Should My Dog Like the Taste of His Dog Food?

Should My Dog Like the Taste of His Dog Food?

Your dog gets excited every night at 5:55 p.m. – she knows dinner is at 6:00 p.m. She may go to her dish, look at you, follow you around, some may even jump, bark and wag their tail. Their inner clocks don’t lie and their bellies are hungry. You feed her and she goes to her dish, excited as ever, but then doesn’t eat. Instead, she comes to the dinner table and gives you sad eyes as you feast on a steak. As a loving dog owner you naturally are concerned – does she not like the taste of her food?

Many dog food marketing companies would tell you yes, and then quickly mention that you need to switch their brand, buy their food topper or buy their cookbook to home make your dog’s meals.

But is any of this true? What does it mean for a dog to “like” their food and does it automatically mean it’s better for them?

Think of it this way – do you love vegetables? Or would you prefer to eat cake? Most of us would say the latter. Sugar and cream tastes much better to most than a carrot stick or cooked spinach. But which is better for you? The answer is obvious.

First, we should realize that taste is not as important as nutrition. Dogs are opportunistic creatures and will eat anything when they are hungry. Anything. So don’t think your dog will starve to death if he isn’t drooling over his dinner every night.

Second, we need to think about how companies make their dog food taste better. Dog food companies know pet owners will stop buying a product if their pet stops eating it, so they spend thousands on research, finding out which additives make dogs more likely to eat one kibble over the other. Sometimes, the additives are not that bad. For example, a study recently done by one dog food research company compared adding beef liver to food to see if it made dogs more likely to eat it compared to other additives. However, many taste additives are not natural or good for your dog.

“Palatants” are the industry word for these additives and they are often manufactured out of either artificial chemicals or natural ingredients that are not good for your dog. Sugar is a leading form of flavor additive that is often put in low-quality foods full of grains and fillers to make it taste better. It can be any form – from cane molasses to corn syrup or the frightening propylene glycol (which is also used to make antifreeze and is actually what make this hazard taste sweet to animals as well). Animal digest is another one you will see on ingredient labels. What animal are they using? You may not want to know. What is digest? You may not want know that either. It’s basically unspecified parts of unspecified animals – the leftovers from other industries that couldn’t be used and often are rancid or old. They cook it down into a jelly-like glob and stick it in your dog’s food because it adds a flavor and aroma dog’s like (remember, dog’s like rolling around in dead stuff and eating poop too).

SO THE BOTTOM LINE IS – JUST BECAUSE YOUR DOG LOVES EATING IT, DOESN’T MEAN IT’S GOOD FOR HIM.

How Overfeeding Plays A Role Here

I know we probably sound like a broken record about over-feeding, but this can affect your dog’s desire to eat. If you are feeding him too much, his instinct tells him he doesn’t need to eat, so he will turn up his nose at his balanced diet. Does that mean he won’t accept that piece of steak? Of course not,

because that has higher value to your dog. So, if your overweight dog stops eating his kibble, but you keep feeding him treats from the table, you are teaching your dog that if he holds out, something better comes along. Instead, stop with the side treats, cut back on his food, and he will start eating his balanced diet again. And, he will be healthier too!

Wary of Change

Another time when dogs may stop eating and owner’s immediately think the food must not taste good is when you are switching brands. Some dogs will gulp down anything without a thought. Others are suspicious of that new food that’s mixed in with the old. Especially if they have been on the same food since puppyhood. When that happens, don’t assume it’s because the new food is somehow bad. You can help by mixing the foods more slowly (so a higher ratio of old to new at first) and by adding something notorious such as bone broth in the beginning. Once your dog realizes the new food doesn’t make him sick, he won’t have a problem eating it.

So next time your best friend turns up her nose at her bowl, think about the situation. Have you been feeding to many treats? Did you recently change food quickly? Barring a medical issue (always a good thing to check if your dog suddenly stops eating!), it may be that you have been indulging her just a little too much and you need to cut back on the unhealthy treats so she can get her proper nutrition. Just like us, your dog needs to eat her “vegetables” (figuratively speaking). Her own balanced diet, including dry dog food, a few fresh veggies and meaty bones is the best way to do that.

Should I Switch Up My Dog’s Food?

Should I Switch Up My Dog’s Food?

Variety is the spice of life so we say. And for humans that may be true. We tend to be discontented creatures, getting bored easily and always looking for the next new thing. I mean, look at how people line up to get the new iPhone as soon as it comes out, even though their current phone is perfectly fine.

And we definitely don’t like to eat the same thing all the time. How often do you say, “I am tired of chicken?” Or, “Stew again?” That’s just the way we are.

But dogs – and most animals – are creatures of habit. They like routine. How often does your dog trainer remind you be consistent when it comes to training – rules of the house, cues and even when you let your dog out to go to the bathroom? They do best with routines. They shed certain times of the year and want to mate in others. And their bodies are made to eat very specific foods, which does not include a lot of variety. After all, there are only so many things in nature that are edible for your dog.

Why do you think you have to change your dog’s food so slowly? It’s because their digestive system is not made for variety and diversity. Unlike us. We can eat something totally new, and as long as we are not allergic to it, we process it just fine.

If your dog lived in the wild like his genetically different ancestors, he would only have what was in his habitat to eat and that he could catch/kill. That would most likely amount to a handful of protein sources and a couple types of roughage. The reason we think dogs need variety is because we like to anthropomorphize animals and we figure if we get bored, they must as well.

But look at a horse. Horses really only eat hay and grass their entire lives. Maybe a bit of grain. Some don’t even get grass because they have health issues or live where it doesn’t grow. Those horses only eat hay and possibly grain. Yet they nicker and come running when it’s time for their meal. Twice or three times a day. Every day. For their entire lives, which for some horses means 30+ years. They clearly don’t get tired or bored of their meal.

Think about your dog who wants you to throw that ball over and over. And over. And over. Animals just don’t “get bored” in the same sense that we do.

What About Type of Food – can one product suit all dogs?

This goes back to a point made earlier about your dog’s digestive system. While different breeds of dogs look very different, we must remember they are the same species with the same digestive system, with maybe a few minor differences from dog to dog. Barring any type of medical issue or allergies, all dogs were created to digest the same type of diet. As long as the dog food that you are feeding is in-line with that diet, it is suitable for your dog.

Of course, there are exceptions, like large breed puppies that need the correct calcium/phosphorus levels. And dogs with genetic health issues. But for the vast majority of dogs, one type of food is just fine. Just remember to read the ingredients, choose a high-quality, well-balanced, All-life stage food and, if switching, do so slowly. After that, your dog will be very happy – as long as you aren’t late with dinner.

Holistic Ways to Calm a Nervous Dog

Holistic Ways to Calm a Nervous Dog

We ask our dogs to be fine in a lot of unnatural environments – from busy urban sidewalks to homes full of loud, unexpected noises, people of all ages and even other animals. Some dogs have temperaments that seem to take everything in stride, others do not. And while you cannot change a dog’s natural temperament completely and permanently, there are things you can do to help your nervous dog be calm and relaxed.

There are also things you should not do to help these nervous dogs. Here are two very common ways people try to calm their dog that not only do not work, they may have the opposite effect.

Do not try to force your dog into the situation. For some reason, humans think that if they force a scared dog to experience something, the dog will see it is “okay” and they will be fine with whatever it was that was scaring them from then on. There is no science-based evidence that dogs think through things like this. And antidotal evidence suggests that the opposite happens. Prime example is when people do not pay attention to a dog’s body language that says “I’ve had enough” when they are trying to pet them. Person keeps reaching toward the dog and petting and eventually, dog has enough and bites out of fear. At that point, the dog basically is saying, “you didn’t respect any of my other cues that said I am uncomfortable, so I felt I had no choice but to bite.”

A lot of dog bites could be avoided if people realized that a dog that is showing signs of fear should be left alone and not pressed.

Do not try to reassure your dog. A lot of people will pet their dog and tell them “it’s okay,” much like we do our children when they are scared of something, such as a storm. However, science is unsure about the affect this has on dogs. It could be that it does nothing, it could calm them down, but it could also reinforce their behavior, since that is also how you reward your dog for doing something right. Since scientists are unsure, it makes sense to take the “better safe than sorry approach” and not comfort your dog when he is nervous.

So, What Should You do to Calm a Nervous Dog?

First of all, it’s important to realize that you need to treat your whole dog when it comes to fear or anxiety. Just like people, these are traits that reside within our brains and are causing chemical reactions in our body. You can’t just train it out of them. The best results comes from a holistic approach, treating the dog from the inside out. Here are some good things to do, that when used together, can help make your dog more relaxed.

#1 – Supplements

The first thing I would try is these. Magnesium, B-Complex. These two are quite common deficiencies in humans and dogs and are known to help decrease stress, anxiety and help relax the muscles. Amino acids L-Tryptophan and GABA are known to help humans decrease anxiety and improve mood because they help you sleep much better and are needed to make serotonin the hormone that makes us feel happy. Either one is worth a try for your dog as well.

There are quite a few herbals that work internally and externally to make your dog more calm and relaxed. Rosemary, which we put in our Stay Loyal formulas, is one of them. A few others include lavender (you can put lavender oil on a dog’s collar or bed), chamomile and lemon balm. Just remember your dog’s nose is much more sensitive than yours so dilute oils and use sparingly. Ask your vet about dosage amounts for any supplement you are feeding.

#2 – Play Classical Music

Studies have shown that playing classical music can calm dogs down, just like it does humans. There are even special musical compilations made just for dogs that use notes that are appealing to their sensitive ears and are great for helping create a calm environment.

#3 – Be Calm Yourself

Dogs pick up on our own energy. If you are nervous about a situation, don’t take your dog there, it will just make their anxiety worse. Work on being quiet and calm when you are handling your nervous dog, to help him feel relaxed. Take deep breaths and don’t move fast or in big gestures. Getting low and sitting with your dog can help too.

#4 – Be Consistent

Dogs like routine. Nervous dogs will be even more nervous if you keep changing the rules on them. Am I allowed on the couch or not? Do they care if I pull on the leash or not? Keep your rules the same will help a nervous dog relax and be comfortable in your home.

#5 – TT Touch or Massage

People love massage because it relaxes us. It does the same thing for dogs. Both of these techniques have been proven to help dogs relax and trust us in hard situations. You can look up how to do TT Touch on their website or find a clinic near you.

#6 – Let Your Dog Control the Situation

When you are helping a scared dog conquer their fear, you need to let them tell you when they are comfortable. If your dog doesn’t want to go forward, don’t force them. If they take a step toward the scary object, as an example, reward them by letting them retreat. When a dog feels like they are in control, they will be more confident. This also helps them not bite – many dogs fear bite when they cannot escape. If you let them know they can, they will be less likely to resort to biting.

#7 – Use An Anxiety Wrap

While these may not work on all dogs, they are useful for some. They seem especially effective for dogs who are nervous in cars and get sick because of it. I knew a sheltie that was fearful in the car and would throw up. She wore one for a while, she stopped throwing up and no longer needs the wrap. They can work for all sort of situations, from thunderstorms to everyday anxiety. Be sure to follow the directions and do not leave on your dog for extended periods of time.

#8 – Give your dog a cave

Dogs love caves and by getting a small dog crate or one of those bed caves your scared dog will have a small environment away from everyone and everything that it can control and feel safe in. If you get a dog crate you can leave the door open or take it off. The dog crate works as a great cave because it can double as a transport crate that your dog is already familiar with. The familiar crate, size and smells will reduce stress while traveling.

#9 – Work with a Trainer

The last piece of the puzzle is working with someone who has experience with nervous and anxious dogs. Not only do they have expertise, but they make a great support system and can also help you set up situations where you may need another person that is shy-dog savvy.

Using all of these together can make a big difference in the life of a nervous dog – whether they are scared of loud noises, other dogs, people, objects, or all of the above. It will also keep the people interacting with your dog safer. Most importantly, your dog will feel better about life and will gain confidence to face his fears

Signs of Stress in Dogs

Signs of Stress in Dogs

Dogs get stressed or fearful about things just like we do. Unfortunately, they don’t show it in ways that we always recognize. Knowing when your dog is bothered can help strengthen your bond, avoid training frustration (is he not listening because he is too anxious about something?), and perhaps most important, help avoid fear aggression/biting.

A dog that is stressed or scared of something – whether it’s a new environment, the dog across the street, people, cars, etc. – is in his “survival mode.” At this point, their amygdala has sent warning signals out and your dog is only thinking about fight or flight. They cannot physically respond to your training cues. Your dog is now at a crossroads. Option 1: he can turn and run. Option 2: he can fight. Often this choice is forced upon a dog because he is restrained by a leash or your arms and so cannot choose option 1. This is when fear biting or even aggression biting, can happen.

Knowing the early signs of stress, before your dog gets to the point where he cannot respond, is imperative to the owner-dog relationship.

So What Are Those Early Stress Signs???

Signs Your Dog is Stressed

Thankfully, dogs have a LOT of stress signals. Here are the common ones:

· Panting excessively when it’s not that hot outside or he hasn’t been exercising

· Lip Licking

· Furrowed brow (“worried” wrinkles on the forehead)

· Tail tucked between legs in a way not usual for your dog (remember breed-specific tail sets come into play, some carry theirs naturally low, but even those breeds can tuck their tail – I’ve seen greyhounds with their tale tucked so far its touching their belly).

· White of the eyes showing. In some dogs, the eyes may actually bulge. This is called “whale eye.”

· Drooling (in breeds not prone to drool)

· Yawning

· Whining (some may stress bark)

· Loss of appetite

· Taking treats hard– meaning he will grab the treats from you, bite harder than normal and may even accidently bite you. This is especially noticeable in dogs that normally are polite treat takers, but if you pay attention you can notice the change even in dogs that are normally a bit overzealous about treats.

· Cowering (many dogs may try to hide behind something)

· Fleeing – trying to run away from the situation

· Freezing – meaning their entire body becomes still and rigid (many dogs will freeze just before they bite!)

· Stop responding to cues they normally respond to.

Remember, if your dog is displaying any of these it’s time to change the situation by adding some distance between your dog and whatever is causing the stress. Once your dog is at that the point where he cannot respond, you need to change the situation by removing the trigger completely. That is the only solution at that point. Especially if the dog had a history of fear biting.

The late Dr. Sophia Yin made incredible posters that are free to download from her site that show these signs in pictorial form. If you have children at home, these are a MUST for the refrigerator. Here’s a direct link https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/free-downloads-posters-handouts-and-more/ She also has ones for greeting dogs, also great for children.

If you have noticed your dog doing all of these things often, then you may want to find a dog trainer to help you work your dog through some of their fears. Done correctly, you can make your dog a happier, more relaxed member of the family, which everyone will appreciate.