Your dog’s Brain health –
As often discussed in humans, levels of brain chemicals (such as serotonin) influence your mood, your calmness, your energy levels and the choices you make.
It’s exactly the same for animals – in fact, numerous studies supplementing these chemicals to dogs’ diets have shown transformational effects on their behaviour.
Trillions of tiny organisms live inside your dog’s gut – they outnumber your dog’s own cells by ten to one, and most importantly, they control your dog’s health. If your dogs brain health and gut health are out of whack, it could be causing their ‘reactivity’
Dog Behaviour Transformation Happens with Optimal Brain and Gut Health
Your dog’s Gut health –
The gastrointestinal (the gut) and the central (the brain) nervous systems have been shown to be closely linked and interacting. This has been implicated in a variety of stress related conditions, such as agitation, fear and anxiety – the most common causes of behaviour struggles in dogs.
There’s increasing evidence showing that the microbiome (the community of tiny microbes that live inside your dog’s gut) directly creates neurotransmitters (like serotonin) as well as influences production of these chemicals in other body areas. This, in turn has a huge direct impact on brain health!
Symptoms of Mental Health, Gut Health Breakdown in your dog:
• Being Distracted on Walks
• Lack of Motivation for Interaction or Training
• Noise Phobia
• Pulling on Lead
• ‘Reactivity’ to dogs, people or other animals
• Separation Anxiety
Here’s how to rebalance their bodies and behaviour to make them an enjoyable, healthy and stress-free companion
Brain gut behaivour balancers – you get out what you put in!
You can ensure peak mental and physical health by what you feed your dog, as the food represents the building blocks by which they maintain a calm, confident and balanced approach to life.
The gut microbiome is closely involved in the metabolism of tryptophan, an essential amino acid for dogs (it cannot be made and has to be supplied by diet). Tryptophan is a biochemical precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Low serotonin levels have been linked with increased depression and anxiety in humans, and increased behaviours associated with aggression in dogs, cats, rats and pigs.
A lack of calmness kills the microbiome –
Frequent excitement, fear and so-called ‘reactivity’ cause a reduction in blood flow to the gut, making it a less hospitable environment for the gut bacteria community, as well as directly negatively impacting the gut microbes themselves. This leads to a vicious cycle of worsening gut health, brain health and behaviour.
Help promote calmness in 3 easy steps:
1. Offer your dog a medium-value treat when they are settled and relaxed. If they get up from position after you have walked away, ignore them. If they have stayed settled and relaxed, then return and give them another one. Do not use a clicker or other excitable marker for this as silence is most effective. Give the treat calmly and deliberately.
2. Ignore your dog (especially for attention-seeking behaviours), wait for them to settle and relax, then call them over for attention. Do not do this too regularly or you risk your dog yoyo-ing between the floor and you!
3. Time the rewards (treat or attention) with external distractions. For example, a person walking past the house, a noise outside, a dog barking in the distance, etc. This will reward your dog for remaining calm in the face of distraction and also change their emotional response from a negative one of anxiety or increasing arousal to a positive one of calmness with the external distractions.
TIP – Use a reward dispenser (a toy containing treats) especially in the face of distraction, as a long-lasting reinforcement. The chewing and licking action will further promote calmness and relaxation. These are especially useful when your full attention can’t be on your dog. Suitable fillings may include some salmon or turkey-based food for tryptophan boosting calmness activity.
Sleep is Powerful –
Sleep pattern changes and disruption have been shown to have negative effects on both brain health and gut health, causing a double whammy negative impact on behaviour.
Making sure your dog has plenty of sleep and makes up for it when they miss out on it after busy periods is vital to optimal brain-gut-behaviour balance.
Your dog won’t necessarily make the choice to sleep in exciting or stimulating or busy environments and this is where as owners we need to help them out by providing them with a calm, quiet and secure environment to settle down (a dog-crate is great for this).
The Power of a Whole Dog Approach –
As you have probably guessed from all the ways that brain-gut-behaviour balance can become disrupted, these problems are self-perpetuating – entering a vicious cycle of worsening behaviour and health and, in turn, even worse behaviour.
Whether your dog struggles with pulling on lead, barking and lunging or simply being a little overexcited, a whole dog approach, factoring in rebalances of the brain-gut-behaviour interaction ensures a long, happy, healthy and stress-free life for your dog (and you!)