Dog Behaviour

Sue Gilmore MA FCFBA

Does Good Behaviour Depend on Good Dog Food?

Junk Food

A frantic ‘phone call from an owner of a Labrador x Dalmatian alerted me to the real influence and unintended consequences of feeding junk food to dogs. By junk food I mean convenience dog food, the stuff that comes in sacks, that looks like pellets, often smells rancid and can cost from as little as a fiver a sack or well over £75.00 a sack.

What’s so good about it? Well, it’s easy to store, easy to feed and most dogs will eat it readily, but then again, they probably have no choice in what they eat. Some dogs hate it.

On my many visits to dog owners whose dogs are aggressive or showing signs of it, I often find a bowl of dry kibble food left for the dog to graze on 24/7. At mealtimes, I am told that the dog is a pest; it worries for scraps of food from the table or worktop during food preparation. Many dogs will steal food left unattended – I have come across a black Labrador who ate a Bakewell tart and a loaf of bread complete with packaging in the time that it took the owner to unload shopping from his car. A Jack Russell that regularly jumps on the dining table and steals from his owners’ plates whilst they are eating their meals!

What makes dogs behave in this way? First and foremost, their owners allow it to happen, simply because they have not spent any time teaching their pets rules, boundaries and manners. Their frustration wells up when visitors are invited to dinner, only to be pestered by the family dog begging for food from their plates.

Dry Kibble

Dry kibble dog food, which contains carbohydrates, places heavy demands on the dog’s digestive tract, which is designed to cope with a meat-based diet, although dogs are in fact omnivores. The stomach acidity (Ph1-2) is capable to digesting metal so a raw diet containing meaty bones is no challenge, but this is not the case with kibble. It puts a strain on the body, because the pancreas has to go into overdrive to produce the excessive need for enzymes that enable the food to be digested. Add to that the extra water that the dog has to drink to allow the food to swell to twice or three times volume (how uncomfortable is that in the dog’s stomach?) – just imagine eating a bag of dried prunes and allowing our own intestinal juices to rehydrate them in our stomachs.

No wonder puppies constantly relieve themselves anywhere and adult dogs drink bowls of water to enable their food to digest. The discomfort can cause behavioural changes and not for the better.

Raw Food

So, back to the Labrador x Dalmatian: He had been used to eating Natural Instinct raw food, which is a convenient and varied selection of meals. His owner had run out so went to the local garage to get some dog food to tide him over. The limited selection included some highly coloured and attractively shaped kibble – do dogs care what colour or shape their dried food is? It’s actually a brilliant masterstroke of marketing to lure unsuspecting dog owners to buy food that looks nice to them, but in fact causes some dogs to behave in strange ways and that includes being aggressive. The dog’s owner, a former police officer, couldn’t get near his usually placid dog and asked my advice before going to take the dog back to the rescue centre where it came from or have it put to sleep. He knew that I feed my dogs natural food so I gave him a supply of Natural Instincts meals and some advice to keep his family safe and his dog calmer.

The telephone call I received from a very relieved dog owner later that day just confirmed to me the importance of feeding a good quality raw, natural diet. His dog had returned to “normal” and the whole household was able to relax. Needless to say the bag of kibble was disposed of and an order placed for the dog’s usual fare. The dog’s still at home.

Sue Gilmore First Published 1st June 2014

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