Review | Better Food For Dogs by Bastin, Ashton & Nixon

Cover of Better Food for Dogs

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Honey, tonight we’re eating dog food!

And you know what? It wasn’t half bad.

Let me back up a second before you think I’ve completely lost my mind.

When I picked up Better Food for Dogs (with the oh-so-adorable wrinkly bulldog puppy on its cover), I was expecting a few lists of things dogs should never eat and a lot of recipes for treats, “muttloaf” and things of that nature. What I found was a book full of information that every dog owner can use, including many “Doc’s Doctrine” sidebars from Dr. Grant Nixon, D.V.M., the veterinarian that contributed to the book along with David Bastin and Jennifer Ashton–former dog bakery owners and dog-lovers themselves.

The recipes come only after a rather thorough examination of what the proper diet can do for dogs. The authors purport that does benefit from varying diets just as humans do and that it’s difficult for them to receive all the nutrition they need from a steady diet of only one sort of food. They even take on the topics of vegan diets for dogs as well as the raw diet trend–neither of which they are highly in favor of (the first as it’s not realistic for canines, the second for concerns of food safety).

While there are a dozen of yummy-sounding treats at the end of the book, the bulk of the recipes are for the everyday food for dogs, their two meals a day, and are divided between the Basic Recipe–a combination of beef, chicken, turkey, or lamb for the protein and either rice, macaroni, or potatoes for the carbohydrate, along with a veggie blend–in quantities enough for 4 servings at a time, and single-serving Gourmet Recipes. All of this is them broken down into suitable amounts for the different sizes of dogs out there–everything from 5 lb teacup breeds to 150 lb behemoths in 5-lb increments. And then there are charts for the additional needs of bonemeal (for calcium) as well as the other nutritional supplements needed (again, by size of dog).

The Gourmet recipes range from breakfast fare (Cottage Cheese, Fruit and Toast; Oatmeal, Yogurt and Fruit; even a Breakfast Burrito) to dinner options (Stir-Fried Ginger Beef with Greens; Salmon and Dill Pasta; Tomato and Chicken Rotini) and total 20 in all. Not each size of dog gets a version of each recipe, but it’s simple work to size  up or down by finding  the recipe you want in another size that can be easily doubled or halved to meet the proper calorie count. It’s a whole lot easier than making a small dog coat fit a medium dog!

Still, it sounds like a lot of work even cooking every other night on top of cooking for yourself or your family. How tough really would it be?

And that’s when I decided to serve Todd and I dog food for a couple of nights.

We started with one of the basic recipes: Chicken and Rice

Chicken and Rice from Better Food for Dogs

Chicken and Rice for dogs

And that’s when I determined that cooking for your dog is not as out of the question as it might seem. In fact, if you approach it the right way, it’s downright easy!

The basic recipe deals with a protein that easily be bought in quantities and cooked ahead: cubed chicken and ground beef being the most accessible. Package it up in the right quantities and keep it in the freezer until needed–you could do up to a month at a time depending on the size of your dog and the size of your storage space. Put your rice cooker to work to make up enough rice to get your through a week and buzz up a batch of the fruit & vegetable mix and fridge it. After that it’s a quick reheat, stir, and add in nutrients.

And, like I said, it’s pretty tasty. The vegetable mixture is pureed, so it’s a little different than using steamed, chopped veggies in your average one-pot meal, but other than that it’s totally normal food.

For our gourmet selection we went with the Salmon and Dill Pasta

Salmon and Dill Pasta from Better Food For Dogs

Salmon and Dill Pasta–yes, this is dog food!

Tomato, zucchini, spinach, garlic and dill with chunks of tender salmon and pasta make for a good supper no matter how you slice it, and since none of the veggies in this version are pureed, it’s not much different than any other meal we might make.

Now, obviously, we don’t have dogs ourselves but have owned them in the past and hope to in the future when we have enough time to devote to them. Still, I know many people who do–my own mother, for instance–and I would not hesitate to recommend this book to her.

Will we cook for our future furry friends? Hard to say, but at least it’s a discussion we’d be up to having now.

After all, some people consider their dogs akin to children. Would we want children to eat nothing but fortified cereals for every meal? So it’s a questions worth asking: don’t your canine companions deserve a bit more than kibble?


I received a copy of Better Food for Dogs for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.