Most of us have been guilty of looking at aggressive dogs with contempt and fear. Dogs are supposed to be happy-go-lucky, friendly, silly even. It can be hard to remember, that like humans, dogs are products of their environment, the stimulus going in. Therefore, a dog that is growling, incessantly barking, or on the attack when there is no apparent threat may be experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. In fact, the Journal of Veterinary Behavior tells us that 70% of dog aggression comes from a dog’s anxiety. Luckily, today’s pet parents are a dedicated bunch (some may even say overly-dedicated) with lots of control over the environments they raise dogs, specifically the environment in their gut. That’s right. We are talking about nutrition.
Dr. Seana K. Davidson, PhD suggests that it is just as important for a dog with an aggressive temperament to have a healthy diet as it is for them to receive training. How can this be? We must trace back to something inside of dogs called the gut microbiome. It’s a fancy word for the environment of a dog’s stomach with both good and bad inhabitants—fungi, fibers, bacteria, and viruses. A dog’s gut communicates directly with the brain by way of nerves, hormones, and the immune system. For example, within the gut is the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), sometimes called the ‘second brain,’ which contains hundreds of millions of neurons along the digestive tract and passes along changes to the brain. When organisms in the gut transmit signals, they communicate different messages—some of distress and others of positivity.
So how do we restore the balance of good and bad inhabitants of the gut to positively affect behavior? One of the most helpful things you can do for a dog’s gut microbiome is to include probiotics in their diet. Oomph! provides a daily dose of probiotics from the Lactobacillus strain, which are known as the “psychobiotics” for their mood boosting properties. Each scoop of Oomph! includes Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei, which are known for anti-inflammatory activity, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria in the intestine, and are an important part of the gut-brain axis and can affect mood and emotions. Probiotics are powerful in overrunning the bad guys, but they survive in the gut for as short as 24 hours. This is why a healthy lifestyle through diet and consistent supplementation is so important. Consistently is key! Rather than waiting until digestive issues present themselves as full blown problems that require medical attention or behavioral intervention, take care of your pup’s health on a daily basis. A happy pup has a happy gut!