Can Your Dog's Diet Affect Her Behavior?

How the dog's history affects it's future

Once only a hunting partner, the dog quickly assumed the additional roles of guard dog and working partner. Finally, within the last 500 years or so, the dog became man’s friend, companion and family pet.

Over the years humans have bred dogs to do certain jobs and perform specific tasks. In the last 20 years or so the domesticated dog has seen it's role change from that of a hunting partner, herding and  guard dog to simply a member of the family. This does not, however, mean that the family pet does not still maintain the innate instincts to do the job it was bred to do.

Today's furry family member is treated just like every other human in the house. They eat the best dog food recommended by the pet professional, they sleep in a cushy, ergonomically designed doggie bed and they are scheduled trips to the vet and dentist for regular check-ups.

What must be appreciated by loving pet owners is how our dog's lifestyle must be understood in order to balance it's nature with our nurture. Every dog needs a job and a purpose and their diets must resemble what mother nature intended it to be. Without this balance our pets can become unhealthy, both physically and psychologically, which could shorten what could be a long and vital presence in our lives.

The Dog & Wolf Connection

DNA studies have confirmed what was always believed which is that approximately 15,000 years ago the dog evolved directly from the timber wolf. Wolves are carnivores with opportunistic omnivorous tendencies  -  so naturally these terms apply to the dog as well. Their teeth, their digestive systems and their behavior clearly confirm this. Their ability to digest carbohydrate-based foods has been proven over the years. However, a dog's digestive system plainly shows that its body is naturally optimized for eating meat. Dogs do not grind their food — Dogs tear and they chop.

Diet and Behavior

Behavior in human and animals is regulated by neurotransmitters and hormones.

"NEUROTRANSMITTERS are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body.  They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.”  The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest.  They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance. Stress, poor diet, neurotoxins, genetic predisposition, drugs can cause these levels to be out of optimal range."

It is a widely held belief that nutrition plays a vital role in neurotransmitter levels and therefore poor diet, exercise and medication may play an important role in altering a dog's behavior and conduct.

Since many commercial dog foods contain a high percentage of grains, fillers and chemicals, it is possible that dogs, carnivores by nature, might have mild to severe adverse reactions to these ingredients. It requires much more study in my opinion.

But what we as owners can do right now is to ensure that our dogs do not eat diets that are high in sugar, salt, inferior ingredients, chemicals or by-products. In turn, it might therefore be possible to keep our dogs off of medications that can also affect their health and behavior. It is also possible that by feeding a healthy, species appropriate diet to your dog will assist him in maintaining a healthy weight. Raw diets for dogs have been described as an evolutionary alternative to feeding dry kibble.

Provide Your Dog With a Job To Do

Every dog, no matter the size, breed or gender, enjoys being a dog. Whether than means playing fetch, going for a walk or protecting your property, this is what they are meant to do.

The best place to start with every dog is obedience training. This starts the process of bonding and respect between dog and owner and communication is established. A stable dog is a social dog. A social dog is less stressed and more confident in any environment. Good behavior can be established at an early age and reinforced over the lifetime of your dog.

I highly recommend fun activities as well such as Rally-o, Agility Class and even Herding Class. If you are a jogger or walker, this too is an activity that will help to keep your dog stress-free and healthy. Combined with a healthy diet, giving your dog a purpose can ensure a long, happy and healthy life!