Rescue Angels (what I call those who rescue a dog or cat) that open their hearts and homes to a new pet have certain challenges to address in many circumstances. The pet surely was in a compromised position that lead to their surrender and abandonment. It could of been a pet with a behavior that the owner couldn’t control.
Most breeds of dogs have evolved to serve a certain specific purpose for humans. Herding, retrieving and guarding are examples. The purpose for which dogs were originally bred influences their physical and behavioral characteristics to this day, even though most dogs no longer have jobs to do for their humans.
Today’s dogs also live inside houses with their families, where they are expected to behave with ‘indoor manners. The natural instincts of dogs are often at odds with their lifestyles today.
As a result, millions of wonderful animals are dropped off at shelters each year by people who can’t or aren’t willing to manage disruptive canine behaviors like aggression, destructiveness, running away, excessive barking and house soiling. That said, a lot of pet owners are interested in learning how to deal with their pet’s undesirable behavior. Obedience training is the route many dog parents take.
Meanwhile, a handful of researchers are investigating the role nutrition plays in canine behavior, and whether adding or removing specific nutrients from the diet alters a dog’s temperament and conduct.
Dr Karen Becker DVM Wrote This About The Subject:
How Certain Nutrients May Improve Problem Behavior in Dogs
Behavior in animals (including humans) is regulated by neurotransmitters and hormones. These substances have precursors, which are chemical compounds that precede them in metabolic pathways.
The main theory behind nutrition and its ability to alter canine behavior is that making these precursors more – or less – available, may make a difference in a dog’s conduct.
Tryptophan, for example, is the precursor of serotonin (a neurotransmitter). It is believed its presence or absence may affect aggression and stress resistance in dogs.
Tyrosine, a precursor of catecholamines (hormones produced by the adrenal gland), may also affect aggression and stress resistance.
Tryptophan and Tyrosine
Let’s take a look at some of the nutrients being studied for their possible beneficial effects on canine behavior. Unlike tryptophan, tyrosine is usually found in high concentrations in high protein meals.
Tryptophan is one of the large neutral amino acids (LNAA) that can cross the blood-brain barrier depending on how much free tryptophan and other LNAA are available in the body. Increasing dietary tryptophan through supplementation can increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, which has been shown to reduce aggression and improve recovery from stress in some animals. Even though tryptophan is found in protein-containing foods, it is in relatively small supply compared to other LNAA. And in fact, a high protein meal actually decreases the ratio of tryptophan to other LNAA. This is why dietary supplementation is recommended.
A few studies conducted outside controlled experimental environments have been used to measure the impact of lower protein diets on aggressive dogs.
The results are largely inconclusive. In addition, while there may be a link between low dietary protein and decreased aggression in other types of animals, I’m unconvinced this is a useful approach for carnivores.
Just as feeding your dog a raw diet will not, as some people believe, give him a taste for blood and drive him to randomly prey on cows or chickens or sheep, neither do I believe a diet rich in animal protein makes dogs more aggressive.
I would never recommend reducing the amount of high-quality protein in a dog’s diet in an attempt to modify behavior.
Nourishing your pet with a grain-based diet will induce an insulin release (to balance high blood sugar after ingesting a high carb diet), and in turn, a cortisol release (to balance low blood sugar). Similar to people who have 10:00 am and 2:00 pm post-meal sluggishness (and require a nap), dogs will become more sedate after ingesting insulin-prompting carbohydrates.
Nourishing a dog with protein means no post-meal sluggishness … another way of saying, ‘No nap required! Ready to play at any time!’ Although carb-loading has become a common trend with humans, carb loading dogs (to induce the post-carb ‘downer’ effect) isn’t an appropriate behavior moderation tool, in my opinion. Training and exercise are the correct tools to deal with behavior issues, not feeding an inappropriate diet to create a more sedate dog. I absolutely believe the nutrition you feed your companion animal influences the workings not only of her body from the neck down, but also her brain and to some extent her behavior.”
Fascinating information, I always look to Dr Karen Becker and Dr Carole Osborne for their expertise. We’ve dedicated our lives and business to obtaining the “nutrition sweet spot” where canine and feline wellness can thrive. We ask our customers what their goals are? To sustain their dog or to achieve optimum wellness?
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