Can Your Dog Eat That Pizza Crust?
Can Your Dog Eat That Pizza Crust?
Along the same lines as walking through doorways (see: http://perfect-pooch.com/who-should-go-through-a-door-first/) and sleeping in bed (see: http://perfect-pooch.com/do-you-let-your-dog-sleep-in-bed/), I often have clients bashfully tell me that they occasionally feed their pooch table scraps. This is almost always followed by some form of apology, as if I am going to tell them this single behavior has ruined their pet. Well here is what I am going to tell you: your dog can enjoy some human foods. Some. It is very important to understand that while some vegetables and fruit are quite healthy for you, they are dangerous to your four-legged-friend. Also, depending how you deliver these delicious morsels, feeding your dog table scraps can affect their behavior.
Let’s address safety first. There are plenty of foods your dog simply should not have. The list is long but the most common household items are: grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, avocado, stone fruit (plums, apricots, etc.), sweeteners, chocolate, alcohol, coffee, tea, and bread dough. Some of these items may seem obvious (alcohol, chocolate, and coffee) but others are seemingly innocuous. Bread dough, for example, is made with yeast which can inflate a dog’s stomach and cause a life-threatening situation while grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure due to toxicity. Before you hand over some of your snack, it’s always a good idea to quickly look it up on Google just to be safe.
There are, however, plenty of dog-safe human foods you can happily share with your pooch. Your dog is essentially stuck to the now-trendy Paleo diet for life: meat, eggs, vegetables, and limited grains are safe. So can your dog have your pizza crust? Sure. Just keep in mind that daily pizza is not a good idea for either of you; and your dog’s portion size should be kept in mind. In general, treats and snacks should make up less than 10% of your pup’s diet, so a Chihuahua should definitely not get a full crust to enjoy and your overweight Bulldog might not need so much either.
What about begging? Won’t feeding your dog table food increase begging behavior? Well, rewarded behaviors are repeated. If your dog is begging at the table or bothering you and you proceed to share your meal with them, then, yes. Yes, you have just rewarded begging and your dog has learned that this is a worthwhile behavior to repeat. On the other hand, if your dog is sitting calmly away from your eating area or waiting patiently out of the way, rewarding their patience and good behavior with a tasty treat will likely increase the rate of their calm behavior in the future. Setting up boundaries early on and rewarding good behavior while ignoring or preventing poor behavior choices will have a greater impact on begging than whether or not your dog gets human food on occasion.
One rule I have in my house, mostly for safety and partly for my own sanity, is that my dogs are not allowed in the kitchen when I cook. Period. I don’t want to trip over them or worry about dangerous foods falling, etc. Do my dogs know there is food going on? Of course, olfaction is arguably a dog’s strongest sense. But they have learned that if they wait patiently just outside of the kitchen there is a very high likelihood I will step over occasionally and share some tidbits with them. This behavior has been heavily rewarded and they have never been rewarded near any cooking in the kitchen. Dogs behave in their best interest and getting human food can be an extremely high value reward.
What if your dog is already begging? Are they ruined? No, of course not. Simply change the way you give them human food snacks and set them up to succeed by preventing the unwanted behavior. Dogs will naturally gravitate towards you while you are eating because your food simply smells awesome! If you know your dog is already prone to begging, prepare a high value reward for them and set them up away from your meal. Do not give them any snacks for begging or being close to you. If they want to enjoy a reward their only option will be to enjoy what you have prepared for them. For example, if you have a stuffed Kong© waiting on their bed and ignore them every time they approach you they will eventually choose the Kong© over you. It’s simply more rewarding. That being said, the tasty Kong© should go away as soon as you are done eating. Your dog will figure out that it’s better to pester you and turn to the Kong© later if they have that option. You could also simply put your dog away during meals in another room or a crate but you should be prepared for some major protesting. You can also mix some human food snacks into a chew toy or puzzle toy so that your dog can enjoy your food away from the table without begging.
There are a lot of human foods that you can share with your pet, but always keep safety and good behavior practices in mind.