The dish on giving your dog “people food”
Our dogs can be so darned cute that it’s tempting to lavish them with the finest things possible… but remember: they’re dogs. What may be our idea of a delicious treat may not always be the healthiest option for our little friends… and the way we give it to them can affect their behavior more deeply than we might expect. Finally, before you give your pet a special treat, ask yourself exactly who you’re rewarding: your dog, or you?
“People foods” warrant really careful consideration. Know that certain foods, even in tiny amounts, can be toxic, even fatal, to dogs. Raisins, for instance, may cause kidney failure, and only a few macadamia nuts can cause muscular tremors or paralysis — a huge price to pay for a seemingly innocent snack. Before you decide to give your dog any food that isn’t expressly prepared for dogs, be sure you’ve done your homework and investigated a few educated opinions on the subject, by asking veterinary experts or studying online.
“Table scraps” of such foods as meat or chicken might seem safe for your pet but their methods of preparation or fat content might not always be friendly your dog’s digestive system. Also, by definition, “table scraps” offer dogs a certain license with their surroundings. If you hand your pet a piece of meat from your table (or drop food so it can be “found”), know that he or she will consider your dining area a part of the normal mealtime experience. It only takes one well-intended scrap from a table to start the habit of begging, so even if you’ve got the self-control to avoid this indulgence, be sure that your dinner guests (particularly children) know that while table scraps might make your dog happy, they won’t help in teaching manners… always important around the dinner table.
It can be difficult, I know. When my little Ringo looks up at me while I’m eating, pleading with those big brown eyes of his (even from across the room, I can’t help but feel a little bit guilty when I’m enjoying my meal. But I also know that, in a way, he knows what he’s doing. Begging is nothing short of manipulating. There have been instances in the past when that sweet little face has won him scraps and treats from others without my permission, and despite his lack of success with me, he won’t stop trying.
In the end, I have to remind myself that any rewards given should be his, for good behavior, and not for me or my own dramatic sense of guilt. He wants my piece of steak just as badly as he wants one of his organic doggy treats, and whichever I give him, I need to know that it’s safe for him to eat… and he needs to know he’s earned it.
Sit, Ringo… good dog. There you go. Yum!