Canine companions enjoy some of life’s best pleasures

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Family Features
PAMPERED POOCH: More dog owners have been choosing to feed their dogs like they feed themselves – choosing foods made with gourmet flavors and real, wholesome ingredients.

The expression “It’s a dog’s life” certainly holds true for the millions of four-legged friends who are now enjoying some of life’s best little pleasures, a privilege their owners have appreciated for years.

More than 75 percent of pet owners consider their dogs to be members of the family, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association 2005 to 2006 National Pet Owners Survey. This means America’s canine companions are now enjoying creature comforts that include sleeping in bed with their owners, traveling on vacations and meeting with their doggie pals for organized play dates. What’s more, recent trends in pet ownership are changing the way dogs eat, with the emergence of dog food that is inspired by entrees more commonly found on the dinner table.

Fancy food

More and more dog owners want to feed their dogs like they feed themselves – choosing foods made with gourmet flavors and real, wholesome ingredients that offer a balance of high-quality nutrition and great taste. According to a Purina survey of 1,000 adult pet owners living in the U.S., 91 percent rank high-quality protein as the most important nutrient to consider when purchasing food for their dogs and cats. This is followed closely by 90 percent who say they want to serve their pets foods rich in antioxidants. Dog owners also place great emphasis on the quality of the food going into their dogs’ bowls.

“Over the past several years, we have seen the emergence of a growing food trend that we call ‘affordable indulgence,'” said Lucien Vendome, executive chef for Nestlé. “Gourmet foods and flavors once considered upscale and limited only to fine-dining establishments are now appearing in mass channels such as grocery stores and even in commercial dog food.”

According to Vendome, “Four-legged friends can now enjoy a gourmet meal with the Filet Mignon, Prime Rib and New York Strip Flavors found in the ALPO Chop House Originals brand dog food line, which also includes products made with Angus beef.”

Dogs can also dine on food featuring unique ingredients in the form of wholesome fruits, vegetables and a wide selection of good-for-you grains. For example, some dog foods are now formulated with accents of antioxidant-rich cranberries and sweet potatoes. Others deliver excellent nutrition and great taste through whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice.

Your dog’s other desires

Dogs aren’t just great food lovers, of course. Sometimes, they just want to be dogs, and it’s up to their owners to find ways for their canine companions to enjoy some old-fashioned fun.

They need a positive outlet for energy, and nothing helps them release it more than a walk around the block, a fun game of fetch or a trip to the dog park. Not only does exercise help dogs maintain a healthy weight and ideal body condition, it also helps keep them out of trouble and resting quietly at the end of the day. A walk provides dogs with a chance to enjoy the fresh air as well as check out all the great sights and smells of the neighborhood.

For more active pups that prefer to run, a fun game of fetch with a tennis ball or a flying disc is just the trick. For social dogs that prefer the company of other dogs, a play date with a small group of their beloved canine companions can be the perfect activity for exercise and bonding.