When it comes to dog diets, there are lots of options to choose from. Some prefer wet food, others prefer dry food (also called kibble), and others like to combine the two to get the best of both worlds. There are also pet owners who scrap the commercial dog food altogether in favor of raw diets—fresh, uncooked meat and veggies that your pup’s ancestors would have eaten in the wild.
When choosing the right diet for our dogs, there are several factors to consider: health, cost, and convenience, to name a few. Diet affects physical and mental health alike; food affects all organs, brain included. If you’ve ever felt “hangry,” you can relate. Without sufficient nourishment, we can’t function like our normal selves… and this is no different when it comes to your pooch!
Eating well leads to feeling well, and feeling well results in behaving well. If your dog has been acting out, it’s possible that his behavioral issues are food-related.
Some issues that may be diet-related include:
Food allergies or sensitivities can be understandably uncomfortable. Because your dog can’t use his words to tell you how he’s feeling, you’ll have to look at his body language. If you suspect that Fido’s food is making him irritable, you’ll want to talk to your vet. Rule out any food allergies before adding any additional ingredients or supplements to your dog’s diet.
Dogs may display aggression if they want to assert their dominance; fear can also lead to aggression. Eating lower-protein foods can lead to improvements in dogs with fear aggression and dominance aggression tendencies.
If decreasing the protein levels in your dog’s food sounds like a red flag, consider giving him tryptophan supplements. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in protein which can boost the mood-stabilizing hormone called serotonin. If a low-protein diet isn’t an option for your dog, you can still include tryptophan supplementation with high-protein diets.
If your dog is experiencing food aggression, the issue may not have anything to do with the ingredients. Food aggression occurs when a dog feels uneasy around mealtimes—perhaps there is too much competition, and he’s worried he won’t get his share of food before it’s gone; perhaps meal times are irregular, and he’s feeling overly protective of his food since he doesn’t know when he’ll eat next.
If your dog gets particularly aggressive around food, consider feeding him in a separate room so he can eat at his own pace without worrying about sharing against his will. It’s also important to maintain a regular feeding schedule so Fido can predict the next meal enough to relax and enjoy the current one.
Eating disproportionate amounts of carbohydrates (especially if they’re low-quality grains and starches) compared to protein can lead to hyperactivity in dogs. Carbohydrates should not make up more than 35 percent of your pup’s diet. If the ratio of carbs to protein is unbalanced, it can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, resulting in an unfocused, easily distracted pooch.
Pet Honesty’s Premium Hemp Calming Chews can be beneficial for dogs dealing with hyperactivity and anxiety. These calming supplements use natural ingredients to temporarily calm a dog’s demeanor, improve focus, and reduce anxiety and stress.
Ingredients to Avoid
In addition to low-quality carbohydrates (such as wheat and corn grains), avoid foods that use soy as a form of protein. Soy lacks tryptophan, the amino acid necessary for serotonin, and also contains estrogen. This can lead to hormonal imbalances which result in aggression and hyperactivity.
Avoid artificial preservatives and food coloring, as well, as they could contain unhealthy ingredients that lead to behavior issues.
Ingredients to Look For
When checking the food label on your dog’s food, look for ingredients including:
- Tryptophan, which stabilizes the mood.
- Vitamin B3, which can be calming.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which can sharpen the mind and increase focus.
- Antioxidants, which are good “brain food” especially for seniors experiencing cognitive health issues
- Omega-3s, which support a healthy brain and promote a healthy immune system.
Pet Honesty’s Omega-3 Fish Oil contains high levels of DHA, EPA, and other Omega-3 fatty acids which can help to support your dog’s joint, heart, skin, coat, brain, and overall health.
In addition to making sure your dog’s food has the right ingredients, it’s also important to be mindful of how much and how often you’re feeding your dog. It’s recommended to feed Fido two to three times per day, sticking to a predictable schedule.
Free feeding, or leaving food out all day, can result in constant grazing and possibly overeating. You don’t want your dog eating out of boredom, after all. On the other side of the spectrum, you don’t want to limit your dog to one large meal per day; this can result in eating too quickly, and being overly hungry which can also cause your dog to lash out.
Talk to your vet about the right diet for your dog. What’s right for another dog may not be right for yours. Additionally, avoid making any significant changes to your dog’s diet without consulting your vet. If your dog has behavior issues, it never hurts to talk to your vet to rule out any underlying health issues, or determine whether you need to consult a personal trainer.