"People Food" for Dogs

Tips to safely give your dogs the real food they crave.
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I began cooking food for my dog Jackson when he was diagnosed with cancer and given a year to live. I resolved to send Jackson out in style by cooking food usually reserved for humans, only to find out that the transition to human food made Jackson feel better and live for four additional years cancer-free.

dog-at-table

One of the most unfortunate reasons that people don't feed their dogs real foods is they don't want their pets to beg at the table. I wholeheartedly agree that dogs should not be begging at the table, but it's the training, not the food, that is causing the problem. We practice a philosophy at my home called "Always
or Never." If dogs are fed from the table, in their mind there is always a chance they might get something. When you never feed your dog from the table, your pet learns begging doesn't pay off; he gets bored and learns that a good nap feels better than watching somebody else eat.

At the same time, your dog desperately wants a bite of something real rather than the same fare day after day. Maybe you are simultaneously thinking, "Couldn't I give my pup a little piece?" Sure, just not in the dining room.

The best place to provide your dog with real food is in her bowl. Start with teaspoons and tablespoons, not cups, to see how your dog tolerates different foods as a way to augment commercial food. It doesn't have to be a meal; it can just be a quick chop or a fast sauté of some ingredients you are making for yourself. Eggs, most meats, a little brown rice, several fruits and vegetables, and even many spices are healthy and much welcomed by your pet (see "Off-Limits Foods" at right) for the few foods that should never be given to your dog). I would recommend giving your dog "people food" after you've finished eating rather than before, to reward good behavior.

Off-Limits Foods

These foods can be toxic or otherwise dangerous for dogs and should never be given. Note: If you notice your dog panting excessively, drooling; shaking, disoriented, having seizures or muscle tremors, or vomiting, call your veterinarian immediately.

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Avocados
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Fruit pits and seeds
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Hops
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Nutmeg and mace
  • Onions
  • Raw salmon and trout
  • Turkey fat and skin
  • Xylitol

Mango Lassi

Lassis are chilled beverages that people in India drink to keep cool or to buffer the heat of spicy dishes. Since your dog wears a fur coat even in the summer, he might need a little help cooling off. After mixing this up you can serve it straight in a bowl, use it to top dog food, or freeze inside a Kong (a rubber chew toy) for an afternoon treat. As a bonus, your dog is receiving probiotics and enzymes to help with digestion.

½ cup yogurt
½ cup ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup ice
½ cup water
Pinch ground cinnamon (optional)

Purée all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Sweet Zuc' Biscuits

Makes 36 biscuits

Zucchini and summer squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, peas, papaya, mangoes, and bananas are just a few of the vegetables and fruits that are good for your dog. They can be enjoyed raw, or they make a great addition to recipes like this one, which is bound to become a favorite.

1 Tbs. coconut or olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
2 cups oats
2 large eggs
1 Tbs. honey
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cups shredded zucchini

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet with oil, or line with a silicone mat.
  2. Pulse the oats in a food processor for 1 minute, until a slightly grainy powder develops.
  3. Mix together the eggs, oil, honey, and cinnamon in a medium-size bowl. Stir in the zucchini and then the oats.
  4. Drop tablespoonfuls, spaced 1 inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheet and press slightly to flatten. Bake biscuits for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  5. Store the biscuits in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to a month.

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