What Do Amish Feed Their Dogs? A Look at Traditional Diets and Modern Adaptations

The Amish people, known for their close-knit communities and dedication to self-sufficiency, have a unique way of life that extends to how they care for their animals. This includes their canine companions, who play a vital role on Amish farms. Unlike most pet owners who rely on commercially produced dog food, the Amish approach to feeding their dogs is rooted in tradition, resourcefulness, and a focus on natural ingredients.

A Life of Self-Sufficiency: The Foundation of the Amish Diet

The Amish lifestyle revolves around self-reliance. They typically live on large farms where they raise their own crops and livestock. This translates to a diet rich in fresh, seasonal vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, and meats like chicken, beef, and pork. Avoiding processed foods and relying on what they grow and raise is a cornerstone of their way of life.

Adapting the Amish Table for Canine Consumption

While the core ingredients of the Amish diet are human-friendly, they undergo some modifications before being fed to dogs. Vegetables are usually cooked or chopped to make them easier to digest. Leftover meat scraps are incorporated into the dog’s meals, providing valuable protein and essential nutrients. Homemade broths made from boiling bones can be a great source of hydration and additional flavor.

It’s important to note that while a homemade diet can be healthy for dogs, it’s crucial to ensure it’s balanced and provides all the necessary nutrients for their age, breed, and activity level. Consulting with a veterinarian can help create a personalized meal plan that takes these factors into account.

The Role of Commercial Dog Food in Amish Communities

While self-sufficiency is a core principle, some Amish communities may utilize commercially produced dog food in specific situations. Here are some reasons why:

  • Convenience: For busy families with large working dogs, preparing homemade meals every day might not be feasible.
  • Specific Dietary Needs: Certain dog breeds or those with health conditions might require specialized diets not easily replicated at home.
  • Availability: In some Amish communities, access to certain ingredients for a homemade diet may be limited.

However, when choosing commercially produced dog food, the Amish generally prioritize brands with a focus on natural ingredients. They might favor smaller, local companies that share their emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients.

Tailoring the Diet for Working Dogs

Working dogs on Amish farms, such as livestock guardians or farmhands, have specific dietary needs compared to pet dogs. Their active lifestyle demands a higher intake of protein to maintain energy and stamina. Additionally, working dogs might benefit from:

  • Inclusion of Organ Meats: Organ meats like liver and kidney are rich in essential nutrients like vitamins A and B12, which can be beneficial for working dogs.
  • Extra Cooked Eggs: Eggs are another excellent source of protein and healthy fats that can help fuel a working dog’s busy day.

Beyond Food: Additional Considerations for Amish Dog Care

While diet plays a crucial role in a dog’s health, the Amish approach to canine care extends beyond food. They generally prioritize:

  • Fresh, Clean Water: Just like humans, dogs need constant access to clean, fresh water to stay hydrated. Amish farms typically have readily available sources of fresh water, ensuring their dogs are always hydrated.
  • Regular Exercise: Working dogs on Amish farms get plenty of exercise naturally through their daily tasks of herding livestock, patrolling fields, and assisting with farm chores. Pet dogs might require dedicated playtime and walks outdoors to fulfill their exercise needs.
  • Preventative Care: While some Amish communities might rely on traditional remedies for minor ailments, they understand the importance of veterinary care for serious illnesses or injuries.

The Importance of Respecting Amish Traditions

It’s important to approach the topic of Amish dog care with respect for their unique culture and traditions. While their methods may differ from mainstream practices, their dedication to their animals is undeniable. The focus on fresh, natural ingredients and a holistic approach to animal care aligns with growing trends in pet wellness.

A Look at the Potential Challenges

While the Amish approach to dog food has its merits, it’s not without potential challenges:

  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Creating a balanced homemade diet requires research and knowledge of canine nutrition. Without proper planning, deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals can occur.
  • Time Commitment: Preparing homemade meals for dogs takes time and effort, which might not be feasible for all Amish families with busy schedules.
  • Spoilage: Fresh ingredients can spoil quickly, so proper storage and meal planning are crucial to avoid waste.

A Glimpse into Traditional Amish Dog Recipes

Disclaimer: Before introducing any new food to your dog, consult with a veterinarian.

1. Hearty Vegetable and Barley Stew:

This stew provides a balanced mix of carbohydrates, protein, and vitamins perfect for an active dog.


  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 cups chopped green beans
  • 1 cup chopped potatoes
  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 1 cup cooked chicken or beef (shredded)
  • 4 cups beef broth (homemade or store-bought)


  1. In a large pot, combine chopped vegetables and beef broth.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add cooked barley and shredded meat.
  4. Let cool slightly before serving to your dog.

2. Simple Scrambled Eggs with Cottage Cheese:

This protein-packed breakfast is a great option for working dogs or growing puppies.


  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup cottage cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)


  1. Whisk eggs in a bowl.
  2. Heat a small pan over medium heat with a pat of butter.
  3. Pour in the whisked eggs and scramble until cooked through.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in cottage cheese and chopped parsley (if using).
  5. Let cool slightly before serving to your dog.

Important Notes:

  • These are just examples, and you can adjust the ingredients based on your dog’s preferences and dietary needs.
  • Be sure to remove any bones or skin from meat before feeding it to your dog.
  • Always supervise your dog while they eat, and avoid feeding them any foods that are toxic to dogs, such as onions, grapes, and chocolate.

Conclusion: Balancing Tradition with Modern Knowledge

The Amish approach to dog food offers valuable insights into the benefits of a natural, fresh-food diet. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the importance of proper nutrition and potential challenges associated with homemade meals. Consulting with a veterinarian can help ensure your dog receives a balanced diet that meets their individual needs, regardless of whether you choose a homemade or commercially prepared food option.

Ultimately, the Amish dedication to their dogs, evident in their focus on fresh food, exercise, and preventative care, is a testament to the strong bond they share with their canine companions. By understanding their traditions and adapting them with modern knowledge, we can strive to provide optimal care for our own furry friends.