Table of contents:
The importance of a balanced diet
How does diet affect your dog’s mood?
How does diet affect your dog’s energy levels?
Making the most of snacks and treats
The signs of success
How a good diet can improve trainability and focus
The problems with a poor diet
Feeding your older dog
The ‘treat-off’ challenge – for you and your dog
Doggy diets and behaviour FAQs
A quick recap…
The fact nutritious and delicious meals are the building blocks for a healthy, happy dog isn’t rocket science. Yet most people are unaware of just how powerful that connection can be – and how important a good diet is to healthy, happy behaviour. At Natures Menu, our in-house team of experts are passionate about helping more pet parents understand the role diet has to play in your dog’s overall wellbeing (it’s one of the reasons why they're all big natural feeding advocates).
So in this article, we share their guidance on the best dog food for behaviour problems, how diet can sometimes help resolve behaviours such as hyperactivity or stress for the better, as well as identifying underfed dog behaviour.
As humans we advocate the benefits of a healthy, balanced diet all the time. So why should we be surprised that our four-legged friends can feel those benefits too? Whole cuts of responsibly farmed meat with quality fruits and vegetables are just the sort of thing you would use to cook a healthy meal at home – and the best dog food diet (for behaviour problems and overall wellbeing) should be no different.
A common misconception is that ‘dogs will eat anything, and so long as they’re the right weight for their breed then all’s well’. Now anyone with a fussy dog knows the first part of this statement is entirely false. But so too is the second part. Just like us, there are many chemical reactions that take place in your dog’s body after they eat. These reactions enable your dog to function normally and remain healthy at the same time. And if something isn’t right, your dog may show this through its behaviour. For example, we’ll look at the best foods for hyperactive dogs later on.
Just as a healthy, balanced diet has positive effects on overall wellbeing, a poor diet can have negative effects. Try thinking back to a time when you overindulged over Christmas or on holiday…now imagine if that was your diet every single day. Even if you “woofed” the food down at the time, an unhealthy diet soon begins to take its toll. Especially on your mood.
Our dogs respond to too much sugar in their diet in similar ways to we do. First, there’s the sugar highs resulting in irregular behaviour such as bursts of energy and over-excitement. Then, when this wears off later in the day, there’s sugar lows. As the effects of the sugar lessen, with dogs sometimes showing signs of a low mood. For example, they could be irritable, more grumpy than usual or show signs of anxiety.
In contrast, a satisfying meal that delivers on taste and nutrition can be a vital key to a happy healthy dog. Without any sugar highs or dreaded lows, your dog is likely to feel more content and more engaged in the day-to-day. Balanced diets are one of the key steps to a balanced dog – one that feels satisfied in appetite, healthy in themselves and calm in behaviour. .
You’re not yourself when you’re hungry – and neither is your dog. Low energy and lethargy are the more obvious signs of underfed dog behaviour. But it’s important to recognise the less obvious signs too. Disruptive and unusual behaviours your dog doesn't usually display, such as chewing, scavenging, begging and even eating the neighbour’s cat poop are all possible signs of underfed dog behaviour that can manifest when your dog is not getting enough nutritious food. Of course, some dogs may just simply love the taste of the neighbour’s cat poop - each to their own!
If you have an anxious dog or one that’s easily stressed, then tryptophan may be able to help. Research has shown that dogs who are deficient in tryptophan are more likely to suffer from stress which can potentially manifest into aggression, anxiety and moodiness.. So, what exactly is L-Tryptophan for dogs and how does it work?
Well, L-Tryptophan is a natural amino acid that can be found in various proteins and is essential for the creation of serotonin – a brain released endorphin that plays such an important role in mood and the ability to get a good night’s sleep. Today there are many supplements with L-Tryptophan for dogs that can help reduce stress. But as a start, why not take a look at your dog’s food? There’s no reason why a healthy balanced diet containing L-Tryptophan-rich foods, such as turkey,chicken and fish, shouldn’t be your first step when adjusting your dog’s diet.
Just like people, dog’s get their energy through their food. The trick is getting the right balance of nutrients so your dog can lead a happy active life of walks, squirrel watching, and ball chasing – without it being excessive. After all, you can have too much of a good thing.
Unsurprisingly all the foods we think of as bad for ourselves are also bad for our dogs. So try to avoid things like sugars, artificial colours and preservatives. These substances can all potentially be related to hyperactive behaviour such as excessive energy levels, fidgeting and short attention spans. Likewise, dogs that are not getting enough (or the right) nutrients from their diet can feel weighed down when the food isn't right for them. . This can sometimes be associated with foods that are very high in carbohydrates. It means the best food for lethargic or hyperactive dogs in the UK right now are those that are made with good quality natural ingredients, including human-grade meats, fresh fruits and vegetables. Carbohydrates aren’t a necessity in a dog's diet but small, healthy and natural amounts can help to contribute to a balanced meal.
TIP How can you tell if there’s anything artificial in your dog’s food? At Natures Menu, we recommend having a good read of the ingredient’s list to see what’s really going into your dog’s food bowl.
Snacks and treats can be used in all sorts of ways to help your dog grow up happy and healthy, while building a strong relationship between the two of you. Training treats, food reward toys, enrichment toys, and scent games such as hide and seek, are all worthwhile ways to use food in a positive way. We recommend establishing good habits early with high value snacks and treats that are healthy too. And if your dog just isn’t food driven, why not try ditching the bowl? Feeding meals from interactive feeders, Kong toys or simply scattering food around the garden to encourage some scent work can really help to make mealtimes more exciting and stimulating, whilst also having the added advantage of helping to tire your dog out.
Exploring the best dog food for behaviour problems is one thing, but how do you know if it’s really helping? What should you look out for? On the right diet full of natural, nutritious and unprocessed foods, your dog should be happy to go out on a walk, interested in the outside world and have the ability to concentrate for short daily training sessions.
A healthy diet containing all the natural nutrients your dog needs to thrive is so important when it comes to training. Have you ever tried concentrating on something when you’re tired, anxious or irritable? Exactly, and it’s the same for your dog.
Unwanted behavioural states such as stress, hyperactivity or lethargy will not set your dog up for success no matter how basic the training. A poor diet, whether it’s overly processed, lacking good nutrition (or both), can leave your dog feeling unfocused and out of sorts. In comparison, a healthy balanced diet that gives your pooch exactly what they need, helps create a state that’s alert, engaged and eager to learn.
An increasing number of pet parents are turning to raw as the best dog food for behaviour problems as well as overall wellbeing. But it’s worth noting that a raw food diet is also known for providing lots of natural fatty acids, which is particularly important for puppies in training. The good news is you can find them in all sorts of good quality foods such as poultry and vegetables; or we’ve made feeding these easy with our specially formulated complete and balanced puppy foods.
As with us humans, poor diet can affect you and your body in many different ways. In your pups, anything from a dull coat and excessive shedding to skin soreness and allergies can all start to become a problem. But often the first sign that something is wrong is a change in their behaviour. Look out for things like general agitation, scratching, obsessive paw licking as well as excessive stretching (adopting the ‘bow’ position) and/or excessive yawning shortly after a meal – they’re all signs your pooch is feeling uncomfortable.
A healthy, nutritious diet is important for all dogs, but as your beloved pet gets older their needs may change. Mobility issues are fairly common, so choosing meals with a healthy mix of antioxidants and fatty acids can really help to keep them fit and mobile. Glucosamine and chondroitin are also two natural substances found in raw foods that can help alleviate the symptoms of stiff joints.
Ready for a challenge? To get the best from your dog during your training sessions it’s so important to choose high value treats your dog loves. That way they’re much more likely to remain focussed on you, respond to your instructions and remember what you’re asking them to do next time. But the question is, do you know what treats are your dog’s favourites? And what do they really think about the new treats you’ve bought? Here’s how you can find out…
Dogs don’t believe in saving the best for last – instead they’ll choose their favourites first. After this, you can really put the treats to the test by having two of each ready. Show and feed your dog the first of the two treats and then ask for a simple behaviour well known to your dog, such as ‘sit’. Repeat this with all of the treats in succession and take note of how quickly they respond to your ‘sit’ cue. The faster their bottom goes down, the more eager they are to eat that treat!
Absolutely! Diet plays a huge role in your dog’s health and wellbeing, and just as an unhealthy diet can have a negative effect, the best dog food for behaviour problems can have a positive effect. Natures Menu also advises to seek the advice of a positive reward based dog trainer to help get the very best out of your dog if you are experiencing problems.
When it comes to a healthy diet, the best food for hyperactive dogs in the UK should contain all the usual ingredients you use at home, like good quality meat with fresh fruit and vegetables. Anything high in sugar or full of artificial nasties like colourings and preservatives should be avoided.
Have you ever overindulged on junk food or eaten unhealthily for a while? Do you remember how you felt afterwards? A poor diet high in sugar and low in natural goodness like vitamins and minerals can leave your dog feeling tired, irritable and anxious, just like it would us. In addition, sometimes diets high in carbohydrates can also make our dogs feel lethargic and over-tired. However, always check with your vet if you’re worried, especially if your dog’s behaviour has changed suddenly.
Any possessive behaviour needs looking into and it’s important to find out what’s behind it. Always speak to your vet or an experienced pet behaviourist first to get expert advice tailored to your dog.
Firstly, you’re not alone. There are lots of pet owners out there who have a dog that’s reactive for all sorts of reasons. Their behaviour could be related to a poor diet but also, it could be due to unseen pain, illness or injury. The first step is always to speak to your vet and find out if something physical is behind your dog’s aggression, especially if the behaviour is out of character or out of the blue. They’ll advise you on the best next steps.
The short answer is yes! L-Tryptophan is known to help reduce stress and aggression in dogs. It works by helping create serotonin and providing that happy, calm sensation.
Yes, there’s nothing to worry about. L-Tryptophan for dogs is completely safe. It is in fact an amino acid that you find naturally in certain proteins like turkey, chicken and fish. So, in a good diet with plenty of delicious nutritious ingredients, your dog should be getting some already.
A nutritious diet made with quality ingredients is really important for overall wellbeing. That’s true for humans and it’s also true for our dogs. And just like us, when you’re physically healthy and feeling nourished, your behaviour reflects that (ever get hangry, anyone?). The simple fact is, if something isn’t right, your dog will soon show you through their behaviour.
Foods high in sugar, over processed or lacking in quality nutrition, all have their part to play in unwanted behaviours like hyperactivity, lethargy and even aggression. But on the flip side, that means the best dog food for avoiding behaviour problems is healthy, balanced meals that are packed with nutrition. The secret is to keep trying new things until you find the perfect fit for your dog. If you would like to know more about healthy dog food containing an abundance of natural and nutritious ingredients, why not contact our expert team for a chat.