Bad Behavior Isnt’ Always About Obedience

This guest post is from Robin MacFarlane, fellow IACP member and former Director.

For some time now I have encouraged my staff to sharpen their eye in spotting gait and structural issues with the dogs we see. We’ve frequently referred our clients to seek assistance on chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage to help their dogs when we spot abnormalities in movement.
We’ve also been encouraging people to educate themselves on what they are feeding their dogs. A bit of research may reveal some surprising information about what actually constitutes good nutrition for a canine. Here is one resource you can look at to see how your dog’s food stacks up in terms of quality nutrition: Dog Food Ratings
You might wonder what all these health topics have to do with the field of training and behavior modification? Well, it is very relevant actually.
In the simplest terms, if a dog has an underlying health issue and doesn’t feel well it may show up in their behavior.
The association between behavioral changes and thyroid dysfunction has been recognized in humans since the 19th century. In dogs we are learning of the connection between thyroid dysfunction and aberrant behavior such as unprovoked aggression, anxiety, compulsive behaviors, fearfulness and phobias.
Our dogs don’t say to us, “hey, something just doesn’t feel quite right with me today.” Months and years of ‘something not feeling right’ can add up to big problems. Those underlying problems need to be treated if we going to have success in resolving the associated behaviors that accompany them.
That is why Kelly and I are spending our weekend digging into these topics. It is our responsibility to be as educated as possible in order to do our best work for our clients and their dogs.
What can you do?

  • Take stock of your dog’s overall condition. Once per week give them a good going over. Check ears, eyes, teeth, skin & coat. Look for abnormalities like inflamed red ears or waxy build up, check the eyes to see if they are clear and bright, are the teeth clean, are the gums inflamed? Check the body for lumps, is your dog overweight? Is the coat is good condition or is the skin flaky and hair sparse? Get to know what “healthy” looks like so you can spot problems early.
  • Develop a good relationship with your DVM. Take your dog in at least annually for a health check up. Consider having a baseline blood profile done while your dog is in good health so your DVM will have that information available to compare to down the road should something show up.
  • Feed the best food your budget can afford. One of the most simple things we can do to support our dogs (and ourselves) is to eat high quality, nutritious food. The fuel we put in supports proper functioning of the body.

Training goes a long way in helping you have a great dog, but if the body is not properly supported, the mind will not function as it should. We all want our dogs to live long and healthy lives, that means we have to make the best choices we can for their care.
You can learn more about nutrition and other healthy habits for your dog be sure to join us for our June workshop with Wendy Volhard.