Now this is a type of socialisation you probably have not heard of before.

For me, gut health is of huge importance for my dogs, and I think everyone should feel the same. The gut is often referred to as the second brain. The gut contains more neurons than the spinal cord (!), it can work independently from the brain, and can communicate directly with the brain. It also has a huge influence on mood (more on that further down) . I think that’s a pretty big deal.

Inside our, and our dogs guts are microbiomes, I think of those like the bubbles at the Eden Project. Inside these bubbles are colonies of microbes made up of bacteria, viruses and fungi. 98% of these microbes have been found to be either beneficial or vital to our dogs to our dogs’ health and wellbeing, only 1% has any badness in it.  These microbes need to maintain healthy and stable for the bubble communities to continue to thrive.

Brace yourself for what I’m about to tell you. Serotonin is a chemical responsible for our good mood. 95% of our and our dogs’ serotonin is found in the gut! The microbiota has been shown to strongly influence the levels of serotonin. Maybe it’s not “you are what you eat”, but “you feel what you eat”.

How are these microbiomes created?

Well the very first microbes are introduced to the puppy from it’s mum, from birth and early feeding. When the puppies are suckling, they aren’t just getting the milk and whatever microbes come with it, they’ll be taking in bacteria etc from the mum’s skin as well. This may sound dirty, but actually will build the puppy’s immune system for later life.

This microbiome building continues with the weaning process and through the puppies experiencing the world through their mouth.

Recieving antibiotics can damage this microbiome building, by doing what they say on the tin. Antibiotics don’t just wipe out the bad bacteria, they take out the good stuff as well so it’s important to put thought into rebuilding the microbes after a course of antibiotics.

Mazikeen enjoying her dinner from a Kong

Why do I refer to Gut Socialisation?

Studies have shown that the development of disease in later life is linked to an abnormal gut microbiota make-up in infancy, so starting them off right can set them up for long term health.

Aggression has also been linked to changes in the intestinal microbiota. Giving your puppy the best microbiome bubbles is really worth the effort.

Gut Socialisation is similar to environmental socialisation, the bigger the range of experiences, the better. To socialise the gut, let your puppy explore different surfaces and dirt, they could also eat their dinner off different surfaces, grass, dirt, bowls, lickimats.

Probably the most fun part of Gut Socialisation is letting your puppy (or dog, it’s never too late!) try a great range of food. You could create a platter with a handful of fresh foods to taste. You could try

  • Fresh fruit: apple pieces, blueberries, banana, pear, mango, blackberries etc Cheats hint- the organic baby purées are handy for giving a variety of tastes
  • Fresh vegetables: carrots (they can have carrots frozen too as a healthy teething relief), red cabbage, broccoli etc
  • Meats: cooked chicken, raw or cooked beef, pork, venison
  • Fish: tinned or fresh sardines, haddock, sprats
  • Dairy: goats milk, natural yoghurt, cheese (goats dairy products are a safer bet for sensitive tummies than cows)
  • Cold soaked oats
  • Fermented foods like kefir

Putting a range into a muffin tin will keep it all contained and you’ll he able to watch your puppy to see which foods they aim for first and what most tickles the taste buds.

Reef as a puppy enjoying variety at dinner. Meat, carrots, strawberries and turmeric yoghurt.

It doesn’t matter what you choose to feed your puppy- kibble, raw or cooked, the big benefits come from adding fresh food into their diets. Aim to replace a handful of their usual dinner with a variety of fresh foods a minimum of 3 times a week for maximum health benefits. A university study found that dogs fed a handful of fresh food 3 times a week were 90% less likely to get cancer than the control group of dogs who ate their regular kibble daily with no changes.

Have fun with this one! And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be away to stock up on kefir and a big range of fresh food for yourself as well after reading that!

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