It’s a familiar sight to every pet owner who has sat down to a meal with their dog in the room: Your furry friend scoots as close to the table as he can get. His big, pitiful eyes stare longingly - first at you, then at your plate. He licks his chops over and over again, hoping to get just one bite of whatever you are eating. As hard as it is not to give in to those sad, soulful eyes, there are many reasons NOT to feed your dog table scraps.
The most obvious reason is because many of the foods that humans eat are just not good for dogs. The best diet for a dog is a consistent diet. Talk to your vet about how much food to give your dog, and then feed the same amount at the same time each day. There are ways to make his meals more interesting, such as adding gravy that is made for dogs, without sacrificing his good health.
Dogs that eat a lot of table scraps tend to be overweight. If you are eating a steak and want to give your dog a treat, what part of the steak does he usually get? The fat. Eating pure fat isn’t good for your dog’s weight. Dogs that are overweight have less energy and are at greater risk for developing health problems such as cardiovascular diseases.
Some foods are a direct threat to your dog’s health. Chocolate is the best example of this. Chocolate contains a substance that is toxic to dogs. While humans love this sweet treat, it can cause great harm, even death, to your dog.
Digestive disorders are another common problem among dogs that eat a lot of table scraps. Again, the healthiest diet for dogs is a consistent diet. You’re not doing your dog any favors if you feed him scraps that cause him to vomit or have diarrhea. Even a food that isn’t always toxic to a dog can upset his digestive tract enough to cause these unpleasant symptoms.
Table scraps do not provide the nutrition that dogs need. Tossing your dog a scrap of chicken now and then is different than feeding your dog a diet that consists mainly of table scraps. Dogs need different things nutritionally than humans do, and the best way for dogs to get what they need is to eat a food that has been formulated for dogs. Even if you offer him nutritious dog food along with an abundance of table scraps, he is less likely to eat his own food if he is filling up on yours.
In addition to the health problems, there are behavioral problems that can develop as a result of feeding your dog table scraps. You need to ask yourself the following questions.
Do you really want him to beg? You need to ask yourself this question every time you are tempted to give in to your dog. If you start feeding your dogs scraps from the table, he is going to sit there like Old Faithful at every single meal. Do not reward begging at the table unless you WANT him to beg at the table. Rewarding that behavior even one time may make it difficult to train your dog to stay away from the table. Even if it doesn’t bother you terribly, you may want to entertain guests in the future who won’t appreciate Fido sniffing their plates as they try to eat.
Help your pet be a good dog by NOT rewarding bad behavior such as begging.
Do you want your dog to be a picky eater? Since the healthiest food for you dog is dog food, it’s a good idea to make that dog food as appealing as possible. Setting his dry kibble next to a juicy steak probably isn’t the most effective way to accomplish that. By feeding your dog a lot of table scraps, you are helping him develop a taste for your food. In some cases, this will cause your dog to become finicky about what he eats, and his dry food will not seem as appealing as it once did.
Do you want a dog who steals? A dog who is allowed to eat human food on a regular basis will begin to assume it is his right to eat the pot of spaghetti you left on the counter. He may also be more apt to rummage through the garbage to get a hold of some of the scraps you neglected to give him. This may cause serious problems as many items found in the trash are very harmful to your pet.
There are many good reasons not to give table scraps to your dog on a regular basis, but there are ways to treat your dog that are not harmful and that will not encourage bad behavior.
If you want to give your pet an occasional treat of leftover meat, just follow a few rules.
- Be sure that small bones are removed. Never give your dog chicken bones. Some dogs have a bad reaction (severe vomiting and diarrhea) to other types of bones, so it’s best to remove the meat from the bones completely.
- Do not feed directly from the table. After the meal, when the dog has stopped begging, take the leftovers to his normal eating place and put them in his bowl. Do not let him see you walk directly from the table to his bowl.
- Do not do anything that causes your dog to see a relationship between his begging and you giving him table food. Do not feed him table scraps every day. His main diet should be of a food that contains all the nutrition he needs. In other words: dog food. Only feed hand selected table scraps as an occasional treat.
As much as you might want to give in to his begging, you must keep his best interest in mind. Dogs don’t know what is good for them. It’s your job to help keep them healthy and to help them behave, not give in to their every whim.