Articles about Wiley!

Merrick Backcountry | Fuel for Your Adventurous Dogs

We’re not the kind of over-the-top dog owners that (unnecessarily) carry our dogs in strollers or provide a plate for them at the dinner table, but we do love our dogs as family and we treat them well. Part of treating them well is feeding them well and worrying about their diet and nutrition. We’ve struggled with maintaining Wiley at a decent weight, dealt with allergies and digestion issues. But these guys are super important to us so we do our best. When Merrick Pet Care contacted us to be a part of their Ambassador Program associated with the launch of their new Backcountry line of food products, I had to really consider how it would effect our dogs before I agreed.

Cattle Dogs exploring the river

Wiley has some food sensitivities that started causing problems with her skin and coat a few years ago. We moved her through a few products that our vet suggested and eventually landed on feeding her Wellness Simple diet dog food which is really basic and very expensive. But it worked and Wiley’s issues, for the most part, have gone away. She still seems to get seasonal allergy problems which, from part of what I’ve read, could be related to substandard nutrition. We’ve toyed with the idea of introducing a raw component to her existing diet…but just don’t know where to start.

Max also has some challenges. He was a rescue and had come in to the rescue with some injuries suffered after a “fall” from a moving vehicle. He was patched up pretty well, but he still has some issues with his jaw and damaged teeth. We spent a fortune making sure he got to keep his canines and now have to be cautious about what he eats and how much he chews on his toys.

Nutrition is so important for these guys. Not only for their overall health but as fuel for our play time at home and away. A friend said once, “Your dogs get more adventure than most people!” and he’s right. We often take our dogs camping, hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, backpacking or on long road trips with adventure destinations in mind. We try to feed them well to insure they have the fuel to keep going as long as we do.

You can search #CattledogAdventures on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to follow their adventures.

Merrick Backcountry dinner at Mono Lake

Merrick Backcountry Product Trial

Merrick Backcountry product

When Merrick Pet Care contacted us about trying this new line of food and being a part of their #Wild4Backcountry promotion I had some reservations and a lot of questions. With Wiley’s history of food sensitivities and Max’s teeth problems I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a waste of time having them try this new product. I asked about the ingredients, the processing, where the food was made and where the ingredients are sourced. My worry is always about food processed where regulations are loose and sourcing isn’t a concern. I also look for grain-free products after our experiences with Wiley’s reactions to other commercial dog food. Merrick was great about answering all of my questions and I was impressed with their answers.

Backcountry: About the Product

The food industry for a long time has agreed on the benefits of freeze-dried foods. It is a way to create shelf-stable food products without overprocessing or bastardizing the ingredient. The Merrick Backcountry RAW Infused dry kibble has good sized whole pieces of freeze-dried meat. We opted to try the dogs on the Game Bird Recipe kibble which is made with turkey, duck and quail and has freeze-dried whole pieces of chicken. It’s grain-free (no corn, soy or wheat), processed and packaged here in the states, has 38% overall protein, no artificial colors or preservatives and has nothing sourced from China (seriously, why is anyone eating anything from China?).

We also got to try a variety of the wet canned food options available in the Backcountry line. These include some different meats than normally seen in dog food like rabbit and venison. I was especially impressed with the Chicken Thigh Stew recipe that actually includes whole bone-in chicken thighs, cooked to make the bone safely digestible for the dogs so they can get the additional nutrition it provides.

The Backcountry kibble products are available in 4, 12 and 22-pound bags and range from $19.99 to $69.99 per bag which is comparable to what we were paying for the Wellness Simple Diet we had the dogs on before. The 12.7 oz cans retail at a competitive $2.99 per can.

Some of the Benefits:

  • Merrick Backcountry recipes include healthy ingredients that make dogs healthier and happier companions.
  • Quality proteins support growth and development in dogs and lead to increased energy levels.
  • Grain-free ingredients avoid issues like gluten intolerances, chronic skin conditions and stomach distress.
  • Fats and amino acids contribute to a healthier skin and coat.
  • This nutrient dense formula allows for smaller servings and helps to optimize weight management.

Merrick Backcountry on the road

Max and Wiley have never really been casual about feeding time, they love to eat. But their excitement level has definitely gone up a couple of notches since we put them on the Backcountry product. Wiley (our oldest) is much more energetic about meal time and Max is much more focused and attentive. They are pretty crazy about their new food and they both have done well on it.

The transition from their old food to Backcountry was pretty quick, we’ve seen no negative reactions in them and they seem very satisfied. We expected to see Wiley show signs of some reaction within the first few weeks if it was going to happen, but she is doing great.

We’ll continue to watch both dogs for reactions or sensitivities to the food. But so far, we are happy to keep them on the Backcountry food from Merrick and the dogs are pretty happy about it too.

What others have had to say:

“Dogs need high-protein foods to repair muscles, and foods dense in calories – specifically fats. The Great Plains Red Meat recipe has a whopping 38% protein and 17% fat. This is an optimal ratio for hard-working dogs. This particular recipe also includes 1200 mg/kg of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate – two ingredients I’ve found help my older dog from getting too sore after a day in the field.  A thoughtful addition.  These fats and amino acids also contribute to a healthier skin and coat – which I noticed within one week of switching to Merrick Backcountry.” – Lowell Strauss

“My once slow and picky eater (Yuri) is finally finishing dinner every night. Just showing him the food is enough for him to go flying to his food bowl. We even had to swap him to a slow feed bowl because he is that excited.”Jillian Bejtlich

“I scoop a half of a can onto her dry food for breakfast, and she is *literally* besides herself with joy. It even led to a new phrase in our household: All I have to say is, “Tals, do you want some Beef Stew?!” and it’s game over. She will launch up, run downstairs and stand by her food bowl, prancing and leaping in circles. She even throws a few 360s and a shoulder slide in for good measure.”Heather Balogh

“Labs are prone to hip dysplasia and I’m doing what I can to help Sprocket maintain his mobility for as long as possible. Backcountry promises 1200 mg/kg of (Glucosamine & Condroitin) which is a 200% increase over his previous food.” – Beth Lakin (and Sprocket)

- – -

Disclosure: We were provided product and compensation by Merrick Pet Care for this review. But, as always, I wouldn’t endorse, support, or write about anything I don’t love. All opinions are honest, unbiased, and mine (and the dogs’) alone.

Tenderfoot…

my Cattle Dog on the trail

According to Wikipediatenderfoot is slang for an inexperienced person, particularly one who is not adapted to a rural or outdoor lifestyle setting.

Wiley the Cattle Dog enjoying the hikeI mentioned Saturday that I am starting to train my Australian Cattle Dog, Wiley, to be a trail dog.  She’s admittedly overweight, uncoordinated and….a tenderfoot.  She has only been on a couple of hikes in her life, and those were many years ago.  Since then, she has been relegated to a few sporadic neighborhood walks.  Knowing this, I am taking steps to take her training slow and make sure she builds the physical conditioning she needs to conquer the trails.

I may have overdone it a little yesterday.

He first conditioning hike was only about 1.7 miles and, though a good climb, was on a mostly paved surface.  She did well and other than being tired, didn’t show any real signs of wear-and-tear.  So when it came time for our next hike together I decided to push a little more and get her out on some real dirt and double our distance.  We did a moderate 3.4 mile hike with a good mixture of flat hiking, climbing and descending.  The terrain was a mix of soft dirt, rocky dirt, gravel trail and, in some spots, eroded and broken down asphalt.

My little tenderfoot is, literally, a tenderfoot today.  Her pads are a little chewed up from the trail and she is walking very gingerly around the house today.  She is obviously sore and stiff and only gets up to move when she feels she needs to.  I think I overdid it.

Wiley is showing signs of fatigueLessons learned: 3.4 miles is outside her comfort zone right now.  She started showing signs of fatigue around 2-2.25 miles.  So, for now at least we will keep her training limited to 1.5-2.5 miles until she shows me she can handle those distances with ease.

For now, does anyone have any advice for treating her sore, chewed up little paws?  My understanding is that giving a dog pain relievers is not a good idea (no Ibuprofen for her!).  I am giving her treats with supplements for her joints, which should help long term.

As always, any advice or tips are welcome.

Adventures of a Cattle Dog…

Wiley the Australian Cattle Dog

Wiley is an Australian Cattle Dog.  These dogs are specifically bred to be outdoors, to have superior endurance and tolerance for extreme conditions.  In short, she’s the perfect candidate for a hiking companion.  The breed was developed on the cattle ranches of 19th century Australia where the long days, harsh working conditions and extreme elements made it difficult for ranchers to find a proper cattle dog among the existing breeds.  Ranchers played with crossing the native Dingos with existing cattle breeds.  From 1840 to 1870 Thomas Hall of New South Wales bred imported Blue Smooth highland Collies with the native Dingo and began to see the traits he desired.  He continued to breed pure Dingo into the mix  and experimented with these breeds until his death in 1870.  These were the original Australian Cattle Dogs, at the time called, Hall’s Heelers.

Beautiful expressive eyes of the Australian Cattle DogTom Bently acquired a dog that was said to be one of Hall’s pure strain.  Bently’s Dog (as he was known) was an incredibly strong worker and a beautifully built dog.  Bently’s Dog was reportedly heavily studded out in an attempt to propagate these desirable qualities.  The characteristic white blaze on the forehead and the black tail-root spot commonly seen in the blues is said to be a throwback to Bently’s Dog.

Hall’s Heelers (later called “Blue Heelers” or “Queensland Heelers”) were very popular, but there was still some experimentation going on.  Sometime after 1870, the Black and Tan Kelpie was crossed into the breed resulting in the tan points seen in Blues and a deeper red instead of black in the Red Heelers.  This last infusion set the breed type and is the direct blood descendant of the Australian Cattle Dog breed we have today.

Young Cattle Dog and her stickMy Heeler found me.  She was a stray, discovered and taken in by local neighborhood kids who proceeded to take the dog door-to-door in search of her rightful owner.  When at my door, as I insisted she wasn’t mine and I didn’t know the owner, they explained that they only had one day to find the owner.  The girls who found the dog were in the process of moving and if they did not find an owner, they would be forced to take her to the Humane Society.  They left my house, but I couldn’t stomach the idea of this dog going to her potential death.  I chased the kids down a few houses away and explained to them that IF they did not find the owner before they had to leave town that I would take her and continue the search.

Well, they never found the owner.  I put up signs, walked her through several neighborhoods and asked around…but could find no one looking for a missing Heeler.  After a couple of weeks, I began to hope that I never would find her original owners.  She and I had bonded and, as I found out, bonding with a Cattle Dog is a lifetime commitment.

I took Wiley hiking a couple of times when she was younger, but she had some minor hip problems when I first got her limiting our excursions.  I also was going through some disparaging medical issues that had put a major damper on my outdoor activities.  So, Wiley never got a chance to be the rugged, outdoor specimen that she should have been.  But I’m trying to fix that.  She’s inexperienced, she’s a little fat and she’s about as graceful as a three-legged Hippo but she’s got the genetics to be a brilliant trail dog and I want to give her a chance.

So today we began her reintroduction to the outdoors.  May she somehow find her roots and become a noble, hardened, tireless trail dog as she was meant to be.