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Why Dogs Should NOT Eat ‘People Food’

By Malia Friesen    September 26, 2016 at 11:00AM / (4) comments


“Love hurts,” or, in the case of feeding your dog “table food,” love can kill, slowly. We all want to show our pets how much we love them and help them to feel more a part of the family. So we slip them a little treat off our plate—but only on holidays… and then when they are really well behaved during a party, and soon we find ourselves feeding Fido daily off our own plate.

 

While the food you are sharing with your dog may not technically be considered harmful to its health, it is slowly causing adverse side effects— physically, behaviorally, and socially.

 

Behavior:

Believe it or not, our pets have us trained pretty well. We pet them when they nudge us, take them out when they bark, and give them treats when they whine. When we start to feed our pets from our plate, counter, anywhere not in their own food bowl, or food that is anything other than their normal dog food, we start to introduce bad habits that can be difficult to break.

 

Dogs will begin to beg for food while we eat, cook, or snack. This can occur at all times, especially when they see YOU holding or eating food. They will whine, sit and stare, jump up, run around, anything to get your attention in hopes of getting you to drop a yummy morsel of food. At some point, you may even share food with them just to get them to stop these annoying behaviors. This will actually reinforce their bad behavior.

 

Dogs, like children, will realize that if they do X (whine, cry, beg), human will do Y (feed me, drop food, etc.). Breaking this behavior can be extremely difficult and time consuming; it is best to never start it in the first place.

 

Health problems:

Not only are we setting up our pets to behave badly, we are introducing the possibility of eating toxic foods, as well as an increase in daily calories.

 

Generally, the dogs I see at the veterinary office, or the dogs I pet-sit for, that eat only dog food tend to have better body condition scores and are at a more appropriate weight for their size, age, and/or breed. Dogs that are kept at an optimum weight are less likely to have joint, bone, ligament, or mobility issues, and are less likely to develop heart disease, breathing issues, decreased liver function, and many other health problems. Just like humans, maintaining a healthy weight helps ensure a dog’s overall health and longevity.

 

Dogs that are not fed people food are less likely to eat toxic foods. While I do not have any scientific evidence, I base this on the more than a decade of veterinary expertise and first-hand experience.

 

For example, I know a couple with a dog that begged at the table morning, noon, and night. They thought it was cute and loved seeing all the “tricks” their dog would do just for a little scrap of food. One evening they were hosting a party and the guests thought that it was adorable to watch the pup spin and hop and beg everyone for treats—that is, until the owners found out their guests were giving grapes to their dog as a treat! Grapes are highly toxic and their toxicity in a dog can be unpredictable. Fortunately, they were able to get the dog immediate treatment and there was a happy ending.

 

Picky eaters:

Share too many of your delicious foods and your dog may become a picky eater and not want to eat their own food, especially if they know there may be something better on the menu if they hold out long enough. I have seen this happen more times than I can count; owners calling the vet office because Fido won’t eat his food, but he will eat chicken, beef, eggs, or anything else they offer from the menu.

 

After a comprehensive physical exam, the doctor will not find any medical reason why Fido won’t eat his kibble and will suggest a trip to the behaviorist. Generally if the vet can discover the dog’s eating habits, or the owners confess they feed Fido from their own plates, the answer is all too clear: Fido has decided he wants the “good food” and not his generic kibble.

 

Again, this behavior can be difficult to break and can even cause adverse physical side effects if the dog does not eat for long periods of time or is not receiving the appropriate nutrition.

 

Overall, while it is not horrible if your dog eats the occasional “people food,” to avoid future problems, it’s best to keep Fido strictly on dog food.

 

Comments  4

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  • Food bowl
    10/20/2016 12:16pm

    this is my take on it if you are feeding your pet from the table and are feeding them non harmful food such as veggies small bites of meat put them in their food bowl not from your plate and not from your hand at the table it trains them to think it is a treat. Only treats come from your hand. Further more your pet is a pet not a circus animal. I deplore the circus, animals are not your entertainment. If you want to be someones entertainment fine knock your self out but do NOT force animal to do so with food or anything else.

  • 10/20/2016 12:24pm

    I honestly don't know what kind of dogs you have, but this "dogs are not circus animals/don't teach them tricks" thing is ridiculous. I have a Border Collie and a BC mix. Teaching them silly tricks works their minds. They ENJOY it. Without some sort of job, they'd go nuts (especially my younger BC). They both do agility and my older dog has a trick dog title. Is it cute and entertaining? Sure. But they both LOVE it and my older dog, especially, loves the attention it gets her.

    As for not feeding dogs any human food? No thanks. Both of my dogs get bits of (non-harmful) human food. Sometimes right from the table. Sometimes we cook an extra piece of fish or steak and split it up and mix it with their kibble. Both know to sit and wait politely for their bits. It's all figured into their calories for the day, so if they are both at a fantastic weight. And no one but us feeds them anything from the table unless they're given permission. So all of this can be prevented and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with feeding dogs a bit of "people food" (pretty sure meat is not just "people food").

  • Vets and trainers
    10/21/2016 02:15am

    I am always saddened when vets write about training and show that they do not fully understand how training can work in the dog's favour. I am a Certified Dog Behvour Consultant (iaabc.org) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge and Skills Assessed (ccpdt.org). in your first section you identify that the dog WILL evolve bad behaviours if fed people food or fed not from his dish. This just is not so! If you reinforce behaviours you don't want, the dog will repeat them. Thus, if you feed when your dog is misbehaving, you will teach your dog to misbehave more frequently. You got that part correct. Never the less, if you feed when your dog is doing what you like, you will teach him to offer you more of the behviour you like. As an example, I teach all my dogs to "beg at the table" by lying on their mats, about 2 meters from the table. If they stay down, I will give them treats at the end of the meal. If they get up or harass me or any of my dinner guests, then they are put in their crates till I am finished eating.

    So far as body weight is concerned, I use up to 10% of my dogs daily caloric intake in people food for training. This means that they may get up to about 60 calories per day in hot dogs, cheese or other tasty treats as part of their regular training allotment. They work for this food and only get the food after they have performed a desired behaviour. My dogs have never been overweight due to training treats, and suggesting that dogs fed human food will become obese puts a barrier in the way of successful behaviour modification protocols, when the food is used carefully and thoughtfully. I know that my students read your posts and it is unfortunate that I will have to explain yet again that this veterinary site is not a training site and that a healthy dog certainly can eat human food as part of a successful training regime and still remain at a good weight.

    Finally you point to picky eating as a learned behaviour. How about picky eating as an indication that the dog has reached satiety? In other words if you have over fed your dog, he won't want to eat his regular ration because he doesn't need it?

    I also take issue with the idea that food is human or not human. We already have the issue in the pet food industry that consumers are choosing "human grade ingredients" over other ingredients. Food is food. The ingredients in your pet food bag are the same ingredients and often of higher quality than are used in the preparation of human food already. Do you suppose that the chicken in the dog food you purchase is somehow or another of a different source or kind than the chicken you are purchasing in a chicken nugget? Same animal, different recipe.

    It is no wonder that we are in such a mess with the pet food industry and that folks think that vets are hiding something about the food they sell. It is not human food. It is food. It is not going to make your dog obese unless you feed too much of it (this can happen on a commercially prepared diet too!) and if you control when you give your dog a treat while you are cooking or eating you can manage behaviours to your advantage.

    Sue Alexander CPDT-KSA, CDBC, CBCC-KA
    Guelph, Ontario

  • 10/21/2016 07:16pm

    As long as you don't feed them harmful foods what is wrong with giving them people food? Kibble is poison imo and what do you think dogs ate before hard processed, harmful preservative laden kibble came in a bag?


 
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