Life Below Zero Challenge #1: Can You Make Your Own Pet Food For One Month?

Last night on the season premiere of Life Below Zero: Winter’s Warning, we watched the Arctic residents ready themselves for winter before the freeze takes hold.

Living in remote areas, the Alaskans rely on their surrounding natural resources. For Andy and Kate, fishing for chum salmon is the most important thing they do every year—as it provides high-quality food to feed their dogs for 365 days.


Andy depends on his dogs for safe transportation, companionship, and protection. After the last stick of fish went to the dogs, Andy’s focus shifted to getting his fish wheel into the river.

The fish wheel is an automatic fishing machine that relentlessly turns, propelled by the power of the river. The motorless wheel can catch up to 500 fish per day, and is based on an ancient design brought over to North America by the Chinese during the Gold Rush of 1896.


Purchasing a year’s supply of dog food for 25 dogs and two adults would be a huge cost to take on, and relying on the fish wheel saves Andy and Kate thousands of dollars per year, all while providing a fresh and nutritious alternative to processed kibble. Andy credits the oils, fats, and protein of the fish meal to extending the life of his dogs. One of his dogs is 16, and is still as healthy as ever.

So… do you have what it takes to live like that? …Maybe not. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try to see if you have part of what it takes to live like that! Because let’s get real, chances are the Yukon is not in your backyard, you probably couldn’t create a fish wheel by teaching yourself, and I’m guessing you don’t have 25 Alaskan sled dogs to feed.


For the Arctic residents, complacency is not an option. Lack of preparedness means certain death. The stakes are high living on the outskirts of humanity, and for many in the lower 48, life can be pretty sedentary, pretty comfy and cozy… until now! [Cue Life Below Zero Weekly Challenges].

So, let’s tap in to the arctic mindset with a little test of good old fashioned self-reliance. Andy says, “I think people are becoming very disconnected from knowing where their food comes from, taking care of their own needs, preparing their own foods, gathering their own foods. I think that’s a very dangerous thing for people to become complacent about that.”

For our first Life Below Zero Challenge… can you make your own pet food for one month?

We recommend that you speak with your veterinarian before changing your animal’s diet, especially for a short or temporary period of time. Your pet has supplemental requirements that won’t be fulfilled with just chicken and rice, and you’ll need additional vitamins from vegetables, grains, and/or powdered pet supplements recommended by your vet.

But, knowing where your pet food is coming from and providing for them with your own hard work is something the Life Below Zero residents consider highly satisfying. No pets? Come back next week for the next Life Below Zero Challenge!


Tell us! What inspires you about the way these folks live off-grid and on their own? Think you can try giving up some of life’s little luxuries and live a sliver of the arctic lifestyle? Let us know if you are going to partake in the weekly challenges, and share your stories and experiences. We’d love to hear from you. 

Don’t miss new episodes of Life Below Zero, Thursdays at 9P… and be sure to come back next week for challenge #2!


  1. Eileen
    April 18, 2014, 3:30 pm

    Andy and Kate seem to have it together in their quest to live the way they want too. keep it going.

  2. ros
    April 18, 2014, 4:05 pm

    Comment about Yukon vet . Is this woman Canadian because Yukon refers to Yukon Territory. If you are not dealing with Yukon Territory you should change the name of the program to Alaska vet.

  3. James Allen
    Slidell, Louisiana
    April 21, 2014, 10:00 am

    I would like to know if there is a plan somewhere for that fish wheel, I would like to see how it would work here in Louisiana for catching shrimp in the channels where there is a current. I love the show

  4. Rich
    Howell NJ
    April 23, 2014, 9:00 pm

    Do the dogs eat the fish, BONES and all?

  5. tommy
    south west va.
    June 12, 2014, 8:30 pm

    Love the solitude.I believe myself n my boys would enjoy the solidarity.

  6. robert
    sacramento california
    June 26, 2014, 11:50 pm

    I get cold at sixty degrees F, But I would love too try it for the Summer.

  7. Cynthia Wildes
    Becida, MN
    June 27, 2014, 2:18 pm

    I have made my dogs food many times. We hunt every yr and with the scraps of venison I grind it up w/some vegies separate it into one lb packages – freeze it and that lasts them most of the winter. We grow our own food and only get the basics from town. We live 23 mi from town in the woods. We are pretty much subsistence living here. We really enjoy watching Life Below Zero and have great admiration for how all them folks live because we too live in sub-zero temps a better part of the yr. and we like living that way. This last winter was much longer than most yrs – you can totally recognize a climate change – no doubt about that.

  8. Ken
    Florence, MS
    June 28, 2014, 8:18 am

    My wife and I camped the summer of 2003 in Alaska. We said if we were only 25 years younger we’d call the kids tell them to sell the house and send us the check. It is truly a wonderful place. Once you go you’ll want to return for more of the fresh clean air, adventure, beautiful vista’s and everything else that makes you feel alive. I am ready to go again for my forth time. Please don’t miss it.

  9. Hunter
    Jackson Hole, WY
    July 15, 2014, 10:49 pm

    Next summer we’re moving to Alaska! I cannot wait!

  10. peggy jude
    July 19, 2014, 8:52 am

    Can I come out and stay with one of you for about a week,I love winter weather:-) 🙂 🙂 🙂

  11. geegee
    lassen california
    September 4, 2014, 8:58 am

    yes making dog food is not hard ,next challenge. my mom would make dog food for our dogs, so did my grandmother it’s a family affair so easy why buy cheaper to make. along with laundry detergent make your own it last longer cleans better.

  12. ken
    upstate new york
    November 27, 2014, 4:37 pm

    I used to live in the state of maine and also hiked the AT so I find that being in the wild its most important to take care of yourself, I personally would not have dogs to feed, when you have to feed yourself . But if I had A cabin in the woods and no snow machine I would have to have sled dogs, but prefer not to.

  13. Elizabeth Taylor
    Windsor Maine
    December 28, 2014, 5:34 pm

    winters in maine well it not alaskait gets cold and every april 1st i go tent camping and have been doing it for 38 years and still loveing it can i come live with you.

  14. Lori fraser
    January 10, 2015, 10:23 pm

    Do you make the slit in the fish to hang and leave all the guts?

  15. swiegie
    July 5, 2015, 2:35 am