A couple months ago I was called in to help with a 10 month old, over exuberant black lab. The owners had young children and the excitable lab just didn’t realize his own size and strength as he’d bowl over the kids. It was to the point where if they couldn’t get his behavior and energy under control, they were going to have to re-home the dog as it was causing a major issue within the family. The kids didn’t like the dog and were afraid of him since he’d knocked them over so many times.


With every new client, we go over lots of information before we even start the training. At Bark Busters, we look at dogs holistically. Meaning, we have to take a look at a dog’s basic needs and see which of their 4 basic needs we must address in order to improve the dog’s behavior.


What are a dog’s 4 basic needs? Glad you asked!


A dog’s 4 basic needs are:


— Food

— Shelter

— Entertainment

— Safety and Security


After some prodding, I discovered that in the case of this black lab, they were feeding him a widely available name brand kibble. When we examined the ingredients of this food, the first ingredient was a protein but the next 4 ingredients were some variety of grain or starch e.g. corn, wheat, barley, oat, etc.


Normally, my mantra is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Meaning, even if the dog isn’t on a super high quality diet, unless I suspect it’s causing the behavioral issues, I don’t press a client to change it.


In this case, however, I strongly urged them to get their dog on a higher quality, grain-free dog food. All of the grains in the dog food were just being processed as carbs and sugar, which was contributing to the excess amounts of energy in this already high-energy breed. 


I liken it to a child with ADHD. If you’re feeding a child with ADHD a diet that’s full of sugary drinks and carb-laden foods, it’s probably not helping in the management of his disorder.


While changing the diet might not be a magic bullet in and of itself, it might provide just enough of the difference to where you can get some level of focus and attention that you were previously unable to gain. The same is true for dogs.


By my third visit, thanks to our training techniques and a change in the dog’s diet, the behavioral changes were remarkable. In fact, they had had a birthday party for the one of their kids with lots of family and other children attending and many people remarked at how calm and better behaved the dog was being. 


The owner gave me a heartfelt thanks and said we were their last resort. If we weren’t able to make progress with their dog, they would have had to give him up. She even said that she was able to love the dog more now that she was able to see the good-natured side of him she wasn’t able to see before. 


There’s much more to say on the subject of pet nutrition and I promise to write more about it in the future. But as a general recommendation we recommend either one of two ways of feeding your dog:


  1. A nutritionally sound raw food diet
  2. Grain-free kibble


For optimum health, the food we feed our dogs must mimic as closely as possible the diet they would eat in the wild. A pack of wolves or dogs are hunters. They kill what they eat and eat what they kill, therefore a diet consisting of raw meat and vegetables will be the closest to what they would consume in the wild. 


For various reasons, a raw diet might not be convenient for most humans, however. Therefore, if you choose to feed your dog kibble, opt for a grain-free kibble. We like to look at the protein content on the side of the bag. If the crude protein % is between 25-30%, that’s a good start. 


I tend to send my clients to local, independent pet stores like Woofgang Bakery in The Villages or Piglet’s Pantry in Mount Dora. They are much more knowledgeable about pet nutrition than most big box pet stores.

Apart from that, you can find a wide assortment of high quality pet foods at chewy.com. You can get freeze-dried raw foods as well as any number of grain-free kibbles at all price points. 


I’ll have more to say on this subject in future emails. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll be happy to answer them for you!


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