Dog Food Reviews

Its a grain-free, free for all…

Natures Variety Instinct selection at Petsaver Superstore in Rochester, NY
Written by Rachael Sando

Dog BowlsRecently, we were contacted by Nature’s Variety asking us to review their Instincts dog foods.  Although we have received similar requests in the past, food is not something that either Kevin or I typically feel comfortable reviewing.  We have always aimed to select the best quality foods that we can afford and do not like to have unnecessary variance in our dogs diet.  In this case however, we were afforded an opportunity to look into something that we had heard a great deal about but never looked into for ourselves: Feeding Raw. Before making the commitment to review the food, Kevin had a long conversation with one of their representatives and we did some of our own research. We wanted to ensure that if we made this change it would be the right fit for our dogs. We asked ourselves two questions: First, could this food improve the health and nutrition of our dogs? Second, could we envision feeding them this food for years to come? The answer to both questions was yes. 

Harley at the ParkLike many Golden/Purebred dogs before him, Harley has always struggled with allergies.  I’m going to get all Hipster on you and say “we fed grain-free before it was cool”. However, at several points because of allergy issues, Harley stopped eating his food and in desperation we found a limited ingredient diet that he could eat and keep down.  When we brought Charlie home a few months ago, we decided that we really wanted to get back to grain-free and once again started the search for a new food.  We found a highly rated food with ingredients that we liked…but if you have dogs you know, life is never without complications and Charlie has struggled with digestive upset and loose stools. Back to the drawing board…

Charlie Dog Bowl

As we began to look into the Instincts diets, it became clear that this was a VERY high quality food. Their philosophy is that our pets should be eating unprocessed, natural and uncooked food, just as they would in the wild.  Through this vision they have created a safe, nutrient balanced, and convenient way to incorporate raw into your pets diet.  Nature’s Variety happened to reach out to us at a great time and after some consideration we thought it was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up!  

After receiving our second set of Instinct vouchers in the mail (I accidentally threw the first set in the recycling bin!!!), we headed off to our local healthy pet store. When I got there, I thought there would only be a few options, but boy was I surprised! Not only are there a variety of flavors, but forms and styles of food as well! One of the things that the representative shared with us is that our boys should not have any trouble switching between the options.  The Instinct line is specially formulated to allow for variety, so I didn’t feel handcuffed about making the “right” choice.

First to the kibble- Look at all of these choices!! 

Instinct Kibble – Standard kibble  (grain and gluten free)

Nature's Variety Instinct Kibble

Instinct Raw Boost Standard kibble with freeze dried raw pieces added in (grain and gluten free)

Nature's Variety Instinct Kibble

Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet (LID) – 1 protein source (grain and gluten free)

Nature's Variety Instinct Kibble

I ultimately decided that my course of action would be a slow ease in. For the first round (we have coupons for two trips to the store), I decided on the LID. Harley had previously been on a LID and I thought if there were any allergy issues we would be able to identify what was causing him problems easier.  If they tolerate the food well, I plan on getting the Kibble with Raw Boost next.


Decision made…Instinct Limited Ingredient Kibble; Lamb

On to the RAW! Now this is cool….

Nature's Variety Instinct Raw

The options include:

Raw-Bites – Small frozen bites in a “scoopable” form

Raw-Patties – Hamburger sized frozen patties

Raw-Medallions – Frozen, half dollar sized

Raw-Chubs – Frozen log



Now since I was just experimenting, I decided to go with the same protein source as the kibble (again to reduce the chances of allergy issues) and ultimately selected the bites because I thought they would be easier to scoop and measure to make sure I didn’t overfeed!

A Full Cart of Nature's Variety

After seeing the product in person we are even more excited to try this with our dogs.  We have been hearing about the benefits of raw for years now and can’t wait to see the results for ourselves!  Much more to come on the ingredients, safety, preparation and transition. Stay tuned for 2014 – An Instinct Odyssey.  

Do your dogs eat raw?  Let us know in the comments!


About the author

Rachael Sando

Rachael is a School Psychologist with degrees from the University of Rochester and RIT. Though a lifelong dog lover, this passion has taken on a new direction through the utilization of therapy animals in her day job. Charlie, our Golden Retriever, works with Rachael as a school therapy dog in a local primary school where he brings comfort and support to students and staff on a daily basis.


  • Our cats recently tried some freeze dried chicken treats….or at least thats what the torn open package suggests 🙂

  • M.K. Clinton gave us both a shout out on Twitter last week and now I’m nominating you for the Shine Award (just a fun way for us pet bloggers to keep getting to know each other).

  • We tried a trial packet of the raw boost before. Chewy loved those raw bits! But honestly, Chewy loves to eat pretty much everything! We have had our own struggles with soft poops, as well, but he is currently doo-ing well on a combo of Merrick and the Honest Kitchen. Best of luck with your latest food trials!

    • I’m glad you are finding something that works well for you. I can’t wait to share a little more about the improvements that we have seen with our boys!

    • Great to hear Chewy is doing well with his current diet 🙂 We will keep everyone posted on how our boys are doing with the Raw diet!