Life Food

Food fit for a dog

By Marilou Yampolsky, Special to the Camrose Canadian

A proper diet for your dog is as important as it is for you.  Supplied

A proper diet for your dog is as important as it is for you. Supplied

This article is a big shift from the usual, we are not talking about people food, the focus this week is on dog food.  


I sought the expertise of the biggest dog lovers I have ever met, Tawnya and Gary Berkholtz, the owners of Long Lane Boarding and Kennels. Long Lane has been in business 30 years, but in the capable hands of the Berkholtz’ since May 2015. Since then, the kennel has more than doubled its capacity and cares for up to 50 dogs. These dogs are the Berkholtz’s passion.  

Managing the mealtime of 50 dogs is no easy task. They follow the instructions of the owners to a tee — one dog needs a little bit of warm water mixed with its food, another has dry food mixed with wet food, these ones eat raw food, some have severe food allergies, some have very specific food needs due to diabetes. The owners supply food for their pet, and also indicate the amount of food their dog should eat. This is a lot of information to know for 50 dogs. All the dogs eat at the same time and, to ensure no dogs gets another’s food, they all eat in their kennels. Like kids in school, there’s a routine and the dogs quickly fall into order and know what happens when. If Gary isn’t there to serve their breakfast on time they offer a friendly barking reminder. A huge chart on the wall reminds the staffing team which dogs get what food and any preferences or medications that go with. Dogs are fed twice per day.  

According to Gary, time to run and play and be a dog, is just as important as their diet. Every mealtime at Long Lane is supervised as well as every outdoor playtime. On any given morning 15-20 cars line up as the “pawrents” drop off their dogs to play for the day with their buddies starting at 7:30 a.m. The dogs get let out in groups based on who interacts best with each other. The dogs start games with each other, play with Frisbees, ropes, and work up a sweat. They then go inside and get a rest, then are out again for a play at 12:30 p.m. 

At 3:30 p.m., the dogs get out to play again, supper at 5:30 p.m. and then a good play before bed. These dogs are active! In the yard they have water too to keep them hydrated during playtime. When its meal time they line up at their kennels and are eager to get in and get their meal then take a much-needed rest.   

A good diet is important to keep up their energy. The Berkholtz’s explain that a dog’s diet is similar to us in that they need all the food groups. Dan Rau is a dog lover as well and also the kennel manager. He said that a diet of just meat isn’t enough, they need vegetables as well. If you feed them raw food you also need to supplement their diet with vitamins.  

Creating dog food has become quite the science, and the best way to know what your dog is eating is to make it yourself, or buy the best quality you can. Gary explained that in the same way that we have no energy and don’t feel well when we eat unhealthy food, if a dog has a poor diet, its energy level will be less, and you’ll find more body issues and digestive issues. If you’re buying the cheap dog food, they’ll likely need to eat more food to get the same nutrition and you’ll see the issues in their coat, their mannerisms, even how their body functions.  

Not every dog gets this much activity and interaction, so owners need to feed to match their activity level. Gary warned that one or two pounds extra weight on a small dog is enough extra weight to put them at risk and it’s hard on their organs. He suggests dogs only need to eat twice a day, and treats are not needed all the time. A healthy dog needs good food, and exercise. 

The dogs at Long Lane don’t always get treats, it’s not a constant, it’s only sometimes, and if they’re being asked (or bribed) to do something and need a little extra motivation. A dog treat goes a long way to get them to go into their kennel for the night, or to call them in from play in the yard. The extra special dog treats that they enjoy the most are carrots, apples, pears, bananas, watermelon, and strawberries.Apples are good for weight control, coconut oil is amazing for everything and if you put a scoop of it in with their food the dogs love it and it helps with itchy skin. Onions, grapes, and chocolate can be deadly for dogs.  

Tawnya said that fish oil is also good for them. If you tuck a fish oil pill in their food everyday it’ll do wonders for their coats.  

She also explained a concept she called “cheeseburger magic” she says they can win over most dogs with a cheeseburger. 

Long Lane is more than a kennel they also run the pound. At any time, any dog can be dropped off here that’s been picked up by the bylaw officer and they don’t always know the dog’s history or what the dog has done or experienced. They’ve had some dangerous dogs, but they’ve learned that even the worst ones can be won over with a cheeseburger and some pawsitive reinforcement.   

Some fun ideas to try: In the summer, fill a big bowl with water, stuff some fruit like strawberries in it and put it in the freezer. On those hot days your dog will cool off while licking the frozen water to get to the strawberries. 

Another fun trick is to boil a rope in oxo beef mix. Give it to your pet and they chew the rope to get the flavour out, which is great for cleaning their teeth and keeping them entertained.  

Just listening to these guys talk you can tell they are living their dream. They are so proud of what they’ve accomplished with the help of their capable staff.  

The Berkholtz’s know every single dog by name and personality. They know which dogs get along best, and all of their individual preferences. They could tell stories for hours about their experiences with their extended dog family. They are thankful for all the support they receive from the Camrose community. Local stores have often donated dog food, supplies, and blankets which are always very appreciated. These donations enable this couple to give back to families that need it, and help them to focus on doing what they do best, showing love to the pets in their care.  

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