Giving Your Dog a Treat For A Job Well Done is Great, But Be Careful About What You Feed It.
I’ve mentioned before in these lessons the benefit of rewarding your dog with a treat when it does something well, for example during training exercises (for a complete list of lessons see the list at the end of this article). Whether as a reward or a treat just as a snack, your bond with your pet is strengthened when it realizes you are the main source of its comfort and nourishment.
However, there are some precautions you need to observe when it comes to treats. Some treats can be very dangerous to your dog. While any particular dog may have a problem with certain food because of the dog’s medical condition or age, some things are generally seen as a no-no for canines.
Here’s a list of some foods/snacks that you shouldn’t give your dog:
1. Chocolate – You might be a chocoholic but that doesn’t mean it is a good food item to give to your dog. According to the ASPCA, chocolate can contain high amounts of fat and caffeine-like stimulants known as methylxanthines. If ingested in significant amounts, chocolate can potentially produce clinical effects in dogs ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death in severe cases. Typically, the darker the chocolate the more problems it will have for your dog. No matter how much your dog may like it, don’t allow it to have any.
2. Sugar – Just like with chocolate, sugar is not something you want to give your dog. Sugar can do the same thing to dogs that it does to humans. It can lead to obesity, dental problems, and possibly the onset of diabetes. If you Google the subject you will find some websites and experts who say some sugar is okay (for example, some say fructose such as is found in some fruit is okay). I tend to stay away from anything sugary other than good fruit (see below) when it comes to dog treats. It’s not something that is natural for a dog’s diet and there are plenty of other more beneficial foods to give as treats. One more thing to watch out for when it comes to sweet snacks for dogs: so-called ‘sugar-free’ foods. Many sugar-free snacks contain xylitol — an artificial sweetener far more dangerous to dogs than real sugar. Depending on the quantity, xylitol can be deadly for dogs.
3. Some fruit – in general fruit such as bananas, apples, pears, etc. are okay for dogs. The one precaution here is to make sure any seeds are removed from the fruit. That means not giving a dog a whole apple to eat. Cut it up into small slices or chunks, being careful to remove all seeds first. Grapes and raisins are a definite no-no. They can be very toxic to dogs and can lead to kidney failure.
4. Nuts – there are some nuts that are very dangerous for dogs. Macadamia nuts are an example of a nut that dogs shouldn’t be fed. Rather than try to figure out which other nuts are good for dogs or not, I suggest eliminating all nuts from a dogs diet. The choking possibilities alone should be enough to steer clear of this item.
5. Bread dough – If you are a whiz when it comes to baking, there are some things to make sure your dog doesn’t snack on. Raw bread dough with yeast is one example. The ASPCA warns, “When a raw dough is swallowed, the warm, moist environment of the stomach provides an ideal environment for the yeast to multiply, resulting in an expanding mass of dough in the stomach. Expansion of the stomach may be severe enough to decrease blood flow to the stomach wall, resulting in the death of tissue.”
– It may seem obvious not to give alcohol to a pet, but a quick trip through YouTube will show you plenty of videos of alcohol swigging dogs as well as other animals. In brief – don’t do it! Not only are dogs more sensitive to alcohol than humans are, alcohol may contain elixirs and syrups, and raw yeast bread dough (see above). Sometimes alcohol can cause vomiting, loss of coordination, disorientation and stupor. In severe cases, alcohol can cause coma, seizures, and death.
7. Old food – Sometimes dog owners view their pets as the garbage disposal of last resort. That chicken still in the fridge after a week or more – why not feed it to Fido? If you wouldn’t eat something because it’s been around too long, neither should you feed it to your dog. Moldy food can be as toxic to your dog as it would be to you, maybe even more so. This is another good reason to immediately dispose of any food remains that your dog may gain access to, like in garbage pails, as well as any dead critters in your back yard or that the dog may come across during walks.
8. Onions and Garlic – While I can’t conceive of ever giving my pet a treat of an onion or clove of garlic, the literature shows that some people do. Go figure. The short answer doesn’t do it. Garlic and onions (along with their cousin’s shallots, scallions, radishes, and the like) have compounds that can damage dogs’ red blood cells if ingested in sufficient quantities.
As mentioned previously any particular dog may have an allergy or medical condition that prevents it from eating any particular food, whether it’s considered ‘healthy’ or not. Even manufactured snacks should be given cautiously until you know that your dog can tolerate it (a few years ago, dog snacks made in China caused illness and death in a number of dogs). So, start off with small snacks to see how your dog likes it and reacts to it. Go with some tried and true snacks. When you are certain your dog will experience no ill effects use it as a reward and feel good doing so.