Dear Lisa: Recently, my boyfriend has been feeding my 7-month-old Labrador Retriever table food. I have been very diligent about only feeding him a high quality commercial puppy food with an occasional egg and a few puppy treats. I have insisted that table scraps are not good for him but haven't gotten very far. I have managed to get my boyfriend to feed the puppy in his bowl and not from the table but not much success stopping him completely. Can you help me in deciding whether table food is good for my dog? --Table Manners
Before the advent of commercially prepared canned meat or dry kibble for dogs in the early 20th century if you had a family pet, many times his rations would could from left over table scraps or homemade meals. But over the past century, dog food companies have developed nutritionally balanced food to meet the needs of the modern day dog.
That said it really is unnecessary to supplement a dog's food with any extras. Feeding a dog from the table is bad on several accounts. First, it promotes the awful habit of begging. I'm sure we've all been guilty of this at some point since it's hard to resist those big brown cow eyes staring at your even though drool is pouring out of his mouth leaving puddles on your floor. Second, most human food may not be suitable for dogs, even toxic, such as too much turkey fat, grapes or even onions. Curbing this behavior is paramount not only for the puppy's safety but to prevent it from continuing into adulthood when it won't be cute but rather annoying as you try to enjoy your meal.
While your boyfriend may argue that he's not feeding from the table since the food is going in his food bowl the puppy is still getting extra calories which may lead to obesity and related health concerns. Finally, feeding table scraps may create a finicky dog that only wants to eat human food not his regular dog food which contains all the nutrients your puppy needs to grow at this young age.
The best approach is to feed the puppy twice a day with his regular food in his bowl after you have had your meals. This not only establishes that you are the boss, since you eat first and the puppy eats second, but will put the puppy on a sound routine for the rest of his life. Should you feel the need to give him treats make it count and turn it into a fun opportunity for training. Teach him to sit, stay and come and then reward with little treats.
If you have a question, send it to Lisa at AskLisa@AKC.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.