We are reader supported, we earn a small commission when you buy something using our retail links.
Food & Diet

The Impact of Diet on a Dog’s Behavior and Energy Levels

At A Glance

Proper nutrition is vital for dogs of all breeds. They need adequate nutrients to ensure their well-being in the long term and so that they will maintain healthy energy levels and good behavior.

You can give your dog the optimal diet by:

  • Looking at The Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) guidelines
  • Increasing fatty acids and protein
  • Decreasing sugars and preservatives

Last Updated on: Jan 17, 2024

custom oil-painted dog portraits by Poshtraits

The meals we give our dogs greatly influence more than just their overall health. They also impact their behavior and energy levels.

An inadequate diet—whether it’s homemade meals that are missing key nutrients or a highly processed commercial diet loaded with preservatives—is a recipe for disaster.

A poor diet will leave your dog feeling sick and rundown. It can also take years off their life and result in expensive vet bills due to health issues.

Let’s explore the signs of a diet that isn’t quite working for dogs and how to optimize their diet.

How Does Diet Influence Pet Behavior?

A bad diet can turn a lovable pup into a monster that loves digging in the garbage, becomes aggressive with others over their food, and, in extreme scenarios, eats their own feces.

These are clear signs of the impact of diet on a dog’s behavior. If your dog regularly chews on objects they shouldn’t and attempts to escape the house or yard in search of food, take a close look at their diet. It may lack high-quality nutrients, such as complete proteins, and have too many simple carbohydrates or sugars.

How Does Diet Influence Energy Levels in Dogs?

dog running

It’s normal for a dog to be energetic, alert, and always looking for something fun. But if your dog just can’t take a second to pause, there may be a reason for their hyperactivity.

Based on the rising obesity rates among pets, it seems many owners are feeding them too many calories. It doesn’t help that commercial diets tend to include more simple carbohydrates high on the glycemic index.

These can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes that leave your dog feeling hungrier sooner than they should, and to a greater degree. This can cause them to overeat or make them more aggressive or stressed while waiting for dinner.

In another extreme case, if you notice your dog is quieter than usual, sleeping a lot (more than 12 to 14 hours daily), or acting sluggish, they may not be getting enough calories or consuming meals lacking needed vitamins and minerals. Dogs that are struggling with low energy often tend to have duller coats and eyes.

Food high in artificial preservatives, antioxidants, colors, and flavorings can also be the culprit behind your dog’s lethargy.

How To Give Your Dog an Optimal Diet?

You can do several things to give your dog an optimal diet that positively impacts their behavior, energy, and overall health.

Some general guidelines include giving your dog an hour after meals to let food settle before going out for a walk and sticking to a predictable feeding schedule.

Commercial Diets

beagle sitting in front of its food bowl

If you choose to stick with commercial foods, make sure they meet The Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) guidelines. Look for products that are supplemented with omega fatty acids, in particular DHA. They should also be low in artificial sources of preservatives, antioxidants, colors, and flavorings. Moreover, ensure the food is appropriate for their age, breed, and size.

An all-kibble diet can work if you closely monitor nutritional value. Wet toppers and healthy treats like carrots, bell peppers, leafy greens, blueberries, and bananas can all take the kibble to the next level.

Homemade Diets

Fresh dog meals are composed of gently cooked proteins, savory green vegetables, and other human-grade and minimally processed ingredients. They are quite simple and affordable to make at home, even more so thanks to a countertop dog food maker like ChefPaw that does pretty much all the work for you.

The mixing blades can do most of the prep, then cook the food sous-vide style. This ensures the meals are highly nutritious. Gentle cooking also eliminates bacteria and parasite issues common with raw diets. Dog food-making machines also come with a library of recipes that are formulated to ensure complete and balanced meals.

The impact of diet on a dog’s behavior and energy levels is undeniable. But before making significant changes in what you feed your dog, talk to your vet about the symptoms you’ve seen. And if issues persist, discuss other options for treatment.

An optimized diet promotes better digestion, healthier skin, and a shiner coat, and gives your dog energy, but not too much. When switching to a new diet, a slow transition over 1 to 2 weeks will help keep digestion issues at bay.



I am a full-time mum of two kids and a beautiful golden retriever. Writing is my passion: from food journalism to pets, parenting tips, etc. I can write on just about everything under the sun. I have been writing for the past 7 years and during that time, I have been a regular contributor to several blogs and pet magazines. I have also written feature articles, POV pieces, and dabbled in a few different formats of writing over the years.