It seems harmless enough: You see your dog's big, brown eyes peering over the tabletop at you and you can't resist slipping him a bite of turkey. While one bite may not be a big deal, constantly feeding your dog "people food" as a rule can cause serious issues from food allergies to gastrointestinal problems. Dogs are meant to eat a specific, balanced diet. If you do decide to give your dog people food, you'll need to understand what's okay and what could cause a problem – both to your dog's health and to their personality and obedience training.
Even if your dog seems perpetually hungry, think twice before you slide that human treat across the table or use it for a reward. Certain foods can cause gastrointestinal distress and become choking hazards for dogs. Some of the foods that they should avoid include chocolate, low fat foods, moldy foods, bread dough, foods with nuts, foods with bones still inside, onions and garlic. Sometimes, these foods can cause an upset stomach and other times they can cause allergic reactions and even choking or food poisoning. Keep your pup healthy by only giving them foods that you know are safe.
Setting a Precedent
Once a beggar, always a beggar; this may as well be the motto for dogs across the world. Once your dog realizes that you will give them food if they beg, they will try the behavior again and again. As you continue to reinforce that behavior, it becomes a viable way for your dog to get food. They may even start to ignore the food in their bowl meant for their own consumption. Of course, your dog doesn't know the difference between a treat that they can eat or one that is off-limits, so they may even beg for food that could be dangerous. Starting to give them people food young can mean a lifetime of sad eyes as you try to eat your dinner.
Some of your dog's worst behavior could be traced back to when they were allowed to eat people food. Dogs that go through the garbage and steal food off of the table are those who already have a taste of people food and who want more. By giving your dog the occasional table scrap, you tell them that it's okay to eat people food. Don't blame them when you come home to a garbage can strewn around the kitchen! Train your dog to expect nutritious dog food.
Nutrition and Balance
Dogs require a specific diet made up of protein, carbohydrates and whole grains. In the wild, they'd get this diet through a combination of hunting and foraging. At home, it's up to you to feed your dog the nutrition that they need to be healthy. Constantly giving your dog people food – especially unhealthy treats – can disrupt their desire to nosh on foods that are actually good for them. Instead, they are more content to beg for scraps than to eat the well-balanced meal in their bowl. Of course, if you are concerned about your dog's health and nutrition, see your veterinarian for recommendations on specific dietary needs. Even though your dog might look really cute when begging for your chicken, make sure that giving your dog the occasional human treat is safe and that you avoid foods that could hurt them. And, be willing to deal with consequences of giving into those sad eyes: You may launch a lifetime of begging and sharing plates instead of a well behaved and well-balanced pup. Lilly Sheperd is an occasional guest-blogger and a self-proclaimed geek girl from New-Zealand. When not blogging, she likes to play netball with her girlfriends. Lilly is interested in and produces commentary on health, fashion, beauty, green, non-profit topics.