Here at Arahu, we strongly believe in the benefits of natural rearing to support growth, immunity, and future generations. The purpose of this page is not to convert anyone to our way of thinking, but to explain our philosophy and why we adhere to it. My hope is that you walk away thinking, do some research, and come to your own conclusions.
So what is natural rearing anyway? I'll tell you what it means to us.
All of our hounds and cats are fed a species appropriate raw food diet. Nature designed the canine and feline to eat raw meat and bones, and their digestive tracts are built to handle just that. Dogs and cats in the wild are still eating raw meat and bones and thriving, just as nature intended. It is arrogant to presume that man in his laboratory can do better than Mother Nature, in my opinion. It has been noted by several raw promoting vets that the incidence of disease, particularly chronic disease, has increased along with our dependence on processed pet foods. Dogs and cats were not designed to thrive on a cooked and processed diet consisting of predominantly grains and rendered scrap (meat products and by-products deemed unfit for human consumption). Just as humans need fresh food to maintain optimal health, so too do our four legged companions, perhaps even more so.
The benefits of raw feeding are wide and varied. Feeding a species appropriate diet helps support and maintain a strong immune system – something your hound will need for the whole of their life. Growth during puppy-hood is even and steady, providing vitamins and minerals in their natural state. Raw feeding promotes a hard, well muscled body, not a “fleshy” or pudgy form that can so often accompany a high carbohydrate diet. Bright eyes, excellent skin and coat condition, white teeth, and fresh breath, are all benefits of raw feeding, as well as indicators of good health. A visitor at Arahu remarked about Artemis, our notorious kissing hound, that she didn't even have “doggy breath”. She was almost 5 years old at the time! Because the canine body can better utilize a raw meat and bone diet, they produce much less waste – a HUGE fringe benefit for us humans! Most dogs LOVE eating a raw food diet, and hunkering down with a big knuckle bone or a spine can provide hours of exercise and stress relief for them. Raw feeding also breaks the monotony of having the same bowl of food day in and day out, year after year. Imagine how utterly uninteresting eating would be. I think we owe it to our companions to provide fresh and varied foods throughout their lives.
We feed our hounds a variety of raw meat and meaty bones, whole prey, and fruits and vegetables. Our proteins rotate between green tripe, pork, heart, venison, whole rabbit, beef, lamb, organ meats, and the odd poultry meal. We also add in ground or pulped veggies to the diet - we use the veggies that are past their prime in the fridge, plus dark green leafy veggies, fruit, and whatever else is on sale. The hounds also get fresh fruit year round, either store/orchard bought or self-picked off our trees and vines. Farm fresh eggs are added to bowl meals several times a week. Our hounds are generally fed twice a day, with the odd day of fasting, when they might just get a recreational bone. Growing puppies are also fed a lunch until around 4-6 months of age (depending on the need of the individual puppy). Our adult hounds eat roughly between 1.5-3 pounds of food per day. During the most rapid growth phase, puppies can consume up to 7-8 pounds of food per day! Fortunately, this phase does not last too long. We buy most of our dog food from butchers by the case, and store them in freezers. While not ideal, we have found that buying and storing in this manner is by far the most economical way to feed a varied and raw diet to multiple giant hounds.
One of the key components to overall health and vitality, is appropriate exercise, in my opinion. Irish Wolfhounds are double suspension galloping hounds that need to run! And if you have ever watched a hound run full tilt, you know this requires land. While not everyone is lucky enough to have their own acreage for their hounds to run on, I encourage people who love this breed to consider country living, or to wait until they are in the country before obtaining a hound.
A pack of young wolfhounds after a long romp in the fields
Young puppies grow at a rapid rate, and as such, require a great deal of rest while growing. The best playmate for an IW puppy is another IW puppy. However, many of us are dealing with only one puppy at a time. It is important to remember that most other dog breeds will play harder and longer than a wolfhound puppy should. While free play is the best exercise for a growing wolfhound, use common sense when picking a partner for your puppy. Leash walks, to train a puppy how to behave properly on lead, should be kept short and sweet for the first year or more of an Irish Wolfhound's life. Once your hound is over the rapid growth stage, you can gradually lengthen leash walking, and work your hound up to longer distances. By training a good solid recall while your hound is a puppy, you can take your hound hiking on trails, jogging on the beach, or running through the woods, once he is older. But don't forget that this is a sighthound, who will be apt to chase interesting things that it sees - regardless of recall! If you do not have access to a safely fenced acreage, you will have to find other places for your hound to gallop. Always make certain you run your hound in a safe place, far from any trafficked roads.
Fresh air and the freedom to run and hunt at will have been paramount factors in the health of our hounds. While some of our hounds have enjoyed activities such as lure coursing and straight racing, these events are few and far between, as are the wolfhounds who will actually chase the lure (or such has been the case with our hounds). Irish Wolfhounds require a safe place to run daily.
All of our hounds and cats are very minimally vaccinated. More and more vets are speaking out against the over-use of annual vaccines (Schultz, Dodds, Hamilton, to name a few), as they are linking the vaccinations to mild to severe adverse reactions that can sometimes set an animal up for a lifetime of problems. No vaccine is 100% effective, and they all carry a risk in administering them.
Vaccination is a very personal issue – or at least it should be. Too many people today still blindly take their animals into the vet for their annual shots, without ever thinking about what exactly they are doing and why they need to do it every single year. What are these diseases? How many vaccines are in that needle? How prevalent are these diseases in my area? Is there any way to test if my animal has immunity? These are some important questions we should all be asking our vets.
I like to use what works. And over the course of many years, prior to finding a more natural path, I had found many things that did not work. I also like to use what is non invasive and non-toxic. So over the course of the last 10 years, I have delved into more alternative therapies for myself and my companion animals. Some of these things include herbs (both Chinese and Western), chiropractic, homeopathy, acupuncture, and colloidal silver, to name a few. Many of the therapies that Western veterinary medicine has to offer are what I refer to as “band aid” solutions. While applied, they are usually very effective. However, once the therapy is stopped, the symptoms can often recur. "Symptoms” are treated, not the entire being. The holistic approach takes into account the entirety of the being, to help bring about balance and a better state of overall health. Please don't get me wrong. I believe there is a time and place for Western medicine, and it is sometimes needed to stop the acute nature of disease. But it is nice to have alternatives to use in less acute cases or after the fact, once the crisis is over. Then we can work with things like herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, etc, to bring about overall better health.
We do not use chemical preventatives. They are, simply, poison. We use more natural preventatives, even though we may have to apply them more often. Essential oils, diatomaceous Earth, and herbs can all be effective in dealing with parasites, and they are non toxic when used properly.
Young Cernunnos sampling the local herbs
I hope you have found this page to be informative. Please refer to our 'links' and 'suggested reading' pages for more information on natural rearing.