Thursday, 28 April 2016

Pedigree Feeding Trial Week 1

Week one of our feeding trial, I have been asked to provide regular videos to track our progress.

Friday, 15 April 2016

A Dogs Story - App for Children & Dog Safety

While I was at the Pedigree/Waltham event day we were told about a new app especially designed for children around dog safety.  When I got home I downloaded it (on android from Google Play) and sat down with my almost 3 year old daughter.  Macy has been brought up around dogs and gets dragged along to agility shows so I would hope she knows how to behave around dogs but being still a toddler and going through a phase of she knows best it is always good to reiterate dog safety.  This app is great as it does just that but in the form of a game so the children are learning but don't realise they are!  

It is basically about a little boy and a dog who steals his brother's ball, the game follows the little boy who meets various people and dogs on the way to finding the dog who stole the ball.  The boy learns how to greet dogs properly, how to read their body language, not to approach sleeping dogs, dogs that are eating and take toys from dogs.  It is great because the child can see what would happen if the boy did the correct thing and what would happen if the boy was to do the incorrect thing and disturb a sleeping dog for example.  
Macy was brilliant, she got some right, she was great at reading their body language and how to stroke the dog.  She thought it would be nice to cuddle a scared dog, which in her mind she would have a cuddle if she was frightened so it is a difficult one for her to understand but with the help of this it is more likely to sink in.  Dinner was ready halfway through our game, as soon as she had finished she wanted to log back on and help the little boy find the dog and ball!  The game had paused it's progress and we started off where we left off until we found the dog with the ball!  At the very end the 'Guru' goes through everything learnt in the app and the child has to press the right option.  
Fantastic app as my 2 year old could play it (I had to show her which option was which as she obviously can't read yet, however some answers are picture format so she could pick herself) and it is also useful for older children.

All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Pedigree at The Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition

Feed The Good?

I was invited by Pedigree and Mumsnet to attend an event at Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition to learn more about how Pedigree dog food is develop and learn more about canine nutrition.  I was interested in learning more about canine nutrition, having agility dogs it is especially important they are getting a fully nutritious diet.  There is an age old myth about pedigree and how it is packed full of rubbish just to bulk it up and I wanted to know the truth, I don’t really know how people can say this when they have probably never picked up a packet recently or recently fed it to their dogs.
I must admit when our feeding trial came through I was surprised at the amount of wet food and when I calculated Sweep’s daily allowance according to what they had given me it works out at 3 pouches a day plus a cup of dry food.  The Pedigree Tracks app calculates the exact weight of dry the dog needs.  Pedigree recommend feeding 50% wet, 50% dry so I questioned this on the day (having always just fed dry as it is more convenient and better for their teeth?)  Interestingly enough, I found out that the wet food contains about four times less calories per gram than dry food so it can help over feeding as you feel like they are getting more to eat. However for me the main thing I learnt was that because it contains more moisture than dry food, this is good for urinary tract health.  For me I have a cat who can suffer from urinary tract infections and wet food could actually combat this.  For the dogs I don’t think it would improve their health as they have never suffered however in future if I was to ever have a dog who suffered then this would be a way that may combat it.  Nutrition wise there is no difference between wet and dry, obviously if feeding only wet we need to be making sure we take care of their teeth, either teeth cleaning, Dentastix or Dentaflex (I did a trial with these, they were great, click here).

We started the day with a tour of the facilities.  I hadn’t realised how much goes on behind the scenes before dog food hits the shelf!  They have a lot of vets working with them and specialist nutritionists.  Pedigree is ultimately owned by Mars which is still a family run business with over 80,000 associates across 77 countries.  They went into the dog food industry in 1935 and they own Banfield Vet Hospital who is the biggest employer of vets.  So you can be sure they are qualified enough to know what a dog’s needs are!
They have a laboratory on site where they do all sorts of testing before they develop a food, for example they take dog stomach cells and test different ingredients on the cells to see whether they inflame to make sure it isn’t going to cause a bad reaction in a dog.  They are able to test different things on different bacteria found on the dog’s teeth to see whether they will help reduce gum disease, plaque etc.  Waltham recently found out that puppies need a higher level of Vitamin A in their diet and didn’t keep that to themselves, they shared it across the industry.

Their animals kept on site are happy and healthy and there are plenty of animal carers onsite who only look after a few animals so they get plenty of attention and by the end of the day they are quite happy to relax for the evening.  The animals are trained positively with reward based methods.  Pedigree aim for 85% of their food to be digested and 15% to come out as waste (poo!) and they can track that easily.  
We had a presentation on their factory and how the food is produced and what came across was how passionate they are about the quality of their food.  They have a specialist person who checks quality every couple of hours and on top of that they have a morning and an afternoon panel who also check on the quality – things like smell, chunk size etc, they say there are about 16 quality checks before food hits the shelves.  The factory works to high standards and you could actually eat the food yourself, the meat used is all parts of the animal that would normally get thrown away so it sustainable as it is cutting down waste.  Things like the carcass from the chicken, liver, lungs etc they are all high in nutrients but humans don’t like to eat them so they end up in our dog food, in the wild the dog would probably choose to eat these first as they are the tastiest!  The law says that to declare food as beef or chicken there must be a minimum of 4% of that meat and they have to declare that however Pedigree say that there is normally around 30-40% meat but it might not necessarily be chicken or beef and might be other meat.  This is then what is classed as a meat derivative.  Everything in the food is there for a reason and to give the dog a balanced diet, carbs are needed for energy not to bulk the food up.  No artificial flavours and no added sugar, salt is added as it is required for a balanced diet.
We had a talk from Sandra McCune about dogs and children and how they can really enrich the lives of our children.  In the USA children are more likely to grow up with a pet than a father!  Dogs have been proven to make us healthier, Dolling et al. cited by Mills 2013 found that savings to the NHS would be about £2.45billion!  Different studies have shown that children with pets have up to 2 weeks less days off sick from school than those without pets, those brought up with dogs are less likely to develop allergies and asthma and children like to talk to their pets about any troubles they may have so this means they are also less likely to suffer from anxiety and to be more empathetic.  Dogs in the classroom can help children focus and this is shown by the amount of reading programmes being developed.  So all in all pets can really enrich our lives and our children’s lives.

So all in all what I got from the day is the overwhelming message that Waltham/Pedigree really are trying their very best to create a better world for pets.  They really are feeding the good.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have 
volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid to attend the event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Pedigree 6 Week Trial


Thanks Mumsnet and Pedigree for our 6 week supply of food.  Unfortunately Sweep has gone in for the snip today so we put off starting until he had been in as he will be on a light meal tonight.  

However he did have his first Dentastix and devoured that, nom nom!

We are looking forward to seeing how he gets on after 6 weeks, at the moment he is fit and healthy and has a super shiny coat, you can see how shiny his coat is from the below photo taken by Yellow Hound Photography at a local show:

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Harley's Smokehouse - Kinver

I have wanted to go to Harleys since it opened, I keep seeing photos of lovely food on facebook.  However everyone seemed to say you needed to book and we are people who don't like to book and go out when we fancy it.  So I decided we should organise ourselves and I rang up Tuesday and was told they could squeeze us in at 6pm on Wednesday, they were having cocktail tastings ready for their new bar opening and were really busy so we needed to book.
We arrived and was told they hadn't got our booking but it was okay and they could fit us in, Mark looked over the waiter's shoulder and could see only four or five bookings!  Anyway we were shown to our table and another waitress brought our menus, forgot one for Macy and went off and brought hers along with a children's pack of things to do.  Inside were some cards with animals on to play snap or matching pairs, a colouring sheet, crayons and a mini board game too.  All of this fit into a little cardboard carry case.  Brilliant idea and it kept her entertained all evening.

There didn't seem to be any cocktail tasting going on but I could see a couple of cocktails on a tray which I thought must have been making their way to another table and they looked nice so I decided to have a mocktail (I was driving), they will do any of the cocktails in a non-alcoholic version which is great for those driving or youngsters.  Unfortunately those two cocktails were still sat on the table when we left so were obviously a bit of a marketing ploy to get you to buy a cocktail!
We ordered the Grazing Board to start which included lamb sausages, chipotle dip, sweet potato pieces, chicken wings, feta & red onion tostada and salsa rose.  We were a bit disappointed we didn't get a small plate each nor did we get any starter cutlery as we could have done with plates to cut the sausage up for example.  We did get wet wipes each.  Thinking back we did only get one dip also.  The food was lovely though, the lamb sausage was a bit lumpy and could have done with being minced a bit better as it made it quite chewy as lamb is fatty but otherwise the rest was nice.
For mains I had the Berthas Burnt End Dip (slow cooked warm sliced beef served on white farmhouse bread with our smokey gravy and fries).  I love slow cooked beef and this was the only item on the menu, I must admit I wasn’t overly enthralled at the idea of a sandwich for dinner but I wanted the beef so I ordered it.  The beef was really tasty and for the most part was nice, however there was the odd big lump of fat, which if it has been slow cooked properly it should have all melted away.  Also it being a sandwich there was just too much bread, they do need to think of another way to serve this, even a bun would be better.
Mark had the Bertha’s Best Burger (8oz beef burger, pulled pork, burnt ends, bacon, Monterey jack cheese, jalepenos, with BBQ relish and fries).  His opinion?  Not as good as TGI Fridays big burgers.  Macy had a fish finger sandwich and they were nice big fillets of fish.

For dessert we decided to go for the sharing platter and had mini portions of Key Lime Pie, Oreo Cheesecake, Brownie, filled Churros, mini doughnuts and ice cream.  What a fantastic idea, it came with three dips (strawberry, chocolate and peanut butter).  All of the desserts were fab and a great way to taste what is on offer.

So to sum it up we had a nice meal, a bit of a con going on re: booking as there were probably only seven tables in there including us when we left.  Perhaps at weekends it does get busy but during the week it was dead.  I think we probably both would say the food at TGI Fridays is better and the atmosphere is always good, it felt a bit flat at Harleys and the venue is just very large and open with wooden tables and chairs, just isn't a lot to look at - a bit like a school dining room!