Kris Rotonda and his fiancée, Denise Fernandez

America’s love affair with televised cooking shows knows no bounds. Neither does America’s love affair with dogs.

kris-denise-couchSo Kris Rotonda and his fiancée, Denise Fernandez, figured why not mix the two. The result is the Doggy Cooking Network on Youtube, where animal lovers and food aficionados can combine their passions and learn to create tasty dishes for their canine pals.

Such dishes can include “Meaty Muffins” (ground beef, turkey or chicken mixed with frozen peas and carrots, brown rice and eggs) or “Salmon Pup Cakes (salmon, oat flour, baking power, dried parsley, dill and eggs).
“I began cooking for my dogs because I think it’s a healthier way to go for meals,” says Rotonda, who has three dogs – Coco, Kobe and Jordan. “Plus, it can be just plain fun.”

He views these carefully cooked entrees as more of a special treat than a daily occurrence, a nod to the fact most people might not have time to devote to a regular cooking regimen for their pets.

Still, Rotonda believes in the concept enough that his fascination with pet recipes also led him to develop a creation called the PupPot (www.puppot.com), a cooking, serving and storage system for those homemade doggie meals.

“The creation of the PupPot was the logical next step,” Rotonda says. “If Denise and I are teaching people to cook for their dogs, it just makes sense to provide them with a tool that would help make it more convenient.”
Fernandez serves as head chef for the Doggy Cooking Network, explaining the recipes to viewers. As her co-host, Rotonda takes care of most of the mixing and rolling-pin action.

The episodes are laced with humor, such as a Halloween segment in which Rotonda wears a werewolf mask and Fernandez dons an orange witch’s hat with matching spider-web glasses. The two create gluten-free “Spooky Treats” and dance to “Monster Mash” while the treats bake.

Rotonda suggests a few points to remember if you plan to cook for your dogs.

• Pros and cons. Advantages of home-cooked diets include the use of fresh, high-quality ingredients chosen by the owner, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. Disadvantages include preparation time, variable quality control and diet consistency, higher cost, and the difficulty in formulating and preparing a nutritionally complete and balanced diet.

• No worries about pet-food recalls. Since 2005, there have been more than 1,100 dog foods recalled. The most common causes of these recalls have been salmonella, vitamin deficiencies and aflatoxin. If you are making meals yourself – rather than depending on commercial dog food – you can avoid the worry that your pet might have eaten food involved in a recall.

• Consult a vet if you have questions. Pet nutrition can be complex, so it’s important to research your planned menu to make sure a particular type of food is appropriate for your dog. If you have any questions or concerns, check with your veterinarian.

“I really believe cooking for your dog helps build a stronger bond between you and your pet,” Rotonda says. “And don’t worry if you don’t always have the time. It doesn’t have to be a daily event. Make sure you keep it fun and don’t let it become one more thing to feel pressured about.”