Dogs are the best trainers. Here’s how you can be the trainer. Teach your dog to eat dog food.

 

Question:

I really enjoy the light and amusing style in your writing. My dog will not eat dog food, but prefers “people” food. I know this is not good for her but I don’t know how to change her. I have tried just giving dog food only until she accepts it. It seems almost cruel to do it that way. She always outlasts me and I will fix some chicken and rice or beef stew meat.

 

Dr. Nichol:

My writing is not nor has it ever been light and amusing. I would never poke fun at anyone who has been so thoroughly and reliably trained by their dog. This girl of yours needs a job in the school system.

Can we get serious now? If you want this sweet little dog to grow old, you must feed her a complete and balanced diet-for a dog. Our pets are so much like us. But they are still a different species. If you continue to allow your baby to eat an unbalanced diet she will be at increased risk of heart and kidney failure as well as obesity. Add-in degenerative arthritis from the overload to her joints and you end up with sick dog.

 

So your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to give this sly little fox DOG food-only. Can she safely go without eating if she refuses? If she’s healthy (an exam by her doctor will establish this) she can easily go several days with no food. This girl’s ancestors could generate energy between kills for longer than a week. If you give her a bowl of high quality hard dry food (Science Diet, Iams) and nothing else, she will eat. Feed her and she will come.

 

 

Question:

Does it hurt to feed a dog boiled chuck roast, rump roast or round steak daily? I have been feeding my 5-year-old mini-daschund this for years. She would rather eat people food than dog food.

 

Dr. Nichol:

Me too. I would much rather eat people food than dog food. But personally I gave up the red meat thing. It seemed like the New Age thing to do.

 

Dogs, like the rest of us, need balanced diets. Meat protein is necessary for your daschund but giving too much is no good. In fact excessive protein is among the leading reasons for the huge number of kidney failure cases in dogs.

 

So how can we get her to eat? As long as she is healthy, she’ll eat when she’s ready. Most pets I know on people-food have been accustomed to getting a variety of tasty offerings from their doting owners. So much in fact that many of them eat way too much and have the waistline to show for it. And if you have short legs like a miniature daschund that could be a real drag. (That was a joke.) “How boring?” you say. Sorry. Dogs really do love to eat. And a bowl of high quality, hard dry food just doesn’t look that exciting. But if you want this baby to stay in your life for as long as possible you must protect her health. Give her 1/4 cup of good dry food (it costs more) twice daily. For fun, instead of allowing her to gorge herself on beef, have a ball game together or take a walk. Exercise. What a concept.

 

 

 

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Popcorn & Other Tidbits

Question:

We have a cute little 10 pound poodle who adores popcorn but is basically on an Iams diet. She likes all kinds of people food but her cunning attempts don’t get her much but a few pieces of popcorn most every day. Is there any reason she should not have this?

Dr. Nichol:

Popcorn itself is a good source of fiber but the oil that makes it so appealing is nothing but fat. Be careful about how much your dog eats. Considering that she’s about one fifteenth the size of most humans, a few kernels of popcorn can go a long way.

 

Most dogs just love to work for their owners, with food rewards being the most coveted paychecks. Every time you feed your dog she believes she’s done something right, which motivates her to pester you again. Many people and their dogs enjoy the ritual of sitting together and sharing a snack. If too much of the quality time you two have is food centered, at least one of you will end up rather rotund. Dogs and cats can suffer crippling arthritic pain from years of overloading their joints. Breathing disorders, heart disease, and liver failure are other common preventable miseries.

 

The Iams you are giving your cute little poodle is a complete and balanced diet. Anything you add to it will throw it out of balance and lower your dog’s nutritional plane. Keep her happy and playful by protecting her health. Feeding should be separate from affection. You want this girl to live a long time and feel great while she’s at it. Her self esteem is important too. She’ll be a lot cuter if she’s not a beached whale trying to age gracefully.

 

 

 

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Transitioning Recalcitrant Chihuahua X Jack Russells back to Dog Food

Question:

I have 2 Chihuahuas who are part Jack Russell.  My female was ill a few years ago and the vet said to feed her chicken breast and white rice for 6 weeks. You can guess what happened; neither dog will eat dog food. Once, my female went 2 weeks without eating. What do I do to get both to eat dog food without starving them?

 

Dr. Nichol:

You are right to be concerned about poorly balanced diets. Obesity, diabetes, and dental disease are just a few of the wages of long term dietary indiscretion. Your dogs, of course, believe dry food to be a form of animal cruelty. My bet is that someone in your home was slipping your girl snacks during that 2 week hunger strike of hers. Jack Russell himself may have been an intensely stubborn individual but I doubt that even he could go 2 weeks without food.

 

It’s time to take charge. Call a family meeting and read the riot act. Require everybody to sign-in blood-that they will not feed the dogs. There’s a new sheriff in town. You alone will be the feeder. Cheaters will be punished with a strict dog food diet of their own for 2 weeks.

 

Here’s the recipe: Mix chicken and rice with dry dog food in a 90:10 ratio on day one. Day two the entrée will be 80:20, day three 70:30-you get the idea. In 10 days your dogs will get dog food only, in carefully measured amounts.

 

Like humans, your dogs are individuals. I suggest feeding about one quarter cup of good quality dry food twice daily. Specific feeding recommendations should come from your veterinarian.