NUTRITION AND TRAINING

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THE IMPORTANCE OF FOOD RESOURCES DURING DOG TRAINING

Learn about the role of nutrition in training. Read my useful tips and watch the videos in this article!
dog training and food

NUTRITION AND TRAINING

First of all I want you to know that all the information that I will share in this short article is the result of my experience.I hope that my fifteen years of life spent together with working dogs will  help you too clear up some concepts. For any further information I always recommend you to contact a good veterinarian who can follow you in the most suitable choices based on the nutritional needs of your dog. My advice is aimed at those owners who are following or who want to follow a training or education path with their four-legged friend, who have set goals to achieve together with their dog in terms of health, relationship and correct interaction. To take care of the growth of your dog in the best way, it is necessary to keep in mind its genetic heritage. A good owner must always keep in mind the needs of the animal and provide him with what is best suited to the species. Without stressing you too much, I would like to tell you about the “Origins of the Dog”: biologically the dog dates back to about 40 million years ago, he descends from the wolf and he has in common with his ancestor a genetic heritage of 99.96%. Recent studies state that about 100,000 years ago began the evolutionary process of the wolf into a dog, a process that was certainly influenced by man through domestication. Thus it was that over thousands of years man has made a selection of the most useful specimens for their survival purposes, favoring the reproduction of subjects that demonstrated the best skills and abilities, in hunting or in village guarding. This very long process of coexistence and domestication with humans was mainly achieved through care and nutrition. For this reason, I believe that the management of the food resource is a very important aspect that still today can be the discriminating factor between obtaining positive results or not, in the training and education of our dogs.
By Home Cooked Diet I mean a specially formulated Personalized Diet. It is therefore not an improvised diet in which table leftovers are placed into a bowl as was done a few decades ago. With the advent of the internet in recent years I have witnessed situations in which the owner has improvised himself animal nutritionist expert, following generic diet advice found in online forums. These “DO IT YOURSELF” diets can be unbalanced and completely unsuitable for your dog because they do not take into account the individuality of the animal and his specific nutritional needs based on the state of health, lifestyle, energy needs and metabolic processes. In summary, the reasons why the Personalized Home Cooked Diet is preferable to the industrial one are essentially 2: The first refers to some very interesting scientific studies regarding the fact that a dog following a proper Home Diet has a longer life expectancy than dogs following an industrial diet. The second concerns the knowledge and provenance of the ingredients that make-up the Home Cooked Diet. The composition of the bowl is up to the owner who can choose the quality of the ingredients. In principle, I believe that the Personalized Home Cooked Diet is an excellent solution for those dogs that have intolerances and diseases, which must therefore keep a controlled and specific diet that cannot be found in the industrial Pet Food market. Are Home Cooked Diet and Training Reconcilable? Surely, it is possible from my point of view but it depends a lot on the dog and on the experience that the owner has in the dog field. When we want to train a dog we need to motivate them through play and food. The food reward plays a fundamental role in teaching and conditioning the dog to correctly perform certain exercises and assume certain behaviors. Food is as useful as playing in my opinion, but if the management of the bowl in the domestic context is rather generous, the risk is to struggle a lot to motivate the dog during the training sessions with foods that are less tasty than to those used in everyday life. If you want to know more about this topic I suggest you watch the VIDEO where I talk about the importance of the food resource in dog training. I do not have the opportunity to do a Personalized Home Cooked Diet due to lack of time and, I am honest, also for a matter of convenience, as for training reasons I often find myself out and about and prefer to have a supply of ready-made, packaged natural food and non-perishable to help me manage my dogs’ nutritional needs even when I’m not at home.
Croquettes or canned food? This is one of the big dilemmas that haunts many owners. First of all, let’s understand the differences between these two types of ready-made food. The substantial difference between dry food (croquettes) and wet food (canned food) is the percentage of water present in the food, as it is easy to guess. Croquettes are foods with a low percentage of water inside, as the production process by extrusion involves the evaporation of the amount of water inside the raw materials. In the wet food, however, the ingredients are canned and then cooked, so the moisture present remains inside the package, unable to evaporate. In training, I have always used both croquettes and canned food with my dogs. The choice of using one type or another depends on the work I want to do. For example, I use dry food when I work on techniques of trailing/traking or obedience , while I use canned food when I finish training sessions as a jackpot prize. However, I must point out that I do not use ready-made food from the large-scale distribution circuit, over the years I have identified some trusted companies that produce quality ready-made food from which I supply myself monthly. There are companies that I have selected over the years and that use only quality ingredients without chemicals and that use cooking processes that keep the starting raw materials and mineral balance unaltered. Here I will not specifically discuss the characteristics that I believe are optimal for a quality ready-made food, nor the nutritional qualities to be taken into account in order to avoid the onset of metabolic diseases or food intolerances in dogs. I invite you to explore these topics with your trusted veterinarian. The recommendation that I would like to make to all dog owners is to inform themselfs in the nutritional and veterinary field because I find it essential, if you love your dog, to know what is most suitable and healthy for him. In this portal you will find useful video content that will help you to better orient yourself in the “wild world” of proposals of the pet food industry.  
The Barf Diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food), involves the administration of raw food, biologically compatible with the dog’s digestive system. This diet has caught on in recent years and is based on the recovery of dogs’ eating habits starting from those of their ancestors, the wolves. In summary, many varieties of raw meats are used in the Barf Diet, very often also attached to the bone, associated with minced vegetables, raw eggs, fish, cereals and algae. In my opinion, it is a diet that is well suited to some breeds of dogs, but must always be supervised by a veterinarian expert in animal nutrition. As for the home cooked diet, it is necessary to customize this diet and organize the daily portions of food with some procedures for freezing and thawing the ingredients, details that we will not explore in this article. Are Barf Diet and Training compatible? Personally I think it is very difficult to reconcile the two aspects but as I said also for the cooked home diet, it depends a lot on the dog and on the experience that the owner has in the dog field. The difficulty I encountered during the trainings in subjects who were fed following a Barf Diet was related to the low propensity to collaborate with the owner. This is due, in my opinion, to the fact that those dogs that receive such “attractive” food rations in their bowl are not stimulated to do advanced exercises where there is a quantitatively and qualitatively lower prize at stake than what normally they get into the bowl without wasting psycho-physical energy. Obviously there may be rare exceptions of very voracious and motivated dogs on the food resource that maintain high the performance despite their eating habits, or there may be binoms that have such an intimate and empathic relationship that they are able to obtain excellent results without the use of rewards but they are situations out of the ordinary. In the field of training I must say that I very often use raw meat, especially bovine offal. I normally use them during track research sessions and I have to say that they are a coveted treat for my dogs. Clearly, this type of use in training of the raw meat should not be confused with a personalized Barf Diet.
Training aside, in my opinion there are pros and cons for each dietary choice. Diets based on ready-made food are certainly very practical because they help us save time, but the important thing is to choose a ready-made food that is nutritionally excellent. Many industrial brands present in the commercial landscape are very “attractive” in terms of packaging and interesting for our dogs because of the aromas and the flavor enhancers (E 621 for example) they contain but in terms of quality they are poor. Most of these industrial foods are difficult for dogs to digest and cause health problems due to the prolonged permanence of these products in the stomach. So let’s pay attention to which company we put in hand the health of our dogs because psycho-physical problems can arise over time that are almost never immediately visible. Evaluating a type of diet only by observing the consistency of the feces can be a limit that prevents us from assessing the real quality of the food we give to our dog every day. Raw or cooked home diets, as we have seen, are less practical as they require a greater expenditure both in terms of time and, very often, of money. The biggest difficulty for those who decide to rely on a personalized home diet is the organization of meals, the procurement and storage of the ingredients. Except for these critical issues, I believe that the Personalized Home Cooked Diet is the best way to feed our dogs because it can be modified according to nutritional needs, it is controlled because the raw materials and ingredients can be carefully chosen and digestion takes place in less time than the industrial canned food. As I said, with my lifestyle, I tell you the truth, I would have a hard time preparing home cooked meals, all the time, for my dogs. However, I find it honest to admit the benefits and advantages of a Personalized and at the same time more Natural Home Cooked Diet. In the video section you can learn more about the topic “Nutrition with me”.

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