Dog Health

Dog Health

DISCLAIMER: I am not a veterinarian and I have never received any formal training in veterinary or human medicine in any form. Everything listed on this page is for informational purposes only. These are all products we use to support our dogs’ health. I encourage you to do your own research, draw your own conclusions and make your own decisions. I can’t assume any responsibility for any damage to any person or animal from following anything listed on this page or any other part of this website.

My dogs’ health is a very high priority for me. Consequently, I am looking for the most natural ways to keep them healthy. Of course, sometimes you need traditional veterinary treatments like antibiotics, steroids, surgeries, etc. However, many approaches to dog health in standard veterinary care could be better. The regular FDA warnings and pet deaths from tick and flea treatments alone should give us pause. Also, cancer rates amongst dogs are through the roof. Many recent studies have shown that things need to change. Unfortunately, the veterinary industry is slow to update its procedures.

There are true-and-tested ways to improve your dog’s health in natural ways and void toxins and pesticides as much as possible. Natural ways to make your dog healthier and save you money in the long run. On this page, you will find all the products, supplements, and natural remedies we use to keep our dogs healthy. I have had great success with these for all my dogs over many years.

Good Dog Health Leads to Longevity

There are a lot of products listed on this page. You may think “There is no way Ralf adds all of these supplements to his dog’s food every day”. I assure you, I do. My German Shepherd Sylvester used to go hiking with me in the mountains for four hours every week until he was 13 years old. Sylvester lived to be 17 years old. Max, another German Shepherd in our family, used to love shooting down the hill and chasing squirrels. He was fast and good at it—at 14 years of age. Max lived to be 19 years old. I fully credit the nutrition and supplements listed here with my dog’s overall excellent health and long life. In my experience, these things do make a big difference!

Food & Nutrition

Canine Nutrition by William Cusick

Nutritional requirements vary widely between different dog breeds. If you buy bagged or canned dog food, you are most likely not providing your dog with the optimum nutrition. Any dog is best suited to thrive on food from the area its breed originated from. For example, the Siberian Husky has a very thick and warm coat as their natural habitat is the North-Eastern Siberian Tundra. We have brought this breed into other parts of the world— like warm and sunny Southern California. However, their coat hasn’t changed in over 3,000 years—neither has its digestive system. A dog’s body is best suited to consume, digest and extract the maximum amount of nutrients from food local to their originating area.

Hence, if you want your dog to get the best nutrition possible, prepare optimal food for your dog’s health. The late Animal Advocate William D. Cusick used to provide excellent nutritional information on his website, but unfortunately, it’s no longer available.

Breed-Specific Dog Food is Best

I purchased his breed-specific recipe book for German Shepherds and used to cook for my dogs for several years following that recipe. A few years ago, I switched to raw feeding but stayed with the same breed-specific, nutritional profile.

In 1990 Mr. Cusick published his first book on the subject, Canine Nutrition & Choosing The Best Food For Your Breed Of Dog. This book was an immediate success and was ordered by dog fanciers worldwide. This book is now out of print.

In 1997 Mr. Cusick published his second book on this subject. While this book is also out of print, a free copy of this best-selling dog nutrition guide can be found here: Canine Nutrition. Anyone who wants to provide the best nutrition for their dog’s health should read it.

Commercial Dog Food

Before I started cooking for my dogs, I would buy the best food I could afford. I chose organic, holistic, by-product-free foods and added a good nutritional supplement like The Missing Link. Some examples of decent dry dog food brands are ORIJEN Regional Red, Acana Red Meat Recipe, Canidae Pure Lamb, Goat and Venison Formula, Merrick Backcountry Beef, Lamb and Rabbit Recipe, and Instinct Raw Boost.

Dog health starts with proper food. And in my personal opinion, dog food from the following brands is of poor quality, and I wouldn’t feed it to my dogs: Purina, Science Diet (yes, that’s the one veterinarians sells), Royal Canin, Ol’Roy, Pedigree, and Alpo. I formed my opinions on the quality of commercial foods by reading the ingredient labels, monitoring pet food recalls, and lawsuits filed against pet food companies for harming dogs with poor food.

Tick and Flea—Prevention & Treatment

Garlic Cloves

My dogs spend a good amount of time outside, hence preventing tick and flea bites is essential. A bit of garlic mixed into my pet’s food is a very effective way of deterring ticks and fleas. However, Garlic needs to be used sparingly, as too much is unhealthy for dogs. The amount of garlic I use for my 90 lb German Shepherd is two teaspoons of garlic powder per week. It is evenly distributed over his food throughout the week. The right amount of garlic supports dog health naturally.

I have never used Frontline or other products like that. I prefer natural approaches, and the few times I found a tick on my dogs, it either didn’t bite them or left on its own rather quickly. Garlic doesn’t kill ticks, but it repels them; that’s all that’s needed. I have never seen any fleas on my dogs using this approach.

Once a year—during the vet’s annual checkup, I have the same conversation when they want to sell me Frontline. They tell me yearly that there is no scientific evidence for garlic as a flea and tick preventative. And I respond: “That may be so, but it does work.” There is a lot of information on using garlic for pets on the internet, and I recommend you read up on it—it’s been working well for me for over 15 years.

Noni Fruit Leather (and there are studies for that) has also shown to accomplish the same thing, and Noni is described in more detail under immunity support below.

Parasite Prevention & Treatment

Organic Noni Fruit Leather from Hawaiian Health

Heartworm disease, and worm infestations in general, are nasty business. However, the risk of heartworm disease is very low where I live. I recommend you ask your vet how many heartworm disease cases are occurring in your state each year. Further, ask how many annual cases occur in your county to assess your risk factors. Heartworm disease is also treatable and is usually not deadly. However, it is expensive to treat and highly unpleasant for your pet. You want to prevent that as best as possible.

Parasites—including heartworm disease—can be effectively prevented and even treated with Noni. It’s a fantastic fruit to support dog health. I first met Steve Frailey from Hawaiian Organic Noni during a Natural Product Expo West. He told me that he attended a holistic vet conference in Hawaii. There, vets detailed the successful treatment of heartworm disease with Noni in horses. He also told me about hunters in Hawaii who never use heartworm medication but feed their dogs, Noni, daily. They never have any worms when the vets check them. That is, of course, anecdotal, but you can find many studies on the National Institute of Health’s website proving the effectiveness of Noni against parasites (PDF) and a broad range of other conditions. I have been using Noni for parasite prevention for many years, and my dogs are healthy and worm-free.

I detailed a personal experience treating whipworms with Noni in one of my dogs in the article Treating Whipworms in Dogs Naturally. Noni saved me thousands of dollars by protecting my dogs from these parasites.

More articles and research on Noni from Hawaiian Organic Noni: Noni for Pets.

Buy Noni Fruit Leather on Amazon or directly from Hawaiian Organic Noni.

Immune Support

Organic Noni Fruit Leather from Hawaiian Health

Noni is a remarkable fruit to support dog health. Noni Fruit Leather by Hawaiian Organic Noni has many health benefits and uses; it’s a wonder fruit. I discovered this product a few years ago at the Natural Product Expo West and added it to my pet’s diet for overall immune support. Since then, I learned that holistic vets have been using Noni to treat all kinds of ailments, including Low Energy, Rashes and Hot Spots, Inefficient Cardiovascular Systems, Ulcers, Low Blood Sugar Levels, Infections, Weak Joints, Digestion Issues, Worms, and Parasites, and Ticks & Fleas

To me, Noni has become a trusted immune booster and is one of my favorite supplements. I cut 2 square inches of fruit leather into my dog’s food daily.

Please also read additional details on Noni in the ‘parasite prevention’ section above.

More articles and Research on Noni from Hawaiian Organic Noni: Noni for Pets

Additional products for immune support and dog health: Mushrooms for Dogs (see details under Cancer Prevention) and Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (see details under Healthy Coat)

Joint Health

Wholistic Pet Organics Joint Supplement Run Free with GLM

Many owners worry about their dog’s joint health—I am no exception. Many breeds—especially larger ones—have a tendency to develop joint issues later in life. Unfortunately, there are components that we can’t control, like, breeding and genetics. However, we can control other risk factors through diet and optimized vaccination frequency (i.e., fewer). In return, we can prevent and prepare as much as possible to reduce risks, prolong healthy joints and be ready if surgery does become necessary. I read a great article in a dog magazine in July 2011 by a holistic veterinarian called ‘Healthy, Pain-Free Joints? Naturally!’

In the print edition, he listed a set of nutritional supplements that go way beyond the commonly known Glucosamine, which is good but insufficient for good dog health. After reading that article, I found a great, natural supplement called Run Free with GLM by Wholistic Pet Organics. It contains most of those recommended ingredients. The most important one was green-lipped mussel. I tested it on my 15-year-old Australian Cattledog mix at the time. He had a hard time getting around. With this supplement, he regained mobility I hadn’t seen in over a year. This is one of the best joint supplements I have tried to date. I have been using it for ten years and still swear by it.

Another risk factor is unnecessary and too frequent vaccinations—more on that in the Vaccination section. This is not an opposition to vaccinations. They are necessary. It is about vaccinating the right way and not too often to keep your dog in good health.

Pet Health Insurance

Lastly, be ready. I have German Shepherd Dogs, which are known to develop joint issues due to poor breeding—especially American-breed German Shepherds. For that reason, I purchased pet health insurance for my dog to cover hereditary diseases. Should he ever need the $10,000+ hip dysplasia surgery, I am ready. I used Petplan USA pet insurance until it became too expensive, and coverage became poor. Next, I had Trupanion pet insurance until they tried not to cover an emergency bloat surgery. They declared it a pre-existing condition, which is, of course, ridiculous. Eventually, I could get it paid for, but that was unacceptable.

I have been with Embrace Pet Insurance for several years now, and they have been good at reimbursing expenses. They have been the best in my experience. If you use the link above to sign-up with Embrace Pet Insurance, they will donate $25 to a pet-related charity.

Sylvester was already three years old when I rescued him, and most insurance plans I looked at excluded hereditary conditions. That is different when the dog is enrolled before it’s one year old. Embrace Pet Insurance has no such restriction. Embrace provides coverage for life on all hereditary and congenital conditions, such as hip dysplasia. It also covers all illnesses and chronic conditions, such as cancer and all accidents.

Cancer Prevention

Organic Pet Mushroom Complex

Over the years, I have lost two dogs to cancer. Both were older—15 and 16 years. However, cancer is probably the most unnatural way for any animal to die. It is a human-made disease that mostly comes from environmental and food pollution. As well as damages to genes that can run through generations. One of the best ways to prevent cancer is healthy nutrition. A healthy body can deal with problems better and stand a better chance of fending off cancer. This is why I first started cooking for my dogs and later switched to raw feeding. But I wanted to do more.

Reading about the remarkable research with medicinal mushrooms in cancer prevention and treatment, I discovered a product called My Community. This is a blend of 17 medicinal mushrooms from Paul Stamets. This is a people product. His company used to sell a pet mushroom supplement blend called Mush. They no longer offer it, but Mercola now provides an even better one: Organic Mushroom Complex for Pets. I have been adding this to my dog’s food daily for years.

How I Discovered Medicinal Mushrooms

The story of Cesar Millan’s late pitbull Daddy inspired me. Daddy was diagnosed with cancer when he was ten years old and received chemotherapy and radiation, as far as I know. In his book, A Member of the Family, Cesar Millan talks about how he put Daddy on a medicinal mushroom supplement afterward to prevent cancer from returning. It never did. Daddy went on to live another 6 or 7 years before he passed away of old age.

My research into medicinal mushrooms and their worldwide use in cancer treatment and prevention opened my eyes to the possibilities and power of mycelium. I owe it to my dogs to take this preventive step.

Organic Mushroom Complex for Pets is Dr. Mercola’s medicinal mushroom supplement for your pets.

Healthy Coat

Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is another one of those wonder products with a myriad of different uses and applications. It is excellent for people—try it with some honey next time you have a sore throat or cough—and animals alike. In the case of dogs, Apple Cider Vinegar can be provided with food or water. I prefer adding it to the food. It gives me more control over dosage, and my guys get one full tablespoon with each meal.

I give Apple Cider Vinegar to support a healthy coat, prevent ticks and fleas, and—in addition to the above—provide immune support through balancing the body’s pH value. I take apple cider vinegar with honey myself every day. The list of benefits is quite long, and many books and online articles are available on using Apple Cider Vinegar to support your dog’s health. Here are some common uses: Maintaining digestive (pH) balance, Itchy skin, Hot spots, Allergies, Arthritis, Muscle weakness and cramps, Calluses on elbows and hock joints, Constipation, Bruising, Sore joints, Bladder and kidney stones.

Raw, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar from Bragg. Cheap, effective, and versatile.


Stop the Shots

A topic that has bothered me for while is the apparent OVER-vaccination of our pets. Our veterinarians have convinced us that annual booster shots for our cats and dogs are normal. We should do it “just to be safe.” This has never really made sense to me. If you already have humoral immunity, another shot is unnecessary for good dog health.

Of course, laws require regular rabies shots, but that doesn’t mean that all vaccinations are necessary or must be repeated every year. It’s great for the bank account of our vet, though. While most vets are ethical, animal-loving people, there is a financial incentive to vaccinate more than less—about 50% of their income stems from vaccinations.

Let me be clear. I am not against vaccinations; quite the opposite. Your dog must be vaccinated against Rabies, Parvo, and Distemper. These diseases are highly infectious and can kill your pet. The concern is unnecessary annual booster shots when your dog still has complete immunity from the last time. Many studies have shown and reaffirmed over the years that too many vaccinations will harm your pet. Vaccinate responsibly!

I wrote extensively about the research, data, and studies on dog vaccinations in my articles Dog Vaccinations and My Vet Said ….

Dog Dental Health

Newt's Chews Antlers

Dogs like to chew things. Like puppies, adult dogs also chew for comfort. They want to put just about anything in their mouths when roaming outside or playing. Of course, if what they find is edible, even in a trash can, they will find a way to get to it. They need to chew! It’s their nature.

Chewing helps promote healthy teeth and gums. Using a good chew treat will help you care for your dog’s dental health. You can keep their teeth clean and their gums free of infections.

I found that deer, elk, and moose antlers are the best chews for dogs as they don’t splinter. They are fully digestible and have nutrients beneficial for your dog’s health.

Antlers are full of calcium and phosphorus. They are naturally shed by deer, elk, and moose yearly and are one of the fastest regrowing natural resources. Wild deer, elk, and moose shed their antlers once a year as part of a natural process, after which they re-grow another set, so no animal is harmed in collecting these chews for your dog.

Antlers Are My Favorite Chews

Antlers are wallet-friendly as they last much longer than other chews. So while the individual chews cost a lot more than bully sticks, they will last for weeks and thus be cheaper in the long run. The link to the left sends you to Amazon for antlers by Newt’s Chews. Newt’s Chews is the only brand I use personally as I can be assured that the antlers are from collection only, not hunting. No deer, elk, or moose were harmed to collect these, and I care about that.

My dogs always have some antlers available to chew when they like.


4Legger Organic Dog Shampoo

When it comes to bathing my dogs, I want to ensure the shampoo I use is not harmful to them. If you ever take the time to research some of the ingredients commonly found in regular hair shampoos for people, you will be shocked at what is being sold to us as “safe.” And yes, I mean the brand names. This is even worse regarding animal products as they are even less regulated. Not that the FDA is doing such a bang-up job for us humans, but at least it’s something. I find a more natural alternative if I can’t pronounce or identify the ingredients in something. 4 Legger is one such alternative. Their shampoo works well, smells great, and is all-natural and organic.


Services and Area

We are located in Southern California and train dogs nationwide. Happy Dog Training currently offers local dog training services in the following counties. Riverside County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County. In addition, we offer our board-and-train program nationwide and all virtual training services worldwide.

Do you want your new puppy trained right from the start? Are you looking for help for your fearful dog? Do you need to resolve a severe aggression problem? You came to the right place! We are experienced, professional dog trainers. Ralf has trained over 1500 dogs in over 18 years, and Sarah has trained over 1200 dogs in over 11 years. Consequently, we can help you with any dog training goal.

What We Offer

For many of our clients, we train their dogs from puppyhood, getting them off to a great start. However, we also have extensive experience training rescue dogs from all imaginable backgrounds and circumstances. Our Board-and-Train program is our most popular.

We can help you, regardless of your dog's challenges or training goals. Being a professional dog trainer means having experience, knowledge, and skill. Further, we developed a highly effective training program to specifically help fearful dogs gain more confidence and become the best possible version of themselves. Building Confidence is our second most popular training program.

Last but not least, we are experts in dealing with all types of aggression in dogs and are often the trainers of last resort after many other programs have failed. Most of our aggressive dog clients previously spent significant money on half-baked solutions without much improvement. This is different from us. We will give you an honest assessment of what goals are realistic for your dog. We will tell you what can be resolved reliably and what likely needs to be managed before we start.

Our flagship product is our board and train program. But our virtual dog training and coaching services have become quite popular over the last couple of years. Our setup enables us to deliver online dog training services from our indoor and outdoor training areas. This allows us to help clients worldwide.

Other Resources

Also, check out our Free Dog Training tips on Separation Anxiety in Dogs, Potty Training aka Housebreaking, and Leash Handling for expert solutions to common challenges.

Additional Services: Presentations and Q&As on Dogs | Professional Service Dog Training

Contact Us and Start Training

Finally, once you're ready to move forward, please use our dog training contact form to schedule a free phone consultation or book a paid, in-person consultation.

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About Ralf and Sarah

Happy Dog Training is the pet dog training business of Ralf Weber and Sarah Gill. We are certified professional dog trainers in Southern California. We are specialized in advanced obedience training, all forms or behavioral challenges and service dog training. For behavioral training, we are known for our work with aggressive and fearful dogs. Our service dogs, through Total K9 Focus, have a nationwide reputation for their reliability, longevity and performance.


Certified Professional Dog Trainer Ralf Weber is lead pet dog trainer of Happy Dog Training. Ralf is a long-time dog owner of German Shepherds. During his career, Ralf has worked with over a 1500 dogs of many different breeds. Moreover, Ralf has a thorough understanding of all aspects of canine training. This includes evolutionary psychology, ethology, and, most importantly, learning science. Ralf is specialized in resolving dog behavior challenges—especially fear and aggression. Apart from this, Ralf trains dogs in basic and advanced obedience, service dog tasks, and GRC Dog Sports. Ralf is further certified in a broad range of other canine training areas. Last but not least, Ralf is the author of the behavioral book If Your Dog Could Talk: Understand Your Dog Like Never Before.

Ralf loves helping people have a better relationship with their dogs. He is a certified professional dog trainer in the Training without Conflict™ methodology by Ivan Balabanov (TWC CPDT). Ralf is also a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and also holds their basic and advanced dog trainer certifications (IACP CDT, CDTA). In addition, Ralf is an AKC-approved evaluator for the AKC Puppy Star, CGC, and Advanced CGC programs and is also certified in canine first aid by the Red Cross.

Sarah Gill, Certified Professional Master Trainer

Sarah Gill, is a professional service dog trainer and handler. Sarah entered the world of professional service dog training after a car accident. As a result, she had to use a wheelchair for almost two years, trying to maneuver in a house not designed for it. No one expected Sarah would walk again. This opened her eyes and became a driving force behind pushing herself to defy the odds. When she regained some stability, Sarah attended a dog training school and learned how to train service dogs. Sarah completed her Master Trainer Certification and gained further experience by training new trainers. However, the school wasn’t accommodating to those with physical difficulties and PTSD. Hence, Sarah moved home to Dallas. In 2019, Sarah teamed up with Ralf and moved to California.

Sarah started this journey because she had a trained dog to mitigate her disabilities. But Sarah needed additional tasking for a new diagnosis. The only option she could find was getting a second dog for the new diagnosis. She knew there had to be a different way to address this. Sarah's passion is changing the ways of the service dog training industry.