Working as a dog trainer and behaviour consultant for several rescue organizations as well as having private clients, I get to see a broad spectrum of dogs, many of whom are suffering from anxiety based issues to various forms of aggression, and everything in between. In as much as it’s possible with a rescue dog, we like to see them provided with the best possible nutrition for both physical and mental well being. Many rescue dogs have been fed poor diets, and due to either neglect or because they are strays, some have been fed little or nothing and are found literally with just days left to live. In these cases it’s clear to see why the most nutritious and easy to digest diet would help these dogs get back to physical health as fast as possible, but how does it help their mental health you might wonder.
Just as good quality food and a balanced diet helps a person to feel at their emotional best, the same is true of our pets. The old saying You are what you eatis as relevant to our dogs and cats as it is to ourselves. If I’m working with a behaviorally challenged dog, I find that good food, free of unnecessary preservatives and additives helps the dog to achieve emotional well being. Foods that are high in sugars or contain cheap grains and other carbohydrates will not help my anxious or hyperactive dog to be calm and may not give him the quality protein that he needs.
From my point of view as a trainer of a social species who believes in the power of good leadership, I want the food that I give the dogs in my care to have the maximum nutrition for mind and body, but also to be the most memorable for the dog. If you eat a fabulous meal in a restaurant, it’s going to create a far more pleasant memory than one that left you disappointed because it was bland; you’ll look forward to going back to the one that gave you the most pleasure. It’s in the best interests of the bond between dog and human to be seen as the provider of tasty, enjoyable food. Dogs love to work for rewards and in addition to well timed treats and affection, I offer my dogs their meals as my thanks for a job well done, so naturally I want them to have the best and see that coming from me.
Recently I was fortunate to run some trials on Halo canned dog food when the company donated a large amount to two of the rescues that I help. Rescue organizations survive entirely on the generosity of the public and any manufacturers that offer help and sometimes this means feeding lower quality food than we might choose to feed our own pets. Having such a large donation from Halo enabled many dogs to be fed the best nutrition right up until they were adopted. One of the things I noticed about feeding Halo was that the dogs were attracted by the aroma from the can and I’d find them sitting and waiting enthusiastically for their meals, and there was no disappointment when the bowls were handed out. We’ve even used canned Halo instead of peanut butter to fill hollow rubber (Kong) toys designed for dogs to work at getting their food and to occupy busy minds; perfect for giving a dog as a reward!