Teaching adult dogs to eat raw food from a bowl can take time and patience.
Your Great Idea..
So for whatever reason and any reason is good IMO, you've decided to switch your dog to a raw diet. Congrats, great decision! Switching dogs to raw food is not difficult but pitfalls exist and switching should never be done haphazardly.
Many folks simply switch cold turkey, others transition over time while weaning their dog off kibble. Here's one of those pitfalls I mentioned.. kibble and raw foods digest differently and mixing the two can wreak havoc on you dog's digestive system! For this reason we prefer the cold turkey method, but even as such, there are always nuances like a dog that doesn't take to raw simply because it doesn't know it's food.
Let's get going on making the switch, we've been in your shoes and are here to help.
Switching Dogs to Raw Food Basics
As mentioned, I prefer the cold turkey method of switching to raw foods so in a nutshell, simply quit feeding kibble one day and start offering raw food the next. Chicken is always a sure bet to get started but don't be surprised if your dog wants nothing to do with it.
One tip is to fast your dog for a day prior to going raw. Be sure they're good and hungry but even so, they may choose to just mouth the raw, carry it around, bury it in their bedding and lick it.
TIP: Kibble fed dogs are often not aware that raw meats are food. When switching dogs to raw food it may take time before they actually consume the meat.
I've experienced and have spoken with folks whose dogs can be stubborn to accept raw. For some, it's a test of wills yet after going a couple days without eating, a dog will not starve itself. During this acclimation and acceptance period that raw food is in fact food, it's not uncommon for your dog to lose a pound or two.
Speaking of walking around with a piece of raw meat.. Getting a dog to first accept raw meats are food, and then to have them keep it in their old kibble bowl is not an easy feat. As depicted by the photo on this page however, it is in fact possible via a watchful eye and training. Most dogs would rather carry off their raw and lay down somewhere to eat. Many raw feeders will choose a "feeding spot" and place a mat for their pups to gnaw on and consume their raw meal. Others feed in a crate, in the basement, outdoors, or right on the floor. Regardless, my suggestion is to select a feeding spot and condition your dog to stay when eating. Many will eventually have success placing raw food in a bowl and their dog eating "over" their bowl.
To get started, best advice is to start with chicken as a bone-in thigh has desirable level of meat & bone plus, is often a tolerable easily digestible protein source. As a bonus, many kibble formulas are poultry based so if transitioning from such a formula you've got a leg up. Keep it simple, simple as chicken for a week or two. Don't make the common beginners mistake of offering too much variety when switching dogs to raw food. More often than not, your dog will end up with stomach upset, runny poop, diarrhea, or vomit.
Starting off with one protein source is always best and this can be red meat if you choose. Chicken, turkey, duck, pork, beef, goat, venison, bison, etc., all good single source proteins. A raw meaty bone "RMB" is preferable over pre ground raw foods. Reason, most contain a good balance of muscle meat, bone, cartilage and connective tissue plus offer nutrients in balanced amounts. Gnawing, chewing and crunching raw meaty bones will also stimulate your dogs natural instincts to consume raw, clean teeth, strengthen jaw and neck muscles, and make meal time lengthy and enjoyable. Chose the right size RMB for your breed dog and one that is large enough it cannot be swallowed whole.
TIP: Weight baring bones found in many red meats should not be consumed. Large weight baring bones can be cut from meats and offered as recreational chew bones.
Over time, begin with variety and the end goal being balanced raw meals.. organ meats too! During transition, watch for mucus covered stool, discolored stool, foul smelling stool and more not so pleasant phenomena. These "DETOX" symptoms are not uncommon in certain dogs, some dogs will show no signs. Much has to do with the quality of dry kibble you've been feeding and is a byproduct of your dog's gi tract cleansing itself after years of built up toxins. With exception of bloody stool, don't worry a ton about detox symptoms as they should resolve in a week or so.
Remember not to rush when switching dogs to raw food. A raw fed dog's digestive system is highly acidic, rich in flora and digestive enzymes which allows for digestion of raw bone, cartilage and connective tissue. Your dog's system will self adjust over time and at the end of the day, benefit from wholesome raw foods full of nutrients, enzymes, proteins, fats, calcium and natural nutrients that are meant for a canine.
Be patient, don't rush, and allow your dog time to adjust. Long time kibble fed dogs may not take to raw right away and this can test your patience. Physiologically, their bodies must change to fully benefit from raw foods. Rest assured, with time you'll have a dog that shows a picture of health, is happy with even temperament, and receiving the best possible nutrition the way nature intended.
For more info on raw feeding including nutrients in raw and what to aim for, don't miss additional informative articles published on our Raw Feeding Dogs page. Good luck on your raw feeding journey ;)