Rewarding this behavior with food will encourage more of it. Avoid the problem & the weight gain that goes with it by putting  your pets outside while you eat.



Could you shed some light on giving table scraps like chicken, pork, & beef? I have a situation where some teenagers will give their dog candy because the dog is constantly begging for human food even though it is on the Science Diet program.


Dr. Nichol:

Your questions show that you are concerned about the health risks resulting from an improper diet. I will first explain how this problem has developed for your family; then what you can do about it.


Let’s start with the basic survival instincts of dogs and cats. Despite their centuries of domestication, most of their wild tendencies remain. When they were living in the wild, they knew that they may not survive harsh conditions. To avoid starvation, they learned to be scavengers. And they still do it-even in a home like yours with an abundance of food. Furthermore, we know that there is no better motivator than food. If a pet gets food when he or she does something, that critter will repeat that same behavior expecting the same reward. So it you feed your pets from the table, they’ll be back again for more. Many pet owners enjoy this as much as the pet because it builds a reliable relationship.


Now for the downside. Pets who get table food eventually refuse a complete and balanced diet-even a good one like Science Diet. They just camp out at the dinner table. And they get fat. They also develop problems like kidney failure, liver disease, diabetes, heart failure, and arthritis.


Is it worth it? If a pet owner is in denial about the damage being done to their beloved pet’s health, they can delude themselves into believing that they are actually helping the pet.


The trick is to never let the problem start. You simply do not let your pets in the room when you are eating. If you already have a pet who eats human food, you must practice tough love. Give all adult dogs and cats two measured feedings per day. Put each pet in a separate room, with the door closed, while they eat. When they walk away from the bowl you pick it up. Your pets are allowed back together only when all of the food bowls have been picked up. There is never food available to them when they are together. This prevents obesity in pets who sneak food from the other pets.


What if you feel sad that this snacking together with your pet has been a source of joy and sharing for you both? I understand the love of shared activities. I love my dog so much I took him to obedience training class. We shared the joy of learning and practicing our lessons together. We also shared a Frisbee, hiking, and good music. Ah, what a life.