Following on last week's post about the appointment we had with Dr. Dodman of Tufts University's Behavior Clinic, the next 5 installments on Bringing up Bella are going to be a little drier than usual as I lay out what we were told, what we did and how we feel it worked.
Since we implemented a bunch of changes all at once, I want to speak first to what each of those changes was and why it was recommended. Once I get through the "spokes of the wheel", I'll get back to talking about how Bella felt about the whole thing.
On a totally unrelated note, we missed our blog-iversary last week. So, yea us! :)
Last week, when I wrote about the 5 points of focus we would take to help Bella live more comfortably with us, I knew nutrition was going to be a tough subject to write about.
First, because I'm not a nutritionist and I really haven't done the research in this area that perhaps I should have to speak authoritatively about it. I also thought it would be difficult because I had the impression we were failures in this area. Turns out, after having written the post, we didn't fail too badly after all.
Dr. Dodman, while also not a nutrionist, has seen a correlation between high protein diets and aggression so his recommendation to us was to lower Bella's protein intake. But what to make of all the focus right now on no-grain and raw food diets, as my friend Cindy pointed out in the comments last week?
To be honest, I have no idea what to say about that except that, just as for this entire series, I hope people find the information helpful but I am only relaying what we learned for our dog in dealing with a very specific, and hopefully, relatively uncommon situation.
This is the one spoke in the wheel in which we have, let's not say failed, let's say 'less than succeeded'. We've actually done better than we thought we were doing, now that I've done my research but we still use high protein freeze-dried raw treats during training. (Just ask Deccy and his marvelous Mums. Long story.)
The truth is Bella is a very fussy eater. Yes, the same dog that will eat slugs and goat manure compost (along with even more unmentionably unmentionables) dares to turn her nose up at perfectly good treats like Milk Bone dog biscuits or even high quality vegetarian offerings like Sam's Yams Dehydrated Sweet Potato treats.
So how do you get a dog who loves meat onto a low protein diet?
Oh but wait, it gets worse.
When Bella was first put on the medication (which we'll get to in a future post), we learned just how quick a study she was when she began rejecting all food once she figured out that's where the puppy Prosac was hiding. Bella had spit out Pill Pockets, cheese, peanut butter and any number of other treats we had come up with. Baby food worked. Once.
So, we have a really fussy puppy who won't eat, a doctor who says she needs a low protein diet and a very, very, very vocal opponent to the whole change in dinner plans.
|Gratuitous picture of said vocal opponent.|
Social media to the rescue - again.
I ended up putting a plea out to my Facebook friends for recommendations over what to do about a dog who refuses to take her medicine.
Some of the recommendations we recieved were:
- "Take it away if she doesn't eat it" which is all fine and dandy except she HAD to eat to take her medicine.
- To be fair, the friend who recommended we "just open her mouth and shove the pill down her throat" didn't know we were addressing owner-directed aggression but still, not really a suggestion we were ready to roll with.
- And then there was "Tripe".
We picked up a can of the stinkiest, dog-awfulest smelling slimy stuff I have ever had the (dis)pleasure of touching and what do you know! She liked it, she really liked it! And at only 22% protein, score one for Sheila. At least now we could get Bella's medicine down by burying it in teaspoons full of canned tripe. This, of course, means we actually have to touch the foul-smelling stuff. Twice a day. Not sure who won that round after all. Hrumph.
And we learn to make compromises.
Dr. Dodman's recommendation was to actually lower the protein in the treats we were using for Bella but we knew we would never get her attention during stressful events without the highest valued treats she prizes above all else. So we decided instead to change her kibble.
We used to feed Bella Nature's Variety Instinct dry dog food at a whopping 35% protein. Now the kibble portion of her dinner consists of Eukaneuba's "Small Breed Weight Control" formula at 22% protein. This specific product isn't listed on Dog Food Advisor but the Eukaneuba line gets an average rating in general from them. And we're okay with that. We're choosing our battles.
So what are the take-aways?
We didn't 'fail' as much as we thought we did.
Most of Bella's diet is low-protein now but we still use high-value, high-protein treats to get her attention during training and at the most crucial times.
It's much more important to us to have her succeed in her reactive dog training and to gain the confidence that comes from conquering a once-scary agility obstacle. It's a balance but it's one that seems to be working for us.