Getting it 'Just Right': Why customized dog food is the next big trend

More and more every day people are seeing their pets as more than just a beloved companion, they' our family. We're dressing them up for Halloween, bringing them everywhere we go, and are that much more invested in making sure our pets are getting the right nutrition.

Gone are the days of "dog food" being an unfortunate fate for your pup who yearns for your table scraps -- pet foods have skyrocketed in variety in the last several years, and companies are laser-focused on making sure the best ingredients are in them.

According to the American Pet Products Association, spending for pet food increased 22.5% in 2016, to $28.23 billion. Premium foods seem to be the key to driving that growth (as well as improved statistics) -- but so are the millennials who are buying it. Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the APPA, said, "Now that millennials have officially taken the reins as primary demographic of pet owners, they stand to further develop the humanization of pets trend."

Their analysts are excited to see how the data continues to evolve with this new group of pet owners, and we are too.

We had a chance to sit down with a pet nutritionist to talk about a variety of things from the most important ingredients to look for in your dog's food to one of the newest (and coolest, we think) trends in pet food: entirely customized blends for your pet.

Below, our conversation with Nutritionist Chris Wildman, PhD with Just Right by Purina.

AOL: Generic dog food just isn't good enough anymore — why do you think pet owners are so interested in what they're feeding their pets now more than ever?

Chris Wildman: Pets continue to become a more important part of their family. With this in mind, we know they want to give them the best. Pet owners want to provide nutritious and delicious meals to help their pets live longer and happier lives.

AOL: What's the most shocking thing people learn about their dog's food?

CW: That dog food is not one size fits all; every dog is different and unique! People are also surprised to learn they're not the only ones who feel overwhelmed when trying to find the right food for their dog. At Just Right, we combine the owner's first-hand knowledge of their pet with our nutritional expertise to personalize their dog's food to their individual needs.

Related gallery: 25 of the smartest dog breeds

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25 of the smartest dog breeds
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25 of the smartest dog breeds

BORDER COLLIE

According to Coren, these dogs are able to learn a new command in under five seconds and follow it at least 95 percent of the time.

POODLE

Second place on Coren’s list of smartest pups, these beauties are also great family dogs and hypoallergenic.

GERMAN SHEPHERD

There’s a reason why these guys make great crime-fighting pals—they’re obedient and alert (and handsome, too).

GOLDEN RETRIEVER

The ultimate family-friendly dog, these pooches are loyal, whip smart and very patient.

DOBERMAN PINSCHER

Playful and fun-loving, this breed is easy to train and fiercely loyal.

SHETLAND SHEEPDOG

Hey, only a highly intelligent breed would be able to raise a pig. (If you don’t get this Babereference, please go rent the movie immediately.)

LABRADOR RETRIEVER

The most popular dog breed in America is also one of the smartest. Great with families, these guys are loving and loyal.

PAPILLON

Named after the French word for “butterfly” (just look at those sweet, pointed ears), this toy breed is intelligent, energetic and friendly.

ROTTWEILER

Fans of children’s book Good Dog, Carl won’t be surprised to discover that rotties are fearless, devoted and confident. (And also very obedient, according to Coren.)

AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG

No wonder these canines are such excellent work dogs. But even without cows to herd, this breed makes great companions thanks to their obedience, loyalty and protective nature.

PEMBROKE WELSH CORGI

We wouldn’t expect anything less from Her Majesty’s favorite breed.

MINIATURE SCHNAUZER

Full of energy, these friendly pups are fast learners and sociable (and they have the best mustaches).

ENGLISH SPRINGER SPANIEL

Affectionate, athletic and attentive, these tail-waggers were bred as hunting dogs.

BELGIAN TERVUREN

Ideal watchdogs, these pooches are highly trainable and have boundless energy.

SCHIPPERKE

From the Belgian region of Flanders, this breed is curious, confident and clever. (Although these small pups definitely think they’re bigger than they are.)

BELGIAN SHEEPDOG

Those Belgians really know a thing or two about smart pooches, don’t they?

COLLIE

Well, duh—have you never seen Lassie before?

KEESHOND

Outgoing and playful, this sturdy breed is known for the markings around their eyes that looks like glasses.

GERMAN SHORTHAIRED POINTER

Cooperative and trainable, these pups are popular hunting dogs so they need plenty of exercise.

FLAT-COATED RETRIEVER

Great with kids, this friendly breed is also a popular therapy dog.

ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL

With their soft and luxurious coat, these guys love being friendly with kids, adults and even other pups. 

STANDARD SCHNAUZER

Devoted, loving and playful, these guys are also hypoallergenic.

BRITTANY

Known as sensitive souls who are very clever and attentive.

COCKER SPANIEL

Thanks to a certain fictional female dog, the cocker spaniel has a lot to live up to.

NOVA SCOTIA DUCK TOLLING RETRIEVER

If you’re looking for a dog that loves to play fetch, then look no further than this smarty-pants.

RELATED: 7 REASONS IT’S ACTUALLY BETTER TO LET YOUR DOG SLEEP IN YOUR BED

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AOL: And what are the biggest benefits of personalized nutrition?

CW: Since no two dogs are the same, personalized nutrition allows pet owners to help create a dog food based on their dog's unique needs and preferences. Just Right by Purina knows that while we know nutrition best, owners are the ones that really know their pet best and taking a personalized approach enables us to tailor a blend to best fit their dog's unique nutritional needs. We also provide a custom feeding amount for your dog's blend, and you can even put your dog's picture on the bag – that's how personalized we get!

AOL: At its base, what are the most important ingredients for dog food to have?

CW: It takes a variety of dog food ingredients and nutrients to get the complete and balanced nutrition your dog needs and deserves. At Just Right by Purina, we think of our dog food ingredients and how they work together in benefit clusters, rather than how they exist as individuals. Think of ingredients as team players. It takes a variety of ingredients with unique nutrient contents all working together: protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, palatants, etc.

For example, if your pup needs a diet to help promote a healthy skin and coat, your blend might include chicken or salmon, fish oil, a combination of grains, canola meal, dried egg product and vitamin A supplement which work together to deliver the necessary key nutrients to support the healthy skin and coat

AOL: What are the changes you can expect to see in your pet once they're on better food or a food that's right for them?

CW: It truly depends! Every dog's metabolism, skin, coat, energy level, eating preferences, weight, etc. is different, even if they are the same breed. This is one of the many benefits of personalized food – it allows you to tailor your dog's food around their needs and preferences. Just Right by Purina allows pet owners to create a personalized blend of dog food based on all of these characteristics with a quick and easy questionnaire. Based on the information gathered from the pet profile and questionnaire, we're able to create the most nutritious, personalized, blend for their needs.

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