”… The time in life of every pup aged 8-10 months when any ordinary thing can suddenly look scary… Fred was 9…

As we drove home, I ordered some calming remedies for the boys, just in case we needed them. Upon return we crushed on a sofa, the boys relaxed and fell asleep.

The morning that came seemed no different from any other morning. And so was the next one. In the afternoon we went for a walk and saw our friends with their dogs. Just as usual, we rushed over to say Hello… As we got closer, Fred suddenly stopped and screamed, then barked… and barked again… He tried to hide behind me. The boy who loved his furry friends suddenly felt afraid of them…

It was frustrating, it was frightening, it was very, very upsetting… It was the moment I discovered reactivity. And from that moment on I had to find ways to deal with it.

To be continued…


Photo credit: this photo was taken by me during the walk that lead to the disaster…

Perfect cocker spaniel featured in Edition Dog magazine June 2020 issue / English cocker spaniel articles & features / Natalia, Cooper & Fred as experts for Cocker spaniel feature / Perfect cocker spaniel guide to the breed, dog blog, how to groom English cocker spaniel, cocker spaniel diet, health, training, puppy tips / written by dog expert, author & canine nutritionist / (C) Natalia Ashton

As featured in Edition Dog magazine

I feel very privileged to be featured in the latest editions of Edition Dog magazine. The April 2020 issue included a photo of Fred that I’ve taken last year. It came as a total surprise and made me feel so proud as a photograher – and also very happy to see my wonderful boy smiling at me from a glossy page. It’s always been one of my favourite photos of him, so this is extra special.

Last week I also got a June copy. They featured English cocker spaniel as the breed in focus and interviewed me as an expert for the wonderful article. It was such a pleasure to chat with Paige Nicole who wrote the piece and spent time with me talking about dogs, my boys, Oscar, Perfect cocker spaniel, puppies and life in general.

If you fancy a copy, the mag is sold in shops and can also be ordered online, which is particularly useful if you’d like to grab back issues or prefer to go digital.

Photo credits: covers and pages via Edition Dog magazine, April and June 2020 issues, photos of me, Oscar, Cooper and Fred are by me, from personal collection