Natural Rearing, or NR, as it was coined by the famous herbalist Juliette de Bairacli Levy, is a holistic life style many people follow in order to achieve optimal health and longevity for their pets. In this post, I will be focusing on dogs specifically. First, let me say that Natural Rearing does not take the place of adequate veterinary care, and in no way will I call it a “cure” for anything. It has been my observation over the years (since 1987) that Natural Rearing rather acts more as a preventative, in that it is the feeding and husbandry method that most raises a dog’s overall health and strength of immune function. Should you decide to put your pet(s) on a natural species-appropriate raw food diet, along with natural husbandry, it is at your own risk, and of your own free will. I am not attempting to coerce anyone into following this method and am not attempting to advise you on any given method. I am simply explaining what I do, and why I do it. My only advice is to read as much information as possible so that you can make your own educated choices.
NR breeders and owners follow these very important protocols.
- We feed a variety of species-appropriate raw, fresh unprocessed foods (for dogs this means raw, properly grown meat, organs and bones – based on the diet on which their wild ancestors evolved).
- We ensure our dogs always have access to
- fresh clean unadulterated water (non-chlorinated, non-fluoridated, no heavy metals or other toxins)
- clean grass-covered ground, and are not raised on cement or gravel
- plenty of fresh air, sunlight and exercise.
- We ensure our dogs are not unnecessarily exposed to added toxins such as pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, chemicals, heavy metals, chemical hormone disruptors, etc. (There are enough environmental toxins that we are all exposed to on a daily basis. Those practicing NR try not to add to this as much as possible).
- We use holistic health modalities such as Naturopathy (a broad based modality incorporating many natural therapies), Homeopathy, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Acupuncture, Rife, etc. as treatments for illness, if necessary.
Those are the key points that we follow to ensure healthy, happy outcomes for our dogs.
Why Choose Natural Rearing Methods Instead of Conventional Rearing Methods?
I slowly began practicing NR in early 1987 when I began feeding my dogs and cats raw species-appropriate foods, as well as removing toxins from their (and my) environment and then eventually in 1994, I stepped off of the vaccine merry-go-round. Prior to 1987, I raised my dogs and cats “conventionally.” I had no idea that there was another, healthier way! When I did dip my toe into the NR water, so to speak, I was very concerned, because back then there was no one to turn to for support from any source—not veterinary, no online support group, nothing! I was in new territory, where I had no one but Juliette’s book to fall back on. Needless to say, I muddled through nervously at first, but what I began to see made the nerves quickly dissipate. I was witnessing before my very eyes, profound positive changes in my dogs and cats. Early changes were quick (within the first few weeks and months).
- My dogs slimmed down and lost that “thick, bloated” look.
- Their coats and skin improved in quality, shine and less shedding, plus no dandruff.
- They smelled good—no more stinky “doggy” odor.
- Their stool did not smell horrible any more.
- Their overall behavior improved.
- Their teeth cleaned up beautifully (without brushing).
- Their energy levels improved dramatically.
- Their endurance improved dramatically.
It was obvious that they looked and felt better. At that time, I was still taking them in for yearly veterinary check-ups. The improvement was so obvious that for the first 3 years of this incredible journey, my veterinarian at the time was constantly amazed at their condition. He repeatedly told me he had never seen such healthy dogs and cats. He wanted to know what I was “supplementing” them with. He was certain that I had found some “magical” supplement that was making them so healthy!
So, NR Made a Difference in My Adult Dogs, but What about Puppies?
As a long-time breeder of whippets (and formerly borzoi), I saw some truly wonderful results over many generations since beginning my natural rearing journey with my dogs. The changes and improvements I saw made me realize that by raising dogs in an unnatural manner (using toxins/drugs, highly processed foods, etc.), we have caused untold epigenetic damage. Epigenetics is a relatively recent area of genetic research which has found that our genes, and the chemical switches that control gene expression, are affected to an astounding degree, by toxic exposures as well as by the quality of nutrient matter eaten by the animal or person. The overall state of health of the animal also exerts pressure on genes or their switches to change how they express themselves. This can actually create a “chronic” disease state that may be improperly termed “genetic” or “inherited” because the damage that is done by inadequate/improper nutrition and exposure to synthetic (man-made) drugs and chemicals, damages the genetic material and switches, not just for that animal’s lifetime, but for multiple generations going forward, possibly for as long as that animal and its offspring continue to reproduce. This damage however, is reversible! I began to see this reversal, especially with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th generations NR.
Here is a list of some of what I noted:
- puppies not having that “bloated thick sausage” look to them (by 3 to 4 weeks of age, they look like little whippets)
- puppies getting up on their feet and walking well before their eyes are open
- no more missing adult teeth (at and past 3rd generation NR)
- no more missing testicles (at and past 3rd generation NR)
- better stress resilience
- greater disease resistance and healing ability past 2nd generation NR
- 100% parvo survival rates in puppies
- no symptomatic parvo in older pups or adults by 3rd generation, symptoms being extremely mild and very short duration in pups
- very resistant to kennel cough, and if one dog out of all of them does get it, he is able to get over it within 3 days instead of a week or more in conventionally reared dogs
- infections from cuts being a thing of the past
- healing of wounds or broken bones twice as quickly as previously, with complete knitting of bone breaks within 3 weeks
Now, doesn’t that sound like good reasons to go back to what Mother Nature intended for our dogs?
More Resources on Natural Rearing:
- Roberta’s Natural Rearing support group (Yahoo! email group)
- Natural Rearing article by Roberta on her own site (several resource links at bottom)
- Natural Rearing Breeders Association NR resource list
- Natural Rearing Breeders Association blog on natural rearing/natural care
- Natural Rearing: Breeding & Raising Dogs The Way Nature Intended by Dr. Jeannie Thomason
- The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat by Juliette De Bairacli Levy
- Juliette De Bairacli Levy (Wikipedia article)
Roberta has also rescued many dogs over the years and restored their health with natural rearing practices. She manages the Ontario Whippet Rescue & Sanctuary in Ontario, Canada, full-time. She also manages a Natural Rearing Yahoo! email group where she helps hundreds of other dog owners and breeders who care for their dogs using natural rearing principles.