So how did I become a shill for Hill’s Science Diet? They’re sure not paying me. In fact, it was their latest price increase that got me thinking about this. No, it all started in 1981, when I got into the dog business for the first time. I had never had a dog of my own when I was growing up. We had spent nearly two years researching the breed and bloodlines and finding a breeder and reserving a puppy. This would be the super-dog (would uberhundt be more accurate for a Rottweiler?).
When I was in veterinary school we learned a lot about basic nutritional principles. However, when it came to what you would actually feed your pets, it pretty much came down to “feed dog food”. Yes, it’s complete and balanced nutrition for your pet… if you believe the advertising.
When we picked up Anna, the breeder had this long list of things we were supposed to supplement her with. No matter what type of puppy food we used, Rottweilers (supposedly) needed so much bone meal, calcium pills, cottage cheese, raw eggs, canned peaches, little colored marshmallows and I don’t know what all. My wife is feeding me cold sandwiches, but I have to cook for the dog. Right.
Now these breeder folks weren’t dopes. Their dogs looked great and they were winning in national specialty shows. On the other hand, my professors had said “feed dog food”. I got the feeling there must be some middle ground, so I began calling around until I found some big nutrition experts.
The nutrition gurus told me that early commercial dog foods (as in 1950’s and before) weren’t that great. Dog owners who wanted serious performance (hunting, breeding, showing, obedience competition) found that they had to supplement to get good results. If you’ve ever been involved in any competitive endeavor, you know that when somebody wins, all the other competitors jump on their bandwagon. You do what the winners do, because that’s what it takes to WIN.
Even though name-brand dog foods had improved dramatically, the tradition of supplementing to win had become cast in stone. Hence, the breeder’s insistence on providing a smorgasbord for my puppy.
I decided to bite the bullet and follow the advice of my professors: “feed dog food”. BUT, I decided to get what I thought was the best dog food. I picked Hill’s because the company was founded to make prescription diets for dogs with special medical needs. From there they branched out into optimum nutrition for normal dogs (unlike other companies that started as livestock feed operations, branching out into pet foods; we’re talking 1981, remember). I fed Anna nothing but Science Diet puppy formula and she did absolutely great, so I was sold on it.
So, that’s the nutritional testimonial aspect. Stay tuned for the business aspect.