Barf Diet For Dogs – Introducing Raw Dog Food For Beginners Its Easy

Healthy Barf Diet For Dogs – Great Beginners Guide

Beginners Guide – Barf Diet For Dogs

raw dog food for beginners

Barf Diet: What is the Barf Diet all about?

What Is The Barf Diet?

The Barf Diet has a few different meanings.  Its been described as both “Bones and Raw Food”, and “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food”.   It is a method of feeding your dog that mimics how canines eat in the wild.  If your dog was wild, it would consume the whole animal.  This includes what was inside the animals stomach.   This concept is pretty old.  People have been feeding their dogs raw meat and table scraps for many years.  A majority of this diet is raw meat and bones, it also adds organs, liver, vegetables, fruit and seeds.  

In the mid 1950’s Kibble was introduced to the USA by the commercial pet industry.  The convenience modern pet food slowly made people forget how their ancestors fed their dogs.  The Barf Diet is all about how dogs use to be fed and how they should be fed today.  

The primary protein source that I use for BARF is chicken.  I also do use some red meat, typically 93% lean chop meat.  I mix in some beef liver, gizzards, chicken hearts for the added nutrients.  As for the vegetables, I feed my dog carrots, broccoli, spinach and sometimes kale.  The Barf Diet for dogs is a pretty simple diet, once you figure out how to use the ratios its easy.  Please see below for the correct ratios.  

Who First Wrote About The Barf Diet?

Dr. Ian Billinghurst was the first person to publish books on the subject.  His first book “Give Your Dog a Bone” describes in detail the issues with commercial kibble. Commercial dog foods often have excessive amounts of vitamins or too little vitamins.  He talks about how we need to use a common sense method of feeding dogs.  We need to move away from the commercial kibble that is mostly grain and fillers.  He talks about how to balance what the dog eats.  It is also explained why dogs do not need to eat many carbohydrates. 

What are the Basic Principles of the Barf Diet

This is a pretty simple Raw Fed diet.  The main component of the diet is raw meat and bones.  In order to get the correct vitamins and nutrients certain organs are also consumed.  Just like they would be in the wild.  In the wild, canines also consume the stomach and its contents.  The partially digested greens are consumed.  This is why vegetables, fruits and seeds are added to the diet.  The barf diet focuses on consumption of proteins and bones over carbohydrates.  It is balanced by using different cuts of meat.  Some dog owners use raw green tripe, livers, whole heads including the brain and other harder to find organs.   This is all pretty much determined by what is locally available.   

 Books on the Barf Diet and Nutrition

These are the books on the barf diet that I personally own.  There is a lot of good information in all three of them. The two books written by Billinghurst are more about the concept of raw feeding.  The book written by Segal gives more data about nutritional value of different animals.  Segal breaks down how much calcium and phosphorus is in commonly available cuts.   So if you want to see the actual numbers I highly recommend the K9 Kitchen book.   There seems to be two versions of the K9 Kitchen, one is pretty expensive.  The one I purchased was around $15.00. I do not know what is in the $90 version.  For more information about raw feeding in general check out this other post Raw Dog Food For Beginners.  

Barf Diet For Dogs: Feeding Guidelines

The following feeding guidelines can be used to assist you in planning what to feed your dog.  These are basic guidelines and will need to be adjusted to meet the needs of your individual dog.  Please seek the advice of a Veterinarian Nutritionists for your specific case.  I personally did not get the assistance of a Veterinarian but I did many hours of research before I started making my own food.  

Barf Diet – Meal Ratios

Barf Diet For Dogs - Puppy diet ratios

How Much Barf Should I Feed My Dog?

Adult Dogs Daily Feeding:

Adult dogs need to be fed a much different amount than a growing puppy.  The typical range for an adult dog is 2-3% of their body weight per day spread over two meals.   The actual amount is not an exact science.  It really depends on the age of the dog, the activity level and its ideal body weight.

In the past I have found for an active adult German Shepherd, 2.5% daily worked well.  If I went up to 3% she would start to put on some weight.  I maintained my GSD at a range of 65-70 LBS.  With some breeds it is critical that the dog does not get overweight an stress the hips and elbows.  A German Shepherd is one of those breeds.

**Example of daily feeding amount: 65 LB Adult Female GSD

LBS PER DAY: 65 LBS * 2.5% = 1.625 LBS Per Day.

LBS PER MEAL: 1.625 / 2 = .8125 LBS

OZ PER MEAL:  0.8125 * 16 = 13 OZ Per Meal 2 x A Day

This is what I fed my 65LB German Shepherd.  She was a active dog with a very high ball drive.  If you have a low drive or inactive dog, start with 2% and adjust as needed.  

Puppy Daily Feeding:

Since puppies are growing at a crazy rate, they need a much higher percentage of their body weight.  This scales down as the dog gets older.    I have found that puppies need between 5-8% of their body weight per day.  Depending on the dog, you should plan to use 3-4 meals per day until about 4 months of age.  Once they pass 4 month, they should tolerate 3 meals a day.  By age 10 – 12 months its ok to feed them twice a day.  

Feedings Per day:

  • Age: 2-4 Months = 3 to 4 times daily
  • Age: 4-8 Months = 3 times daily
  • Age: 9-12 Months  = 2 times daily

In the past I have found for an active adult German Shepherd, 2.5% daily worked well.  If I went up to 3% she would start to put on some weight.  I maintained my GSD at a range of 65-70 LBS.  With some breeds it is critical that the dog does not get overweight an stress the hips and elbows.  A German Shepherd is one of those breeds.  

**Example of daily feeding amount: 4 Month old puppy

LBS PER DAY : Dog Weight: 28 LBS * 6.5% = 1.82 LBS Per Day.

LBS PER MEAL: 1.82 / 4 = 0.455 LBS

OZ PER MEAL:  0.455 * 16 = 7.28 OZ Per Meal 4 X A Day

This is what I fed my 28LB German Shepherd Puppy Clove.  She is my first raw fed puppy.  I found that before the age of 4 months, she needed closer to 8% daily.  As she got older I have been reducing that amount.  For this breed you should be able to see some ribs on the dog, i believe she will be approximately 65 LBS full grown.  Ove weight German Shepherds can easily develop hip and elbow issues especially ones that are predisposed to those issues. 

Barf Diet For Dogs: Create Your Own Dog Food

If you have decided this sounds like the right way to feed your dog, the next thing to think about is do you want to create your own raw food?  There are advantage and disadvantages to creating your own foods.   Currently I see that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.  That is why I choose to make all of the raw food I feed Clove.  I would say this isn’t for everyone.  It can be messy to make your own raw dog food.  If your interested in creating your own raw dog food please look at this post for information on what meats to use.


  • Ingredients: Choice of ingredients is yours to make
  • Allergies: Omit any meats or ingredients that cause allergy issue with your dog
  • Customized: Specific for each dog you own. 
  • Quantity: Make as little or as much as you can store
  • Price: Buying in bulk you can save money


  • Time: Plan to spend a few hours a month making raw dog food
  • Space: Location required to make the raw food
  • Tools: Cutting board, knife, sharpener, grinder
  • Storage: Containers for the raw food

If you do choose to create your own dog food, for the barf diet there are basically two ways to feed.  The dog can be given ground up food that is already combined.  Or they dog can be given the different cuts of meat whole with the bones and all.  I have used both methods with good success.  Currently I am using the grinding method because I don’t want to risk the choking hazard with my puppy Clove.    If you do choose the grinder method, you must get a good grinder that can tackle the soft bones of chicken or whatever bones you are using.  Do not grind large hard bones like cow or pig.  

Barf Diet For Dogs: Safety Precautions

Work Area and Items:  This is a pretty simple concept.  The work should be kept clean of food and items that should not contact raw meat.  Use a large cutting board and stainless steel bowls to contain the raw ingredients.  These tools are only used for making raw dog food.  Once The food is made, the larger chunks of meat are wiped away.  After removing all of the visible meat, the items are washed with soap and water.  Followed immediately by a disinfecting spray.  Allow them to dry, then place in storage area.  Its that Simple!

Tools: Use caution when cutting with a sharp knife.  If the knife cuts through chicken bone, it can surly remove a finger just as easily.  Another tool to be considerate of is the meat grinder, if that method is used.  Don’t stick your hand down the feed tube, you could loose it.  Keep Knife sharp so it cuts rather then slides across bones and tendons. 

Older Dog: Older dogs have a higher risk of breaking their teeth.  They also may have a harder time digesting larger bones.  Consider using the grinding method for older dogs.

Immune Compromised:  It may be best to avoid using a raw food if your dog is immune compromised.  Look into a gently cooked version of dog food in this instance.  A good commercially available food is made by Ollie.  They gently cook their ingredients which can remove the potential for pathogens that a immune compromised dog can not handle.  

Meat Handling: This meat should be no different from meat people eat.  All of the meat I craft my dogs food with is people grade.  I wouldn’t feed my dog anything that I can’t eat.  So use the same precautions that you would for people food.  Good hand hygiene is very important.  Clean your work surfaces and disinfect promptly.  Keep small children from handling the food until they understand hygiene.  

Storage: In order to store the food for more then a few days, a deep freezer that is below 0 should be used.  Its also advisable to use containers that will not break in the freezer.  The last thing you want to deal with is BARF that leaked all over the freezer before it froze. 

Defrosting:  Do not leave the meat or raw food out for long periods of time to defrost it.  It should not be allowed to reach room temperature.  Typically I defrost for a few hours on the counter and place it in the fridge while its mostly frozen to finish defrosting.  You can not heat these meals to high temperature to defrost.  You risk cooking the bone which can cause internal injuries to the dog.  The bones must remain RAW!

  • Can your dog handle whole bones
  • Clean your work area
  • keep children away from the raw food
  • Avoid using any meat that smells bad or spoiled

What To Look For In Cooked Commercial Brands if raw is not right for your dog?

  • Quality:  Look for food companies that can use meat that is fit for human consumption.  
  • Nutritional: Look for foods that conform to the AAFCO standards of nutrition for dogs.  
  • Value: high cost does not always mean high quality
  • Source: Where do they get their meat, and what is it?

If you decide that raw is not right for you or your dog, Please consider Ollie brand dog food over commercial kibble.  This brand creates small batches of gently cooked food using the best possible ingredients available.  Since its it cooked, it is a good fit for immune compromised dogs or for anyone that does not want to use the Raw feeding concept.  Please note, I do receive a small commission if you buy from Ollie from my link.

Ollie Dog Food

Barf Diet For Dogs: What To Look For In Raw Commercial Brands?

  • Quality:  Look for food companies that can use meat that is fit for human consumption.  
  • Nutritional: Look for foods that conform to the AAFCO standards of nutrition for dogs.  
  • Value: high cost does not always mean high quality!
  • Source: What is the primary source of their meat?

Raw Dog Food

Raw Wild Dog Food

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