Every dog owner at one time or another will wonder about what sort of food their pet would eat in the wild—presumably a diet that would not include such items as pilfered sandwiches, burgled pizza slices, and TV remote controls. Yes, we’re looking at you, Fido.
But ill-gotten gains for our canine friends aside, there’s a wide range of ingredients and levels of quality in commercially available dog food. Depending on your budget and your view of your dog’s dietary needs, the options range from everyday supermarket offerings to the higher-end stuff in specialty stores. These choices are often more than academic: The cheaper stuff tends to contain fillers and larger quantities of corn, which, depending on your pooch, can contribute to problems in digestion.
Minnesota’s Barkley’s Bistro line of dog treats—available at farmer’s markets since 2011 and now in pet outlets such as the venerable Chuck & Don’s—is made up of regionally sourced, gluten-free meats and grains. Their Hot Dish cookies come across as crunchy and, in the batch we opened up, fresh and free of that earthy dog-food smell that lingers in the kitchen like excess fur along the baseboards.
We enlisted Wabi, a lab-pointer mix whose typical culinary enthusiasms range from his grain-free daily diet to the contents of various refuse receptacles, to perform a taste test. The first cookie went down in less time than it would seem possible, and seemed to involve very little chewing. The second, held above his eye level for several seconds, elicited a great show of obedience and the general sense that his next Barkley’s Bistro Hot Dish treat had become the overriding focus and meaning of his existence, clouding out all other considerations past and present.
No doubt these are a luxury item, the kind of treats you might reserve for a special occasion—of course that might be defined as a Tuesday, depending on how much you like to indulge your pooch. But their ingredients are basic and healthy, and won’t lead to the kind of digestive upset that other goodies can provoke (a dire backfire at times for the dog owner).
As for Wabi, he may well still be waiting for his next one.