Preparing a Dog for Competition

21st April 2023 10 min read

Guest Blog: Kat Farrants

Following on from Crufts 2023, obedience competition winner Kat Farrants explains why raw dog food is essential to raise a champion.

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Preparing the Sports Dog for Competition

The big event, in my case, is the Crufts Obedience Championships 2023. This was something that the audience relished for the 13 minutes that it took each of my girls who qualified, to look at their round.

Don’t get me wrong, I just loved what I did with my girls in that relatively short amount of time, and I’m brimming with pride for their accomplishments. After all, we made breed history – we were the only non-collies competing in the Bitch Crufts Obedience Championships (again!) – and this is the first time that the champs have seen a mother and daughter Aussie qualify. This is also the first time both have been Obedience Champions and the first home-bred team! In terms of results, my little Gracie (Obedience Champion Solarwind Power and Glory OW), did phenomenally, also making history – the best-placed Australian Shepherd Bitch in the Obedience Championships ever.

So, as you can imagine, I’m utterly thrilled with the results.

But the big day, the big results, are just the tip of the iceberg. What happens on the big day is a large portion of luck – but that luck is only available with, quite literally years and maybe decades of preparation.

The reality is that preparation for the Crufts Obedience Championships happened for each of my girls when they were in their mother’s wombs.

Many puppy owners don’t realise the massive effect that a mum has on her unborn pup. Any stress the mum has during her pregnancy, wonderful experiences, calm, and all her nutrition is absolutely crucial to the health of the unborn pup. The unborn pup relies on her health and her environment for absolutely everything. The difference between pups born where the mum has been stressed or fed sub-optimum nutrition and those where mums are calm, happy and fed great quality food, is immense, numerous studies have shown. Even dads have a major impact on the future abilities of pups. Not just their DNA, picking the very best quality stud dog which goes without saying, but also picking a dog who lives a happy, fulfilled life. It has been shown that trauma does travel through to pups. And in fact, I’ve turned down using stud dogs whom I loved and loved the pedigree and DNA of, on the grounds that I thought that they were living a stressed life.

The next, obvious piece of preparation is the diet of the mum. A mum simply cannot pass down health and confidence to her pups if she is lacking in nutrition. I’ve now raw-fed all my dogs for 4 generations and have been astounded by the results. I have been warned in the past, by other breeders and by many so-called experts, not to feed a breeding bitch raw food. I was told not to risk her health or the health of her pups. But this couldn’t be any further from the truth. When we raw feed our bitches in whelp, we give them an abundance of all-important calcium (of course there is no better source of calcium than bones, that goes without saying), but also the micro-nutrients that are found in abundance, especially in pasture-fed and organic raw meat, is just wonderful.

When the pups arrive, they of course live off mum’s nutrition until weaning starts. It’s really important that she’s fed all she can eat of the highest quality grass-fed, or organic, premium meat and bones. For me, just saying ‘human quality’ isn’t high enough. For example, did you know that grass-fed meat has 3 x the omega 3 of normal ‘human-grade’ meat? For me, the quality HAS to be premium, she must be able to access all of the nutrients and be fed as nutrient-dense a diet as possible. Now is not the time to skimp. Yes, most breeders do. Feeding litters is expensive, but what you put in you get out… if you want to raise Champions, you simply cannot skimp.

The pups are weaned on raw meaty bones and raw food, and I find it fascinating that pups immediately know that this is food, and yelp and whine with excitement when fed their Paleo Ridge Weaning Paste. Interestingly, I’ve also tried them on goat’s milk and kibble (breeders need to soak kibble in goat’s milk so that the pups know that this is food). And the puppies walk through it, play in it, do anything rather than eat the stuff!! Pups know best!

Then the hard work begins – the training, socializing, the confidence-giving. I personally dedicate months and ears to bringing a puppy up well.

But none of the training counts if the dog isn’t feeling simply amazing in herself. She needs to feel well-rested, calm and confident and simply brimming with energy, to be able to perform at the highest level. I don’t feel my dogs much because I don’t need to. The food they are given, Paleo Ridge and Paleo Plus, are so nutrient-dense that they get optimum nutrition with no waste. Really great nutrition produces great muscle tone, great condition and also a dog who can relax when not at work. Relaxation and quality sleep time is as important, or even more so, than training and conditioning activities. My dogs undergo water treadmill, fortnightly physio, a rigorous programme of muscle-building, stamina- building and fitness activities. But even more importantly, I need to know that they’re getting deep sleep and deep rest. It’s in the rest periods that they can process the training, and that their bodies get to replenish and feel deeply nourished.

The next part of the equation is the reward. My competitive obedience is 100% positive based. There is no element of compulsion whatsoever when I teach dog sports. Everything is their choice. But that means that it’s crucial that they are doing the activity for the right pay! I pay my dogs very, very well. After their Crufts rounds, they got half a tub of Paleo Kangaroo Chunks. They are my dog’s very favourite reward. Utterly delicious to them. And of course, full of nutrition for them to combat any depletion that may have occurred during the round. And for training, I’m loving the Paleo Treats – my dog’s favourites are the venison bites, and the liver is a perennial favourite too!

So when you next see a sports dog doing what they do, know that the training started with that dog’s grandmother and her nutrition, care and training. Yes, reaching the highest echelons of dog sports can be done with a rescue (absolute kudos to those who are able to do so!), or with sub-optimum nutrition, but why not stack the odds in your favour?

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