Guest blogger, Tonya Wilhelm, on the benefits of food therapy for behavior problems.
Using The Principals Of Food Behavior In Dog Training
Real Food Is Essential For Good Health
By now, I’m sure you understand the importance of a high-quality diet for your dog. Real food is essential for a dog’s good health in order for him to thrive and flourish. But, did you know that food also affects behavior?
According to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) all things are connected and relate to each other, Yin and Yang. You need both Yin and Yang to create a balance. The right balance of Yin (feminine, passive, negative, darkness, softness, moisture, inward, consuming, cold, and docile) and Yang (masculine, active, positive, brightness, harness, dryness, outward, producing and hot) equal a balanced dog.
When there is an imbalance of Yin or Yang, that is when things can go wrong. Both medical conditions and behavioral issues can create an imbalance. Imbalances are created due to either deficiencies or excess. When a dog’s emotions are overwhelming to him, his Heart Shen will be weak. This will cause his Qi or life force to not function properly, along with a stagnation of his Blood, the foundation for mental activity.
Foods Role In Behavior
Everything is connected, the mind, behavior, food, emotions and the earth. The right foods can improve your dog’s behavior or make his behavior worse. Everything has an energetic, Yin (cold) or Yang (hot), including your dog and his food. If you have a fearful dog who paces, howls, pants or digs when stressed, he is acting out (Yang/Hot) and can benefit from a cooling diet. If you feed a dog a warming or hot diet (chicken, lamb or venison) who already is too Yang, you are in essence tossing kerosene onto his fire. Instead, you want a diet that is going to help cool him down energetically (rabbit, duck or fish).
Let us not forget about that all important Heart Shen. The Heart Shen rules emotions and allows a dog to be relaxed, calm and emotionally comfortable. When a dog’s Heart Shen is weak, he cannot control his emotions and he will be anxious and stressed. Luckily, there are foods that aid in strengthening the Heart Shen. The heart is red, so think red foods. Tomatoes, beef, watermelon, red apples, beets, radish, strawberries, and dates are a few foods to consider. Foods that boost Qi and Blood can include sardines, eggs, seaweed, kelp, spinach and sweet potatoes.
Putting Food Theory To The Test
I’ve been working with anxious dogs for almost 20 years, so I have an idea of what to expect with their progress through a behavior modification protocol. I take their history, current life-style and their human parent’s ability and time into consideration when assessing their prognosis and time-line. Just over two years ago, I started incorporating food therapy with those clients willing to take that leap with me. Time and time again, I am amazed at how much quicker they seem to improve when tailoring a diet to meet their behavioral needs.
Take Sora, one of my current clients. Sora and his Mom came to me for severe anxiety and generalized fears. He was a rescue and was afraid of just about anything and anyone. When he startled, he would bark and work himself up into a frenzy and hardly be able to control himself. He was terrified of his young, human, neighbors and would run the fence-line barking and jumping. Going for a walk was difficult because he would panic just being away from home.
Luckily for Sora, he has a wonderful Mom who was willing to try anything and everything I suggested, food therapy being one of the items on the treatment plan. We came up with a custom meal plan for Sora that included rabbit as his protein, beef heart, spinach, eggs, and sardines. Two weeks later at our follow-up, I was amazed at the progress Sora was already making. He was already calmer and his Mom was able to help him settle down when he was stressed or anxious. Now, almost a year later, he’s a different dog. He comfortably sits at the fence watching the children, doesn’t startle at everything in sight, has a great bounce back and enjoys his walks in the park and at the pet stores. Sora is just one of many clients that have had quicker results with their training when incorporating the right foods.
So, the next time you think about your dog’s behavior, think about his diet. Remember, everything is connected and the goal is to find a balance. My only regret is that I did not know about food therapy affecting behavior when I had my very anxious dog, Theo. R.I.P. My hope is I can help other dogs like Theo, sooth their Heart Shens.
Bio: Tonya Wilhelm, dog training specialist, author, and public speaker has traveled the USA promoting positive, holistic dog training at seminars and pet expos. She has authored several books and is a frequent blogger and magazine contributor. Local clients can choose group classes or private sessions, and Tonya also provides services via phone and the internet.