When it comes to food, dogs are just like us. They have their own preferences, likes and dislikes and they are not afraid to make it known! Many dog owners are happy to tailor their dog’s diet to suit its needs, whether it is a special type of biscuit or a certain brand of meaty chunks. Or, increasingly, owners suit themselves and feed their companions whatever they have to hand - roast dinners, chips, biscuits, etc - creating obsese dogs with severe health problems.
Before the days of nutirition and specialist dog diets, gentlemen's sporting dogs were fed on meat and meal, with a 'sporting bakers' in Regent Street supplying additional biscuits made of wheat and oat flour to keep the dogs in top condition for the sporting field. Other lucky dogs enjoyed ‘Jupp’s Dog Biscuits’ in 1861: varieties included, ‘Compressed American Beef Greaves’, ‘Chicken Rice Sweepings’ and ‘Rice Meal’.
But most dogs were fed on bread crusts and scraps from the dinner table, or, if they were strays, they had to be content with hunting through piles of street rubbish for scraps. There was a character known as the 'dogs' meat man' who would ply his trade around the residential streets, with a barrow full of horsemeat and diseased meat to sell. This meat would be weighed out on some scales and boiled down by the owners. Edwin Landseer's painting 'Jack in Office' (below) show a well-fed mastiff type sitting atop his owner's barrow keeping guard while a pack of starving dogs look for an opportunity to make off with any scraps.
These stray dogs were the inspiration for an Amerian electrician by the name of James Spratt who travelled to London in 1860. Upon his arrival he noticed that the docklands were full of hungry dogs searching for discarded scraps of food. Spratt had a ‘light bulb moment’ and quickly took to creating the first 'complete' dog biscuit, made of wheat meals, beetroot, beef blood and vegetables - sold as 'Meat Fibrine' (what a career change for an electrician?!). Spratt’s was registered in England in 1885 as the first pet food supplier, eventually moving to New York in 1895 and staying at the top of the pet food industry for 50 years (the beautiful packaging must have helped sales).
Fast forward to 1930 and the pet food industry was in full swing. The Gaines Food Company brought out the first dry dog meat meal, selling their wares from a travelling wagon. After the First World War, P.M Chappell started canning his own unique blend of dog food, created using surplus horsemeat which led to an increase in this convenient food source. Canned food was extremely popular during the 30s, however the subsequent tin shortage in 1946 pushed dry dog food back to the top spot.
In the 1950s ‘kibble’ was born, known at the time as ‘dog chow’. This food was made by grinding meat meal, grains and vegetables together and steaming it at high temperatures. The mixture was then pushed through a machine to create identical shapes and sprayed with oils, vitamins and flavours to make it appealing for dogs. Kibble was (and still is) a huge success however the introduction of artificial ingredients led to many dogs developing canine allergies and skin problems.Today the average dog owner is spoilt for choice with plenty of top name brands offering everything you need to give your dog a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Tailored diet dog food plans have become especially popular with companies offering specially formulated food to suit each different canine lifestage and breed. Common canine medical problems such as canine obesity, joint and heart problems can now be addressed with specific diet combinations, making it easier than ever to give your dog a long, happy life.
With so much choice available, it is a great time to be a dog owner and an even better time to be a dog! With the right research you can ensure that your dog receives the diet that it needs and the high, quality ingredients that will keep them coming back for more.