As a professional animal trainer I meet new canine students daily. One of the first questions I always ask is, “What do you feed your dog?” The answer is very pertinent to the training process as a dog who is getting inadequate nutrition will not be able to learn at a reasonable rate. Furthermore, a dog who is eating the wrong foods can experience hyperactivity, become easily stressed and is also often highly reactive.
A great example of this is Kevin, a 4 year old Malti-poo who arrived for a month of board and train. His human companions were moving to another state and their home was not yet ready so they decided to bring him and his brother, Rusty, to stay with me for four weeks.
The dogs arrived with food, treats, toys and bedding as well as several human siblings who adore them, to see them off. I cringed when I saw the type of dog food they were being fed. It contains mostly corn, wheat, soy and food colorings. Granted, there is chicken flavor in there somewhere, along with the required vitamins and minerals but overall very little brain food.
While Rusty seemed okay with his diet, though he was extremely hyper and under-weight with a semi-dry coat, poor Kevin tended to sneeze and was over-weight. Watching them eat I noticed that Rusty would hardly even allow Kevin to take a bite unless I remained beside them and insured that Kevin could eat undisturbed.
When it came time to teach these little guys, Rusty seemed to learn at a normal rate, but Kevin spent so much time sneezing and scratching that he could not pay attention. All of Kevin’s symptoms pointed to a food allergy.
Here’s a list of the symptoms:
- · Sneezing
- · Unable to concentrate
- · Itchy
- · Dry coat
Studies have been done linking poor nutrition to learning disabilities in children. It affects dogs in a similar manner. Wendy Volhard, a canine nutritionist, has been studying the effects of diet on canine behavior and learning since 1990. She has found that most mainstream dog foods contain large amounts of carbohydrates; namely corn, wheat, soy and sugar.
These ingredients can affect dogs in the following ways:
- · Diabetes
- · Hyperactivity
- · Loss of self control
- · Irritability
- · Possible fearfulness
And these are just a few of the results of poor diet!
Kevin and Rusty Shine
After only 1 week on a diet rich in meat protein, vegetables and fruit along with no preservatives or food colorings, Kevin and Rusty have made huge improvements in both body and mind.
Rusty is no longer as hyper as before, though he still has a ways to go. Kevin appears more alert, energetic and isn’t sneezing and scratching at himself anymore. He is able to concentrate and to learn.
If you have behavior and learning problems with your dog, you need only look as far as the ingredients in your dog’s food. If you see carbohydrates listed as the first 3 ingredients along with other representations of the same carbohydrates down the list, then you need to consider switching to a meat protein based diet. You’d be surprised how much this will affect your dog inside and out.