Table Scraps Do’s & Don’ts For Dogs

At holiday times there are often enticing and bountiful meals, with lots of leftovers. Can your dog share in more than the delicious aromas? That depends — but certainly whatever you share should be about the experience they’ll have of getting a few tasty licks, never in a quantity of food that would add calories or strain their digestive system.

Foods to Never Share with a Dog

Most everyone knows the well-known toxic foods that dogs cannot safely eat even a small amount of: macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, onions and real dark chocolate. But there are other foods to be cautious about.

* Fat trimmings from meat like lamb, pork and beef (or even poultry) is not good for people or dogs, for whom really fatty foods can lead to health issues like obesity and even pancreatitis.

* Fatty skin from chicken or turkey just adds calories and pounds to a dog — and often upsets digestion because these are so rich.

* Any food in a heavy rich sauce with cream, wine or cheese — those are just too rich for a dog (and maybe you should lighten up on heavily sauced foods for your own health, too!)

* Spicy food can be really cruel to a dog: by the time a dog realizes that Mexican or Indian food is heavily spiced it will have already burned her tongue. it can even cause burning right through her digestive tract.

Healthy “People” Foods to Share with Your Dog After Your Meal (see end note)

* Fish of any kind — especially with the skin (with salmon being high on the list) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

* Vegetables of any kind – cooked or raw – but not sauced or buttered. Just as we always want children to “eat their veggies,” the same is true for our dogs. Eating vegetables gives a dog some vitamins (depending on how it has been cooked), but just as important is the dietary fiber and, in most cases, a low-calorie feeling of fullness.

* Leftover tossed salad, as long as it doesn’t have onions (not good for dogs and the odor might also might repel them!) is delightful for most dogs, although some can be picky about the kind of dressing (and yes, you probably need dressing or that “rabbit food” isn’t very interesting at all!)

How to Know if You Are Overdoing Table-Scrap Sharing

* Is your dog putting on weight? Be mindful of amounts you’re sharing. Make sure you aren’t being too generous with your leftovers.

* Limit after-meal sharing to just licking the nearly empty plate (which of course will be going into the high temperature dishwasher afterward!)

* Be thoughtful about actually measuring your dog’s own food — and reduce his calorie intake based on whether you have a heavy hand with leftovers.

* If your dog has begun begging at the table in anticipation of being given some scraps in the kitchen after you’ve finished — then post-meal sharing has to be stopped, at least for awhile.

Good Canine Table Manners Come from Sharing Table Scraps

* It’s fine to let your dogs lick your plates when you’re finished eating, but never feed anything from the table. This is how I’ve trained my dogs forever to lie quietly in the dining room while people are eating.

* By waiting until you take your dishes back into the kitchen before offering leftovers, you teach your dogs to lie quietly during your meal. My dog Maisie actually watches for when I put down my knife and fork, knowing that is the signal I’ve finished eating and it’s “her turn.”

* Once in the kitchen after your finish a meal, remove most everything left on the plates and let the dogs just lick the surfaces, giving them the sensation of having a treat without the calories.

* If you have fine china you are not going to put through the high heat of a dishwasher afterward then do put some actual scraps into the dog’s bowl.

Food is NOT Love!

Just keep a perspective that the most important thing in the world to your dog is her relationship with you. She may drool when she smells the roast turkey, but it is your company and affection and attention which feed her soul. Don’t go overboard on the food — and overdo the rest as much as you like!!

—Tracie Hotchner

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