I thought dogs weren’t supposed to eat human food?!?
Argh! I find this question so very bothersome. There is no “human” food and “dog” food. There are animals, plants and minerals on this planet and we all need some of all of that, even the plants need decomposing animal matter to grow and thrive. So, yes, there are some things that the human system can tolerate that dogs can’t and vice versa.
I’ll get to the whole, dog evolved from wolves issue in another post. But for the time being, suffice it to say that dogs diverged from the modern wolf 15,000 years ago to be scavengers of our food. There was no “dog food” 15,000 years ago when the ancestors of our pets evolved (or maybe g-d switched their brains, for the creationists out there).
Proper nutrition is the cornerstone of a healthy pet, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t treat them to a few goodies now and then. Treats don’t have to be bad, either. There are plenty of healthy, fresh, and full of secret benefits. What makes them unique is the way they are given and how often. If you treat your pet too much, it takes away some of the special effects, as well as unwanted consequences, like weight gain.
Treating your pet too often
It’s easy to over-treat our pets. One way that we often end up treating pets too much is because the packaging is often overly generous with how many treats you can give your pets. The number of treats that are good for your pet also depends on the pet, their age, weight, daily activity, and size. The kind of treats that you give is also important. Some treats contain more starches and sugars than you want, which makes it more likely to cause weight gain and other health problems.
Best types of treats
The best treats for your pet will be fresh and made from quality ingredients that are species appropriate, yet sometimes “people foods” can also serve as healthy treats. Fruits, veggies, seeds, and nuts are not only healthy, but you can share them with your pet. It’s an extra treat for pets to get a taste of what you’re eating, make sure it’s good for them, and not filled with sugar and calories.
Calories in treats
Remember that even a tiny little treat will add calories to your pet’s diet, so make sure you understand the calorie count of the treats you are giving them. A few extra calories won’t hurt, but it’s good to counterbalance treats with a bit of exercise or to reduce their daily meals to account for the calories in the treats.
Reward your pet
Sometimes you give your dog a treat just because, but treats are also a great tool to train your dog. Just make sure you don’t confuse the two. If you’re treating your dog for good behavior, or crate training, be consistent with how you treat your pet.
Understanding the ingredients
Buy treats from companies you trust, that are transparent in their methods, and in the ingredients that are being used. Or keep your leftover meat scraps from dinner last night and use those for each of your 15 minute puppy training sessions. I always encourage my clients to use their pup’s daily caloric intake in training. The only thing you need a bowl for is water.