We've been making our own dog food for the past five years. The whole process was sheer accident. When we adopted our second dog Lucy, she had "medical issues" which were pretty vaguely stated. We saw only her fur was blotchy, raw and uneven. After some research, we though: allergy. So began creating a basic allergy-free porridge to try and help. Within literally a week we saw a dramatic difference. From there we startedresearching dog food in general, saw the repeated dog food recalls traced primarily back to questionabe ingredients from China, and began to get more serious. A neighbor has a daughter who is a Vet, and introduced us to the BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet, which further reinforced that we were on the right track.
We have a large rice cooker, so we started our home-made dog food base by cooking a vat full (remember, we have four+ dogs at the moment) of Costco brown rice once a week; we add various veggies such as carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes/yams, etc (fruits and veggies that are beginning to go bad are actually great for dogs as plant matter in this state is generally a bit easier for the dogs to digest; in the wild they're used to find ripe/rotting fruit on the ground, for example). We usually steam the veggies for about 10 minutes, but it really isn't necessary, it's just a bit easier for Bogart to eat in his old age. Next we get chicken thighs from Costco that still have the bone and skin, generally giving one thigh to each dog raw per meal, mixed with the veggies & rice. Chicken bones are fine IF they're not cooked (this is a variation of the BARF--bones and raw food--diet you may have heard of). Finally, we usually add a couple of squirts of fish oil, and usually a raw egg for each dog (squashed shell included) The cost of all this is surprisingly cheap--it's comparable with so-called premium dog foods. We have it down to a science, where it takes about 30 minutes a week to prepare the "base". We generally mix everything up and put it in a cauldron in the fridge, adding the chicken thigh and egg at mealtime.
After further research, we moved from using brown rice to quinoa, which is a similar grain, but more nutritious.
Unfortunately, some dogs may take a bit of adjusting to this type of diet for two reasons:
First, the dog food, while deceptively unhealthy, is manufactured to be tasty--so weaning them off that "taste" may (or may not ) be a challenge.
95% of ALL dog food, be it an upscale "designer" brand or Alpo, is made by just a handful of manufacturers (that's the main reason that the recalls seemed to affect so many brands). Those manufacturers, in turn, buy many/most/all of their ingredients (cheaply) from China. And the big shell-game surrounding this process centers on protein. Specifically: what's the type of protein in your dog's chow, and what is the source? The extreme example of unhealthy comes from a particular source of protein. Traces of phenobarbital has been found in many brands of dog food 9albeit in trace amounts)--this is due to the fact that euthanized pets typically have, in turn, become part of the raw ingredients that becomes your dog's dog food. There's a very strange wholesale industry that literally "buys" euthanized animals from vets. The carcasses then get rendered and shipped off to China, recombined with other low-value protein (such as melamine in extreme cases) to artificially "boost" protein levels. This toxic "soup" is then imported back to the US (Google phenobarbital and dog food), combined with filler and the manufacturer level, packaged up as "Tasty" whatever, and sold to uninformed pet owners. To the tune of billions of dollars. The protein games played at the raw ingredient level is where a lot of the issues happen. For instance, literally adding old leather shoes has been one way to boost protein levels--the leather actually increases the protein percent of the food. The only problem is the protein in question is of a type that is (of course) wholly indigestible to the dog; it just passes through. Same with other typical so-called protein boosters: animal fur, claws, feces, blood, intestine, fetuses, (etc), and melamine. It helps make the label read good, but malnourishes the dog. Or worse.
The dog food industry is essentially unregulated, with one of the only requirements is listing the food breakdown on the package. And the listing can be very easily camouflaged. And no matter what the dog food you buy, the odds are it's made by one of just three manufacturers, which is why the recalls in the last few years have affected to many dog food brands. And all three get the bulk of the raw ingredients from our friends in China.
Second, if you make your own, it may take a while for the dog to adjust. A dog's stomach needs certain enzymes to digest certain foods. If they haven't had that food for a while (or ever) the enzymes are missing. So it may take a while to get those enzymes built back up. That's why a wild dog can eat a variety of foods--he has all the enzymes he needs for just about anything. The more you feed an animal just one thing, the less diverse set of enzymes the animal maintains. Along that line, think about how healthy you woudl be if all you every ate---day after day--- was potates; or carrots; or, a better analogy in the case of commcercail dogs food: Twinkies. Even if the dog food was great (and they aren't) the dog at best would be getting a narrow range of nutrients. So diversifying your diet can go a long way to best coverihng your animal's dietary needs--sort of don't put all your eggs in one basket idea. Add fruit, vegetables, grain, eggs, meat...you gte the idea.
It sounds like lots of work. And honestly, getting into the grove is. But you'll also be amazed at how little time it takes once you get your system down.
Think also about cutting way back on the various vaccines they get (we're down to just rabies, but the truly important ones will vary by region and how much the dog gets around, etc) as well. Along that same line, spread the vaccines out--in other words, don't give a rabies booster and a parvo inoc at the same time; spread them out a month or more. There's growing evidence that combining these cocktails produces significant health issues over time.
If you're interested, here's a great entry point: