We have a winner...I think. Hadley has been steadily eating her breakfasts of California Natural Lamb & Rice kibble and her dinners of the same kibble mixed with a couple of tablespoons of California Natural's canned version of the same flavors. Yummy. She's also very fond of the chicken & rice formula. She's enjoying her food more and I enjoy watching her enjoy her food. All of this regular eating is also resulting in some regular pooping and she seems to be going to her potty box like a good girl. Oh, I know even as I write this that I've not seen my last poop "accident" but it's progress nonetheless. I can also now go back to reinforcing the tricks and commands she's learned with healthy treats of fruits and vegetables.
What's interesting is that she likes the taste of this kibble well enough that I can use it as her 'good girl' treat when she's gone potty in the correct place. But I think there's also something about the fact that the piece of kibble is offered along with lavish praise in my "happy voice" that makes it a prize. She's also accustomed enough to her weekly bath that cheese incentives are no longer needed. OK, she does get a biscuit or long-lasting chicken chew to keep the peace when I leave for work but otherwise, this is going to be one hell of a healthy dog.
Other than the fruit and vegetable treats, I don't generally feed her people food...although I do offer grilled chicken when I'm having it for dinner myself. It's not bad for her and she loves it so! What I don't like about the California Natural is that they've chosen to add vitamins and minerals rather than including the vegetables themselves. I think I will cook a weekly batch of sweet potatoes, string beans, pees, carrots and broccoli and keep them in the fridge to add to her food. I had some sweet potato left over from my dinner yesterday that I added to hers and she found her meal to be extra yummy :)
Otherwise, I'm pretty happy with the choice of food. I'd made a list of about a dozen foods, in order of excellence but with any one of them being healthy and acceptable. California Natural fell near the middle of the list, makes a wet and a dry food and comes in a choice of beef, lamb or chicken. The wet food doesn't upset Hadley's tummy or give her diarrhea and she seems healthy and energetic. Her ears are a little itchy but they've always been and it's on my list to ask the vet. She's also always sneezed which the vet said was due to allergies but to what we don't know. If it's food allergies, the sneezing might improve on the new food but, then again, with summer over they might ease anyway. Her coat looks good and thick. We've run into a number of pale looking CKC Spaniels and Hadley's coat is a much deeper and richer shade of chestnut.
In all my reading and discussions on this topic, I've run into extreme opinions on both sides. To those people who think I'm spending needless money and enabling my fussy puppy, my answer is that I don't know if Hadley will live a longer, healthier life eating high quality food rather than cheap, well-advertised brands. No one knows. But I don't feed myself or my boyfriend garbage so why would I give it to her. If her life will turn out to be short, I will know I'd done the best I could for her.
On the other side of the opinion fence are people who are distrustful of all dog foods and who take the trouble to cook chicken, rice and vegetables for their dogs every day. Although I've chosen not to go that route, I do admire it. I remember the big pet food recalls of a couple of years ago and the fact that animals died. I had no puppy then or immediate plans to get one so the news didn't hit home as much. Looking back on it now, I can't even imagine the pain and rage I'd feel if my beautiful girl died because the food she trustingly took from my hand was laced with toxic ingredients. I'm angry after the fact at those responsible and certainly wish them a special place in hell.