Thursday, April 23, 2015

A key "ingredient" to your dog's training success.

Food is fuel. After all our years of trial and error, the human race has absolutely confirmed that food has a dramatic impact on the body's overall well-being, and performance. We know that if we eat right, and take care of our bodies, we feel more clear headed, are able to keep up with hectic schedules, have less stress, experience fewer illnesses, and generally live longer. Depending on our goals (running a marathon, dropping ten pounds, feeling stronger), our recognition of the importance of nutrition inevitably comes into play if we want to experience success in any of those areas. General health and longevity as it relates to nutrition, is obviously quantified when comparing many populations, classes, and cultures. It's pretty evident that if we have the good stuff, we go further. You are what you eat, right? Our dogs are just as dependent on quality nutrition as we are. In order to experience success in the areas of focus, strength, endurance, and longevity, we need to fuel their bodies with the same kind of quality and care we would apply to nourishing our own. If we feed our dogs junk (corn, wheat, soy, over processed kibble with fake flavors additives, or canned food with fake meat parts), then we can't expect them to do their best work, nor can we enjoy their longest possible life. When have frozen dinners, sugar sodas, and cookies/chips ever added up to feeling great, learning well, or winning an Olympics? You may have one friend who can get away with that lifestyle more often than another, but the idea in the pet food industry that one chow can cover a multitude of immune systems and performance needs is just as crazy as believing everyone can do the junk diet and succeed the same. Nutrition is defined as, "the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth," so I ask you, are you providing your dog with real nutrition? Have you considered the value of your dog's food, before the cost? Have you thought about the fact that if your pup is a working or sporting breed he/she is in need of food values comparable to a body builder or track star? Your friend's dog might be a delicate flower, genetically intended to hold down a recliner chair and thus requires far less to meet their physical needs, but this alone confirms that dog food cannot be seen as "one-size-fits-all."

Not all kibble is created equal, learn to read labels, and strongly consider a natural/raw diet whenever possible. In the absence of a natural diet, however, even a small adjustment to a better quality kibble can make a big difference. In many cases, the difference between a $20 bag of kibble and a $25 bag of kibble is a fairly significant improvement in ingredients, and a heck of a lot less waste. A simple $5-$10 a month increase in your dog food budget, a couple of Starbucks beverages, will literally improve your dog's performance AND reduce vet bills as you avoid unnecessary health risks throughout their life. Who wouldn't want that? If your dog's food is serving them well, they should have less output, no gas, little/no tear stains on light/white dogs, more satisfied tummies leading to better focus AND more calm. Time and again I see owners struggle to make sense of the pet food industry based on manipulative marketing and emotional sales pitches. Just like the human food industry, we are being duped, sold a lie that is motivated by dollars and not the science of these past thousands of years. It's easy to assume that convenience is still quality, but anyone who has ever cooked a fresh, healthy, homemade meal knows that is not the case. Our dogs are getting products that were created during an economic depression, for convenience, when everyone in the world was barely surviving. The pet food industry was absolutely not putting a hearty tri tip in that canned food back then, and they're not doing it now. We no longer need to live like that, and we're obligated to do better.

I often run into issues of nutritional deficiency as a pretty major contributor to behavior issues, and this missing piece can dramatically redefine success in the areas of aggression, reactivity, excitement and boredom for many dogs in training. Just think about how moody or frustrated you can become when you're hungry. If we don't eat right, we can feel spaced-out, nauseous, irritated, exhausted, even "aggressive" or "reactive." Why would our dogs, these living and breathing beings, be any different? Your dog's primal instincts to hunt and satisfy hunger kicks in no matter what comfy modern home arrangement they might be in, and without satisfaction, their stress mounts. Anxiety and reactivity take hold as dogs feel frustrated and motivated to simply survive, or struggle to respond to sugar spikes and limited protein values. Spats break out between pack mates, we can see snarchiness toward humans based on expectant/aroused mental state, and absolute insanity on walks, can literally be issues that are exacerbated by poor diet. Do we really want to buy Fido some generic (even toxic) chow just to save a few bucks, if it means all that extra pain and suffering on the other side? It's just not worth it. 

Save more money NOW, by investing in good stuff that pays off later. If you're limited to kibble for various reasons, at least look for protein contents of 30% or more if possible, and avoid grain. It's not always easy to find, but think about... dogs are carnivores! Dogs need to eat meat. not salad, or rice and corn. Their digestive system is very different from ours, and meant for a carnivore's (foraging) diet. Give them the good stuff just as you would pursue quality ingredients for yourself. Provide real nutrition for the brain to work better, the body to be more balanced, and life to be enjoyed fuller/longer.

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