"Over the past 40 years and 17 generations of dogs and, cats we are seeing tremendous increases in chronic ill health in our pets that was rare back in the early 1960's. Most of these illnesses revolve around breakdown in our pets' immune systems, and include chronic skin/ear allergies, digestive upset, thyroid/adrenal/pancreatic disorders, seizures, gum/ teeth problems, degenerative arthritis, kidney/liver failure, and cancer across all ages and breeds. We are also seeing a record number of behavioral and emotional disorders including alarming and unexplained fears/aggression, as well as difficulty focusing/training and paying attention. The analogy of these compared with escalating immune/behavioral diseases in children is quite disturbing. The two biggest factors in our pets' population health decline over these generations has been the severe overuse of multiple vaccines and nutrient poor and toxin filled commercial pet foods. We have also failed to address the underlying cause of disease by only suppressing symptoms with antibiotics, cortisone and related drugs, so the disease progresses and goes deeper. Homeopathy offers a viable alternative in truly curing pets and making their bodies healthier."    

~ Michael Dym D.V.M. from Shirley’s Wellness Café

Before I became involved in Glens, I had Cairn Terriers, and I raised them conventionally; they were fed kibble, vaccinated when the vet said to do so, and treated with assorted chemicals for fleas/ticks/heartworms. I was fortunate to have a very healthy line, who were long-lived and seemed to suffer no ill effects from this mindless yet widely accepted regime.

Then along came Sadie, my first Glen. When we got her, there was a small bald patch on her shoulder, which was later diagnosed as demodetic mange. This was conventionally treated (goodwinol ointment, mitaban dips) and remained under control. Meanwhile, she was subjected to all of the usual vet recommended treatments, including combo vaccines and rabies at the same time!!! Shortly before her first birthday, she had her first seizure... I was horrified! Broken-hearted, I had her spayed... you can't in good conscience breed a dog with seizures and skin problems. Both of which persisted, though the skin problems were mostly mild generalized itching and foot chewing.

Over the next few years I tinkered with the diet. But, as Christie Keith says, changing brands of kibble is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,... and indeed, there seemed to be no benefit. By 1998, I was aware of the BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diet and had started dabbling with it.  Luckily, I attended a life-changing weekend seminar by Ian Billinghurst that year, which put me over the edge for good! I bought his book Grow Your Pups With Bones, and followed it religiously (no small feat!). By then I had my second Glen, and was planning my first litter, who were successfully weaned onto the raw diet using Billinghurst’s book.

Although I no longer follow Billinghurst’s regime, I will be forever grateful to him for opening my eyes, not only about diet, but about other aspects of raising dogs. I have evolved more towards prey model diet, and expect to continue to learn and evolve, while always keeping an eye on the individual needs of my dogs.

As for Sadie... she thrived on the raw diet and, once I stopped vaccinating her in 1998, never had another seizure. She did continue to have mild itchy feet issues throughout her life. At the age of 12 she went into kidney failure and we lost her. I believe the first 5 toxic years of her life just did too much damage. She was my teacher.

Natural Rearing, as has been suggested, is more than just diet. It is about minimizing inappropriate and toxic substances from every area of our (and our dogs) lives. It is about seeking out fresh water, rather than assuming that the city approved tap water is truly safe and clean. It is about avoiding chemical assaults of all kinds, from garden products to household cleansers. It is certainly about NOT putting toxic substances on or in our dogs! Flea/tick poisons, Heartworm preventatives and unnecessary vaccines fall in this category.

The basic idea of Natural Rearing is to build a healthy being from within, via a species appropriate diet, fresh air and water, minimal stress, appropriate exercise, lots of love, and the avoidance of toxic assaults. A dog thus fortified will be better able to withstand the normal challenges of life. Over the years, I have seen this to be true. There are many wonderful websites devoted to this subject, so rather than re-invent the wheel, I will refer you to the Links section.

Natural Rearing is not a fad... it is a lifestyle. Commitment to it for the sake of your dog(s) will change your life and the way you view the world!

I believe that Natural Rearing is particularly appropriate for Glens, who remain quite close to their roots. Seventy years ago, there were no Glens outside of Ireland, and the ones inside of Ireland were kept as they had been for generations; as farm dogs, eating what the farmer and the local butcher could spare (or what the dog could kill or steal). Glens were not coiffed, medicated, vaccinated or coddled! As recently as 20 years ago, kibble was still a relatively new thing in Ireland and many breeders continued to feed real food, and saw the vet rarely if at all. This means that we have fewer generations of poor nutrition and chemical assaults behind our current Glens to clean up! And probably also accounts for the relative good health of the breed, yet at the same time their sensitivity to the currently accepted way of keeping dogs (using chemicals, vaccines and unnatural foods).

We feed our dogs a species-appropriate raw diet and, as I have found my Glens to be sensitive to grains, I avoid almost all commercial products (except the occasional liver biscotti).  We feed our adults once a day, in the evening.  We start with their variety meats, in ground form (rabbit, venison, goat, lamb, quail, or beef), sometimes with tripe added if it is not in the mix, and sometimes with pastured whole eggs with the shell. 

Then "dessert" is their RMBs (raw meaty bones): usually chicken backs or leg quarters, or turkey necks.  They get other RMBs (beef ribs, pork neck bones, oxtails) as I can find and/or afford them.  Supplements vary depending on the season, and any issue the dog might have at the time, but often include fish body oil or coconut oil. Treats are cheese, and freeze dried liver, fish or heart (commercial products). They do get some table scraps. They NEVER get cooked bones of any kind!

In researching raw diets, you will find many variations, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. It is very important to understand the rationale behind the species-appropriate diet, or it will be difficult to make the commitment. I usually recommend that people read several books on the subject (see Lists & Links), and then choose the one that feels the best and makes the most sense to them. Follow that book carefully, while observing your dog and continuing your research. When you feel comfortable with the diet, you can begin to experiment a bit, tweaking it to meet your individual dogs needs and your own growing understanding of a species appropriate diet.

There are now commercially available frozen raw diets (see Links), and these may be good for those just starting down this path. They are also good for when you must leave your dog in the care of someone else. However, some of them contain way too much "stuff", and I prefer to know exactly what is going into my dogs... fresh whole food, the same as I would eat myself (except for the tripe)!

Remember that our grandparents and great grandparents managed to keep their dogs alive without the commercial dog food industry. We can do this too! To me, nothing else makes sense and why would you want to do less for your companion? The benefits are many: clean teeth, great coats, no doggie odor, small and nearly odorless poops, and overall great health!

Another lesser known aspect of Natural Rearing is the concept of keeping the dog as it was meant to be kept, with an eye on the purpose and background of the breed. Glens were farm dogs. They were intended to hunt vermin and to do their work independently (like most terriers, they are not exactly hard-wired to look to humans for direction!). Glens are also not really endurance dogs... typically, terriers operate in short bursts of (sometimes intense) activity, followed by a nice nap. Translated to today’s world, this means that Glens are hardly ideal dogs for jogging, going on extended hikes or running beside a bicycle... even if their short legs did not make this obvious! They can be out and about with you all day if allowed to go at their own pace.

When you get your hands on a proper Glen, you will find impressive substance and musculature! I believe that the only way to build this is free exercise; the opportunity to run and work over varied terrain. I do not believe that leash-walking is adequate. I also do not believe that Glens are appropriate for off-leash dog parks, as they can be dog aggressive. Therefore, if you live in an urban area with no access to a safe fenced place for your dog to run, I urge you to consider another breed... or possibly an older, already mature Glen.

This is perhaps a good place to mention that Invisible Fencing is not appropriate for Glens. They have a strong prey drive, and were bred to tackle some nasty varmints (badgers), so the shock delivered by an Invisible Fence is not likely to deter them.

Finally, on the subject of Glens and water. Some of them can swim, many of them cannot. Their head is relatively so big and heavy that it's difficult to keep it above water! All Glens should wear PFDs when near the water. Our favorite is the Ruff Wear K-9 Float Coat (www.ruffwear.com)

This is a difficult subject for people aspiring to follow a Natural Rearing path. We do all need to have a vet... they perform valuable diagnostic testing we can't get elsewhere, and of course we need them for emergencies such as broken bones. But they are programmed in a completely opposite direction... they promote commercial processed preserved foods, flea/tick poisons and heartworm preventative. Some of them even still promote annual vaccinations (a practice that has not been recommended by the American Veterinary Associations for years)!!! Many will do their best to intimidate you into doing as they say. They will lay a guilt trip on you.  They will offer horror stories about raw diets (see Myths). What is an enlightened dog owner to do?

First of all... EDUCATE yourself!!! Read everything you can. Join some Lists for Raw Feeding and Natural Rearing (see Links)... these are wonderful supportive communities! Realize that if you read even one book, or spend an afternoon on the Internet, you already have more nutrition education than your vet! A bit more reading and you will have a greater understanding of immunology than most vets, too.

What you need when you walk into the vets office with your dog is the Courage of your Convictions! And that comes from education and a real understanding of Natural Rearing. You KNOW you are doing the right thing for your trusting companion. You also need to remember that you are paying these people to provide a service to you, and you have no obligation to do whatever they say. Quite often, it is the Vets staff who are the most difficult to deal with, and they are usually not worth your effort to educate... simply state what you are there for. Once the Vet himself realizes that you have done your research and have made educated decisions, he should be accepting of your choices. If not, it is time to find another vet.

Several Tips:
1. Avoid corporate veterinary clinics, such as VCA... their policies (including annual vaccinations) are written in stone.

2. Do not let your dog out of your sight at the vets office! It is not uncommon for the dog to be taken in back to be weighed or something, and brought "up to date" on their shots!

3. Make sure it is written all over your dogs chart that s/he is NOT to be vaccinated! Yes, you will be flagged as a pain in the neck. Who cares?  The safety of your companion is at stake.

4. You might look for a vet who claims to be "holistic". For the most part, this is a marketing ploy, but it does demonstrate an awareness that there are pet owners who are looking for alternatives. If you are lucky, you might find a truly holistic Vet (Try AltVetMed.org or


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