I swapped my puppy over to raw food and was shocked at how much it improved her behavior

 Image of a puppy Golden Retriever
Image of a puppy Golden Retriever

We picked up our golden retriever puppy, Lowen, in late October last year, just as the clocks were changing. And while I’d argue not much can compete with the cuteness of an 8-week-old puppy, I had forgotten quite how exhausting puppies can be.

Don’t get me wrong, Lowen fit into our home seamlessly from the get-go. My three-year-old daughter was besotted (and thankfully of an age where she could at least vaguely grasp the concept of boundaries and personal space). Spending time watching Lowen develop as she played with the best puppy toys or our slippers became the entire household's favorite pastime. And, perhaps most crucially, the house no longer felt that unique and peculiar unhomely feeling that comes following the loss of a pet - one of the things nobody tells you when your pet dies. We felt complete again.

But (there is always a but) as she grew more confident in her new home and started staying awake for longer periods of time, her behavior became less cute and more, well, annoying. Housetraining was an uphill battle, she had a proclivity for nipping at ankles and she appeared to have an endless supply of energy that no amount of playing could exhaust her of. One evening, in a state of frantic googling, I happened to stumble across the idea of raw feeding…

Why raw food?

It turns out, when it comes to raw food for dogs, there are a lot of strong opinions. I spoke with a few different animal experts to get their take and provide a good overview of the various pros and cons.


“The main benefits of raw diets include healthier skin and a glossier coat, cleaner teeth and smaller amounts of feces produced,” says Dr Lizzie Youens, a practicing vet who provides expert opinions on behalf of Perfect Pet Insurance.

I’d gladly take that - but what about behavior specifically? Gary Roberts is a Master Trainer and Behaviour Expert registered with The Guild of Dog Trainers and he believes the effect on behavior from raw feeding comes down to the macros of the food.

“Most raw foods contain 70% to 90% actual meat, 10% to 30% veg and virtually no sugars. Ingredients vary between brands, but some of the best known dry biscuit brands contain as little as 4% meat and as much as 90% carbohydrates,” says Roberts.

But why, exactly, would this be a problem? These carbohydrates are converted into glycogen, a form of sugar.“We all respond differently to sugar, but the majority of owners switching to raw from dried dog food report a calmer and more focused dog within two weeks,” says Roberts.

But what about the downsides? Emily Norton, Veterinary Department Manager at Woodgreen Pets Charity, is not a fan. “We do not currently endorse the feeding of raw diets to pets in our care, as very few are deemed nutritionally complete without the requirement of added components. Additionally, many of these diets need to remain at below freezing temperatures from manufacturing to feeding, creating a risk to human health if not adhered to,” she says.

Youens was also keen to point out the issue of bacteria. “Feeding your dog a raw diet will potentially expose them and your family to harmful bacteria and other pathogens that can cause serious diseases such as Campylobacter, salmonella and E. Coli,” she says.