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Behaviour Problems in Dogs

Behaviour Problems and Diet

Dietary causes of behaviour problems can be:

  • Poor quality food
  • Overfeeding (excess energy intake)
  • Chemicals in the diet
  • Excess fat/protein

At Burns, we recommend foods based on complex carbohydrates, usually from wholegrains such as brown rice, oats and maize, but also potato and buckwheat – the traditional foods of humans (and therefore domesticated dogs) for many centuries.

Complex carbohydrates are absorbed slower than simple, refined sugars. Foods that are low in fat and protein and free from simple sugars and chemical additives such as colourings are also beneficial. It should also be hypoallergenic meaning that they are less likely to cause food allergy or intolerance reactions. These nutritional characteristics promote stable mental and physical health, which are essential when dealing with undesirable behaviour.

Behaviour and food allergy/intolerance

If your dog is suffering from issues such as itchy skin, it can lead to irritability and affect their behavior due to discomfort. In such cases, a hypoallergenic diet can be beneficial. This type of diet has a limited number of ingredients, with only one animal protein source and one or two carbohydrate sources.



Overfeeding and behaviour

There is a lot of reports that suggest that when dogs consume too much energy, they tend to become hyperactive and vocalise excessively, such as barking. This is often caused by the consumption of foods that are high in fat and protein, as these tend to be more energy-dense. It’s also essential to be mindful of the amount of food given to the dog since more food means a higher energy intake.

See Daily Feeding Amounts


Environmental and social issues

Early socialisation is vital in avoiding mental and behavioural problems. Where possible a new pet puppy should come from a home environment where socialisation begins at birth, not when the puppy arrives when several weeks old.


Unfamiliar sounds or objects may cause behavioural issues. Early exposure to a variety of different sounds, sights and smells can help minimise reactive behaviour. Positive reinforcement when they have new experiences will help to make these exposures less frightening in the future.


Boredom can also insight behavioural problems such as destructive behaviour so it is worth evaluation their exercise routine in case a small adjustment may be beneficial and feeding toys and puzzles. Offer an additional form of mental exercise.


Genetics/Health Issues – identify with the help of a professional if needed.


Behavioural issues may be related to conditions such as arthritis, various diseases and age-related issues such as loss of vision. Genetics may play a role as, if dogs that have a poor temperament are bred then this may put an additional factor playing a part in your dog’s behaviour.


Don’t forget pets can be irritable and aggressive if they are in chronic pain. This may be especially true for older dogs.


If this is happening with your dog, we recommend a checkup with your own vet to rule out any other conditions.

Intestinal function and the brain

Recent research points to the gut microbiome (the billions of microorganisms in the gut) as an important factor in mental health in humans.  This reinforces the idea that diet can be an important factor in mental health and behaviour in the dog too.


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