Show dogs have some un­usual food faves

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS -

By Jen­nifer Peltz NEW YORK » Ben­jamin is a grand cham­pion English toy spaniel, but he’s not a champ at chow. The oth­er­wise un­de­mand­ing dog tends to balk at any food af­ter a cou­ple of meals.

The one treat he never re­fuses? Sauerkraut — and hold the hot dog.

Emmy the har­rier is crazy for ice cubes. Dick the Chi­nese crested isn’t ex­cited by any treat ex­cept bits of raw steak (usu­ally rib­eye). Stella, an old English sheep­dog, sa­vors steamed green beans. Ra­jah the bor­zoi en­joys sautéed chicken liver sautéed in but­ter as post-dog-show re­ward.

And to get Mikka the berga­m­asco to eat, con­sider “Satan balls.”

Come on in to the West­min­ster Ken­nel Club, where own­ers and han­dlers know how to cater to the eclec­tic tastes of show dogs com­pet­ing this week. Can we tell you the spe­cials?

“We’ve got it down to a sci­ence,” Mikka’s co-owner, Jane Bass, says of whet­ting the whis­tles of a herd­ing breed known for its mat­ted coat, gen­tle pro­tec­tive­ness and finicky ap­petites.

Six-year-old Mikka, which made her West­min­ster de­but Mon­day, came to Bass un­der­weight and ten­ta­tive af­ter an­other fam­ily gave her up. Mikka wouldn’t eat un­til one day when Bass ar­rived at her Eas­ton, Con­necti­cut, home to a weird smell waft­ing from the kitchen. Her hus­band was warm­ing lamb kib­ble, chicken broth and home­made chicken in a skil­let for the dog.

“That was the magic for­mula. That and the couch,” Bass says.

Enough bergo­mas­cos are par­tic­u­lar about food that own­ers share recipes, in­clud­ing those tempt­ing “Satan balls”: raw or cooked meat mixed with mo­lasses, oat­meal and peanut but­ter and rolled into balls, ac­cord­ing to Bass.

To cut down on the ex­pense of feed­ing her five dogs, she pre­pares a house blend: kib­ble, chicken and a puree of eggs, egg shells, sea kelp and fruits and veg­eta­bles that can in­clude ap­ples, or­anges, bok choi, cel­ery and acorn squash.

There’s plenty of high­end store-bought food on show dog menus — in­deed, Pu­rina Pro Plan spon­sors West­min­ster — and lots of han­dlers rely on fa­mil­iar treats such as chicken or liver. But some find more ex­otic items ap­peal to their prized pets and per­form­ers.

“He likes it when I do a lit­tle fresh gar­lic and a lit­tle bit of Mal­don salt flakes” with or­ganic chicken breast, Kim Brown said of her basenji, named Bazinga.

No, she didn’t de­vise that as a ca­nine chef. The Fur­long, Penn­syl­va­nia-based breeder hap­pened to make the re­ceipt for her­self once early in Bazinga’s train­ing, gave him a bite and no­ticed his “oohh­h­hhh” ex­pres­sion. So it’s been their go-to show-ring treat ever since, in­clud­ing in a tele­vised semi­fi­nal round at Madi­son Square Gar­den Mon­day night.

From show rings to dog parks, there’s plenty of dis­cus­sion about what to feed dogs: raw food? Reg­u­lar food? Or­ganic? Grain-free? Home­made?

Amer­i­can Ve­teri­nary Medicine As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent-elect Dr. John de Jong says there’s no one an­swer, but own­ers should look to rep­utable, nu­tri­tion­ally balanced and well-re­searched brands. He sug­gests own­ers who’d rather make their own do re­search and con­sult a vet or ve­teri­nary nutri­tion­ist, as dogs have dif­fer­ent di­etary needs than peo­ple do, and those needs can vary by age, size and other fac­tors.

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