Dog Grief

There are countless reasons why dogs are considered to be man’s best friend. They offer love, loyalty, and companionship, and anyone who has ever formed a special bond with a dog can attest to the symbiotic relationship between humans and canines. But what happens to a dog when he loses his best friend?
“When an owner passes away before her pet, it can be a confusing, sad, and difficult period, even if arrangements have been made for the animal to be taken care of by someone else,” says Russell Hartstein, a certified behaviorist and dog trainer based in Los Angeles.
It’s not unusual for dogs to grieve the loss of a person they’ve bonded with who is no longer present. While they might not understand the full extent of human absence, dogs do understand the emotional feeling of missing someone who’s no longer a part of their daily lives.
Because we can’t communicate with our dogs to explain when a loss occurs, certain indicators — such as a change in routine, or the absence of their owner’s sensations (sight, sound, smell) — convey that something is different.
“My definition of grief is that a surviving animal shows distress through behavior that is markedly divergent from his routine,” says Barbara J. King, professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary and the author of “How Animals Grieve.”
While we can’t say for sure whether the feelings a dog has when experiencing an emotional loss mirror that of a human’s, Dr. Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado Boulder, says there is now solid evidence from brain imaging studies that similar areas of dogs’ brains light up when they’re feeling parallel emotions to those of humans.
No two dogs are alike, so the way in which they grieve — and for how long — can differ. In order to decipher a dog’s emotional state after losing a loved one, it’s important to keep an eye out for certain signs, as they can affect a dog’s health. Although there is no concrete way of knowing exactly how a dog processes grief, there’s no denying the sadness expressed through behavioral changes. Anxiety and stress can present themselves in a variety of ways. Signs to be aware of include:
• Panting
• Whining
• Barking
• Pacing
• Fidgeting

Jme Thomas, executive director at Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, explains that dogs need to figure things out on their own and work through feelings when experiencing loss or grief. Other indicators of grief include:
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
• Lack of energy
• Listlessness or clinginess
• Loss of interest in physical activity
“Dogs are highly intuitive and sensitive, more than people give them credit for,” says Thomas.
In June 2014, Constable Dave Ross, a Canadian general duty officer and police dog handler, lost his life in the line of duty. His service dog, a German Shepherd Dog named Danny, stood alongside him during his time on the force. Throughout Ross’ funeral, the loyal canine whimpered next to his master’s casket. This is just one example of many that speaks volumes to the feelings a dog experiences after losing his owner.
Like us, dogs go through a grieving period. While there isn’t one specific approach, being sensitive to a dog’s needs can go a long way:
• Be aware of routines and try to stick to them
• Provide comfort by spending more time together
• Give extra affection — touch increases your bond
• Play his favorite game and increase exercise
“I have no doubt that dogs miss us as much as we miss them, and like us, they need time to heal from a deep emotional loss,” says Sally Morgan, a holistic physical therapist for animals and humans.
How long a dog grieves varies, but with time, most recover emotionally. At the first sign of decline in physical or emotional health, consult a veterinarian to ensure the symptoms of grief aren’t masking those of another illness.
How Do Dogs Grieve Human Death?
Pets may also show signs of loss and mourning in ways that the family may not recognize. Although somewhat different, they do feel the loss of loved ones. Many have a significant degree of attachment to their owner that leads to anxiety and distress when even short-term separation is thrust upon them, let alone bereavement.
Perhaps, the most famous dog-grieving story of all time is that of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye terrier owned by a Mr. John Gray of Edinburgh, Scotland. Mr. Gray passed away in 1858 and was buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, Bobby was one of the conspicuous mourners. As time went by he never forgot his deceased master. Every day for the next 14 years until his own death in 1872, Bobby spent each night lying on his master’s grave come rain, hail, and snow. In honor of Bobby’s devotion, a statue and water fountain was erected to his memory in 1873.
Which Dogs Suffer from The Loss of Their Human Owner?
Dogs that have the hyper-attachment syndrome of separation anxiety are likely to be hard hit following their owners’ demise. Cardinal signs of this all-too-common condition, affecting up to 15 percent of dogs in the United States, are as follows:
• A checkered history of earlier neglect or multiple owners
• Excessive following behavior (“Velcro dogs”)
• Pre-departure anxiety as owner prepares to leave
• Barking, whining or howling immediately after the owner’s departure
• Destructive behavior only in the owner’s absence (and often directed toward doors and windows)
• House soiling only in the owner’s absence
• Loss of appetite when the owner is gone
• Depression/inactivity in the owner’s absence
• Self-directed licking behavior in the owner’s absence (e.g. lick granuloma) or other repetitive, compulsive behavior
• Excessive greeting behavior on the owner’s return
A score of 5 out of 10 of the above possible signs confirms separation anxiety. Some dogs with separation anxiety are so bonded to one person that if that person leaves the dog with other people in a crowded room he will display full-blown signs of separation anxiety. Such a dog will not take well at all to his owner going away on a trip or, indeed, to the permanent separation caused by death. The dog will panic at first and will eventually become depressed. While we can’t ask a dog how he feels, we can (and do) sometimes see all the visible signs of depression in bereft dogs that we see in a recently bereaved or otherwise depressed person.

Clinical Signs of Mourning in Dogs
Here are some signs that dogs are mourning a human loss:
• Lack of energy and interest
• Absence of play
• Listlessness/moping
• Loss of appetite/anorexia
• Reduced social interactions
• Increased daytime sleeping
• Nighttime restlessness/insomnia
• Weight loss
In people, post-bereavement depression following the death of a loved one usually begins to decrease. Sometimes it lasts 2 months, and sometimes it lasts longer, requiring medical or psychological help. The same is true in dogs. Some will eventually get over their loss and form new bonds whereas others enter a seemingly interminable funk. The latter cases present a therapeutic challenge.
Treatment of Dogs for Bereavement-related Depression
• Where possible, allow time to heal the wounds and merely supply appropriate supportive therapy. Make sure the dog continues to eat and drink, even if this means assisted feeding of favorite foods.
• Provide company during the daytime and at night. Have the dog sleep in the bedroom with his caretakers/remaining human/animal family.
• Provide distractions during the day such as toys, delicious food treats, games, excursions and so on, so that the dog is gainfully employed and entertained. Some coaxing may be necessary.
• Attempt to interest the dog in interacting with people or dogs. Sometimes a visitor dog to the house will stimulate the affected dog’s appetite and activity by a process known as social facilitation.
• Daily exercise is extremely important as it has a calming, soothing, and mood elevating effect. Aerobic (running) exercise is best if this can be summoned.
• Medication, as a last resort, in refractory cases. Human anti-depressants work well in this situation. Either older tricyclic anti-depressants like amitriptyline or imipramine, or more modern anti-depressants like fluoxetine (Prozac®), sertraline (Zoloft®) and paroxetine (Paxil®) can be used. Each has its own unique advantages in terms of mood elevation and stabilization; and each has its own slightly different therapeutic profile and list of potential side effects. Remember, these drugs must be prescribed by a veterinarian – doses for humans are very different from what dogs are prescribed.
Following acute loss of a closely bonded owner, dogs can suffer the pangs of separation anxiety or depression just as people do. The extent of the suffering is directly proportional to the strength of the bond with the owner and is a function of the dog’s reliance and perceived dependence on that person. Owners who feed into a dog’s intense dependence on them are more likely to have dogs that do not cope well when left alone for any reason. The emotional pain dogs feel on their owners death is an extension of, and extreme, protracted version of separation anxiety. While we all enjoy a close bond with our pets, and children for that matter, it is as well to prepare them to stand on their own four/two feet (respectively) so that they are not adrift should anything happen to us.




The term “aggression” refers to a wide variety of behaviors that occur for a multitude of reasons in various circumstances. Virtually all wild animals are aggressive when guar ding their territories, defending their offspring and protecting themselves. Species that live in groups, including people and dogs, also use aggression and the threat of aggression to keep the peace and to negotiate social interactions.

To say that a dog is “aggressive” can mean a whole host of things. Aggression encompasses a range of behaviors that usually begins with warnings and can culminate in an attack. Dogs may abort their efforts at any point during an aggressive encounter. A dog that shows aggression to people usually exhibits some part of the following sequence of increasingly intense behaviors:

  • Becoming very still and rigid

  • Guttural bark that sounds threatening

  • Lunging forward or charging at the person with no contact

  • Mouthing, as though to move or control the person, without applying significant pressure

  • “Muzzle punch” (the dog literally punches the person with her nose)

  • Growl

  • Showing teeth

  • Snarl (a combination of growling and showing teeth)

  • Snap

  • Quick nip that leaves no mark

  • Quick bite that tears the skin

  • Bite with enough pressure to cause a bruise

  • Bite that causes puncture wounds

  • Repeated bites in rapid succession

  • Bite and shake

Dogs don’t always follow this sequence, and they often do several of the behaviors above simultaneously. Many times, pet parents don’t recognize the warning signs before a bite, so they perceive their dogs as suddenly flying off the handle. However, that’s rarely the case. It can be just milliseconds between a warning and a bite, but dogs rarely bite without giving some type of warning beforehand.


Classification of Aggressive Behavior

If your dog has been aggressive in the past or you suspect she could become aggressive, take time to evaluate the situations that have upset her. Who bore the brunt of her aggression? When and where did it happen? What else was going on at the time? What had just happened or was about to happen to your dog? What seemed to stop her aggression? Learning the answers to these questions can clarify the circumstances that trigger your dog’s aggressive reaction and provide insight into the reasons for her behavior. You need an accurate diagnosis before you can hope to help your dog.

Aggressive behavior problems in dogs can be classified in different ways. A beneficial scheme for understanding why your dog is aggressive is based on the function or purpose of the aggression. If you think of aggression this way, you can determine what motivates your dog to behave aggressively and identify what she hopes to gain from her behavior.


Territorial Aggression

Some dogs will attack and bite an intruder, whether the intruder is friend or foe.

Dogs’ wild relatives are territorial.They live in certain area, and they defend this area from intruders. Wolves are highly territorial. If a coyote or a wolf who’s not part of a pack invades their territory, the resident wolves will attack and drive off the intruder. Some dogs display the same tendencies. They bark and charge at people or other animals encroaching on their home turf. Dogs are often valued for this level of territorial behavior. However, some dogs will attack and bite an intruder, whether the intruder is friend or foe. Territorial aggression can occur along the boundary regularly patrolled by a dog or at the boundaries of her pet parents’ property. Other dogs show territorial aggression only toward people or other animals coming into the home. Male and female dogs are equally prone to territorial aggression. Puppies are rarely territorial. Territorial behavior usually appears as puppies mature into adolescence or adulthood, at one to three years of age.

Protective Aggression

Dogs may show aggressive behavior when they think that one of their family members or friends is in peril.

Dogs are a social species. If they were left on their own, they would live together in small groups, or packs, of family and friends. If one member of a pack is in danger, the others typically rush in to help defend that individual. This is classified as protective aggression because the dogs are protecting one of their own. Pet dogs may show the same type of aggressive behavior when they think that one of their family members or friends (human or animal) is in peril. Sometimes dogs reserve protective aggression for individuals they consider particularly vulnerable. A dog who has never shown aggression to strangers in the past might start behaving aggressively when she has a litter of puppies. Likewise, a dog might first show protective aggression when her pet parents bring a human child into the family. While this behavior sounds appealing at first glance, problems arise when the protective dog starts to treat everyone outside the family, including friends and relatives, as threats to the baby’s safety. Both male and female dogs are equally prone to protective aggression. Puppies are rarely protective. Like territorial behavior, protective aggression usually appears as puppies mature into an adolescence or adulthood, at one to three years of age.


Possessive Aggression

Many dogs show the tendency to guard their possessions from others, whether they need to or not.

Dogs evolved from wild ancestors who had to compete for food, nesting sites and mates to survive. Even though our pet dogs no longer face such harsh realities, many still show the tendency to guard their possessions from others, whether they need to or not. Some dogs only care about their food. These dogs might react aggressively when a person or another animal comes near their food bowl or approaches them while they’re eating. Other dogs guard their chew bones, their toys or things they’ve stolen. Still others guard their favorite resting spots, their crates or their beds (Often, these dogs also guard their pet parents’ beds!). Less common are dogs who guard water bowls. Usually a possessive dog is easy to identify because she’s only aggressive when she has something she covets. But some dogs will hide their cherished things around the house and guard them from unsuspecting people or animals who have no idea that they’re anywhere near a valued object. Male and female dogs are equally prone to possessive aggression, and this type of aggression is common in both puppies and adults. For more detailed information about food-related possessive aggression and how to treat it, please see our article, Food Guarding.


Fear Aggression

A fearful dog may become aggressive if cornered or trapped.

When animals and people are afraid of something, they prefer to get away from that thing. This is called the flight response. But if escaping isn’t an option, most animals will switch to a fight response. They try to defend themselves from the scary thing. So a dog can be afraid of a person or another animal but still attack if she thinks this is her only recourse. A fearful dog will normally adopt fearful postures and retreat, but she may become aggressive if cornered or trapped. Some dogs will cower at the prospect of physical punishment but attack when a threatening person reaches for them. Fearful dogs sometimes run away from a person or animal who frightens them, but if the person or animal turns to leave, they come up from behind and nip. This is why it’s a good idea to avoid turning your back on a fearful dog. Fear aggression is characterized by rapid nips or bites because a fearful dog is motivated to bite and then run away. Sometimes the aggression doesn’t begin with clear threats. A fearful dog might not show her teeth or growl to warn the victim off. In this kind of situation, the only warning is the dog’s fearful posture and her attempts to retreat. Male and female dogs are equally prone to fear aggression, and this type of aggression is common in both puppies and adults.


Defensive Aggression

Motivated by fear, defensively aggressive dogs decide that the best defense is a good offense.

Closely related to fear aggression is defensive aggression. The primary difference is the strategy adopted by the dog. Defensively aggressive dogs are still motivated by fear, but instead of trying to retreat, they decide that the best defense is a good offense. Dogs who are defensively aggressive exhibit a mixture of fearful and offensive postures. They may initially charge at a person or another dog who frightens them, barking and growling. Regardless of whether the victim freezes or advances, the defensively aggressive dog often delivers the first strike. Only if the victim retreats is the defensively aggressive dog likely to abort an attack. Male and female dogs are equally prone to defensive aggression. It’s slightly more common in adults than in puppies simply because dogs need to have some confidence to use this defensive strategy, and puppies are usually less confident than adults.


Social Aggression

A dog who perceives herself as high in status may show aggression toward family members.

Animals who live in social groups, like people and dogs, typically live by certain rules in order to minimize conflict between group members. Canid species, including the dog, adopt a type of hierarchical order that influences which group members get first crack at food, the best resting spots and opportunities to mate. So rather than having to fight for access to valued things each and every time, those lower down on the totem pole know to wait until the higher-ups have had their share before taking their turn. These ordered relationships are frequently reinforced by displays of ritualized aggression. Individuals of high status use aggressive threats to remind the others of their place in the pack. The relationships between people and dogs who live together are certainly more complex than this simplified description, but it’s still important to know that a dog who perceives herself as high in status may show aggression toward family members. (This kind of behavior is sometimes called dominance or status-seeking aggression). This is why a dog might be perfectly trustworthy with one pet parent but react aggressively toward the other or toward young children in the family. Such dogs are often described as “Jekyll and Hyde” because, most of the time, they’re happy-go-lucky, friendly dogs. But if they feel that someone in the pack has overstepped his or her bounds, these dogs can quickly resort to aggression. An aggressive response is usually provoked by things that a dog perceives as threatening or unpleasant, such as:

  • Taking food away

  • Taking a chew bone, toy or stolen object away

  • Disturbing the dog while she’s sleeping

  • Physically moving the dog while she’s resting

  • Hugging or kissing the dog

  • Bending or reaching over the dog

  • Manipulating the dog into a submissive posture (a down or a belly-up position)

  • Lifting or trying to pick up the dog

  • Holding the dog back from something she wants

  • Grooming, bathing, towelling or wiping the dog’s face

  • Touching the dog’s ears or feet

  • Trimming the dog’s nails

  • Jerking or pulling on the dog’s leash, handling her collar or putting on a harness

  • Verbally scolding the dog

  • Threatening the dog with a pointed finger or rolled-up newspaper

  • Hitting or trying to hit the dog

  • Going through a door at same time as the dog or bumping into the dog

Social aggression is somewhat more common in males than in females and more common in purebreds than in mixed breeds. Puppies are rarely socially aggressive with people, but they can be with other dogs, particularly littermates. Social aggression usually develops in dogs between one to three years of age.

It’s important to realize that the complexities involved in social aggression are poorly understood and hotly debated by behavior experts. Some believe that all social aggression is rooted in fear and anxiety, while others believe that it’s motivated by anger and the desire for control. When consulting a professional, make sure you’re comfortable with her treatment recommendations. If the professional’s suggestions consist of techniques for instilling fear and respect in your dog, such as alpha rolls, scruff shakes and hanging, there’s a very good chance that your dog will get worse rather than better—and you might get bitten in the process. Punishment may be appropriate, but only when it’s well planned and limited in application. The judicious use of punishment should always be embedded in a program that’s based on positive reinforcement and trust.

Frustration-Elicited Aggression

A dog who’s excited or aroused by something but is held back from approaching it can become aggressive.

Dogs can be like human children in that when they get frustrated, they sometimes lash out with aggression. A dog who’s excited or aroused by something but is held back from approaching it can become aggressive, particularly toward the person or thing holding her back. For instance, a frustrated dog might turn around and bite at her leash or bite at the hand holding her leash or collar. Over time, the dog can learn to associate restraint with feelings of frustration so that even when there’s nothing to be excited about, she tends to react aggressively when restrained. This explains why some normally friendly dogs become aggressive when put behind a gate, in a cage or crate, in a car, or on a leash. Likewise, a dog who loves people can still show surprising levels of aggression when her pet parent lifts her up so that guests can enter or leave the home. Male and female dogs are equally prone to frustration-elicited aggression, and this type of aggression occurs in both puppies and adults.


Redirected Aggression

Redirected aggression occurs when a dog is aroused by or displays aggression toward a person or animal, and someone else interferes.

Redirected aggression is a lot like frustration-elicited aggression with the exception that the dog need not be frustrated. Redirected aggression occurs when a dog is aroused by or displays aggression toward a person or animal, and someone else interferes. The dog redirects her aggression from the source that triggered it to the person or animal who has interfered. This is why people are often bitten when they try to break up dog fights. When a person grabs or pushes a fighting dog, the dog might suddenly turn and bite. Another example is when two dogs are barking at someone from behind a fence. Sometimes one will turn and attack the other. Male and female dogs are equally prone to redirected aggression, and this type of aggression occurs in both puppies and adults.


Pain-Elicited Aggression

An otherwise gentle, friendly dog can behave aggressively when in pain.

An otherwise gentle, friendly dog can behave aggressively when in pain. That’s why it’s so crucial to take precautions when handling an injured dog, even if she’s your own. A dog with a painful orthopedic condition or an infection might bite with little warning, even if the reason you’re touching her is to treat her. The improper use of certain pieces of training equipment, such as the pinch (or prong) collar or the shock collar, can inflict pain on a dog and prompt a pain-elicited bite to her pet parent. Male and female dogs are equally prone to pain-elicited aggression, and this type of aggression can occur in both puppies and adults.


Sex-Related Aggression

Intact male dogs will still vie for the attention of females in heat, and females will still compete for access to a male.

Even though pet dogs rarely have the opportunity to reproduce, intact male dogs will still vie for the attention of females in heat, and females will still compete for access to a male. Intact male dogs sometimes challenge and fight with other male dogs, even when no females are present. Fighting can also erupt between males living together in the same household. In the wild, this is adaptive because the strongest males are more likely to attract females for breeding. Likewise, females living together in the same household might compete to establish which female gets access to a male for breeding. This type of aggression is rare. It’s observed most often in reproductively intact males and less often in intact females. Dogs who were neutered or spayed as adults may still show this type of aggression. If sex-related aggression happens, the dogs involved are usually at least one to three years of age.


Predatory Aggression

Some pet dogs show classic canine predatory behaviors, including chasing and grabbing fast-moving things.

Dogs are closely related to wolves and coyotes, both of whom are large predators, and pet dogs still show some classic canine predatory behaviors, including chasing and grabbing fast-moving things. Many dogs love to chase running people, people on bicycles and inline skates, and cars. They might also chase pets, wildlife and livestock. Some dogs bite and even kill if they manage to catch the thing they’re chasing. Predatory aggression is very different from other classifications of aggression because there’s rarely any warning before an attack. A predatory dog doesn’t growl or show her teeth first to warn her victim, so predatory aggression can seem to come out of the blue. Predatory behavior can be especially disturbing if it’s directed toward a human baby. Sometimes the sound of a baby crying or the movement of lifting a baby out of a crib can trigger a lightening-fast reaction from a predatory dog. Fortunately, predatory aggression directed toward people or other dogs is extremely rare in pet dogs.


Family Members, Strangers or Other Animals

Determining whom your dog is aggressive toward is essential to understanding her behavior. It’s common for dogs to behave aggressively toward unfamiliar people. Some studies report that as many as 60 to 70% of all pet dogs bark threateningly at strangers and act unfriendly when around them. Aggression toward unfamiliar dogs is also widespread. It’s less common for dogs to direct aggression toward family members or other pets in the home. Most problematic are dogs who are aggressive toward children, especially children in the family. Not only is aggression toward children exceedingly difficult to treat because of safety concerns, the likelihood that a dog with this problem will ever become trustworthy is slim.

Some dogs are aggressive only to a certain category of people. A dog might be aggressive only with the veterinarian or groomer, or with the postal carrier, or with people in wheelchairs or individuals using canes and walkers. In some cases, it’s easy to limit a dog’s access to the people that upset her. For instance, if your short-haired dog dislikes the groomer, you can just groom her yourself at home. But in other cases, the targeted people are impossible to avoid. For example, if you have a dog who dislikes children and you live in a densely populated urban apartment building next to a preschool, it will be difficult to avoid exposing your dog to children.

Aggression toward people, aggression toward dogs and aggression toward other animals are relatively independent patterns of behavior. If your dog is aggressive toward other dogs, for example, that doesn’t mean she’s any more or less likely to be aggressive toward people.

Risk Factors

If you’re deciding whether to live with and treat your aggressive dog, there are several factors to consider because you, as the pet parent, are ultimately responsible for your dog’s behavior. These factors involve the level of risk in living with your dog and the likelihood of changing her behavior:

  • Size. Regardless of other factors, large dogs are more frightening and can inflict more damage than small dogs.

  • Age. Young dogs with an aggression problem are believed to be more malleable and easier to treat than older dogs.

  • Bite history. Dogs who have already bitten are a known risk and an insurance liability.

  • Severity. Dogs who stop their aggression at showing teeth, growling or snapping are significantly safer to live and work with than dogs who bite. Likewise, dogs who have delivered minor bruises, scratches and small punctures are less risky than dogs who have inflicted serious wounds.

  • Predictability. Dogs at the highest risk of being euthanized for aggression are those who give little or no warning before they bite and who are inconsistently, unpredictably aggressive. Dogs who give warning before they bite allow people and other animals time to retreat and avoid getting hurt. As counterintuitive as it might seem, it’s easier to live with a dog who always reacts aggressively when, for instance, every time you push him off the bed than a dog who does so only sporadically.

  • Targets. How often your dog is exposed to the targets of her aggression can affect how easy it is to manage and resolve her behavior. A dog who’s aggressive to strangers is relatively easy to control if you live in a rural environment with a securely fenced yard. A dog who’s aggressive to children can be managed if her pet parents are childless and have no friends or relatives with children. A dog who is aggressive to unfamiliar dogs poses little difficulty for pet parents who dislike dog parks and prefer to exercise their dog on isolated hiking trails. In contrast, living with a dog who has recurring ear infections and bites family members when they try to medicate her can be stressful and unpleasant.

  • Triggers. Are the circumstances that prompt your dog to behave aggressively easy or impossible to avoid? If your dog only guards her food while she’s eating, the solution is straightforward: Keep away from her while she’s eating. If no one can safely enter the kitchen when your dog’s there because she guards her empty food bowl in the cupboard, that’s another story. If your dog bites any stranger within reach, she’s a lot more dangerous than a dog who bites strangers only if they try to kiss her.

  • Ease of motivating your dog. The final consideration is how easy it is to motivate your dog during retraining. The safest and most effective way to treat an aggression problem is to implement behavior modification under the guidance of a qualified professional. Modifying a dog’s behavior involves rewarding her for good behavior—so you’ll likely be more successful if your dog enjoys praise, treats and toys. Dogs who aren’t particularly motivated by the usual rewards can be especially challenging to work with, and the likelihood of such a dog getting better is small.

Always Work with Your Veterinarian

Some aggressive dogs behave the way they do because of a medical condition or complication. In addition to acute painful conditions, dogs with orthopedic problems, thyroid abnormality, adrenal dysfunction, cognitive dysfunction, seizure disorders and sensory deficits can exhibit changes in irritability and aggression. Geriatric dogs can suffer confusion and insecurity, which may prompt aggressive behavior. Certain medications can alter mood and affect your dog’s susceptibility to aggression. Even diet has been implicated as a potential contributing factor. If your dog has an aggression problem, it’s crucial to take her to a veterinarian, before you do anything else, to rule out medical issues that could cause or worsen her behavior. If the veterinarian discovers a medical problem, you’ll need to work closely with her to give your dog the best chance at improving.


Always Work with a Professional Behavior Expert

Aggression can be a dangerous behavior problem. It’s complex to diagnose and can be tricky to treat. Many behavior modification techniques have detrimental effects if misapplied. Even highly experienced professionals get bitten from time to time, so living with and treating an aggressive dog is inherently risky. A qualified professional can develop a treatment plan customized to your dog’s temperament and your family’s unique situation, and she can coach you through its implementation. She can monitor your dog’s progress and make modifications to the plan as required. If appropriate, she can also help you decide when your dog’s quality of life is too poor or the risks of living with your dog are too high and euthanasia is warranted. Please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, to learn how to find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB), a veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) in your area. If you choose to employ a CPDT, be sure that the trainer is qualified to help you. Determine whether she has education and experience in treating canine aggression, as this expertise isn’t required for CPDT certification.


Can Aggression Be Cured?

Pet parents of aggressive dogs often ask whether they can ever be sure that their dog is “cured.” Taking into account the behavior modification techniques that affect aggression, our current understanding is that the incidence and frequency of some types of aggression can be reduced and sometimes eliminated. However, there’s no guarantee that an aggressive dog can be completely cured. In many cases, the only solution is to manage the problem by limiting a dog’s exposure to the situations, people or things that trigger her aggression. There’s always risk when dealing with an aggressive dog. Pet parents are responsible for their dogs’ behavior and must take precautions to ensure that no one’s harmed. Even if a dog has been well behaved for years, it’s not possible to predict when all the necessary circumstances might come together to create “the perfect storm” that triggers her aggression. Dogs who have a history of resorting to aggression as a way of dealing with stressful situations can fall back on that strategy. Pet parents of aggressive dogs should be prudent and always assume that their dog is NOT cured so that they never let down their guard.


Are Some Breeds More Aggressive Than Others?

It’s true that some breeds might be more likely to bite if we look at statistics gathered on biting and aggression. There are many reasons for this. One likely reason is that most dog breeds once served specific functions for humans. Some were highly prized for their guarding and protective tendencies, others for their hunting prowess, others for their fighting skills, and others for their “gameness” and tenacity. Even though pet dogs of these breeds rarely fulfill their original purposes these days, individuals still carry their ancestors’ DNA in their genes, which means that members of a particular breed might be predisposed to certain types of aggression. Despite this, it’s neither accurate nor wise to judge a dog by her breed. Far better predictors of aggressive behavior problems are a dog’s individual temperament and her history of interacting with people and other animals. You should always research breeds to be sure that the breed or breed mix you’re interested in is a good fit for you and your lifestyle. However, the best insurance policies against aggression problems are to select the best individual dog for you.



(“He” used here means “she” as well.)

Dogs are simply amazing creatures. In fact, it is said, “God did not create dogs, he already had one.” As paradoxical as that is, next to humans, dogs are a miracle of creation. The dog was created with a propensity to humans. They truly are “man’s creatures.” Of course, we want to be careful not to anthropomorphize too much. The dog is still an animal with animal traits. They are not humans is fur. The dog needs to be properly trained. One phase of that training is walking the dog. In this short writing I want to focus on just walking the dog. I could write extensively on just my preface and hundreds of articles and books have already been written on these subjects. But walking the dog is a basic and needed function of our relationship.

Why walk the dog? If I have a back yard, why can’t the dog just run and get his exercise there? First, having a dog and letting the dog just get what “we” think he needs in the large or small back yard does not build his personality, nor does it build the human/dog relationship. The whole purpose of having a dog is to build a human/dog bond. If that is not your purpose, please don’t acquire a dog. It is not to either of you.

First, consider the dog. Is he afraid, easily frightened? Is your dog noise sensitive? Afraid of people or other dogs? Know these things about your dog. Don’t force your dog into situations he is not comfortable with. This means you might need to do some desensitizing work. If that is the case for your dog, then contact a good trainer. Make sure the trainer is “force-free” in his/her approach.

That being considered, let’s think about the proper equipment. Yes, you will need equipment. I know there are owners who want their dog to be so obedient that no leash is necessary. Well, this may give you pride or machismo, but it is neither wise nor safe. Remember, dogs are still dogs. If something is little and runs fast, it demands being chased. If something frightens the dog flight is instinctual. There is just too much danger lurking about to have my beloved dog unleashed and unprotected.

What is proper equipment? A regular collar. A martingale collar, properly fitted is acceptable. If it is a martingale, the collar should be drawn to a comfortable fit, never too tight and never used as a punisher. A fixed leash, preferably no longer than six (6) feet. Longer collars, starting out, are just too much length to handle comfortable for the owner. A waist attachment is also a consideration. If a harness is used, use the easy walker where the leash clips on the dog’s chest rather than on his back. The back-clip harness just encourages pulling as it triggers a reflexive action and gets the dog in trouble. The purchase of a Gentle Leader. This goes over the snout of the dog and provides the owner leadership of his head movements which provides less likelihood of the dog’s pulling. Some people might think the gentle leader is a muzzle, or that your dog is mean. You can easily correct this misinterpretation.


Never use a choke chain/slip collar. These collars hurt the dog’s neck and can cause damage to the trachea, the nerves in the neck and the human/animal bond.

I tell my clients, “If your wife will wear a choke chain for a week and allow you to use corrections for her talking or actions, and maintained a loving, respecting and trusting relationship, then I might discuss the choke chain.” Seriously, the choke chain is 1. Dangerous, 2. Will encourage aggression. If a trainer refutes these, do not use that trainer’s services. It is a through back to archaic training methods. Also, Pet stores recommend the slip collar. Clerks are generally uninformed and are there to sell what you want.

All the above also is true of prong collars. Slip collars and prong collars are designed to inflict pain, pure and simple. As is the shock collars. Never use ANY of these on your dog. They are inhumane and serve no positive, loving purpose. As far as I am concerned, these are in line with the thinking of Rene Descartes of the 17th century. Read about his thinking on dogs and pain.

Don’t use expandable leashes.

Who Qualifies for a Service Dog

Who Qualifies for a Service Dog


To be eligible for a service dog, an individual must:

  • Be at least 12 years of age unless service dog is needed for a child with autism (see below)

  • Have a diagnosed physical disability, anxiety disorder such as PTSD, debilitating chronic illness, or neurological disorder affecting at least one limb

  • Reside in a stable home environment

  • Be physically and cognitively capable of participating in the process of training, up to one hour per day.

First, make sure your disability is stable. You are not ready to focus on caring for and training a service dog candidate until you are able to take care of yourself.
Second, you have a suitable physical, social and emotional environment for a dog and the ability to provide for a dog’s needs.
Third, make sure you have the right dog for the job!
Fourth, earn or raise the funds needed to care for your dog and train her to a professional level.
Fifth, create a support team to help you.

  • Be able to independently command and handle a service dog

  • Be able to meet the physical, emotional, and financial needs of a service dog

  • Have no other dog in the home (other animals as pets are permitted)


To be eligible for a service dog, a child with autism must:

  • Be 6-12 years old

  • Have no other dog in the home (other animals as pets are permitted)

  • Be enrolled in an ongoing education program

  • Be enrolled in a speech, physical, occupational or recreational therapy program

  • Have strong family support

  • Have a parent, guardian, or sibling over 18 who resides in the home trained as a facilitator

  • Have no other dog in the home (other animals as pets are permitted)





When Animal Talk receives a request to consider either finding a potential service dog or training the family pet for a specific service, we begin the process by telling the clients that any dog that Animal Talk certifies for service must first produce a letter from a physician somewhat like a prescription for medicine.

In other words, qualified physician who has treated a patient with a disability in the past 6 months in the field of the disability, stating that the patient has a specific disability and would benefit from an assistance from a service dog.  The physician’s letter must state exactly what specific tasks the dog is required to master to provide the needed assistance.

In the opinion of Animal Talk this letter from a physician, stating that someone has a disability and requires the specific services of a service or assistance dog is similar to someone who applies to social security for disability benefits.

This signed and dated letter (prescription) is presented along with the downloaded application form and submitted to Animal Talk for review. Animal Talk may possibly ask for follow-up information and determines the urgency of the service need, etc. and begins the process of training and if at all possible set up a meeting with the recipient and the dog to determine compatibility.

Not every dog is suitable for every recipient.



By: Jean Donaldson

Empathy 101

Imagine you live on a planet where the dominant species is far more intellectually sophisticated than human beings but often keeps humans as companion animals. They are called the Gorns. They communicate with each other via a complex combination of telepathy, eye movements and high-pitched squeaks, all completely unintelligible and unlearnable by humans, whose brains are prepared for verbal language acquisition only. What humans sometimes learn is the meaning of individual sounds repeated association with things of relevance to them. The Gorns and humans bond strongly but there are many Gorn rules that humans must try to assimilate with limited information and usually high stakes.

You are the lucky humans who lives with the Gorns in their dwelling. Many other humans are chained to small cabanas in the yard or kept in outdoor pens of varying size. They have become so socially starved that they cannot control their emotions when a Gorn goes near them. Because of this behavior, the Gorns agree that they could never be House-Humans. They are too excitable.

The dwelling you share with your Gorn family is filled with numerous water-filled porcelain bowls, complete with flushers. Every time you try to urinate in one, though, any nearby Gorn attacks you. You learn to only use the toilet when there are no Gorns present. Sometimes they come home and stuff your head down the toilet for no apparent reason. You hate this and start sucking up to the Gorns when they come home to try and stave this off but they view this as increasing evidence of your guilt.

You are also punished for watching videos, reading certain books, talking to other human beings, eating pizza or cheesecake, and writing letters. These are all considered behavior problems by the Gorns. To avoid going crazy, once again you wait until they are not around to try doing anything you wish to do. While they are around, you sit quietly, staring straight ahead. Because they witness this good behavior you are so obviously capable of, they attribute to “spite” the video watching and other transgressions that occur when you are alone. Obviously, you resent being left alone, they figure. You are walked several times a day and left crossword puzzle

books to do. You have never used them because you hate crosswords; the Gorns think you’re ignoring them out of revenge.

Worst of all, you like them. They are, after all often nice to you. But when you smile at them, they punish you, likewise for shaking hands. If you apologize, they punish you again. You have not seen another human since you were a small child. When you see one on the street you are curious, excited, and sometimes afraid. You really don’t know how to act. So, the Gorn you live with keeps you away from other humans. Your social skills never develop.

Finally, you are brought to “training” school. A large part of the training consists of having your air briefly cut off by a metal chain around your neck. They are sure you understand every squeak and telepathic communication they make because you sometimes get it right. You are guessing and hate the training. You feel pretty stressed out most of the time. One day, you see a Gorn approaching with a training collar in hand. You have PMS, a sore neck and you just don’t feel up to the baffling coercion about to ensue. You tell them in your sternest voice to please leave you alone and go away. The Gorns are shocked by this unprovoked aggressive behavior. They thought you had a good temperament.

They put you in one of their vehicles and take you for a drive. You watch the attractive planetary landscape going by and wonder where you are going. The vehicle stops and you are led into a building with the smell of human sweat and excrement. Humans are everywhere in small cages. Some are nervous, some depressed, most watch the goings on from their prisons. Your Gorns, with whom you have lived your entire life, hand you over to strangers who drag you to a small room. You are terrified and yell for your Gorn family to help you. They turn and walk out the door of the building. You are held down and given a lethal injection. It is, after all, the human way to do it.

This nightmarish world is the one inhabited by many dogs all the time. Virtually all natural dog behaviors – chewing, barking, rough play, chasing moving objects, eating food items within reach, jumping up to access faces, settling disputes with threat displays, establishing contact with strange dogs, guarding resources, leaning in to steady pressure against their necks, urinating on porous surfaces like carpets, defending themselves from perceived threat – are considered behavior problems. The rules that seem so obvious to us make absolutely no sense to dogs.

If someone tried to punish out behaviors, you knew were necessary for maintaining your well-being or earning a living, would you cease doing them altogether or would you try to figure out when it was safe to do them and when it wasn’t safe? How would you feel about the punisher? What kind of credibility would they have? It is as inherently obvious to dogs that furniture, clothing and car interiors are good for chewing as it is inherently obvious to you that TV sets are good for watching. If I reprimand you for watching TV, your most likely course of action is simply watch TV when I’m not around. And you’re a large-brained, conscience-laden human.

We smart, moral beings do this kind of discriminating all the time. Take speeding on the highways. A lot of people get tickets. Wat’s the actual effect of this hefty punishment? An immediate suppression of the behavior: you slow down right after you get the ticket. You’re angry and upset. But what happens over the next few hours, days, and weeks? Most people start speeding again, although they will tell you that they fully understand that speeding is against the law, that it is potentially very dangerous, and they understand the penalty if they are caught. Those last four words are the key: if they are caught. What is typically obtained with punishment is finer discrimination: you get better at smelling out speed traps, at knowing where and when you can speed. This is the typical result obtained with punishment. We are subject to the laws of learning. So are dogs, but with less incentive from understanding the potential harm of their behavior. Dogs cannot have moral failings as they cannot knowingly act against the common good. They therefor never self-punish with guilt and self-recrimination as we do. This doesn’t make them morally inferior. It’s just how they are. We take far too personally phenomena that are simply products of animal learning laws.

Similarly, burning your mouth on pizza makes you check the temperature of the pizza next time before digging in but doesn’t stop you from it again. This is because pizza tastes good and you know this. An organism will always look for a way around the punishment to get the reinforcer if there is one. It’s useful in fact to think of punishments as obstacles to overcome on the way to reinforcement. Likewise, a dog will rarely find it “wrong” or quit cold turkey his habit of digging in the azaleas although he may learn it’s dangerous to do so when you’re there. What else could a flowerbed possibly be for, to a dog? Whenever you punish, you’re the cop giving out the speeding ticket to a not so sophisticated and amoral being who really wants and maybe even needs to speed. Oh, he’ll stop for a while if the fine is hefty, but he’ll sooner or later be back to speeding and he’ll be better at avoiding speed traps.


HUMAN                                      DOG

FURNITURE                              CHEW TOY

FOOTWEAR                              CHEW TOY

CAR                                             RETREATING OBJECT

CAR INTERIOR                        CHEW TOY

CARPET                                     TOILET

DOG FOOD                                FOOD

HORS D’OEUVRES                  FOOD

KLEENEXES                             FOOD

CELLO                                        CHEW TOY

BOOK                                          CHEW TOY

CAT                                             RETREATING OBJECT

SQUIRREL                                 RETREATING OBJECT

PLASTIC WRAP                       FOOD

HI-FI SPEAKERS                      CHEW TOY

ROCK                                          FOOD (LABRADOR)

Copied from:

The Culture Clash, by Jean Donaldson, Chapter Four “It’s All Chew Toys to Them”

Dog-on-Dog Aggression

Dog-on-Dog Aggression (DDA)

By Karen Fazio | For Inside Jersey

Witnessing a dog fight is frightening. It’s violent, loud and appears as though the dogs

Dogs becoming overly aroused during play can result in a dog fight.

involved are trying to kill each other. If you’re the owner of a dog that’s dog-aggressive you must have experienced or are currently experiencing how stressful simple events such as taking your dog for a walk can be. While it may appear as though the dog is trying to kill its adversary often most fights are little more than loud displays of aggressive posturing and they rarely result in serious injuries. When wounds are sustained the resulting injury is usually a lip or ear tear, or puncture wounds to the neck.

When a dog truly intends to kill another its actions are swift and death can occur in 15 seconds or less. Attacks intended to kill often are directed at the victim’s stomach in an effort to disembowel its victim or behind the head at the base of the neck in an effort to sever the spinal column, not necessarily in areas around the face or shoulders.

If you have a dog that’s dog-aggressive your first step in treatment would be to report the behavior to your veterinarian so they can rule out any medical issues. If none exists its recommended that you consult with a veterinarian behaviorist for help.


Assessing Injuries: A dog weighing 70 lbs or more has the ability to crush bone with a jaw that can deliver over 500-700lbs of pressure per square inch. German Shepherds, Rotties and Pits in excess of 700 lbs. Armed with such knowledge it’s helpful to know that even deep tears to the face, neck and shoulder wouldn’t be considered life threatening or those indicative of an intent to kill. However, any injury should be considered serious enough to get qualified help with the behavior.

When left to their own devices most fights – especially among males – will end with a clear victor and loser. The loser will walk away and avoid future conflicts with the victor. In most cases the victor allows the loser to retreat. This is not necessarily true in cases of female-on-female aggression which should be closely monitored and taken quite seriously since females have been known to kill each another. If you have a female-on-female aggression case, or any aggression issue for that matter, it’s important to get qualified help immediately.

The Neutering Debate:
DDA is more common among males, however, females fight too although it usually less common. The difference between the two sexes is that altercations among males often is nothing more than loud aggressive posturing displays and hardly anyone ever gets seriously injured. Females on the other hand may fight to the death – particularly if the two females know each other and have a history of fighting each other.

The most common type of altercation involves neutered males aggressing toward intact males. Neutered males smell like females. The scent of an intact male cause many neutered to react negatively toward them since intact males smell male. The scent of an intact male can cause tensions to rise even before the two dogs engage each other because intact males retain the ability to mate and give of the scent of male, which can be considered a threat to neutered males.

While neutering isn’t known to affect the behavior or personality of the dog it can have a profound impact on the way neutered males perceive their intact counterparts. On the medical side there are many benefits such as longer life spans because neutering may help to reduce the risk of some cancers, particularly testicular cancer, mammary cancer (males & females) and pyometra – a life threatening uterine infection. Spaying a female does not have the same effect on reducing DDA as it does with males, although it does have the same health benefits.

Common Causes of DDA: Most dogs squabble over valued resources such as mating rights, food, territory and a safe place to sleep and rear young. Altercations among males is more common when females are present. In fact, in all-male groups they fight less when females are absent. This holds true in most species including lab mice and rats.

One of the most common causes of DDA is lack of appropriate social interaction with conspecifics (members of its own species) during a puppy’s socialization period. Pups not exposed to all sizes, shapes and ages of polite, well-behaved dogs before 12-weeks of age have a greater chance of developing social issues with conspecifics when they mature. Similarly, pups who’ve experienced a traumatic event in the presence of other dogs can be a contributing factor.

Inappropriate play interactions with conspecifics during puppyhood and early adolescence also play a substantial role. Rough play with over-the-top adolescents and adult dogs – or even at the hands of humans – may contribute toward elevated levels of stress/ hyperactivity and can affect the dog’s nervous system for the rest of its life. Rough play has also been blamed for ‘play deficits’, a term coined by behaviorist Jean Donaldson.

There’s compelling scientific evidence that adverse social experiences and resulting stress levels can cause permanent damage to neuro-connectors in the hyppocampus of the brain – the area responsible for storing good and bad memories. Such damage also negatively effects learning and social skills.

To avoid altercations or affect positive change in a DDA case it’s always best to be proactive by socializing the dog early in life with well-behaved, gentle dogs (and gentle humans), neuter the dog and make sure play is polite and gentle during its socialization period as well as throughout its life.

Prevention: When I work on a DDA case careful attention is focused on the dog’s past experiences. This history-taking helps narrow down possible causes/triggers and may reveal exactly where and when the behavior started. This information is helpful because training success often is influenced by the length of time a dog has been suffering.

However, no matter how compelling a dog’s history may be the most important task is changing the dog’s behavior going forward. On that end prevention and management plays a key role in the training process. This means the owner must make every effort to prevent future altercations. In almost every case I work with owners report multiple encounters, some as many as several times per week. It’s critical to the dog’s re-learning process to make every effort to keep the dog calm (and safe) by avoiding such encounters.

This can mean walking the other way when a dog is approaching; running away; walking the dog during off hours when other owners are not out walking their dogs; providing appropriate confinement so the dog does not escape through an open gate or jump over a low fence; fitting the dog with a harness such as the Easy Walk no pull front clip harness; fit the dog with a head halter such as the Halti; scanning the environment for other dogs; asking individuals who are out walking their dogs if they don’t mind staying put while you get your dog to a safer area and more. In short, the owner will become the point man, the look-out guy who keeps an eye out for possible danger and work toward avoiding it. While calling to a stranger, “Hey! My dog is aggressive toward other dogs. Could you just stay right there while I get him out of here?” may be a bit embarrassing for some, I’ve never heard anyone on the other end complaining. In fact, most people say thank you. I know your dog will thank you.

Repeated encounters can create elevated corticotropin (fear hormone) levels. Most often it takes nearly 48 hours for elevated levels to stabilize. This may explain why some dogs become hyperactive or destructive 1-2 days following a thunderstorm, or why fights seem to closely follow another. If your dog appears to get into one altercation after another these elevated corticotropin levels may be a contributing factor. This is why it’s so important to avoid future encounters.

Environment: Environmental triggers (or antecedents) play a huge role in how your dog reacts toward or in relation to certain objects and areas. For example, if most fights occurred while on-leash, anxiety or hyperactivity may begin surfacing the moment you pick up a leash. Often this hyperactivity is misinterpreted as happiness when a dog is actually experiencing a tremendous amount of stress-related excitement. Such excitement can quickly teeter over into aggression. An example is two hyperactive dogs playing together in a dog park and who chase each other to the point of exhaustion or roll each other and engage in over-the-top dominance rituals. Often these are the dogs that end up in a fight at some point during the session.

Other environmental factors may be related to traumatic events that took place a certain locations. For instance my German Shepherd becomes hypervigilant the closer we get to a certain baseball field near our house – the site of his last altercation two winters ago.

Human Body Language: The owner should learn to concentrate on their behavior. Are there particular areas where you get stressed while walking your dog? Do you panic or start to lose patience in specific areas of your town or street? When you see another dog? Quite often our own behavior negatively affects our animal.

Pack Mentality Myth: There are some trainers and animal enthusiasts who place great emphasis on “pack leadership” and “pack mentality.” In order to truly understand what such terms mean we must first learn a bit about canine social structures as it pertains to our pet dogs.

As a general rule domestic dogs or even feral dogs don’t have complex social structures or hierarchies such as those observed in their wolf cousins. In observations of free roaming dogs, particularly in a 1989 study (Daniels and Bekoff) of over 154 free-roaming dogs in Newark, New Jersey, compelling evidence supported the hypothesis that even free-roaming dogs lack organized or complex social structures – or what some may term “pack mentality.”

The term pack mentality is an impressive term, but it’s also quite vague. And the term has nothing to do with humans. I’m waiting for a study involving feral humans and dogs to be published. When that scientific paper is available perhaps we can use the term pack mentality to describe how dogs view their relationships with their pack-humans. The word mentality means “character or disposition,” so when someone uses the term pack mentality to describe how the dog interacts with humans the term lacks any observable information pertaining to actual leadership skills and everything to do with the overall emotional state of a group of dogs. In my opinion, the term pack mentality is an impressive, colorful and imaginative term, but it lacks little scientific evidence it even exists.

What such individuals may be trying to convey – and rather poorly – is the concept of leadership, which has nothing at all to do with pack mentality (disposition or character).

Recently a woman asked me how could she go about teaching her dog that her baby is the pack leader. I’m thinking dogs don’t have complex pack structures, the child is not a dog, doesn’t look like a dog, smell like a dog, act like a dog, play like a dog, communicate like a dog, doesn’t compete for the same resources as a dog…. When I asked to see how she was trying to achieve it now she poked the dog in the neck (for no reason). She along with countless others have been mislead into thinking that humans must act like dogs or use scary tactics in order to convey the concept of leadership. Complete hogwash!

Dogs respond to the individual who controls the good stuff such as treats, food, toys, etc. Period. If you’re looking to establish what we call “leadership” you can easily do so by controlling valued resources and having your dog work for them (reward-based training). Also, you establish leadership by setting up boundaries and rules. When you control the good stuff your dog will look to you for what happens next. Some may call this leadership. I call it a smart dog who learns how to get the good stuff… usually with the least bit of energy output.

In human homes there are many resource-controllers and those roles change constantly. Depending on the time of day these individuals can be switched with another. My husband is disabled and stays at home. I’m the one responsible for making the dogs work before taking them for walks and feeding them. For those two things I can get my dogs to do quantum physics. It doesn’t matter if my husband calls them to him, it doesn’t matter if he grabs a squeaker toy to distract them – they only have one goal: to get me to walk them and give them the good stuff. When I leave, however, my husband controls the good stuff. When I walk through the door at night resource-control roles change again.

Another pack mentality myth is that the pack leader walks in front. Really? It does? Take any two dogs for a walk at one time and its easy to see there is no strict protocol between the two in regards to who is out front, unless you have a mushing team. This protocol is equally as weak in free-roaming dogs unless a female is in heat. The concept that a dog has to walk on your left side while making eye contact with you (heel) was developed by humans to keep the dog from being distracted by its environment, not because it lowers its status. In fact all forms of training iare human inventions.

Learning patience at doorways should be included in training to help the dog learn how to control itself when excited and so it doesn’t dart out the door and get hit by a car, not because there’s a hierarchical battle taking place. My dogs always walk out of the door first, but I taught them to be polite enough to wait for me until we can descend the stairs of my porch to walk.

Generalizing: If the dog’s level of aggression has been escalating over time toward a particular size/color of dog and it begins bleeding out to other breeds there’s a pretty good chance the dog has begun to generalize its fear. While dogs are poor generalizers when it comes to figuring out what we want from them they are exceptional at generalizing fear. For example, a dog who was bitten by a small white dog during adolescence may begin reacting toward blowing white bags in the street when it’s an adult. Similarly, one who experienced multiple encounters by a dog on leash may begin to aggress toward strollers or other moving objects that are connected to a human by a tether of some sort.

Set Goals: Set realistic goals and establish short-, mid-, and long-range goals. For example, John’s long range goal is he wants Rover to play with familiar dogs. There’s a very good chance Rover may develop enough skills to play with familiar dogs, but that may not be feasible until two or more years from now. Rover will first need to achieve short-term goals such as walking calmly in the neighborhood without becoming hysterical when he sees a dog two blocks away (short-term goal); Then work toward the point where he can focus on his owner or a task such as touch while walking past dogs that are less than a block away (mid-range goal); Then to teaching him how to come to his owner or walk away when he’s getting stressed when interacting with a familiar dog (long-range goal). There are many steps in between. Many goals and none of them should ever be rushed.

Learn Dog Language/Practice New Skills: There is no miracle cure for DODA. Working with such behavior takes time. You will have to work toward very small victories and build on those until larger ones can be achieved. As far as I’m concerned, I feel learning canine body language is vital to training success in so many areas. I’m not saying you need to get a PhD in ethology or evolutionary biology, but learning some basic body language signals can go a long way in understanding your dog’s emotional state. A behaviorist or knowledgeable professional dog trainer can help you gain these skills or you can teach yourself by reading books by experts such as Stanley Coren, Patricia McConnell, Turid Rugaas and Roger Abrantes.

Even when a dog appears to spontaneously engage in fighting there are clear warning/calming signals he may be sending out indicating elevated stress levels long before he reacts. Such signals may be as subtle as licking the lips, a head turn, ear twitch, yawning or sniffing the ground. Having knowledge of what to look for can arm you with knowledge that can go a long way in helping to prevent encounters and help you rebuild some of the trust that may have been lost in your relationship.

Establish the Dog’s Threshold: When trying to predict when your dog will react it’s helpful to establish its threshold as a starting point for retraining. Threshold is the point of reactivity – the point where the dog reacts. When working on cases it’s imperative to keep the dog below threshold at all times and systematically increase its tolerance to stressful stimuli while it’s experiencing something pleasant. As an owner you play a vital role in keeping your dog below threshold by observing his body language. This may provide you with clues to your dog’s emotional state.

Types of Training: Your trainer may choose several techniques to work with your dog. If they have experience with stressed dogs they likely will rely on two powerful learning techniques: classical conditioning (or Pavlovian conditioning), which is pairing a pleasant experience/sensation with something fearful; and operant conditioning (B.F. Skinner) which is based on the concept that every action has a consequence. This particular form of learning is the central core of clicker training. In all positive training techniques desirable behaviors reap positive rewards and negative behaviors get nothing.

One form of training to avoid is one involving harsh corrections and physical punishments. Such types of adverse consequences can make aggression worse, especially if the aggression is fear-related. Another to avoid is flooding. Flooding is a term used to describe forcing an individual to face its fears until it surrenders. An example would be forcing a person who’s terrified of spiders to lay strapped to a table (no escape) as spiders are poured on top of their body. They will panic, scream, fight, cry, beg it to stop, seem to give in then fight once more (extinction burst) and then finally shut down (learned helplessness). This technique has been surprisingly successful on humans, but is usually a miserable disaster when used on canines and other non-primates.

Helpful Tips: The keys to success in helping a dog-aggressive dog are multi-faceted and include the ability to read canine body language, keeping a dog below threshold, actively practicing avoidance techniques and working to change the dog’s emotional state as it relates to other dogs. One technique I’m in love with is called behavior adjustment training (BAT), which was pioneered by Griesha Stewart in 2009. BAT uses retreat and avoidance of scary things as a reward when a dog offers calming and cut-off signals, such as ground-sniffing, head turns, lip licking and other signals.

Before you engage in any training program it’s vital to rely on an experienced professional for advice and guidance so you don’t make mistakes that can cause the dog to get worse. You should look for an individual who understands the science of learning and who can teach you new skill sets for working with your dog through positively-based methods.



James Turner


I write this from the perspective of a pastor of 40 years, and a therapist having been in private practice for 20 years. When I retired these careers, I went back to school to become a Certified Animal Behaviorist. With this brief background I am qualified to address those who look at a dog or have a dog as a pet and, for whatever reason, conclude, “It’s just a dog.”

My work is with dogs. As a behaviorist I specialize in rehabilitating very aggressive dogs and training various categories of Service Dogs for people with special needs. I think I am qualified to address this, “It’s just a dog” mentality.

Let me begin with our story. My wife’s service dog was a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard. We named her with the beautiful name, Nekayah. We got her at 8 weeks old and she was trained as a Hearing-Impaired Service Dog. She learned all her tasks, about 7 different buzzers in the house she was to alert to, each being a different sound. She was never wrong. She was perfect in her outdoor and traffic alerts. Twice she protected Linda from serious injury as she would have stepped in front of an on-coming car. One time she jumped into Linda, pushing her out of harms way, then stood between her and the on-coming car. I might mention, this “just a dog” was never specifically trained for that behavior. Mmm? That could suggest Nekayah was a thinking dog that could assess a situation, conclude the danger, and act protectively. To me, that suggests a fairly high level of cognition.

Nekayah, for 11 years, was a perfect Service Dog. Her last 6 months was a slow deterioration due to kidney failure. The loss of Nekayah on Good Friday of this year was a traumatic loss. Her death was our Katrina. Emily Dickenson wrote, “There are those storms that lay the trees low.” This was one of those storms that brought us to our knees. Here it is, more than two months, and we still cry every day. She had been with us every day, 24 hours, and always on duty. She would go outside for potty breaks and come right back in. If she was playing outside with another dog, she took self-breaks (Mmm. I think that is thinking and concluding), run in, check on us and go back out. If she was playing outside and heard a buzzer, in she came, through her doggy door, to make her alert. If in the house, sleeping, she never failed to jump up or off the couch and run to alert, then she would go back to lie down. Nekayah went to every store and every restaurant with us. She knew every Rest Stop between Muncie and Iowa, Muncie and Columbus, Ohio. There is no place we can go that she is not there, in the car, between us or beside me. She was always tuned in. Her abilities and her forward thinking was uncanny, mysterious, unexplainable.

So, with that little bit of history, you can better understand where I am coming from as I write this. To be honest with whoever reads this, I am a bit indignant and offended when I hear individuals make the thoughtless comment, “It’s just a dog.” If one thinks, “it’s just a dog,” he or she will probably understand phrases like “he’s just a friend,” “she’s just a wife,” “it’s just a baby,” or “it’s just a promise.” This “just a dog” brought into our lives the devoted friendship, trust, and pure, unconditional love every human needs to experience. Waking up to this “just a dog” was a daily joy as was her waking up to us.

I wonder if these “just a dog’ people ever really looked at a dog beyond its biology. Some turn to what Alexandra Horowitz describes as, “unsympathetic biology, free from subjectivity or such messy considerations as consciousness, preferences, sentiment, or personal experiences.” Have these persons ever been the recipient of the unconditional love that the dog bestows on its owner? I don’t mean “owner” in the sense that the dog is property. I mean “owner” in the sense of a responsible caregiver. The dog doesn’t care about one’s handicap, inabilities or for that matter, if one is uneducated or a doctor. Ethnicity matters not, income is immaterial and how one looks is insignificant. Dogs are equal opportunity beings. The capacity to love, for a dog, far exceeds the human reservoir. To a soldier far from home, alone, lonely, the dog is something real that helps ground him from sinking into despair. There are those who will say a dog hasn’t the capacity to love. It just acts out of instincts. But that is not true. These simply do not know what they are talking about. Because a dog’s brain is developed closely to the human brain scientists have placed electrodes on those areas of the brain that express feelings and affection. When tested they found the responses of the dog are similar to the responses of a human. Dogs do feel, express affection and love. In fact, there are those children and adults, because of the deprivation in their lives, are unable to trust giving or receiving love. In my field, the field of psychology, we call this an attachment disorder. One of the most successful treatments for these individuals is to bring a dog, specially trained, into the healing process with remarkable success, overcoming the deprivations of childhood. I’ll wager, to these people, it is not “just a dog.” I have treated many with PTSD and I have trained dogs as PTSD Service Dogs. I have been on both ends of this spectrum and I can tell you, those who deal every day with PTSD will never say of their Service Dog, “It’s just a dog.” As a therapist I often wonder how shriveled one’s life must be, how impoverished one’s soul must be when they see the impact dogs have on the lives of children and adults with special needs, often their own children, and still say, “It’s just a dog.” I actually have pathos for them, because I think it indicates one’s inability to form deep bonds, certainly not deep bonds with that which is or has saved the emotional, often the physical, life of their own child, family member or friend.

The dog is the most amazing creature next to humans that God created. One person said, “God didn’t create the dog. He already had one.” (That one will drive a theologian crazy.) I won’t even talk about the one noting, “God spelled backwards…” But, there is no other animal next to man that has the capacity to bond with, love, and protect its human partner. No other animal has been able to be fully domesticated. None. It is as though God wanted something to be on earth that could give to us pure love, the pure love He has for us (“on earth as it is in heaven”). The capacity of a dog to forgive is only rivaled by the forgiveness Christ offers us. Proverbs 12:10 states this, “A righteous man regards the life of his animal:”

When someone says, “It’s just a dog.” What does that mean anyway? It is a dog. That’s not insightful. What do they mean? “Just” is an adverb that, in this context, is meant in a diminutive sense. “It’s just an old cup.” It isn’t worth much. It’s of little value. Do people really believe that? Now, a person may not be a dog person. I don’t expect people to be like me, but to diminish something that is meaningful to another, or something that has saved another’s life, seems to be callous at best, cruel at worst. People who love their pet dog and special needs people with a Service Dog cannot imagine life without that dog. Their dog holds all that person’s feelings and secrets in the strictest confidence. Their deepest feelings and love have been poured into their dog. That dog has loved them at their best and their worst. A person never considers him/her as “just a dog.” One can never let go easily of something that, to him or her, has been all of this and more. The grief is deep, often overwhelming. We in the field of psychology know losing a pet can be akin to losing a child. For the special needs person with a Service Dog it is like an amputation. The loss is catastrophic, and the inner healing can take months, even years. It would be and is unfeeling to say to this person, “It’s just a dog.” Please, if this is what you have to say, don’t say anything.

Dogs have consciousness, they are self-aware, they are other-aware. They don’t speak audible words, but neither do deaf-mutes, but they do have a language. (I am fluent in sign language.) However, dogs also have a language and do speak if we will take time and develop the skills to interpret their language, as I did in the language of the deaf. Dogs have feelings, they can think, and they can act on those  accordingly. Dogs are great judges of people and their intent. I always trusted Nekayah in what she was telling me about a stranger nearby. Only one-time in her life did she growl at a person nearby. I removed her and myself not knowing what that person had in mind. Stupid? No. Smart. I know Nekayah was not a person in fur, but she was every bit as feeling, smart, loyal and loving as any person in my life.

I close with this. If you think a wife is “just a wife,” please don’t get married. You’ll both be miserable. If you think a dog is “just a dog,” please don’t do a dog the injustice of getting one. A dog is called man’s best friend for a reason. No friend can be a friend if he is “just a friend.” At least, I couldn’t.


Behavior that is meant to intimidate or injure an animal of the same species, or of a competing species.
  1. Fear Aggression:
The majority of aggressive behavior stems from fear.
Poor socialization or no socialization in the critical stages of development (the first 5 months of a puppy’s life) will frequently result in a dog that becomes anxious or fearful around unfamiliar people or dogs. Dogs learn that growling and/or barking is an effective way of making “scary” people or “scary” dogs “go away.” If these warning signs are dismissed the dog may attempt to communicate in a less subtle manner, by a snap in the air or delivering a direct bite.
  1. Genetic Predisposition:
Some dogs are hard-wired to actively control or guard their environment, it’s in their lineage. If these “working dogs” are not given a clear job description, they will be quick to create their own, Dogs commonly guard property, socially significant space, (couches, beds, doorway thresholds are hot spots) people, food and/or toys. It is also quite common for dogs to attempt to control movement or interaction between people and/or dogs.
  1. The Use of Harsh Correction Training:
Owner directed aggression or aggression to other people or animals can result when dogs are trained with force and/or intimidation methods. Some dogs are programmed to match force with force and will not “submit” when a person addresses the dog in an aggressive manner. These dogs will bare their teeth or bite in anticipation of being verbally or physically reprimanded. (This is also an unintended consequence of the Invisible Fence).
Correcting the dog (verbally or physically) could have three dangerous pit falls:
  1. It could intensify the dog’s aggressive behavior.
  2. It could reinforce the dog’s fear that “bad things” happen when people approach him while he is in possession of a valued resource.
  3. It could suppress the symptoms (i.e. growling or other stages on the hierarchy bite scale) but increase the underlying stress. Resulting in a dog bite “without warning.”
The best treatment is to condition the dog to have positive associations with people’s presence while he is in possession of a valued resource. With the right training plan, you can teach dogs to drop valued items on cue in the process build stronger communication and trust.
  1. Chronic Stress:
High stress levels, and subsequent aggression, can result from any significant changes in a dog’s day routine. This can include moving, major construction in or around the house, the addition of a new dog or human baby, or the loss of a loved family member.
  1. Medical Issues:
Physical pain, arthritis, skin irritation, chronic infections or thyroid dysfunction can bring out aggressive behavior in the most placid dogs. Consulting with a veterinarian for a thorough physical exam is an important first step to determine whether medical issues are a contributing factor to aggressive behavior.
DO: Respect Warning Signs of Aggression
Dogs cannot speak. Growling and barking is their way to express discomfort. If you feel your dog is expressing discomfort, neutralize the situation by using non-threatening body language. Give the dog space. Avoid approaching or forcing unwanted interaction.
DON’T: Correct Warning Signs of Aggression
Growling and barking is a symptom and expression of stress. If we correct a dog for growling or barking, we are only removing the dog’s ability to communicate their discomfort. This creates a powder keg. The dog suppresses their discomfort until one day the dog is pushed beyond threshold or provocation point and delivers a serious bite. People often say, “the dog bit without warning.” This is because they were “trained” not to give warning.
  1. A wagging tail means a dog is friendly?
A wagging tail is an indication of arousal level. Sometimes dogs wag their tail when they are happy, and sometimes they wag their tail when they are in an aggressive state of mind.
  1. Petting a dog will show him or her that you are a friendly person?
The best way to make a fearful dog feel safe is to give him/her space. Use non-threatening body language and avoid extending your hand or making direct eye contact.
  1. If a dog is behaving in an aggressive manner, he/she must be trained using corrections-based training methods.
The best way to treat aggression is to work with a trainer that reinforces the dog for behavior that is incompatible with aggression and creates a controlled training environment that will allow you to systematically desensitize and counter-condition the dog to a stimulus that generates stress, anxiety or fear.
If your dog does not like to be petted or approached by unfamiliar people—advocate for your dog.




I am often asked about Choke (or slip) collars and Prong Collars. Often, I have someone call me as a Behaviorist to help them with their dog’s unwanted behaviors. Ouse with Fido?” ne of my initial questions is, “What is your dog’s name?” “What kind of collar do you


Often the client will tell me, “A slip collar.” I need you to know I do not work with choke chains or prong collars. I collect them.” “Really! Why not?” So, I have put some of my thoughts and scientific reasons I will not work with these medieval devices of punishment and torture.

Tongue-in-cheek I will tell the husband or wife, “Put a choker or prong collar on your mate for one week and jerk on it when you need hm or her to listen or respond, and if your relationship becomes stronger then I will allow it to be used on your dog.” They usually get the point.

I know Choke and prong collars are still popular with many dog owners and ill-informed dog trainers, as well as pet supply stores. They are generally made of metal chain material which tightens around a dog’s neck when the handler pulls or jerks back on the leash. Aversive trainers will often use choke and prong collars to perform ‘corrections’, essentially causing the dog pain any time he pulls on the leash or misbehaves.

While this type of training may stop the pulling or suppress a certain behavior at that particular moment, it does nothing to address the root of the dog’s issue. Leash corrections that are given on these collars exacerbate behavioral issues such as fear and aggression.

My bottom Line is that Choke, pinch and prong collars should be avoided in all cases. Although traditional trainers disagree with the science regarding this and they tend to point to their “Results?” I will not take the risk of injuring the dog, creating or exacerbating an aggression issue, or damaging the animal/human bond.

I will try to address this by attempting to answer some of the questions I am asked by my prospective clients as to why I feel these are potentially dangerous and damaging.

Why do you feel choke collars or prong collars are not safe?
Even if used without corrections, choke collars can still cause pain, discomfort, and injury to a dog’s neck, head and spinal cord. Here are a few scientifically established facts to consider.

  • If you feel your dog’s neck with your hands followed by your own neck, you will see how similar they are.

  • The trachea, esophagus, thyroid gland, lymph nodes, jugular vein, muscles and spinal column are all located in similar places.

  • The only difference between a dog and a human neck is that under the fur, a dog’s skin layer is only 3-5 cells thick, while the top layer of human skin is denser, 10-15 cells thick.

What kind of injuries can or do choke collars cause?

Most trainers have not studied the anatomy of the animals they work with. This is why a Certified Animal Behaviorist, or a Veterinary Behavioral Technician should be contacted to make sure one’s beloved animal is getting the best effective and safe treatment, which in fact, may require medication therapy as well as behavioral therapy.

The average dog owner does not realize the thyroid gland lies at the base of the neck just below the larynx close to where any collar sits. Just one yank can cause injury to a gland that controls many of the body’s vital functions.

  • Studies show that the gland gets severely traumatized whenever a dog pulls on the leash and becomes inflamed.

  • When this happens, it is ‘destroyed’ by the body’s own immune system which tries to remove the inflamed thyroid cells.

  • The destruction of these cells leads to hypothyroidism, which causes loss of energy, weight gain, skin problems, hair loss, ear infections and organ failure.

Consider this as well. Choke collars also affect other areas of the body including the eyes.

  • Another study reveals that when force is applied to the neck via a leash and a choke collar, pressure in the eyes is significantly increased.

  • This type of pressure can cause serious injury to dogs already suffering thin corneas, glaucoma, or eye injuries.

  • The same study was done with dogs that were wearing harnesses, which had no impact on eye pressure when force was applied.

I often ask clients or traditional trainers, “Do you know how prong collars work?”
Prong collars function similarly to choke collars, except they contain metal spikes on the inside that dig into and ‘pinch’ a dog’s neck if he pulls on the leash. Prong collar advocates believe that the ‘pinch’ action mimics the teeth of a mother dog grabbing a puppy’s neck during a correction.

There is no scientific evidence to back up this claim however, and it’s unlikely that dogs make a connection between the pinch of a collar and a correction given by a mother’s mouth, especially as no canine ‘mother’ is physically present. These trainers also claim this is how Wolves correct their pups. This has been totally debunked. Also, your dog is not a wolf and never will return to its wolf ancestry.

Can you give me some good reasons why prong collars should be avoided?
Dogs walked on prongs are also constantly subjected to pain and discomfort, which creates fear, anxiety and aggression on walks. Dogs that are already reactive on leash can become even more reactive due to frustration from collar discomfort.

  • A 1992 study of 400 dogs concluded that pulling and jerking on the leash (with any collar) is harmful to a dog’s neck and throat.1

  • One of the clearest correlations was between cervical (neck) damages and ‘jerk and pull’.

  • 91% of the dogs who had neck injuries had also been exposed to jerking on the lead by the owner or been allowed to pull hard on the lead for long periods of time.

If these collars cause pain, why does my dog still pull?
Dogs cannot or do not tell us when they are in pain. They put up with near strangulation because the drive to pull forward overrides the pain at that moment, but the after effects are serious and long lasting.

Are choke and prong collars humane if used properly?
Even though it is proven that choke and prong collars contribute to neck, back, and spinal injuries as well as other issues in dogs, there are many who still believe that if used correctly, these collars are humane and effective tools that cause no pain or harm. Really? As I said earlier, put them on your mate for one week then come back to me and tell me this. Also, what is “properly.” If one is angry “properly” will be different than “properly: when one is not angry. Properly is relative.

  • Depending on what your personal definition of humane is, it is hard to argue that if something has the potential to cause such damage it should not be considered humane or safe.

  • Any device that constricts around a neck, be it the neck of a human or canine, is dangerous and has the potential to do real harm.

  • Try applying a small amount of pressure to your neck and experience what a dog goes through when force is applied to any collar.

What other options do I have to stop my dog’s pulling?
There are more effective, gentle, and humane alternatives to using a choke or prong collar on your dog.

  • Find a great force-free, fear-free trainer to help you teach your dog to walk on a loose leash, to sit, to heal, or to leave-it without punishing or instilling fear in the dog.

  • But mine is a large breed dog.” Size is not an issue. I train horses in the same force-free, fear-free manner and always avoid aversive methods.

  • Consider a regular harness or a chest-led, no-pull harness such as the Positively No-Pull Harness or a Gentle Leader (similar to a bridal on a horse) to stop pulling without causing your dog pain or fear.

Avoid the “quick fixes” some trainers promise. I can make an animal do anything I want it to do, but I cannot “make” my animal love me. And if I use aversive methods to get the behaviors I want I can get the animal’s obedience, but I can guarantee you will not get its love





Dedicated dog lovers tend to be very kind people. We share our hearts and homes (and for some lucky pups, even the foot of our beds) with our canine pals. Surely there is nothing wrong with sharing our favorite foods with them too, right? Not necessarily. Many of the foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that humans digest just fine can wreak havoc on a dog’s body, causing severe health problems. On the other hand, some of the foods people eat can be introduced to a dog’s diet just fine, and even provide health benefits such as joint strength, better breath, and allergy immunity.

But before giving your dog foods that you crave, read on and learn which foods are safe and which can send your dog straight to the vet.

Human Foods


No, dogs shouldn’t eat almonds. Almonds may not necessarily be toxic to dogs like pecans, walnuts, and macadamia nuts are, but they can block the esophagus or even tear the windpipe if not chewed completely. Salted almonds are especially dangerous because they can increase water retention, which is potentially fatal to dogs prone to heart disease.

Why Almonds Are Bad for Dogs

While many dogs love the taste of almonds, consuming them can cause gastric intestinal distress. If your dog accidentally eats a few, be on the lookout for these symptoms:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Gas

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy

  • General discomfort

Almonds, like most nuts, are high in fat and can put your pup at risk of developing pancreatitis. It’s a serious condition that requires the attention of your veterinarian.

This snack also poses another dangerous problem: obstruction. Almonds can block your dog’s esophagus, intestines, or windpipe, especially in small breeds. These obstructions can be fatal if not treated, and they occasionally require surgery.

Flavored almonds come with unique risks. The spices and flavorings can irritate your dog’s stomach, and the salt in the seasoning can lead to water retention and salt toxicity if consumed in large quantities.


What to Do If Your Dog Eats Almonds

If your dog consumes one or two almonds, don’t panic. Instead, watch him carefully for signs of intestinal distress or obstruction. If your dog devours more than a few almonds, call your veterinarian or local emergency veterinarian for professional advice.


 Yes, dogs can eat bread. Small amounts of plain bread (no spices and definitely no raisins) won’t hurt your dog, but it also won’t provide any health benefits either. It has no nutritional value and can really pack on the carbohydrates and calories, just like in people. Homemade breads are a better option than store-bought, as bread from the grocery store typically contains unnecessary preservatives, but it’s best to avoid it all together.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen dogs eat sandwiches, slices, and even whole loaves of bread, and in one notable instance, an entire pack of English muffins. Bread makes up a large part of the American diet, and our dogs seem to get their fair share of it—but should they?

Is It Safe for Dogs to Eat Bread?

The short answer to the question “can dogs eat bread?” is yes. Dogs can safely eat bread in much the same way as humans—in moderation. Plain white and wheat bread is generally safe for dogs to eat, provided they don’t have any allergies, and it usually does not cause any stomach upset.

Feeding your dog bread as a treat now and then won’t hurt her, as long as she is also fed a complete and balanced diet and gets plenty of exercise. It also won’t help her. Bread is essentially a filler food and does not contain any nutrients that are not already supplied by your dog’s food. As anyone who has ever considered going on a diet knows, bread is full of carbs, which can put your dog on the path to obesity if you are not careful.

Risks of Feeding Bread to Dogs

The long answer to the question is a little more complicated. Bread itself is usually not toxic, but there are exceptions. Here is what you need to know about the risks of feeding bread to dogs to make sure your dog stays happy and healthy.

Dangerous Bread Dough

If you’ve ever made bread from scratch, then you know that dough has to rise, preferably in a warm, moist, draft-free environment. Unfortunately for dogs that are fed bread dough, their stomachs offer optimum conditions for rising dough.

The Merck Veterinary Manual lists bread dough as a food hazard for dogs. When a dog eats bread dough, the yeast in the dough continues to make the dough rise, distending his stomach and releasing toxic levels of ethanol into the dog’s bloodstream. The pressure of the rising dough can mimic and cause bloat, but the real danger is from the alcohol toxicosis. If your dog is fed bread dough or you suspect he has stolen bread dough, call your veterinarian immediately and look out for symptoms of alcohol toxicosis:

  • Depressed central nervous system

  • Weakness

  • Depression

  • Unsteady, drunken gait

  • Hypothermia

  • Seizures

  • Coma

Toxic Bread Ingredients

Unless your dog has an allergy to wheat, plain white or wheat bread probably won’t hurt her. Not all breads are as harmless. Some breads contain toxic ingredients that should never be fed to dogs.

The biggest danger comes from raisins. Raisins are highly toxic and are often found in breads and baked goods. Veterinarians don’t know why some dogs are more susceptible to raisins than others, but even a few raisins can cause problems. Raisin breads should be kept out of the reach of dogs at all times and should not be fed as a treat, even if the part you are feeding does not contain raisins.

Garlic is another ingredient found in bread that can be toxic to dogs. Garlic bread might tempt your dog’s nose, but garlic can cause serious side effects, like abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and collapse.

Some breads contain nuts and seeds, which appeal to humans for their flavor and health benefits, but can cause problems for dogs. The biggest nut danger is macadamia nuts, but even “safe” nuts and seeds can lead to stomach irritation and pancreatitis, thanks to their high fat content.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is growing in popularity. It is most commonly found in sugar-free chewing gum and, more recently, certain brands of peanut butter and baked goods. While harmless to humans, xylitol is toxic to dogs. If you feed your dog bread or baked goods on a regular basis, be sure to check the ingredients, and also double check your peanut butter ingredients before you share your peanut butter and (grape-free) jelly sandwich.

Is Bread Good for Dogs With Upset Stomachs?

You may have heard people tell you that bread is good for dogs with upset stomachs. While this may sometimes be the case, the Merck Veterinary Manual recommends feeding a bland diet of rice and boiled chicken for dogs with upset stomachs, or better yet, calling your veterinarian for expert advice.

As with any table scrap, bread adds calories to your dog’s diet. If your dog is overweight, talk to your veterinarian about moderating her diet and discuss a plan to keep her healthy, happy, and active. Bread packs a high glycemic punch and is high in calories, so feed your dog only very small pieces of bread at a time to avoid obesity-related diseases, like diabetes.

Cashews   Yes, dogs can eat cashews. Cashews are OK for dogs, but only a few at a time. They’ve got calcium, magnesium, antioxidants, and proteins, but while these nuts contain less fat than others, too many can lead to weight gain and other fat-related conditions. A few cashews here and there are a nice treat, but only if they’re unsalted.

Dogs can eat peanut butter, so we tend to assume that it is safe for them to eat peanuts and other nuts like cashews, too. This is not necessarily the case. Some nuts, like macadamia nuts, are toxic to dogs. Others, like cashews, are generally safe—as long as you follow a few basic guidelines.

Risks of Feeding Cashews to Dogs

While cashews are non-toxic, there are some risks associated with feeding these tasty nuts to our canine companions.

The most important thing owners should look out for when feeding a new treat to their dogs is the symptoms of an allergic reaction. These symptoms include swelling, itching, and hives. While the chances of your dog developing an allergic reaction to cashews is relatively low, knowing the symptoms of an allergic reaction is important when giving your dog any new treat for the first time.

Cashews are a high fat, high protein snack. This poses potential problems for dogs, if they are fed cashews in large numbers. High fat diets can lead to pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition that requires the immediate attention of a veterinarian.

Fatty foods also contribute to obesity. Regularly feeding foods like cashews to your dog increases your dog’s chances of gaining weight and developing obesity-related problems, such as diabetes and joint issues, and can even reduce your dog’s lifespan.

The largest risk comes from other nuts. Cashews are often sold in variety packs and containers, especially around the holiday season. This poses a health hazard for your dog, as some nuts, like

macadamia nuts, are very toxic. Nuts can also cause obstructions and choking hazards. This is especially problematic in small dogs, but larger nuts are dangerous for large breeds, as well.

Cashews are also usually salted. Excess salt can lead to salt toxicity, which causes vomiting, weakness, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and seizures.

The Verdict: Can Dogs Eat Cashews?

To make a long story short, yes, dogs can eat cashews, as long as they are roasted and not salted or seasoned in any way. They may not be the best snack for your pup, but a cashew now and then probably won’t hurt him.

If you decide to feed cashews to your dog, remember to offer them in very small quantities, and don’t feed cashews to dog on a regular basis. If you have more questions about feeding cashews or other human foods to your dog, talk to your veterinarian.

Cheese – Yes, dogs can eat cheese in small to moderate quantities. As long as your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, which is rare, but still possible in canines, cheese can be a great treat. Many kinds of cheese can be high in fat, so go for low-fat varieties like cottage cheese or mozzarella.

Very few dogs turn up their noses at an offering of cheese, but should we indulge their taste for dairy? Cheese contains protein, calcium, vitamin A, essential fatty acids, and B-complex vitamins, all of which play an important role in canine nutrition, but too much cheese can cause problems.

What Types of Cheese Should I Avoid Feeding My Dog?

Not all dogs digest cheese well. Fatty, rich cheeses, and cheeses that contain herbs or food items harmful to dogs like garlic can cause intestinal upset. And while cheese contains little lactose when compared to whole milk, dogs with severe cases of lactose intolerance may have adverse reactions to cheese, even in small quantities. Observe your dog closely for signs of intestinal upset after feeding her cheese for the first time, and consult your vet with any questions you may have about adding cheese to your dog’s diet.


What Types of Cheese Are Okay to Feed My Dog?

Some cheeses are better for dogs than others. Low-fat cheeses, such as mozzarella and cottage cheese, are healthier for your pet than cheeses with higher fat contents. When looking for cheese for your dog, seek out cottage cheeses and mozzarella cheeses that are low in sodium. Choosing lower fat and lower sodium cheeses can help reduce the risk of obesity and intestinal upset.


How Much Cheese Is Safe to Feed My Dog?

Cheese is safe for dogs in small-to-moderate quantities and can be a valuable training tool for treat-motivated dogs. It is also a good way to conceal pills for dogs that require medication. As you should when you consider feeding your dog any human food, talk to your vet about any risks associated with feeding cheese to your dog and about how cheese can affect your dog’s pre-existing health conditions.

Chocolate – No, dogs should not eat chocolate. This isn’t just an old wives’ tale. Chocolate contains very toxic substances called methylxanthines, which are stimulants that stop a dog’s metabolic process. Even just a little bit of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can cause diarrhea and vomiting. A large amount can cause seizures, irregular heart function, and even death. Do not have chocolate in an accessible location. If your dog does ingest chocolate, contact a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline as soon as possible

The rumors you’ve heard about chocolate are true. Chocolate might be your favorite treat, but it has deadly consequences for dogs of all sizes and breeds. Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and can be potentially fatal. Unfortunately, dogs have a way of sniffing out chocolate treats, which means we need to be alert for signs of chocolate toxicity so that we know what to do if our dogs eat chocolate.

Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

Chocolate contains stimulants called methylxanthines, specifically theobromine and caffeine. These chemicals can wreak havoc on your dog’s metabolic processes, resulting in chocolate toxicity. The level of methylxanthines varies from chocolate product to chocolate product, but there is no safe amount of chocolate for dogs, as individual sensitivities to methylxanthines can vary from dog to dog. This is why some dogs can eat chocolate and experience no harmful side effects, while others suffer consequences from eating very small amounts.


How Much Chocolate Is Toxic to Dogs?

Not all chocolate is created equal. Dry cocoa powder contains the highest amount of methylxanthines (28.5 mg/g), followed by unsweetened baker’s chocolate (16 mg/g), semisweet and sweet dark chocolate (5.4-5.7mg/g), and milk chocolate (2.3mg/g). Knowing how much and what kind of chocolate your dog ate can help you and your vet determine if you have an emergency situation.

In general, mild symptoms of chocolate toxicity occur when a dog consumes 20 mg of methylxanthines per kilogram of body weight. Cardiac symptoms of chocolate toxicity occur around 40 to 50 mg/kg, and seizures occur at dosages greater than 60 mg/kg.

In simpler terms, that means a potentially lethal dose of chocolate is approximately one ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight. Since an average Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar is 1.55 ounces, consuming even one chocolate bar can have serious consequences, especially for small dogs. Eating a crumb of chocolate cake or a very small piece of a chocolate bar, on the other hand, probably won’t kill your dog, especially if it is a larger breed, but chocolate should never be fed as a treat.

Symptoms of Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, you should call your vet immediately and watch your dog closely for the following symptoms of chocolate toxicity:

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • abnormal heart rhythms

  • seizures

  • hyperactivity

  • increased heart rate

  • increased thirst

  • elevated blood pressure

  • tremors

  • collapse

  • elevated body temperature

Preventing Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

Most of us don’t like sharing our chocolate bars, brownies, and other chocolate products with humans or dogs. Unfortunately, chocolate toxicity usually happens by accident, especially around holidays like Halloween. This means we have to be very careful about keeping chocolate out of the reach of our dogs, and it is important to instruct children not to share their candy treats with their pets.

Dogs cannot eat chocolate, but there are plenty of other human foods that make excellent treats. Keep a list of the human foods dogs can and can’t eat handy in your home to help you and your family make informed decisions about your dog’s diet.

Cinnamon – No, cinnamon is not OK for dogs. While cinnamon is not actually toxic to dogs, it’s probably best to avoid it. Cinnamon and its oils can irritate the inside of dogs’ mouths, making them uncomfortable and sick. It can lower a dog’s blood sugar too much and can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, increased, or decreased heart rate, and even liver disease. If they inhale it in powder form, cinnamon can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, and choking.

Does your dog beg for your cinnamon scones? Has she ever gotten into the spice rack? If so, then you’ve probably wondered, perhaps somewhat frantically, can dogs eat cinnamon? We

know that certain people foods, like chocolate and grapes, can be toxic to dogs, so it makes sense that we should worry about foods and spices like cinnamon, too.

Is Cinnamon Toxic to Dogs?

The good news is that cinnamon is not toxic to dogs. Your dog will not suffer fatal toxic effects from consuming too much cinnamon, but that does not necessarily mean you should be sprinkling it on his kibble. The Pet Poison Helpline cautions that cinnamon and cinnamon oils can cause skin and digestive irritation and sensitization in both pets and people, especially if consumed in large quantities.

Cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, cinnamon essential oils, and cinnamon in baked goods all offer opportunities for ingestion. Chewing on cinnamon sticks and consuming ground cinnamon or essential oil can cause irritation in your dog’s mouth and inhaling cinnamon powder can cause your dog to cough, choke, and have difficulty breathing.

How much is too much? The Pet Poison Helpline states that it takes more than one teaspoon of powder to cause problems for most pets, although essential oils can cause problems in lower dosages, and small breed dogs may be sensitive to smaller amounts of cinnamon than large breeds. The helpline also warns that a large cinnamon overdose can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, changes in heart rate, low blood sugar, and liver disease.

Help, My Dog Ate Cinnamon!

If your dog eats a large amount of cinnamon, you don’t need to panic. You should, however, call your veterinarian. Cinnamon is not fatal to dogs, but the side effects of too much cinnamon can be uncomfortable, and your veterinarian may have additional concerns and suggestions to help your dog recover from her spicy snack.


Can Dogs Eat Cinnamon Baked Goods?

A little bit of cinnamon, like the amount used in most baked goods, is not going to hurt your dog. That being said, feeding your dog baked goods is not necessarily a good idea. Foods that are high in fat, sugar, and unnecessary calories can lead to obesity, diabetes, and complications such as pancreatitis. Some baked goods also may contain xylitol as a sweetener, which is very toxic.

If you do choose to feed your dog baked goods with cinnamon, only feed small quantities on a very irregular basis, and make sure they do not contain other ingredients that could be toxic or harmful to your dog, like xylitol, chocolate or raisins.

Nutmeg and Cinnamon

Cinnamon might not be toxic to dogs, but nutmeg is another common baking spice, and it can have toxic effects. Nutmeg and cinnamon are often used together in recipes, and nutmeg contains the toxin myristicin. Myristicin can cause hallucinations, increased heart rate, disorientation, high blood pressure, abdominal pain, dry mouth, and even seizures. These symptoms can last up to 48 hours, but the bright side is that it takes a large amount of nutmeg to cause problems for dogs. The small amount used in baked goods is generally safe. If your dog consumes a large amount of nutmeg by accident, however, call your veterinarian and keep a close eye on her.


Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is reputed to have a number of health benefits for people, although these benefits have not been proven conclusively. As exciting as this is for those of us who enjoy cinnamon and want an excuse to have more of it in our diets, we should be wary about jumping to the same conclusion for our dogs.

If you want to give cinnamon as a supplement for your dog, talk to your veterinarian about the possible risks and potential benefits. In the meantime, consider exploring other supplements with proven benefits to help your dog.

To make a long story short, yes, dogs can eat cinnamon in small quantities, but it is not necessary or recommended.

Coconut – Yes, coconut is OK for dogs. This funky fruit contains Lauric, which strengthens the immune system by fighting off viruses. It can also help with bad breath and clearing up skin conditions like hot spots, flea allergies, and itchy skin. Coconut milk and coconut oil are safe for dogs too. Just be sure your dog doesn’t get its paws on the furry outside of the shell, which can get lodged in the throat.

We all know that dogs can eat coconut oil, and owners are often encouraged to add it to their dogs’ diets, but what about the coconut meat itself? Should we be giving actual pieces of it to our dogs? The short answer is yes! Coconut meat is just as healthy, if not more so, than the coconut oil alone. They share similar properties since they come from the same place. Coconut is non-toxic to dogs, but it does contain medium chain triglycerides, which may cause some gastrointestinal upset and bloating. You’ll want to check with your veterinarian before giving your dog coconut, of course. But the benefits should certainly outweigh the risks. So if your dog likes the taste of coconut meat, feel free to give him some.

Decreases Inflammation

Coconut meat is high in lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid. In less scientific terms, this basically means that the body is able to absorb the molecules whole, using them as a direct source of energy. Lauric acid is particularly good at fighting off viruses, such as influenza. It also helps treat yeast infections, ringworm, and Giardia. It also holds some major anti-inflammatory properties — it has greatly reduced swelling in rats during laboratory studies. Reduced inflammation will help speed the healing of cuts, hot spots, and other wounds. Inflammation is also the main cause of arthritis, so feeding coconut to your dog might make his aching joints feel a little better, as the inflammation settles down. Make sure to remove the shell prior to giving your dog coconut, as the shell could become lodged in his esophagus and cause intestinal irritation and possible blockage.


Boosts the Immune System

Coconut is packed with antioxidants to support the immune system. It also helps the body form a healthy response to foreign microbes. This means coconut provides the body with an extra defense against bad bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. Although the ingestion of coconut hasn’t proven to cure any diseases, there have been studies supporting its anti-viral properties. Along with its ability to reduce inflammation, coconut is a great snack for a dog that’s feeling a little under the weather or healing from illness or injury.


Benefits the Skin

Coconut oil can be used internally and externally, as the oils are very beneficial for your dog’s skin and coat. Even if your dog just ingests the coconut meat, his skin conditions might improve. The anti-inflammatory properties will help reduce any yeast infections, hot spots, flea allergies, and dry, itchy skin, and the fatty acids promote a soft, healthy coat. Topically, the oil acts as a moisturizer and can be used on wounds to help soothe inflammation and promote healing.

Corn – Yes, dogs can eat corn. Corn is one of the most common ingredients in most dog foods. However, the cob can be hard for a dog to digest and may cause an intestinal blockage, so if you’re sharing some corn, make sure it is off the cob.

As summer approaches, so does the season for grilling and backyard barbecues. For the next few months, the variety of smells from all the delicious foods served is enticing to us and also to our four-legged friends.

Foods such as corn, both on and off the cob, are summertime staples and, chances are, your dog is going to want you to share. While some of the foods you’re grilling and serving might be unsafe to share with him, luckily for him, corn is not one of them.

Is it Safe to Feed My Dog Corn?

It’s not unsafe or terrible if you feed your dog corn, a small amount won’t harm him; just make sure that you do so in moderation. Corn is one of the most popular cereal grains in the world and may contain a good amount of several vitamins and minerals, depending on the type of corn.

In fact, you’ll find corn in a variety of dog foods; manufacturers favor this grain because it is relatively inexpensive. Many veterinary nutritionists agree that corn for dogs is not a problem and in fact, can be part of a well-balanced diet. However, you should confirm that your dog is not allergic to corn prior to giving it to him.


Does Corn Have Any Nutritional Value for Dogs?

The answer is yes. It is not just a filler in dog foods, it also has nutritional benefits. It is a good source of protein, carbohydrates, linoleic acid, and antioxidants. Despite that fact that carbs get a bad rap, certain sources of carbs (like corn) also provide essential nutrients, such as protein, fat, fiber, and vitamins. Carbohydrates also can be a good source of fiber, which promotes gut health and motility.

Is it Safe for My Dog to Eat Corn on the Cob?

No matter how lovingly your dog looks at you while you’re enjoying a piece of corn on the cob, do not share it with him. There is a risk that he will choke on it, and if he ingests the cob it can cause a serious intestinal blockage. It is not a food you should have your dog gnawing on. And although it might seem like something he would have a hard time consuming, if he is hungry enough, he’ll have no problem whittling down that cob.

 Alarming indicators that your dog might have ingested the cob are: dehydration, lethargy, reduced activity, repeated vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. If you notice any of these signs, seek veterinary assistance without hesitation.

Can My Dog Have Popcorn?

As long as it’s unsalted and unbuttered, a few pieces are fine. Plain, air-popped popcorn, which is light and natural, can be a good treat every now and then; it’s high in fiber, and the additional carbohydrates provide extra energy.

It’s the bucket of popcorn loaded with salt, butter, and other flavors that is unhealthy, so no matter how lovingly your dog looks at you, or how excited he gets over this snack, keep it far enough away that he won’t be stealing pieces behind your back.

If you choose to share some natural popcorn with your dog, make sure all of the kernels you’re feeding him are popped. In most batches you make, there are going to be a handful of pieces that don’t completely pop; for a dog, those are the pieces that aren’t digestible and can cause an upset stomach. Popcorn that gets stuck between their teeth can cause problems, such as tooth decay and gum disease. And just like when their humans eat too much popcorn, it will add calories to their daily intake.

Eggs – Yes, it’s OK for dogs to eat eggs. Eggs are safe for dogs as long as they are fully cooked. Cooked eggs are a wonderful source of protein and can help an upset stomach. However, eating raw egg whites can give dogs biotin deficiency, so be sure to cook the eggs all the way through before giving them to your pet.

Historically, dogs stole eggs from birds’ nests and ate them raw, shell and all. Today, most of us don’t let our dogs wander far and wide in search of unguarded nests, but eggs are still a good source of food for dogs, especially in homemade diets.

Eggs are high in protein and contain many essential amino acids and fatty acids. When boiled or cooked, they make excellent treats or dietary supplements for dogs. Not only are eggs a healthy and nutritious snack for dogs, they can even help settle upset stomachs. Talk to your veterinarian about how many eggs to feed your dog per day. While eggs are generally safe for most dogs, overfeeding your dog can result in obesity and other health problems.

Can I Feed My Dog Raw Eggs?

There are a few concerns about feeding raw eggs to your dog that dog owners should be aware of:


Salmonella – Just like humans, dogs are at risk of contracting Salmonella, and handlers who feed raw eggs to their dogs are also at risk of catching this disease.

Biotin Deficiency – Prolonged feeding of raw egg whites can also lead to a biotin deficiency, as they contain an enzyme that ties up biotin and prevents absorption of biotin into the body. Biotin is a B complex vitamin that supports healthy skin, digestion, metabolism, and cells.

While these side effects are rare, most veterinarians recommend cooking eggs before feeding them to your dog, as long as the eggs are cooked or boiled plain without oil, butter, salt, or other potentially harmful additives.

Egg Shells – Traditionally, dogs and cats have eaten eggs straight from the nest with nary a worry about nutritional value, toxic effects, or whether they might choke on a shard from the shell. But domesticated cats and dogs do not have the same access to bird nests that they once did, so we don’t get to witness them consuming eggs safely. As we worry about our own health and what we put into our bodies, we also worry about what we are feeding to our pets.

 So what about one of nature’s “perfect foods,” the egg? There is evidence to support eggshells as an excellent source of calcium and protein for your pet. For strong bones and teeth, crush the eggshells and sprinkle about a half teaspoon into your pet’s regular kibble. And although research does not point to eggshells as a source of salmonella poisoning in cats and dogs, if it is a concern, you can boil the shells first — allowing them to dry thoroughly — and then crush the shells in a coffee grinder, food processor, or with a mortar and pestle.


Fish – Yes, dogs can eat fish. Fish contains good fats and amino acids, giving your dog a nice health boost. Salmon and sardines are especially beneficial – salmon because it’s loaded with vitamins and protein, and sardines because they have soft, digestible bones for extra calcium. With the exception of sardines, be sure to pick out all the tiny bones, which can be tedious but is definitely necessary. Never feed your dog uncooked or under-cooked fish, only fully cooked and cooled, and limit your dog’s fish intake to no more than twice a week.

If you’ve ever taken a glimpse at the ingredient panel of your dog’s food or examined other brands of dog food in the store, then you know that fish is frequently on the menu. Just because it is an ingredient in dog food, however, does not mean that dogs can safely eat just any old fish we throw their way. If you want to add a fishy treat to your dog’s diet, here is what you need to know.

Benefits of Fish for Dogs

Dogs love the smell of fish, and in this case, there is a reason. Fish is a healthy source of protein and is often included in commercial dog food as an alternative protein source. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which according to veterinarians may have health benefits such as decreasing inflammation. Fish is also a good alternative for dogs with food allergies to more common ingredients, like chicken.

Fish can be an important part of a home-cooked diet, but if you choose to feed a homemade diet with fish, be sure to consult your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to make sure you are meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs. The first time you give your dog any fish, give only a small portion until you determine if your dog can tolerate that particular fish without an allergic reaction or gastro-intestinal upset.


Best Types of Fish for Dogs

There are many fish in the sea, but the most common types of fish used in commercial dog food are shorter-lived species like salmon, ocean whitefish, lake whitefish, herring, walleye, flounder, and Arctic char. Longer-lived fish species, like tuna and swordfish on the other hand, can contain heavy metals like mercury. Mercury builds up over time in the fish’s system and can lead to heavy metal toxicity, which is why feeding a shorter-lived fish species is preferable to tuna or swordfish. With so many fish to choose from, it is better to be safe than sorry.


Risks of Feeding Fish to Dogs

Fish itself is not harmful to dogs, but the way we prepare it can cause problems. Fish cooked in too much oil can cause GI upset in dogs, or even lead to serious illness such as pancreatitis. Seasonings may also cause serious health problems for dogs, especially if they contain toxic ingredients, like garlic. The biggest risk of feeding fish to dogs, however, is bones.

 Fish bones are small, brittle, and dangerous. They can lodge themselves in your dog’s mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines, sometimes even perforating the organ wall. Not only is this painful, it can also result in an expensive visit to the veterinarian. While there are plenty of anecdotal stories about dogs eating fish bones without issues, in this instance, it is better to heed the advice of veterinarians and play it safe.

Can dogs eat raw fish?

Raw fish is at risk of carrying harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria. This is problematic for two reasons. One, it can make your dog sick, and two, according to the FDA, it can also make you and other members of your family ill. This is especially worrisome for small children, who may come into more contact with your dog’s saliva than adults, and for people with compromised immune systems. If you choose to feed a raw diet with fish, make sure you take the appropriate precautions suggested by the FDA for preparing your dog’s meals, like thoroughly disinfecting all surfaces and bowls after use, and washing your hands.


How much fish is too much for dogs?

Too much of a good thing can become a problem. Plain, cooked, steamed, or grilled fish is fine for dogs to eat in moderation. Too much fish can lead to obesity, so consult your veterinarian about appropriate serving sizes of fish for your dog, especially if you plan to feed fish as a regular part of her diet.

As humans with varied diets, we tend to forget that dogs that are fed a commercial, complete, and balanced dog food do not need additional nutrition unless recommended by a veterinarian. Table scraps, including fish, are not necessary for your dog’s health, but fish can make a good occasional treat for dogs, as long as owners keep an eye on their dog’s weight. A general rule of thumb to follow for portion control is to make sure treats only make up 10 percent of your dog’s daily diet.

So, Can Dogs Eat Fish?

To make a long story short, yes, dogs can eat fish, and fish can be a part of a healthy diet for your dog, provided it is fully cooked without any additional oils and seasonings, does not contain any bones, and is not a species prone to high levels of mercury such as tuna. For more information about dog nutrition or feeding fish to your dog, contact your veterinarian.

Garlic – No, dogs shouldn’t eat onions. Like onions, leeks, and chives, garlic is part of the Allium family, and it is five times more toxic to dogs than the rest of the Allium plants. Garlic can create anemia in dogs, causing side effects such as pale gums, elevated heart rate, weakness, and collapsing. Poisoning from garlic and onions may have delayed symptoms, so if you think your dog may have eaten some, monitor him or her for a few days, not just right after consumption.

The smell of roasting garlic is one of those scents that immediately makes most of us hungry. It’s featured in cuisines around the globe and is found in many of our favorite foods. Scientific evidence even suggests that garlic has medicinal benefits for humans, so it’s perfectly natural for you to wonder: Can dogs eat garlic?

The answer, emphatically, is no.

Is it safe for dogs to eat garlic?

Garlic might be good for us, but dogs metabolize certain foods differently than we do. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, garlic and other members of the allium family, including onions, contain thiosulfate, which is toxic to dogs but not to humans.

Thiosulfate causes oxidative damage to red blood cells, resulting in hemolytic anemia. Symptoms of anemia include pale mucous membranes, rapid breathing, lethargy, weakness, jaundice, and dark colored urine. Garlic toxicity also causes symptoms of gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, depression, and dehydration.

How much garlic is toxic to dogs?

Studies have found it takes approximately 15 to 30 grams of garlic per kilograms of body weight to produce harmful changes in a dog’s blood. To put that into perspective, the average clove of supermarket garlic weighs between 3 and 7 grams, so your dog would have to eat a lot to get really sick. However, some dogs are more sensitive to garlic toxicity than others, and consumption of a toxic dose spread out over a few days could also cause problems.

This means that if your dog accidentally eats something containing a little garlic, he will probably be okay, but intentionally feeding it to your dog is a recipe for disaster.

Can I feed my dog garlic bread?

Garlic bread will almost certainly catch your dog’s attention, but, along with garlic, it usually contains large amounts of butter, oil, cheese, and herbs that can upset your dog’s stomach. This high-calorie food is also a source of unnecessary calories and fat, and offers no nutritional benefits to your pet.


Can I feed my dog garlic supplements?

Despite garlic’s known toxicity, some websites and well-meaning dog owners recommend garlic supplements for dogs as part of a natural wellness plan or as a flea and tick preventative. This contradiction can be very confusing.

In studies, garlic as a health supplement for pets has not produced consistent positive results. While very small doses might be safe for most dogs, the lack of conclusive evidence and the known risks should be taken into consideration. If you do decide to feed your pup a garlic supplement, always consult your veterinarian. Giving an incorrect dose could have toxic effects, so plan on working with a veterinarian to come up with the best treatment and prevention plan for your dog.

Treating garlic toxicity in dogs

If your dog does ingest a large amount of garlic, your best bet is to take him to a veterinarian. Garlic and onion poisoning are rarely fatal in dogs, but your dog may need supportive care to keep him comfortable. Your veterinarian might recommend intravenous fluids to keep him hydrated, and may prescribe a medication to control vomiting. In severe cases, blood transfusions might be necessary.


Alternatives to garlic for dogs

If you want to give your dog a healthy treat, consider feeding him fruits and vegetables that are high in valuable nutrients, like apples, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, carrots, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes.

Ham – Yes, dogs can eat ham. Ham is OK for dogs to eat, but certainly isn’t the healthiest for them. Ham is high in sodium and fat, so while sharing a small piece is alright, it shouldn’t be a continuous habit.

You’re slicing a baked ham at the dinner table or making yourself a ham sandwich, and your dog sits salivating at your side. You may think, “What’s the harm in giving him a juicy slice or two?” Maybe none, but there are things to consider before feeding your dog ham.

  1. Yes, it’s a protein, and dogs need protein. But there are much better sources of protein in other types of meat. There isn’t much agreement on how easily digestible ham is as a protein source. Some sources say it’s highly digestible, while others claim it’s inferior to most other meats and not easily digested.

  2. Store-bought ham, which is what most of us use, contains a great deal of sodium, which isn’t good for people or dogs. Even the preservatives used in ham are loaded with nitrates and nitrites, which are sodium-based. In fact, salt can be toxic to dogs: it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, lethargy, and abnormal fluid accumulation. Sodium can also cause more serious consequences, such as kidney damage, seizures, coma, and even death.

  3. Ham has a higher fat content than many other types of meat. A high-fat content diet isn’t any better for your dog than it is for people. Although dogs do need fat in their diet, most dog foods have the necessary amount of fat to meet your dog’s needs. A healthy amount of animal fat in dog food is about 15 to 20 percent. The fatty richness of ham is what makes it taste so delicious, but it’s difficult for your dog to digest.

Honey – Yes, dogs can eat honey. Honey is packed with countless nutrients such as vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, and antioxidants. Feeding dogs small amounts of honey can help with allergies because it introduces small amounts of pollen to their systems, building up immunity to allergens in your area. In addition to consuming honey, the sticky spread can also be used as a topical treatment for burns and superficial cuts.

Simple and sweet, honey contains natural sugars that is reported to have a wide variety of medicinal properties. It also, occasionally, finds its way into the mouths of our dogs.

If your dog has found her way into the honey pot, or if you are contemplating giving honey to your dog for medicinal reasons, you probably want to know if honey is safe for dogs and if there are really any health benefits associated with it.

Is honey safe for dogs?

Honey is safe for dogs to eat in small quantities. It contains natural sugars and small amounts of vitamins and minerals and is used as a sweetener in many foods and beverages.

That sweetness comes at a price. The high sugar content of honey can lead to obesity in dogs if owners feed too much honey and do not provide adequate exercise balanced nutrition. Sugars can also cause tooth decay, so it might be a good idea to brush your dog’s teeth if you do feed him honey.

Raw honey should not be fed to puppies or dogs with compromised immune systems, as it may contain the presence of botulism spores. Honey should not be given to diabetic or obese dogs.

Benefits of feeding honey to dogs

A simple Google search reveals thousands of sites promoting honey as a health supplement for people and pets, including dogs. Honey is purported to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties, reduce inflammation, sooth stomach ulcers and sore throats, and cure allergies.

However, there have not been many conclusive scientific studies validating these claims. Many of these claims are anecdotal, but since honey is relatively safe, they are often enough for owners looking for an additional treatment for their dogs that is affordable and safe.

One of the most common claims made about honey is that it can cure seasonal allergies in humans and dogs. While the scientific evidence is lacking, there is some reason to believe that raw honey could help reduce allergic reactions to flower pollen—assuming, of course, that your dog is allergic to one of the pollens in the honey, and not another environmental allergen.

Regardless of the lack of conclusive research, feeding your dog a small amount of honey to help with allergens won’t harm him, even if it is not guaranteed or even likely to help.

Humans also use honey to soothe raw throats and stomachs. If your dog has a sore throat, and you have already seen your veterinarian to determine the cause and followed her treatment instructions, then feeding a little honey could help soothe any lingering inflammation. At the very least, it will give your dog a tasty distraction.

How much honey can you feed your dog?

If you want to feed your dog honey, talk to your veterinarian about how much is okay to feed your dog. In general, less is usually more when it comes to dog treats, especially for smaller breeds. If your dog has a health condition, such as diabetes, talk to your veterinarian about whether or not honey is safe to feed your dog, and consider offering a treat lower in sugar, like cucumbers, instead.

Ice cream – No, dogs shouldn’t eat ice cream. As refreshing of a treat as ice cream is, it’s best not to share it with your dog. Canines don’t digest dairy very well, and many even have a slight intolerance to lactose, a sugar found in milk products. Although it’s also a dairy product, frozen yogurt is a much better alternative. To avoid the milk altogether, freeze chunks of strawberries, raspberries, apples, and pineapples and give them to your dog as a sweet, icy treat.

We know that dogs love ice cream. But is ice cream really a harmless treat, or will it cause a major bellyache?

Though it may be tempting to share your cone with your four-legged friend, it’s best to avoid giving ice cream to dogs.


Why Dogs Cannot Eat Ice Cream

The first problem with ice cream is that dogs’ bodies are not designed to digest milk after they are weaned, as puppies. Since ice cream is made with milk, feeding your dog ice cream could lead to gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting.

The second problem with ice cream is that it is loaded with sugar, and feeding your dog sugary foods can lead to weight gain, which can lead to other health problems. Even if the ice cream says it’s sugarless, you need to be careful to read the label to make sure that no xylitol is used, as this sweetener is extremely toxic to dogs.

The final problem with ice cream is that some flavors may actually be dangerous for dogs. Chocolate, for example, can be toxic for dogs because their bodies cannot efficiently process a component of the chocolate: theobromine.

While not a major danger if given in small amounts as a treat, for dogs with obesity, diabetes, allergies or dairy intolerance, ice cream could be a big problem. Although some dog owners do feed their dogs ice cream, we cannot say that it is a good dessert for dogs, especially when there are other options that are not likely to cause digestive problems.

Alternatives to Ice Cream

If you want to give your dog a summer treat, frozen yogurt might be a better choice. Because yogurt is fermented, it contains less lactose, so it is easier for dogs to digest. Don’t feed your dog a commercial frozen yogurt, since it will be loaded with sugar. Instead, buy a plain, unsweetened yogurt, and put it in your freezer at home. Use caution when giving it to your dog. Although yogurt is easier for dogs to digest, not all canines can tolerate it.

Another good summer treat for dogs is “nice cream,” a vegan ice cream alternative that is made from frozen bananas. You can easily prepare nice cream at home with only a food processor. This fruit-based dessert is safe for dogs to eat, and it actually provides some nutritional value. The humans in your family might even like it, too!

Macadamia nuts – No, dogs should not eat macadamia nuts. These are some of the most poisonous foods for dogs. Macadamia nuts, part of the Protaceae family, can cause vomiting, increased body temperature, inability to walk, and lethargy. Even worse, they can affect the nervous system. Never feed your dog macadamia nuts.

Macadamia nuts, although not usually an everyday food, are often found in baked goods, including cakes, cookies, muffins, and even trail mix. Are they safe for dogs? Absolutely not! In fact, macadamia nuts are often listed as among the top human foods to avoid giving your dog. The consequences of eating macadamia nuts include vomiting, ataxia, weakness, hyperthermia, and depression.

Veterinarians and researchers have not identified what causes this particular food to be toxic to dogs; it’s perfectly safe for humans and has not been seen to affect cats. As with grapes and raisins, we just do not know the specific toxin or mechanism of biological action that causes the signs of poisoning. But what we do know is that even a small amount of the nuts can cause severe symptoms. A dog can show symptoms from eating as little as 1/10 of an ounce per roughly 2 pounds of body weight. So, if you’re thinking of giving your dog just a little taste, don’t.

Symptoms of Macadamia Nut Poisoning in Dogs

The most common sign is weakness, especially in the hind legs. Other symptoms include lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors and fever. Some cases are mild, showing only a few symptoms, and resolve themselves within a few days. However, there are serious cases involving constant shaking, high fever, and an inability to walk. If you suspect your dog may have eaten even a small amount of macadamia nuts, consult your veterinarian immediately.


Treatment of Macadamia Nut Poisoning in Dogs

First things first: If you suspect your dog has eaten even one macadamia nut, call your vet as soon as possible. If caught early enough, vomiting can be induced, but only after speaking with your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435).

Your vet may recommend close at-home observation and additionally, activated charcoal and/or a cathartic to help the nuts speed through your dog’s digestive system. More serious cases will require care and treatment at a veterinary hospital. If your dog ingested a large amount of the nuts or if another toxicity, chocolate for example, is involved, treatment will be more aggressive. The good news is that generally, if treated, a dog will recover fully and return to normal within several days.

Milk – Yes, dogs can have milk. But be cautious. Many dogs are lactose-intolerant and don’t digest milk well. While it is okay for dogs to have a little milk, owners should be cognizant of the symptoms of lactose-intolerance and might want to stick to giving their dogs water.

Many canine companions love dairy products. But, can dogs drink milk? In short, maybe. Like many human foods, it should only be given to your dog in moderation. It’s also important to note that a lot of pups are lactose intolerant, and drinking milk can cause intestinal upset.

How Much Milk Can Dogs Drink?

Milk is a safe treat in small quantities. A few tablespoons of cow’s milk or goat’s milk on an occasional basis can be a nice reward for your dog without the side effects of overindulgence. But, you should probably hold off on offering your dog an entire bowl in one sitting, as it can cause unpleasant reactions, including diarrhea, vomiting, and loose stools.

The beverage is high in fat and natural sugars, which is another reason to feed it to your pup in small quantities. Too much fat in your dog’s diet can lead to obesity and pancreatitis, which are serious conditions.

Lactose Intolerance in Dogs

Dairy products are a leading source of food intolerance in dogs, and many canines are lactose intolerant, which means they have difficulty digesting milk. Some lactose intolerant dogs have trouble drinking milk, but can handle dairy products like cheese and plain yogurt, which are typically easier to digest than straight milk. Others have adverse reactions to dairy in general.


How to Tell If Your Dog Is Lactose Intolerant

Dogs can have varying degrees of lactose intolerance; some might experience only mild symptoms, while other cases may be more severe. The most common symptoms are:

Many owners don’t find out that their dogs are lactose intolerant until they feed them milk. Trying to determine if your dog is lactose intolerant can also be tricky if your pup has consumed a large amount of milk, as this can also trigger vomiting and diarrhea in dogs that are not lactose intolerant. However, if your dog shows signs of these symptoms after drinking a small amount of milk, you should find a different treat.

Always consult with your veterinarian before introducing anything new into your dog’s diet.

Peanut butter – Yes, peanut butter is OK for dogs. Peanut butter can be an excellent source of protein for dogs. It contains heart-healthy fats, vitamins B and E and niacin. Raw, unsalted peanut butter is the healthiest option because it doesn’t contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that can be toxic to dogs.

Does your dog magically appear in the kitchen every time you open up the peanut butter jar? You are not alone. Most dog owners give their dogs peanut butter from time to time, and this nutty treat does indeed drive dogs nuts. It can be spread inside hollow bones and toys for a long-lasting treat, or just licked from a spoon or finger as a quick reward. From a health perspective, however, there are a few peanut butter facts you need to be aware of before you let your pup clean out that empty peanut butter jar.

Can Dogs Eat Peanut Butter?

Most peanut butter is safe for dogs to eat, and in moderation peanut butter can be an excellent source of protein and healthy fats, vitamins B and E, and niacin. The healthiest option is unsalted peanut butter or homemade peanut butter, as high sodium levels can be problematic for dogs, and as an added bonus, homemade peanut butters do not contain extra sugar and other additives.

How Much Peanut Butter Can Dogs Eat?

Peanut butter is rich in natural fats and protein, but too much of a good thing can lead to obesity and other health complications like pancreatitis. There are two things you can do to figure out how much peanut butter to feed your dog on a regular basis. The first and most reliable option is to call your veterinarian and ask his or her advice. This is especially important for owners of dogs with conditions such as diabetes or with food sensitivity issues.

The second option is the 10 percent rule. In general, treats should not make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet. Simply measure how much food your dog gets daily, and remember that it might be a good idea to alternate between peanut butter and healthier treats, such as dog friendly fruits or vegetables.

Health Alert: Xylitol

Most peanut butter is safe, but some can be deadly. Recently, some peanut butter manufacturers switched to using the sweetener xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute often found in sugar-free products like chewing gum, toothpaste, breath mints, chewable vitamins and baked goods. It is safe for people, but toxic to dogs.

Xylitol consumption causes a rapid release of insulin in dogs, which results in an equally rapid and profound decrease in blood sugar levels. and can be life threatening if left untreated. This condition, scientifically known as hypoglycemia, can occur as quickly as 10-to-60 minutes after eating xylitol.

Xylitol poisoning is easy to avoid. All owners need to do is check the label of the peanut butter and any other product they plan on feeding to their dogs for xylitol, and keep xylitol products out of their dogs’ reach. If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, contact your veterinarian immediately, and keep an eye out for symptoms of xylitol poisoning, such as weakness, collapse, staggering, lack of coordination, and seizures.

Don’t keep your pup in suspense any longer. Yes, dogs can eat peanut butter as long as it is fed in moderation and does not contain xylitol, so get out that peanut butter jar and share the good news.

Peanuts – Yes, dogs can eat peanuts. Unlike almonds, peanuts are safe for dogs to eat. They’re packed with good fats and proteins that can benefit your dog. Just be sure to give peanuts in moderation, as you don’t want your dog taking in too much fat, which can lead to pancreas issues. Also, avoid salted peanuts.

Everyone knows that dogs love peanut butter. Since peanut butter is made from peanuts, most of us assume that peanuts are safe for dogs, too. The answer is not quite that simple, however.

When it comes to your dog’s health, not all peanuts and peanut butters are created equal. Peanuts are loaded with protein, vitamin B-6, vitamin E, niacin, and healthy fats. This means that peanuts and peanut butter offer your dogs a protein-rich snack that they can’t get enough of. There are, however, some risks associated with both peanuts and peanut butter.

What Types of Peanuts Are Safe for My Dog to Eat?

The best peanuts for dogs are not the delicious, salted kind that most people prefer. Dry-roasted (or raw), unsalted peanuts are the only peanuts that are actually safe for dogs to eat, although your dog will probably be fine if he manages to scoop up a salted peanut or two from the floor. However, salted peanuts contain more sodium than your dog needs and can be harmful to his health if ingested in large quantities, so it is best to avoid feeding salted peanuts to dogs. This is a reason why some owners prefer to make their own peanut butter. Homemade peanut butter allows owners to control the amount of oil and sodium that goes into the recipe, and it also eliminates the growing risk of xylitol poisoning.

Peanuts also contain high levels of fat. This can cause digestive upset and even pancreatitis if your dog eats high-fat foods like peanuts on a regular basis or in large quantities.

How Many Peanuts Can My Dog Have?

When it comes to feeding peanuts, moderation is key. Limit your dog’s peanut intake to just a few peanuts, and do not feed peanuts as a treat every day. Honey-roasted peanuts and other flavored nuts are also unsafe for your dog, and make sure you remove the peanut shell as the fibrous material can pose a choking hazard, especially for small dogs.

Popcorn – Yes, dogs can eat popcorn. Unsalted, unbuttered, plain air-popped popcorn is OK for your dog in moderation. It contains riboflavin and thiamine, both of which promote eye health and digestion, as well as small amounts of iron and protein. Be sure to pop the kernels all the way before giving them to your dog, as unpopped kernels could become a choking hazard.

Nothing brings more joy to most dogs than helping you clean up after movie night. Popcorn always finds its way into couch cushions and onto the floor, where our dogs are happy to “hoover” them up. The question most of us forget to ask ourselves, however, is can dogs eat popcorn?

Popcorn itself is not bad for dogs. Popped corn kernels actually contain several minerals important to canine nutrition, like magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, and zinc, along with fiber and trace amounts of vitamins. The stuff that makes popcorn taste delicious to us is a different story. The majority of us prefer our popcorn dripping with butter and loaded with salt, even though we know it is not good for us. The same goes for dogs. Butter, oils, salt, and the other toppings on popcorn can lead to intestinal upset in dogs, and the fats in oil and butter also contribute to obesity and obesity-related health problems.

There is an alternative. Plain, air-popped popcorn makes a nice occasional treat for your dog. But, kernels can get stuck in dogs’ teeth and pose a choking hazard, so it is probably a good idea to keep whole or only partially popped kernels away from curious dogs.

 So is it safe for dogs to eat popcorn?

Yes and no. Plain, air-popped popcorn is safe for dogs to eat in small quantities. Buttered popcorn or popcorn with other toppings is not safe for your dog on a regular basis, although eating a few dropped pieces here and there probably won’t hurt him. As with any treat, too much popcorn is not good for your dog, and it is important to keep treats down to approximately 10 percent or less of a dog’s daily caloric intake.

Pork – Yes, dogs can eat pork. Pork is highly digestible protein, packed with amino acids, and it contains more calories per pound than other meats. Pork also may be less likely to cause an allergic reaction in some pets compared to other meat.

Eating meat is very natural for dogs, so it’s no surprise when they’re looking toward their owner wanting to share what’s on the plate. Because of a dog’s carnivorous nature, owners don’t usually second-guess whether giving their dog some meat is a good idea, they just do it. With commercially prepared foods containing ingredients like chicken and beef, why wouldn’t we think all meats, in moderation, are fair game?



Is it Safe for Dogs to Eat Pork?

While this is an area some owners might debate, the answer is a little more involved than just a straight yes or no. It is safe to eat pork, but there are certain conditions that must be adhered to if you plan to feed your dog the “other white meat.” Plain pork is safe for dogs to eat, as long as you keep it simple and leave off the bells and whistles people tend to cook with. Add-ons, such as seasonings and spice rubs that contain the following, are extremely dangerous, due to the fact they are highly toxic if ingested:

  • Onion Powder

  • Nutmeg

  • Garlic Powder

If you like to use condiments such as BBQ sauce, you should be aware that it is not recommended for dogs and should be avoided. Many sauces are high in salt and sugar and contain added flavoring, such as garlic and onion. If your dog happens to eat a piece of pork covered in BBQ sauce, keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms that may arise and if they do develop a reaction contact your vet immediately.

Can I Feed My Dog Raw Pork?

Eating raw or undercooked pork is not safe for dogs or humans, due to the parasite trichinella spiralis larvae, which can cause the parasite infection known as trichinosis. An infection transmitted by pork meat, it can occur when a dog eats the muscles of animals that are infected with the trichinella parasites. This more commonly affects humans than dogs. The infection of Trichinella spiralis will only produce subtle symptoms in dogs:

Not all these symptoms are present in dogs; typically, pets with a weaker immune system will have more severe symptoms.


How Much Pork Can a Dog Eat?

Like any other food you try out for the first time, feed your dog a small amount to see if there’s any reaction. Certain meats are more likely to cause allergic reactions, including pork, rabbit, and lamb.

Pork is also rich with a type of fat that is difficult for dogs to digest, which can lead to indigestion and inflammation of the pancreas.

Can I Give My Dog Pork Bones?

Although it may be tempting to toss your dog that leftover bone after dinner, think twice before you do. Even though dogs love to chew on them, it’s not 100 percent safe. Once cooked, the bone dries out, causing it to become fragile and brittle. When gnawed on, it can splinter off into sharp pieces, causing damage to the esophagus and internal organs, and this can also cause choking. And while uncooked bones have a lower chance of splintering, it’s still possible. If your dog enjoys a good bone, consider a high-quality, edible dental bone as an alternative.


Is Preserved Pork, Such as Ham and Bacon, Safe for My Dog to Eat?

The answer to both of these meats is no! In 2015, the World Health Organization found that processed meats such as bacon and sausage were known carcinogens linked to cancer. Bacon is an incredibly rich and fatty food with a high salt content, which can prove to be too much for a dog’s stomach to handle. Eating a large amount can cause pancreatitis, which can be fatal.

Ham also has a dangerously high salt content, which may cause increased thirst which could lead to a deadly condition called “bloat.” Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach fills up with gas, food, or fluid, making it expand. Due to the high salt content in ham, dogs will become dehydrated and drink an excessive amount of water. Pressure is put on other organs, which potentially can be life threatening. Even though pork, ham, and bacon come from the meat of the same animal, there clearly are differences to be aware of.

What Is an Alternative Meat to Feed My Dog?

Chicken is an extra source of protein to add to your dog’s diet. It is easy to digest and filled with essential vitamins, minerals, fats, and amino acids. Veterinarians recommend feeding your dog plain, unseasoned, boiled chicken when they’re experiencing gastrointestinal issues.

Quinoa – Yes, quinoa is OK for dogs. Quinoa is actually an ingredient in some high-quality dry dog foods. The strong nutritional profile of quinoa makes it a healthy alternative to corn, wheat, and soy — starches that are often used to make kibble.

Quinoa is an extremely healthy food for humans. It’s packed with protein, healthy fat, calcium, and other nutrients. But is quinoa healthy for dogs, as well?

The answer is yes, dogs can eat quinoa.

Quinoa is actually an ingredient in some high-quality dry dog foods. The strong nutritional profile of quinoa makes it a healthy alternative to corn, wheat, and soy — starches that are often used to make kibble.

There is some concern that a type of chemical that is naturally found on quinoa could be damaging for dogs. The quinoa plant produces saponin to protect itself from insects, and some think the saponin may irritate the intestines in humans, as well as canines. However, the amount of saponin found on quinoa is usually too small to cause any problems.

 It is possible that dogs’ digestive systems are more sensitive to saponins than humans’ digestive systems. So if you are concerned about the saponin on quinoa, simply wash the quinoa before cooking it. This will remove most of the saponin.

If your dog has never eaten quinoa before, you should start by giving him just a small amount. Though quinoa is generally a healthy food for dogs, some canines may have difficulty digesting it. If your dog experiences vomiting, diarrhea or constipation after eating quinoa, refrain from feeding it to him again.

If you are going to feed your dog quinoa, it’s best to prepare a separate portion for him, rather than feeding him off your plate. The salt, garlic, and onions you add to your own quinoa to cover the bitterness could be toxic to your dog.

Overall, quinoa is a healthy food for most dogs. If you do decide to offer it to your dog, it should be cooked to make it easier to digest and you should start with small portions. And as always, make sure you use caution when introducing any new food into your dog’s diet.

Salmon – Yes, dogs can eat salmon. As mentioned above, fully cooked salmon is an excellent source of protein, good fats, and amino acids. It promotes joint and brain health and gives dog-immune systems a nice boost. However, raw or undercooked salmon contains parasites that can make dogs very sick, causing vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and, in extreme cases, even death. Be sure to cook salmon all the way through (the FDA recommends at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit) and the parasites should cook out.

Is It Safe to Feed My Dog Salmon?

The short answer is yes. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support the immune system, may decrease inflammation, and can keep your dog’s coat looking shiny and healthy. It’s also a good protein source. In fact, salmon is a common ingredient in high-quality dog foods. If your dog is allergic to more common sources of protein, like chicken, salmon may be a good alternative.


How Should I Prepare Salmon for My Dog?

Do not ever give your dog raw or undercooked salmon. It can contain the Neorickettsia helminthoeca parasite, which causes salmon poisoning disease. This disease can be fatal. In addition, raw salmon contains lots of small bones, which are brittle and can choke your dog or lodge in his stomach or intestines.

However, well-cooked, boneless salmon is definitely on the list of people food approved for dogs. Choose fresh boneless fillets, since they’re less likely to harbor small bones. But be sure to check for tiny bones anyway before cooking. Then poach, grill, roast, steam, or bake the salmon with no oil, salt and pepper, or other seasonings, such as garlic or onions.

As with any food, portion control is important. Serve your dog an appropriate portion size, and limit his salmon intake to once a week or less. You may even feed your dog canned salmon, although it’s best to choose one packed with water.

 So, the next time you’re putting a fresh piece of salmon on the grill or in the oven, set a small piece aside to cook for your dog. It’s good for him, and he’ll love it. And if you really want to give your dog a special treat, try this homemade vet-approved mini omelette, made with sliced cooked salmon!

Shrimp – Yes, shrimp is OK for dogs. A few shrimp every now and then is fine for your dog, but only if they are fully cooked and the shell (including the tail, head, and legs) is removed completely. Shrimp are high in antioxidants, vitamin B-12, and phosphorus, but also low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates.

Next time you steam up some shrimp, you might want to consider setting a few aside for your dog. Not only can dogs eat shrimp, but a few shrimp now and then may even offer them some health benefits.

Shrimp Contain Beneficial Nutrients for Dogs

Shrimp are not only tasty, they are full of nutrients that dogs need, like vitamin B12, niacin, phosphorus, and anti-oxidants. Vitamin B12 is important for your dog’s metabolic processes and plays an important role in gastrointestinal health. Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is required for proper enzyme function and energy production, fat production, blood circulation, chemical signals, and many other processes. Phosphorus is necessary for healthy bones, and anti-oxidants help fight free radicals and can reduce brain aging.

Shrimp are also low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates, which makes them a good choice for dogs on a diet. However, shrimp are high in cholesterol. This means that while an occasional shrimp is a healthy treat, too many shrimp can contribute to unhealthy levels of cholesterol in your dog’s diet.

Can Dogs Eat Shrimp Raw?

Raw, uncooked shellfish contain harmful pathogens that are easily avoided by cooking shrimp before feeding them to your dog. It is also a good idea to completely remove the shell, as shrimp shells are a choking hazard and can cause obstructions, especially in small dog breeds. Steamed shrimp is the best shrimp for dogs, as fried or breaded shrimp contains unnecessary fats and oils that can be harmful.


How Much Shrimp Can Dogs Eat?

Moderation is the key to adding any new food item or treat to a dog’s diet. Every dog is different, and some might react differently to shrimp than others. One or two shrimp are usually enough for most dogs, and it is a good idea to offer a partial shrimp to small dogs as a precaution. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist if you want to add shrimp or other shellfish to your dog’s diet on a regular basis, so they can offer you professional advice about the proper quantities for your dog and advise you of any potential health concerns. Stop feeding shrimp if your dog shows symptoms of intestinal discomfort or illness, and call your vet if symptoms worsen.

Tuna – Yes, dogs can eat tuna. In moderation, cooked, fresh tuna is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes heart and eye health. As for canned tuna, it contains small amounts of mercury and sodium, which should be avoided in excess. A little bit of canned tuna and tuna juice here and there is fine – prepared only in water, not oil – as long as it doesn’t contain any spices.

Many dog foods contain fish, because it is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. But tuna is not a common dog food ingredient. That’s because feeding a dog too much tuna can result in health problems.

The danger of a dog eating tuna is actually the same as the danger of a human eating tuna: mercury. As you can see from this U.S. Food and Drug Administration chart, fresh tuna has much higher levels of mercury than other types of fish, such as salmon and tilapia. Consuming too much mercury can result in mercury poisoning, which leads to severe, potentially fatal, health complications.

Mercury enters our lakes, rivers, and oceans because of industrial activities, such as coal-fired electricity generation. The mercury then accumulates in fish. The larger the fish and the longer it lives, the higher the concentration of mercury in its tissues. Because tuna are large, long-living fish, their mercury levels are quite high.

Nonprofit organization Consumer Reports has recommended that people limit their tuna consumption based on their weight. For example, a person who weighs 154 pounds should consume no more than 5 ounces of regular tuna per week. Because dogs are usually smaller than humans, and because there are no recommendations for how much tuna dogs can safely eat, it is probably best not to feed your dog tuna.

If you want to treat your dog to some fish, you should choose a type of fish that has lower mercury levels. The safest types of fresh fish to feed to dogs are those that are most commonly used in commercial dog food, including salmon, whitefish, herring, flounder, and Arctic char.

If your dog does manage to snag some tuna off your plate when you aren’t looking, don’t worry. Tuna is not toxic for dogs, and only one portion will not cause mercury poisoning.

If you own both a dog and a cat, be careful about your dog trying to eat the cat’s food, because wet cat food often contains tuna. Because cats are also susceptible to mercury poisoning, you may want to steer toward cat food options that contain other types of fish.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning in dogs include:

  • Hair loss

  • Anxiety or nervousness

  • Blindness

  • Kidney damage (inability to urinate, abdominal swelling)

  • Loss of coordination

  • Loss of feeling in paws

  • Tremors

  • Vomiting blood

  • Watery or bloody diarrhea

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, take him to the vet as soon as possible.

So, can dogs eat tuna? The best answer is that it’s safer to avoid it. Although tuna itself is not toxic for dogs, it contains high levels of mercury, an element that can cause serious damage to a dog’s body if it accumulates.

Turkey – Yes, dogs can eat turkey. Turkey is fine for dogs as long as it is not covered in garlic (which can be very toxic to dogs) and seasonings. Also be sure to remove excess fat and skin from the meat and don’t forget to check for bones; poultry bones can splinter during digestion, causing blockage or even tears in the intestines.

Thanksgiving, for most families, is all about the bird. Hours go into the roasting and basting, and once the feast is over, there are turkey sandwiches, turkey potpies, and turkey casseroles to make. In the midst of all of that leftover turkey, it is tempting to slip our dogs some meat, or even to make them up a plate of it as a special Thanksgiving treat.

But can dogs eat turkey? Is it good for them? Are there risks? Here is what you need to know about feeding turkey to dogs to get your dog through the holidays safely.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey?

The short answer is “yes and no.” Turkey is not toxic to dogs. It is an ingredient in many commercial dog foods and is rich in nutrients like protein, riboflavin, and phosphorous. When cooked plain, under the guidance of a veterinarian, it can be an essential part of a homemade dog food diet.

Thanksgiving turkeys, however, are rarely cooked plain. We rub our birds with butter and oils and season them with salt, pepper, herbs, and spices. We stuff them full of stuffing, onions, garlic, and more herbs. To us, this is delicious. For our dogs, it is a recipe for unpleasant digestive upset at best, and pancreatitis at worst.

How to Feed Your Dog Turkey Safely

If you decide to feed your dog turkey this Thanksgiving, there are a few things you need to know to do it safely.

  1. Skip the skin. All of that fat and seasoning is dangerous for dogs. The fat content can cause pancreatitis, and the seasonings can irritate your dog’s stomach.

  2. Make sure you only feed your dog turkey meat. Onions are toxic to dogs, and garlic is potentially toxic in large quantities.

  3. Feed your dog only small quantities of turkey, and talk to your vet about adding food scraps into your dog’s diet, especially if your dog has a preexisting health condition, like diabetes.

  4. Make sure there are no bones in the meat you feed your dog.

Can Dogs Eat Turkey Bones?

Poultry bones, especially cooked poultry bones, are brittle. This, combined with their small size, makes them very dangerous for dogs. Veterinarians caution against feeding dogs bones of any kind, including poultry bones, as they can cause the following problems:

  • Mouth and tongue injuries

  • Obstruction of the throat or intestinal tract

  • Choking

  • Bone fragments can pierce the lining of stomachs and intestines

  • Constipation

  • Rectal bleeding from sharp bone fragments

  • Blockages that require emergency surgery

If you want to give your dog a bone, try a large hardy nylon or rubber chew toy bone or other size-appropriate chew toy. Some of them are even flavored, and your dog will live to chew another day.

The Verdict

Yes, you can feed your dog turkey safely, as long as you follow these guidelines. However, feeding table scraps to dogs on a regular basis can lead to obesity, which causes a host of problems, including diabetes, hypertension, joint stress, and hip dysplasia.

If you have any more questions, talk with your vet about how to feed turkey safely to your dog.

Wheat/grains – Yes, dogs can eat wheat and other grains. Dogs do not have to be grain-free; it is perfectly OK for them to have grains. In fact, grains like wheat and corn are great sources of protein, essential fatty acids, and fiber. If your dog has certain allergies, however, it might be best to avoid grains, but it truly depends on your dog.

A walk down the pet food aisle shows high-end (and high-priced) kibbles boasting “grain-free” formulas. We’re made to feel guilty if we feed our dogs the dreaded grain. But what’s the big deal?

Grain may have gotten a really bad name from the 2007 pet-food contamination tragedy in which wheat gluten imported from China had been contaminated with industrial chemicals used to falsely boost protein-level readings and caused kidney damage when ingested. Thousands of pets got ill and many died. Of course it wasn’t the grain itself that was the culprit, but that’s what many people remember.

Combine that incident with the human gluten-free food fad, and it’s only natural that health-conscious pet owners would consider the same for their dogs. It’s not that wheat gluten is evil. It’s that about 10 percent of people have gluten intolerance. The rest of us are just fine with it. We don’t know what percentage of dogs may have a similar condition, but chances are it’s not all of them.

Do Grains Cause Allergies?

What about the claim that grains cause food allergies? Grains don’t cause allergies. They can, however, be the target of allergies, and some foods are more allergenic than others. Those foods are specific ones, such as wheat, not general categories, such as grains.

The top five allergy-provoking ingredients for dogs are (in order):

  • beef

  • dairy

  • wheat

  • chicken

  • egg

Some dogs can have an allergy to storage mites. Several studies have found that dry dog food that has been opened and stored in non-sealed containers for six weeks often (but not always) grows storage mites. The studies did not differentiate between grain-free foods and those containing grain. One study concluded that these mites can be prevented by storing food in cool, dry environments, in sealed containers, and for not more than a month. They also concluded that while dogs can be allergic to storage mites, more are allergic to household dust mites.

What about GMOs?

Some people are concerned about the use of genetically modified grains. They believe their use can lead to “leaky gut syndrome” in which small fissures develop in the gut lining, allowing bacteria, toxins, incompletely digested proteins, and fats to leak into the bloodstream, triggering an autoimmune response resulting in food sensitivities, fatigue, skin rashes, gas, and bloating. But there is no actual evidence of this occurring—at this point, just speculation. Nonetheless, if GMOs concern you, look for foods with less popular grains, which are less likely to be genetically modified. These include barley, oats, millet, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, and amaranth.

Shouldn’t Dogs Eat Like Wolves?

There’s also the perception that dogs should be eating a diet similar to their wild ancestors’. When was the last time you saw a wolf nibbling the kernels off a corncob? However, dogs are actually different from wolves in this regard; in fact, scientists believe that one of the physiological changes that helped dogs evolve alongside humans was the ability to digest starch. Dogs have differences in 10 key genes compared to wolves that enable them to better utilize grains than wolves can.

Furthermore, grain-free foods don’t mean plant-free foods. Grains are seeds, like wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley, millet, oatmeal, and quinoa. Grain-free diets use other plant sources such as potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, tapioca, peas, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, spinach greens, and various fruits. These are also not foods wolves are known to eat. In fact, some of these ingredients provide less nutrition than grains. Remember – DOGS ARE NOT WOLVES.

Can Grains Make Dogs Fat?

This idea probably came about from the Atkins low-carb diet popular with humans. But grain-free does not mean carbohydrate-free. Grain-free foods contain about the same amount of carbohydrates as foods containing grains. In actuality, wheat gluten contains more than 80 percent protein, is 99 percent digestible, and has an amino acid profile similar to meat proteins. Corn, when prepared properly, is actually an excellent source of highly digestible carbohydrate, essential fatty acids, and fiber, and can be an especially crucial ingredient in diets for dogs with medical conditions requiring reduced fat or protein.

Are Grain-Free Diets A Waste Of Money?

If you’re feeding them for one of the above reasons, and your dog was otherwise doing well on a grain-based diet, probably yes. If your dog prefers a grain-free diet, is doing well on it, and you can afford it, then go for it. But if your dog is doing fine on a non–grain free diet, and your wallet is hurting, stow the guilt and buy the grains!

If your dog has signs of allergies, this type of food might be worth a try, but so might switching to non-beef or non-chicken foods. If your dog has signs of food intolerance such as repeated diarrhea, a food change might be a good idea, but getting him checked by a veterinarian is an even better option.

Yogurt – Yes, yogurt is OK for dogs. Plain yogurt is a perfectly acceptable snack for dogs, however some canines may have trouble digesting it. If your dog can digest it, the active bacteria in yogurt can help strengthen the digestive system with probiotics. Be sure to skip over yogurts with added sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Yogurt is high in probiotics (good bacteria), which are good for the digestive system. But does yogurt have the same effect on dogs that it has on humans? And is it safe to feed yogurt to your dog?

The Problem With Yogurt for Dogs

Although yogurt is not toxic to dogs, many canines will have trouble digesting it. Dogs’ bodies were not really designed to digest lactose after they are weaned off their mothers’ milk. Yogurt has less lactose than milk, because it has been fermented, so some dogs may be able to digest it easily. But if you want to try giving your dog yogurt, you should be aware that it could cause gas, diarrhea, and vomiting.

If your dog has none of the above symptoms after eating yogurt, it’s fine to feed him yogurt as a treat once in a while.

What Type of Yogurt Is Best for Dogs?

If you are going to give your dog yogurt, it should be free of any added sweeteners, both natural and artificial. Added sugars are not healthy for dogs or humans, and some artificial sweeteners, like xylitol, are toxic for dogs. A comprehensive list of products is available here. VCA Hospitals reports that xylitol is 100 times more toxic to dogs than chocolate.

You should also look for a yogurt that has lots of live cultures (bacteria), because they help digest the lactose in the yogurt.

Can Yogurt Benefit Dogs?

Do the probiotics in yogurt benefit a dog’s digestive system the way they benefit a human’s digestive system? While it is possible for a dog to get this benefit from yogurt, there are better sources of probiotics for canines.

Purina® Pro Plan® Veterinary Diets FortiFlora® is a probiotic supplement designed for dogs and cats, which is frequently recommended by veterinarians. FortiFlora® provides the good bacteria that can help improve your dog’s intestinal health, without the lactose that may be difficult for him to digest.

 Should You Give Your Dog Yogurt?

For some dogs, yogurt is fine to eat once in a while, but many dogs cannot digest it. If you want to give your dog a special treat, you are better off choosing foods that are easier on his digestive system, like these fruits and veggies.

LettuceFor a lot of Americans, salads are a popular meal option. But can dogs eat lettuce? In general, yes. Lettuce of the romaine, arugula, and iceberg variety do not contain anything that can really harm your dog. After all, it is 90 percent water. It’s also a low-calorie snack that could be a good training treat for an overweight dog. Plus, there’s just something about that crunch that dogs love!


Is Lettuce Safe for Dogs?

While you can feed your pup greens, there are possible risks. If you give him too much, it could cause diarrhea, so moderation is important.

It should be noted that spinach, while containing large amounts of Vitamins A, B, C, and K, is also very high in oxalic acid, which blocks the body’s ability to absorb calcium and can lead to kidney damage. Kale also contains several potentially harmful natural compounds, including calcium oxalate — which could lead to kidney and bladder stones — and isothiocyanates, that can cause mild to potentially severe gastric irritation.

Because it is very fibrous, lettuce can also be hard to digest in big pieces. Chopping it up is better than handing your dog a whole leaf, especially for smaller dogs or those that are prone to gulping down their food.

Make sure it’s washed thoroughly and that you know where your lettuce originates. Due to recent recalls of lettuce contaminated by E. coli or listeria, you should be extra cautious about the lettuce you buy so that no one in your household (including your pet) gets sick.

Is Lettuce Good for Dogs?

Given that it’s 90 percent water, lettuce’s nutritional content is somewhat low, especially the iceberg variety. But it does contain beta-carotene (a red-orange pigment that’s converted into Vitamin A) and is a great source of fiber. Exact nutritional value varies between the different types of lettuce.

However, be aware that just because your dog can eat lettuce doesn’t mean you should give him your leftover salad! It could include other ingredients, such as onions, that may be toxic. But, generally speaking, it’s okay to sneak your dog a piece of lettuce from time to time.


Grapes – Can dogs eat grapes? The answer (and this goes for raisins, too, which are just dried grapes) is easy: No. Grapes and raisins are known to be highly toxic to dogs, though research has yet to pinpoint exactly which substance in the fruit causes this reaction. Because of that, peeled or seedless grapes should also be avoided.

Gender, breed, or age of a dog has no influence on the risk of being affected, and since there is no proven amount that is safe, you shouldn’t be giving your pup grapes or raisins at all.

Unfortunately, grape/raisin toxicity can even be fatal. Ingesting the fruit could potentially lead to acute (sudden) kidney failure in dogs. According to ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, they received a total of 3,722 calls involving grapes and raisins in 2016.

Here are the signs and symptoms that may occur after a toxic ingestion:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy, weakness, unusual stillness

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea, often within a few hours

  • Abdominal pain (tender when touched)

  • Dehydration (signs include panting; dry nose and mouth; pale gums). A quick way to test for dehydration is to gently pull up on the skin at the back of your dog’s neck. It should spring back immediately.

  • Increased thirst and/or urine production or diminished amount of urine or complete cessation altogether

  • Kidney failure (which can be fatal)

If your dog has ingested grapes or raisins, treatment is absolutely critical. Contact your veterinarian, who may suggest you induce vomiting as soon as possible. However, you should not induce vomiting if your dog is having trouble breathing, exhibiting signs of distress, is unconscious, or if you’re not sure what he has eaten.

BonesRaw bones can be both safe and healthy providing you follow some guidelines which I’ll discuss shortly. You’re probably aware your dog’s ancestors and counterparts in the wild have been eating bones forever. Canines in their natural habitat eat prey, including the meat, bones and stomach contents. In fact, your pup has a biological requirement for the nutrients found in bone marrow and the bones themselves.

Dogs love to chew raw bones for the yummy taste, the mental stimulation, and also because all that gnawing is great exercise for the muscles of the jaw.

Two Types of Raw Bones

At my clinic, Natural Pet Animal Hospital, we recommend to all our dog parents that they separate bones into two categories:

  1. Edible bones

  2. Recreational bones

Edible bones – are the hollow, non-weight-bearing bones of birds (typically chicken wings and chicken and turkey necks). They are soft, pliable, do not contain marrow, and can be easily crushed in a meat grinder. These bones provide calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals which can be an essential part of your pup’s balanced raw food diet.

Recreational bones – big chunks of beef or bison femur or hip bones filled with marrow — don’t supply significant dietary nutrition for your dog (they are not designed to be chewed up and swallowed, only gnawed on), but they do provide mental stimulation and are great for your pup’s oral health.

When your dog chews on a raw recreational bone, especially a meaty one with cartilage and soft tissue still attached, his teeth get the equivalent of a good brushing and flossing. This helps to break down tartar and reduces the risk of gum disease. Dogs in the wild have beautiful teeth and healthy gums. This is because the prey they eat requires a lot of chewing, and the sinewy composition helps to clean each entire tooth.

Guidelines for Feeding Recreational Bones Safely

The health risks listed above for cooked bones can also apply to recreational raw bones if your dog has unrestricted, unsupervised access to them. The following are do’s and don’ts for feeding recreational raw bones (and yes, they have to be raw, not steamed, boiled or baked):

Do supervise your dog closely while he’s working on a bone. That way you can react immediately if your pup happens to choke, or if you notice any blood on the bone or around your dog’s mouth from over aggressive gnawing.

You’ll also know when your dog has chewed down to the hard-brittle part of a knuckle bone, making splinters more likely. When the bone has been gnawed down in size throw it out. Do not allow your dog to chew it down to a small chunk he can swallow.

Do separate dogs in a multi-dog household before feeding bones. Dogs can get quite territorial about bones and some dogs will fight over them.

Do feed fresh raw bones in your dog’s crate, or on a towel or other surface you can clean, or outside as long as you can supervise him. Fresh raw bones become a gooey, greasy mess until your dog has gnawed them clean, so make sure to protect your flooring and furniture.

Don’t give them to a dog that has had restorative dental work/crowns.

Don’t give them to your dog if she has a predisposition to pancreatitis. Raw bone marrow is very rich and can cause diarrhea and a flare-up of pancreatitis. Instead, you can feed a “low fat” version by thawing the bone and scooping out the marrow to reduce the fat content.

Don’t give a recreational bone to a dog that’s likely to try to swallow it whole or bite it in two and eat it in huge chunks.

My pit bulls tried to do this the first time I fed them recreational raw bones – they bit them in two and tried to eat both halves whole. So, I got knuckle bones the approximate size of their heads, and they couldn’t open their jaws wide enough to bite down and crack off big chunks of the bones. Over time, I trained them to chew smaller femur bones less aggressively.

You should be able to find raw knuckle bones at your local butcher shop or the meat counter of your supermarket (labeled as ‘soup bones’). When you get the bones home, store them in the freezer and thaw one at a time before feeding to your pup. I also recommend giving your dog a bone to chew after she’s full from a meal. Hungry dogs are more tempted to swallow a bone whole or break it apart and swallow large chunks. This increases the risk of an obstruction in the digestive tract.

  • Don’t feed small bones that can be swallowed whole or pose a choking risk, or bones that have been cut, such as a leg bone. Cut bones are more likely to splinter.

  • Don’t feed pork bones or rib bones. They’re more likely to splinter than other types of bones.

A Healthy Alternative to Feeding Raw Bones

If one of the above conditions prevents you from offering raw bones to your dog, consider a softer alternative: a high quality, edible dental bone. A fully digestible, high quality dental dog chew provides mechanical abrasion to help control plaque and tartar, and is similar to the effect of eating whole, raw food in the wild.

Many popular chew bones cannot be broken down, and if your pup swallows one whole, or a large enough portion of one, there’s always a risk of intestinal blockage. In addition, most traditional dog chews contain unhealthy ingredients like gelatin, artificial sweeteners, and other additives and preservatives that are potentially cancer causing.

I highly recommend a high quality dog dental bone, that is 100 percent natural and contain absolutely no corn, soy, gluten, extra fat or sugar, or animal byproducts.

Whether you go with raw bones, a high quality dog dental bone, or a combination, the important thing to remember is your canine family member is designed to chew. She needs your help to insure she gets regular opportunities to brush and floss as nature intended, and to exercise those jaw muscles

Can dogs eat steak bones


Dogs can NOT eat steak bones!

Do you feed your dog regularly with steak bones? Do you consider giving bones to your canine friend healthy? It is true that your dog will love chewing and playing with bones, but have you ever wondered the dangers related to bones?

Bones, the rich source of protein is always considered to be healthy for your dog’s gums. Haven’t your pet dog ever faced any trouble with steak, beef or chicken bones? If not, then you and your canine friend are lucky enough.

If you haven’t faced any trouble doesn’t mean that your dog will never pose any threat from bones. Do you know steak bones can be highly dangerous and can create life threatening situations?

Basically, when you cook steak bones it becomes very brittle and breaks down too easily. There is no doubt to the fact that your pet dog will love the delicious and yummy taste of steak bones and you cannot risk his/her life by giving bones simply because your pet loves it.

Since steak bones become brittle and breaks down there is every possibility that the broken-down pieces of the bones get struck in your dog’s throat. Can you even imagine the condition of your canine friend?

This is an extremely serious situation and if immediate medical attention is not given, your pet might die out of breathlessness and pain. Sometimes the brittle bones also get struck in the intestinal tract of your dog that needs surgery to cure. Look at the dangers you call when you treat your pet with steak bones. Avoid giving steak bones to your canine dog.

Complete List of People Foods Dogs Can’t Eat


Bread Dough

Chocolate (Especially Dark and Baking Chocolate)

Caffeine (Coffee, Tea, Soda, etc)

The stems, leaves, peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants contain varying amounts of citric acid, essential oils that can cause irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts. Small doses, such as eating the fruit, are not likely to present problems beyond minor stomach upset.



Grapes and Raisins


The main danger of cherries is that their pits, stems, and leaves contain cyanide, which is poisonous and potentially lethal if consumed in high enough quantities. Cherry pits can also get lodged in a dog’s digestive tract and cause intestinal blockages.

What about maraschino cherries, which already have the pits removed? They may be pit-free, but maraschinos are not a good dog treat because they have been sweetened with tons of sugar.


Macadamia Nuts

Moldy Foods

Onions and Garlic

Xylitol (Sugar-Free Candy, Mints, Gum, Toothpaste)

Xylitol is deadly to your dog!

Seeds of most fruit (Apple, Almond, Apricot, Cherry, Peaches, Plums, Persimmons, Pear, Prunes, Tomatoes & similar fruit)

Raw Eggs


Corn Cobs

Bones that can splinter