Recently Matt and I were invited to visit Simply Natural Raw Pet Food in the Kerrisdale neighbourhood of Vancouver, BC, for a full tour of their operation and an interview with the owner, Caroline, who has 20 plus years experience with raw food diets for dogs. The store has a great reputation and it was quickly clear that Caroline’s vast knowledge and passion for dogs are the cornerstone of that great reputation.
The store is special because of the great staff, their knowledge and their passion. They will educate you and sell you what you need and want, unlike some stores which train their staff what to say to make a sale. Here’s a quick overview of what they offer:
- A wide variety of raw foods – both frozen and freeze dried
- High quality convenience foods (kibble)
- Custom designed raw food plans unique to your dog’s needs
- Staff are very knowledgeable about dog behaviour and training
- Puppy training classes
- Quality toys and treats you won’t find in the big box stores
- A large line of pet beds that can be custom ordered to match your décor
- Also a cat person? The store has a variety cat supplies as well.
Caroline has passed on her 20 plus years of experience to all her staff, so they are all very capable of guiding you through the wide variety of raw food options. They will work with you to develop a raw food meal plan that’s unique to your dogs needs – whether that’s allergy management, helping with an ailment or just general good health. They will tailor it to meet your budget and lifestyle, and provide options if you’re like me and have limited cupboard, fridge and freezer space. If you aren’t able to come in and pick up your food yourself, they offer delivery in some areas.
The staff all have their own dogs and are very involved in some form of training – whether it’s agility training, nose work or advanced obedience. As a result, they all have strong connections with their dogs and an excellent understanding of dog needs and behaviours.
The store hosts puppy training classes with Zen Dog Canine Training evenings and weekends, after the store closes. Staff quickly move the wheeled shelving out of the way to transform the space into an open training room. Everything gets pushed to the side or into the back room.
On our visit to the store we stayed to watch “graduation day” for a class of puppy kindergartners. For their last day the owners had the challenge of taking their puppy through a small agility course (off-leash!) and demonstrate whatever tricks they had learned at home.
Shannon, the founder of Zen Dog, ran the class and opened it with a Q&A session. There were questions about the best puppy harness to buy (Shannon was happy to provide advice) and some problems several owners were having with their puppies “counter surfing” or trying to steal food. The conversation started with one owner telling the group that his dog had just stolen a steak off of the counter before the class. This lead to several other owners agreeing that they were having similar problems. Shannon answered the questions with a touch of “tough love,” firmly reminding the puppy owners that if their puppy is not behaving then they are the ones doing something wrong – and they need to correct it. Then offered advice on how to do so.
The class then started with puppy socialization time before moving on to the agility course. I have to admit I was a bit nervous on behalf of the pups (and their owners) as they started the course. It seemed very advanced for such young dogs – and they were going to be doing it off-leash while being timed! Shannon was quick to explain that the main purpose of the exercise was not to be perfect at the course, but rather to focus on interacting with your puppy to encourage it to look to you for commands. To my surprise, all the puppies performed amazingly well! And it was easy to see that working with their puppies on an agility course strengthened the bond between the owners and their puppies as well as learning some valuable behaviours.
Overall our visit to the store was very positive and we learned a lot. Most pet food stores are staffed with animal lovers with at least a basic understanding of the product lines, but the level of experience at Simply Natural exceeded what I have encountered at any pet supply store.