Cooking for your dog is no different from cooking for yourself, and if you can balance your own diet, you can balance his. You'll use a lot of the same foods and cook them in pretty much the same way.
Balance is critical in homemade dog diets. To ensure that your dog is getting a balanced diet, use careful proportions of the basic elements of protein, fats, vegetables and grains. A base of thirds -- one third protein, one third vegetables, one third grains -- is a good beginning, but so is 50 percent meat, 40 percent vegetables and 10 percent grains. Maximize balance within that base with variety. As protein, include both meat and non-meat sources, such as dairy, eggs and dried beans. For vegetables, use both green and yellow veggies; skip the white potatoes and use sweet potatoes instead. Add fruits for fiber and flavor and grains of different types for quick energy. By maintaining the proportions but changing the ingredients over a week or two, your dog is sure to get almost everything he needs, including a variety of flavors and textures. Talk to your vet about adding a calcium supplement and maybe some oil.
Not Quite Raw
Wild canines may eat raw meat, but they also live shorter lives than domestic dogs. Raw meat carries the risk of disease and parasite transmission -- not just to your dog, but to you and your family. Cooking meat for your dog removes this risk, and it also makes the meat more digestible. Don't rely on how it looks -- cook it to the FDA-recommended safe internal temperature of 165 degrees for poultry and 160 degrees for all other meats. It may still be pink, but it's safe.
You can feed your dog the same amount of home-cooked food as the commercial food he used to eat. Check his weight to see if he's gaining or losing weight and adjust his meals accordingly. Do remember, though, that home-cooked food contains more moisture and therefore weighs more than kibble. If you want to be more scientific about it, take 1 pound of food as equal to 2 cups and give him 2 to 3 percent of his body weight per day. This works out to a pound to a pound and a half of food a day for a 50-pound dog.
Cooking for your dog can even save you a bit of money. If you feed a middle-of-the-road commercial kibble that costs $37.99 for a 35-pound bag, it costs roughly $1.09 a pound. If Fido weighs 50 pounds and is active, that's $1.09 a day for two meals of kibble. Now add a 5.5-ounce can of a popular brand of wet food at 75 cents each to each meal. That totals $2.59 per day to keep Fido fed. For a home-cooked diet, shop your local mega-mart for bargains like a 5-pound bag of chicken hindquarters at 99 cents a pound; after stewing and boning you should get about 4 1/2 pounds of meat, plus the broth. Score some brown rice at 78 cents per pound (makes 2 pounds cooked rice) and frozen peas and carrots at about 98 cents a pound. Cook the rice in the chicken broth, add a pound of the cooked chicken and the frozen veg, mix it all up and you have puppy supper at approximately $2.46 a pound. You invest time, energy and love, and you know that Fido is getting the very best you can give him.