Monday, March 20, 2017

Your Personal Trainer Has 4 Paws!

Take the Spring to Summer Dog Walking Challenge!!

In October of 2015 I read an article about National Walk your Dog week that stated that about a third of dog owners admit to rarely walking their dog.  I was shocked by this and wanted to get a sense if this was true of the people I know so where else better to find out but a Facebook post. Many of my friends were very active with their dogs by participating in dog sports, going to classes and playing games in the yard but I found that most didn’t take their dogs on walks.    My dog Lizzie is going to be 7 years old this month.  Lizzie was a VERY active puppy and we don’t have a fenced in yard so daily walks became part of our normal routine early on.  My favorite part of most days is the quiet time I spend walking my dog and exploring new areas.  I knew my friends, and their dogs, were missing out on something special.

As a result I came up with an idea to challenge people to commit to walking their dog for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for 30 days and called it the “30 for 30 dog walking challenge.”  I figured that a handful of my friends would join the private Facebook group but as people continued to invite their friends we had almost 300 people participate. 

About a month or so after the challenge wrapped up a few people reached out to me about when the next challenge would be. To be honest, I hadn’t planned on doing another challenge but we had developed a community of dog walkers from literally around the world and so I decided to challenge the group to walk 100 miles with their dog between the first day of spring and the first day of summer.  This time almost 700 people committed to the challenge.  Most recently, this past fall we added a scavenger hunt so not only were people accumulating 100 miles between fall and winter but this time they took pictures of 100 different items from our scavenger hunt list.

While I have really enjoyed all of the pictures of dogs walking in so many varied places around the world as well as hearing the success stories of improved health through pounds lost and relieved stress  (for both dog and human), the thing I have enjoyed most about the challenges is the people.  People connected with others who lived near to them to create small groups that got together to walk. One person created T-shirts that could be ordered when you completed the 100 miles. And these dog walkers always keep the group fun and positive….seriously, we survived an election season without one comment about either party in our group and THAT is a miracle on social media these days. This diverse community with a wide range of ages and physical abilities cheers for you every mile you walk whether exceed the 100 miles or don’t come close to meeting the goal.  For me, who already was walking my dog every day I challenged myself to get back into running (at age 40) and participated in several 5K events after learning and training cani-cross with Lizzie.

What started as a little idea I had one day while walking my dog has turned into something I never could have imagined. This Monday March 20 the 2nd Annual 100 by summer dog walking challenge kicks off and I would like to invite you and your dog to be a part of it.  To learn more visit my Facebook page at


About the author:  Amy Porto, PhD, RD is a registered dietitian, former fitness instructor and associate professor of nutrition and dietetics whose mission is to push others to live inspired through good nutrition and fitness.

Lizzie Porto competes in canine nose work, enjoys swimming in the lake, playing with her dad, going to camp with the Dog Scouts of America each summer and taking in the sights and sniffs on her daily walks.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Does it Really Matter What You Feed Your Dog?

My doctor likes to talk during my physical and after talking about music, we got into how Nature’s Nibbles, the natural pet food business my wife and I own, is going. I immediately asked him if he had a pet and what he is feeding it/them. His wife wanted a Schitzhu and was told by the breeder to feed Iams. He said they also feed the Fresh Pet brand pet food. I told him I haven’t done much in depth research on the Fresh Pet, but from just glancing at the ingredients, it looked fine. Then I asked him if he has read the ingredients of the Iams. I wasn’t surprised when he said, “No” and …”Iams isn’t a good food?”

I figured the best way to speak about pet nutrition, to a doctor, is logically!

Iams (as well as Purina, Science Diet, Eucanuba and other commercial pet food brands) has by-products. By-products are everything but the actual meat. Wheat and soy are in the formulas to provide the protein that by-products lack. Wheat and soy are allergens and can dry out the skin, make hair brittle, create itching, hot spots and can also cause digestive issues. Corn sweetens the formulas. I asked the doc what corn does in a system… “It metabolizes into glucose and fructose (sugar) and eventually fat.” BOOM! A light went on in his head . 
Now, all natural dry food, with no by-products, wheat, soy, corn or gluten is still the most processed of all the all-natural food choices; The furthest from the source materials that make it. Feeding mostly or all dry to a dog or cat, every day for years, can lower the Ph of a system and make that system more acidic. Acidic systems cause problems. One of the first signs of an acidic system is a urinary tract issue. Whether it’s a tract infection or struvite crystals in the urinary tract, it can get even worse with bladder or kidney stones, etc. Not to mention digestive issue, skin issues, eyes, ears, etc.

Fresh foods are key to good nutrition! Fresh foods are metabolized through a system more efficiently and a body benefits more from fresher foods than processed foods.

What are “Fresher Foods”?

Canned, Raw or your own mix…

Canned foods are fresher, cleaner and have fewer ingredients than dry foods.

There are companies that make raw meals for dogs and cats and from my research, their instinctual diets! The next best thing to making the food yourself!

“Make food myself”? It’s not as hard as you may have thought. How did these animals survive hanging around with humans since before the Mesolithic period? Even the late Stone-age? Meat, bones, etc. Our scraps!

Why do we have dry food? Well, most importantly, it’s economical. It last longer than fresher foods and it’s convenient. Scoop and pour. It also helps us, economically, feed our bigger dogs or if we have multiple animals, but even then, at least half of the meal should be the fresh alternative.

"How did you get into the natural pet food business?", asked my doctor

Our dog Gypsy was having some horrible skin allergies.  After doing extensive research on pet nutrition I found that Gypsy’s diet was the main culprit.  We were feeding her by-products, wheat, soy, corn and gluten!  I switched her food to all natural brands and, voila, her health improved and her energy level was back! Anne, my wife and I decided this is something we need to, not only supply the food, but educate pet owners that there are better options available. That’s how Nature’s Nibbles was created. We've been in business for over 11 years.

My doctor thanked me for the advice, told me he was going to change his dog’s diet and gave me a clean bill of health! “Not bad for a 52 year old…” he said.

Thanks Doc!

Chris and Anne Gabriel are the owners of Nature’s Nibbles in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia.  And while they sell high quality dry food, Chris will always tell customers that “fresh is best” and offer advice on how to introduce more fresh food into your pet’s diet.

Here is more information about introducing fresh fruits and vegetables to your pet.