It's fun to treat your puppy, but people food is not the best for them. While an occasional table scrap treat may not be harmful, these should be limited, especially when your dog is young. Learn the healthy ways you can treat your dog and which foods are best.
Why Puppies Love Treats
For dogs, eating can be a communal event and hand feeding your puppy helps reinforce the bond of love you share. Puppies often beg for attention and get rewarded with treats, but keep in mind that attention in the form of walks, training, and play are all very important things to focus on for their development.
Treats in puppies should be reserved for training situations, and caution should be used to not disrupt their nutritional balance that is more critical at this growth stage. By reserving treats for training, we better strengthen the bond between you and your puppy, creating a better behaved dog and an increased reliance on you, as well as a desire to please. One on one time is often an overlooked but highly rewarding "treat" for your dog.
Risks of Feeding Puppies People Food
Feeding people food carries some significant risks, even if it is a relatively healthy type of food. Too much can replace the balanced nutrition they need, disrupting the balance of macronutrients and micronutrients.
Overindulging may risk their lives if they eat too much or gobble the wrong thing, whether you treated them on purpose or they fished it out of the garbage. GI upset can occur relatively easily, especialy with their smaller size. Pancreatitis may occur with rich or fatty foods, and can lead to a lifetime of gut sensitivity. Additionally, extra calories outside of a health balanced diet can lead to obesity which can contribute to a shorter lifespan as an adult. Keeping your puppy lean as he grows into an adult dog can actually add up to two years of longer life.
Feeding people food, while often met with excited puppy responses, can also lead to a picky appetite down the road, as many pets, once they realize they may be offered other food ideas, may end up snubbing their own balanced dog food in favor of holding out for table scraps or toppers. Even putting a little bit of chicken or other topper on a bowl of dog food can lead to a disrupted nutritional balance, as well as a pickier palette.
Limit These Treats
Treats and table scraps should never make up more than 5-10 percent of the animal’s daily calories. If you plan to treat your furry family members, remember to subtract about 10 percent of their regular diet first, so you don’t add too many calories. For example, if giving a 20 lb dog a 1 oz piece of cheese, this is considered the equivalent of an adult human 1 1/2 cheeseburgers, which is more than a full meal. This makes it easy for dogs to gain weight rapidly. Hills Pet Nutrition has a website where you can learn more about how peple food relates to pet health.
You will need to train yourself, your family, and your guests in order to keep them from setting up a people food treat habit with your puppy. Make house rules about when and where treats are offered and ensure they are followed by your family. Educate guests so Grandma doesn't sneak a treat to your puppy when she visits. Better yet, set aside a certain amount of safe dog treats that guests can offer, and that fit your pet's diet. By planning ahead, you can stay on top of your dog's nutrition and temptations of guests to feed him/her.
Types of People Food Treats for Your Puppy
If you must feed your dog people food, then make sure to limit the amount and check to make sure it is safe for your pup. What’s healthy for you is more likely to be healthy for your pets, too. Remember to offer only small amounts, especially for smaller dogs. Additionally, offer only one new thing a a time so as to avoid GI upset or at least be able to trace what may be behind an upset belly afterwards.
- Lean meat: Small amounts of turkey, chicken, and lean beef are good, but avoid ham as it may be too rich for a puppy’s digestion. Be sure you do not give your dog any meat that contains cooked poultry bones or ham bones, which can splinter.
- Vegetables: Cooked or raw veggies such as broccoli, carrots, and asparagus can be great treats. Dips or sauces should be avoided.
- Fruit: Remember to remove the seeds or pits in fruit that can be toxic or cause blockages. Banana, apples, cantaloupe, and watermelon also are fine for puppy treats.
- Many dogs like peanut butter as a treat. This is a high calorie but highly desired treat and should be used when high-value rewards are needed for things like training, medicating, or other situations where you need your dog's attention. Given all the time, it may lose some of its appeal.
- Starches: Potatoes, rice, and bread should be limited to small amounts as they are high in calories. Avoid giving sauces like gravy along with the starches as they can be too rich.
- Milk: Puppies may love milk as a treat, but momma dog milk is different from the cow’s milk people drink. Puppies often can’t easily digest milk and too much can cause diarrhea. Instead, try offering a small spoonful of plain yogurt.
Foods Poisonous to Puppies
Enjoy treating your puppies with healthy foods, but be aware that some people food is poisonous for puppies.
Do not feed your puppy chocolate, grapes, raisins, Macadamia nuts, avocado, or sweets flavored with artificial sweeteners like xylitol.
Puppy Diets Need More Protein and Fat. Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
Kovalkovičová, N., Sutiaková, I., Pistl, J., & Sutiak, V. (2009). Some food toxic for pets. Interdisciplinary toxicology, 2(3), 169–176. doi:10.2478/v10102-009-0012-4.
Kovalkovičová N, Sutiaková I, Pistl J, Sutiak V. Some food toxic for pets. Interdiscip Toxicol. 2009;2(3):169-176. doi:10.2478/v10102-009-0012-4