Dog Food Reviews

It’s Raw…Trying out the Nature’s Variety Instinct Diet!

Written by Kevin Sando

As you may have seen a few weeks back, our boys were recently given the opportunity to try out the Nature’s Variety Instinct diet.  Nature’s Variety believes that the best diet for our dogs is an “instinctive” diet – that is, one that they would eat in the wild.  This means high protein, grain free, gluten free and of course-uncooked.  Raw diets have been growing in popularity over the last several years, but many dog owners (us included) know very little about it.

In fact, the whole concept of feeding raw brings a plethora of questions to mind:

  • Safety:  “I’m nervous about the bacteria concerns with raw meat”, “How can I be sure that this food is safe for my dogs?”, “What types of quality assurance steps are taken in the preparation of these diets?”
  • Transition:  “How will my dogs adjust to the sudden introduction of raw meats?”, “Can I expect any digestive upset?”, “Is there anything that I should be looking out for during the transition?” 
  • Benefits:  “What are the advantages of feeding raw from a health perspective?”, “How long before I notice a difference with my dogs?”
  • Senior vs Puppy:  “I have multiple dogs, do I need to tailor a raw diet based upon their ages?”
  • Traveling with Raw:  “How can I travel with a raw diet that requires refrigeration?”  “Is it too much of a hassle to ask a dogsitter to prepare?”
  • Cost:  “I have heard that raw diets are expensive, is feeding raw affordable for large breed dogs?”
  • Time:  “How much of an additional time commitment is required to add raw to your dogs diet?”, “Am I going to be spending hours every week preparing meals?”

After quite a bit of research and making the decision that we wanted to give raw a try, our focus moved toward how we could best share the experience with our readers.  

We knew we weren’t alone with our questions and concerns, so we wanted to put together as much information as possible in order to assist any other dog owners thinking about making the switch to raw.  

Therefore, as opposed to writing a single product review, we will be sharing this entire journey along with you – and any good or bad that goes along with it!  We plan to hit on all of the topics above and many more in order to give you a realistic experience of raw feeding and the Nature’s Variety Instinct diet in particular.

MyDogLikes tries out the Nature's Variety Instinct Diet. Here we are loaded up with a full cart from PetSaver Superstore!

With the first post of this series we introduced you to the many options that the Nature’s Variety’s Instinct diet has to offer.  This product line has plenty of protein options (Rabbit, Venison, Beef, Chicken, Duck, Limited Ingredient, etc.) as well as physical forms (Kibble, Kibble with Raw Boost, Raw Bites, Medallions, etc).

Click here to browse the Instinct line on Amazon

After a bit of deliberation we settled on the Limited Ingredient Diet (LID) kibble and the Frozen Raw Bites for our introduction.  In both cases we chose the Lamb formulation.  Our boys have always been on a kibble diet, so we thought that introducing the frozen bites slowly into a standard kibble form would provide the smoothest transition for them. It has now been a few weeks since we began feeding and we are ready with some updates for our readers!

Transitioning to Raw Dog Food

For the first few weeks we mixed in the Nature’s Variety with the previous kibble that we had been feeding. When transitioning to a new food, ratios are really important and should be based on what you know of your own dog. For example, we know that both of our boys have pretty hearty digestive systems and don’t easily have stomach upset. As a result, we started with a 50/50 split of old food to new food.

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, I would recommend consulting your vet, and starting out with a very small amount of new food added to their old food and slowly increase the ratio over time. Additionally, if you are not currently feeding grain-free, I would take the transition VERY SLOWLY.

I caution this because the transition from standard kibble to grain-free can be a big jump. For one, the food is richer and has a higher protein content. This has the potential to cause some loose stools during the transition. Additionally, grain-free dogs require less food to meet their nutritional needs. For this reason, psychologically and physiologically, they need time to adjust to that feeling of “thats it” when they are presented with 1.5 cups of grain-free food rather than their 2 cups of standard kibble. Lastly, because no one wants to come home to a bathroom accident in the house, we made sure to start our transition on the weekend so that we could let the boys out as frequently as needed and observe their behavior. 

Instinct Raw Bites mixed in with kibble.

In the photo above, you can see how the food has been mixed.

Below, a later transition point (very little old kibble visible).

Transitioning our dogs to raw with frozen bites from Nature's Variety

After speaking with a representative from Nature’s Variety, we learned that the formulation of their kibble and raw bites (as well as other protein sources) are similar and as a result, there shouldn’t be any digestive issues eating one or the other on any given day. Again, knowing what we do about our dogs we decided to displace a small amount of kibble (less than a 1/4 cup) with raw bites to begin with.

The thought of adding a frozen element to your dogs food may seem a bit overwhelming, but the Instinct’s Raw Bites make the process so simple. Some of the other Raw options required thawing prior to serving, however, the bites are small and thaw in minutes – just scoop and serve! This form is extremely convenient and a great place to start with their frozen raw.

Looking into the bag of Nature's Variety Frozen Raw Bites

Bites are loose from one another and easily scoop-able! 

A closeup shot of Instinct Raw Bites

First Impressions of Instinct Dog Food

There were no hesitations whatsoever with the new food and the boys were always eager as ever for dinnertime. While neither of the boys are the kind of dogs that scarf their food down, I am often surprised at how quickly they are done eating!  We were happy to see that the boys took their time eating their new food. Whether it was due to the smaller kibble size or the temperature of the bites, we were pleased to see this happen!

Charlie enjoying some Instinct Kibble

After slowwwwly finishing their food, Charlie threw in an extra lap of his bowl checking routine, ensuring that the bowls and surrounding areas were free of any errant food particles 🙂 Though we had made a slow transition, we watched their bowel movements closely over the next couple of days. While this may be TMI (too much information) for some, if your dog has ever struggled with loose stools after transitioning to grain-free food we are about to share some serious progress with you: Charlie’s loose poops disappeared within two days of beginning with Nature’s Variety. We know that this is only anecdotal information, but for Charlie, we hit the jackpot!


They didn’t really seem to suffer from “is that all” phenomenon. However, we have noticed that they love the raw bites so much, that when they are not mixed in, they seem to look around for more food, like “I know there’s more!”. Also, because we store the raw bites in the freezer, the dogs now think every trip into the freezer means its snack time!

Physical Appearance

Over the last several weeks, we have seen their coats get fluffier and softer. Also, our purebred pups are no stranger to seasonal allergies which sometimes seem to be exacerbated by food, but rather than the fiery red belly that comes every Spring/Summer their belly skin has been a soft pink. Thanks goodness!

Overall Impression with the Nature’s Variety Instinct Diet

Although we are still early in our process, we have now gone through an entire bag of kibble and two bags of Raw Bites. We are noticing visible changes in their appearance (soft fluffy coat, less irritated skin) and their digestion (firm stool). Additionally, we have noticed the pace of their eating has slowed and they seem to go BANANAS for the food! Perhaps more than anything that we have been able to observe with our boys is our own feelings of satisfaction. We have long known that grain-free was best, but finally making the transition to raw is something that leaves us feeling like we are doing the very best that we can for our boys.

Keep checking back as we answer some of the biggest questions out there about feeding raw, sample more of the forms and varieties and of course document how our boys are doing!

Click here to try out Nature’s Variety for yourself

Have you ever thought about feeding raw? What questions would you like us to answer for you? Leave a comment below.


About the author

Kevin Sando

Kevin is a mechanical engineer with a degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He has move than a decade experience in new product design, prototyping and early stage manufacturing. Pairing this background with his love of dogs, gives him a unique perspective to evaluate the design and execution of new and interesting pet products.


  • QQ is on a raw diet, but we’ve never tried Nature’s Variety. Is Instinct’s Raw Bites entirely raw? If so, we might give it a try. We primarily feed Darwin as that’s QQ’s favorite and what he’s been eating since he was a puppy. It also feels to be the highest quality. But we like to switch to other brands every couple of months so he gets a wider variety of proteins. We’ve tried Primal and Stella & Chewy’s and those are good raw brands too.

    If you are in Seattle, give Darwin a try when the doggies have fully transition to a raw diet! They have free shipping for Seattle residents and a pretty good deal for a starter package 🙂

  • Yilise, Raw bites are completely raw but undergo a high pressure, water based process that kills bacteria and eliminates many of the concerns that people have (ie. salmonella). I know right now if you visit the Nature’s Variety website you can get a coupon to give it a try! We have definitely been loving it for our dogs!

    Thanks for the information about what you feed, I will read up on your food!

  • I started incorporating raw food into my two dog’s diet about a year ago. Since I work at a healthy pet store that sells a variety of brands, I like to try a bit of everything. I shoot for at least 1oz per day (in addition to kibble) and I could tell a difference in their teeth after only a month! Not to mention they love the taste.

    • We have been reading more and more over the years. It was really more of a fringe thing in the past, but it’s growing in popularity and feasibility!

  • We bought The Raw Bites for our Dachshund and there was no transition period. he loved it and never had any loose stools whatsoever. I fed the Raw Bites also to our Yorkie and Chihuahua with the same great results. My Dogs Loved Natures Variety Instinct Raw Bites but we had to discontinue feeding it because of the cost and because there are no retailers nearby that sell premium Pet food. I live in Waseca MN and was driving 60 miles round trip to buy it in Mankato. Stocking up is a good idea but, I just don’t have the money to buy 4 bags at a time. Waseca MN desperately needs a premium Pet Food Store or at least Owatonna MN!!!

  • My both dogs are on all fish (salmon & herring) no grain. Was wondering if they have a specific food for that.