Learning exactly how a dog’s diet has a significant affect on their behaviour is key to addressing many behavioural issues. If your dog has recently changed food and suddenly exhibits signs of aggression, hyperactivity or mood swings there is a high probability that it is due to their new diet. On the contrary, your dog may have always exhibited these signs but you are struggling to alter their behaviour, in which case you should consider changing the food that they are consuming. Below are three explanations as to how your dog’s diet could be influencing their mood:
1. High Protein Diet
The amount of protein your dog needs per day is easy to remember. It’s recommended adult dogs consume 1 gram of protein per pound of their body weight. A high protein diet leads to a lack of an amino acid called Tryptophan – which is naturally occurring in the diet – because Tyrptophan has to compete with a greater number of all the other amino acids found in protein. This results in some behavioural issues in dogs as Tryptophan plays a part in the process of producing serotonin in dogs, therefore if there are lower levels of tryptophan due to a high protein diet there will be a decrease in serotonin production. Serotonin regulates a dog’s mood and thus a lack of serotonin can cause behavioural issues such as depression, anxiety and aggression.
A study by researchers at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, in 2010 compared the serotonin levels of a group of aggressive dogs and a group of non-aggressive dogs. The researchers found that aggressive dogs had lower levels of serotonin (278 units of serotonin) in comparison to non-aggressive dogs (387 units of serotonin), highlighting the importance of a balanced level of serotonin and thus also tryptophan within a dogs system.
2. Permanent Supply of Food
If a dog could choose, they would much rather have several small meals throughout the day rather than one big meal, or having food left out for them all throughout the day. It’s important to feed your dog at specific times for a number of reasons.
Firstly, leaving your dog’s food out so it can help itself to a permanent supply of food can lead to house training problems as they are not being fed on a consistent schedule. When your dog is just eating at any time of the day without your presence, it is harder to anticipate when they will need the bathroom outside.
It’s also vital to keep track of your dog’s appetite, as it is an important indicator of your dog’s health. This proves difficult to keep track of if your dog has a permanent supply of food, whereas if you feed your dog at specific times during the day, and your dog that usually has a good appetite doesn’t eat his food, you can be almost certain something is wrong health wise.
Furthermore, feeding time provides the ideal platform for training opportunities and to establish yourself as the authority figure and leader to your dog. Ensuring that your dog is calm and waits to eat until you tell him too is really important in ensuring the dog doesn’t develop food-aggressive behaviour, and it also improves general obedience.
3. Problematic Ingredients
There are obvious ingredients that are bad for your dog and can cause behavioural issues such as artificial preservatives and food colorings, however one that is often unconsidered are foods using soy as a protein. Soy is a plant-based protein rather than animal based, and it is therefore deficient in tryptophan, which is necessary for serotonin production. Furthermore soy contains plant oestrogen, which is believed to cause hormonal imbalances in dogs, resulting in aggression and hyperactivity.
Always ensure you visit your veterinarian for regular examinations in order to keep your dog healthy, happy, and free of any possible behavioral issues caused by their diet.