Tag Archives: diet

Why You Should Spoil Your Puppy

Let’s be honest with each other, even the most stern efforts to keep your new puppy off the furniture, from begging at the dining table or from getting that extra treat will result in you, the owner, giving in just a little. It’s hard to resist snuggling on the couch with your new puppy. It’s even hard to resist those big eyes putting at you for table scraps. You give in, and you beat yourself up every time because you think spoiling your puppy will ruin her for life.

I’m here to help ease that guilt.

Who wouldn’t want to snuggle with this puppy?

Before I get going, I am not a vet or a certified trainer. I am an owner, a socializer, a teacher and a volunteer who has devoted a lot of time helping other owners to turn their puppies into well-adjusted dogs. My opinions are from the dozens of dogs I have worked with and the interactions I’ve had with their owners. I have spent hours helping owners to understand that sometimes, giving in is okay.

Your first responsibility as a pet owner is to be their parent. You are responsible for teaching a puppy to be well-mannered, obedient, respectful, and ensuring they are loved. You are NOT an overlord, depriving your puppy of all the joys of being alive. A parent does not dominate their children, rather they guide them through life’s twists and turns, and that is your job as a puppy parent.

If you’re going to take the time to raise a puppy, you should probably take some time to enjoy it, right?

This is what I tell new puppy owners: If your dog does something you want them to do (like snuggle in bed), then why is it a bad thing? Lots of dog trainers are on this kick lately that you must be the dominant alpha overlord of your dog in order for them to be good dogs. After spending a year raising my own dog, I can tell you that’s not the case. So don’t fret if you want to treat your puppy. Turns out, you’ll be treating yourself, too.

If you are okay with your dog being in the bed, then let them cuddle with you at night. Pickle is allowed on our furniture, and she crawls into bed every morning with us before starting the day. But as soon as we walk into someone else’s home, she must adopt the rules of THEIR house. If they don’t allow dogs on the furniture, then Pickle stays on the floor, it’s that easy. She is only allowed to do what we tell her, and she has learned to respect that. Are we spoiling her at home? Maybe, but it’s up to her to maintain the boundaries we have set.

When it comes to treats, string cheese is god’s gift to dog training. Puppies can’t get enough of the stuff, and when you are training you must load up on the tastiest treats you can find. Every good deed should be rewarded and praised like it’s Christmas. I know lots of trainers who believe praise is enough to convince a dog to follow your command, and I think that’s a stretch. You must build trust and rapport with your dog. Treats are the best way to maintain their focus, and front loading the treats keeps their attention through hard training sessions. You can taper the treats as your puppy becomes more responsive. And I stand by the string cheese!


And what about table scraps? As long as it’s dog friendly, why not? Avoid certain foods from the table, but as long as the dog is taking them under your supervision and with your permission, I say go for it.

So what do you do when a vet scolds you because you are making your puppy fat? Well, you listen. A puppy with an extra pound or two is not a big deal. I would rather have a chunky puppy who listens and trains well then a slim dog that won’t come to me when called. When your dog reaches full size, and is developed enough to exercise extensively, you can easily adapt their diet and increase the exercise. They can shed the weight in a healthy way, and you still get a happy dog!

In the end, spoiling your puppy means you are building a strong and loving relationship. Don’t mistake this for saying your dog is in charge. You are the parent, it is your responsibility to act the part. But while you are spending all that time training and cleaning up after your pup, you should be able to enjoy a cuddle once in a while! If you want to throw your pup an extra piece of bacon from the breakfast table, then do it! Keep things on your terms, train your pup to respect your voice, and treating them will become a reward. You will both be happier for it!


Dog Food: Going Beyond the Kibble (Part 2)

Last week, I talked about some great ways to switch your dog to a whole foods diet while highlighting a handful of tasty and nutritious treats usually reserved for humans.

Unfortunately, not all human food is dog friendly. And though switching to a whole foods diet is great for your dog and your wallet, there are a handful of foods you should avoid. Here are a few of the most common foods to avoid:



The leaves, bark, and seeds of an avocado contain a chemical called persin. Dogs (and birds, rabbits, and horses) are especially sensitive to avocado as they can have respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart, and even death from consuming avocado. Though toxic to some animals, avocado does not pose a serious threat to dogs or cats. Usually a mild stomach ache can occur from eating too much avocado flesh or peel. Swallowing the pit can lead to obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, which is a serious situation and you should get your pet to the vet immediately.



Dogs are extremely sensitive to the effects of alcohol (also refered to as ethanol or ethyl alcohol). Even a small amount of alcohol can leave your pooch severely intoxicated. Keep a close eye on your holiday champaign or wine, and don’t give your dog some of that beer your sipping! Alcohol intoxication commonly causes vomiting, loss of coordination, disorientation and stupor (I’m sure many of you can relate). In severe cases, coma, seizures and death may occur. Keep a close eye on your pup if they are showing signs of mild intoxication, but if your dog cannot get up they should be monitored by a vet until they recover.

Onion and Garlic:


Ingestion of onions and garlic may pose a threat to dogs’ red blood cells. The odds of a dog eating enough raw garlic or onion to cause any serious damage is unlikely, but concentrated forms (dried onions, garlic powder) can pose a much greater risk. Damage caused by eating too much garlic or onion may not show up for a few days, when dogs become easily tired or reluctant to move. Take your dog to the vet immediately if they seem to be having trouble. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

Grapes and Raisins:


Consuming grapes and raisins has been associated with the development of kidney failure in some dogs, though the cause is unclear.Also confusing is why some dogs can eat these fruits without harm, while others develop life-threatening problems after eating even a few grapes or raisins. Of course it’s better to be safe then sorry and just not let your pup eat any grapes or raisins. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea within 12 hours of ingestion. As symptoms progress, dogs become increasingly lethargic and dehydrated, refuse to eat and may have a period of frequent urination, followed by little to zero urination. Death due to kidney failure may occur within three to four days, or long-term kidney disease may persist in dogs who survive the acute intoxication.

In case you missed it, don’t let your dogs eat grapes or raisins. In case it happens, successful treatment requires prompt veterinary treatment to maintain good urine flow.


Here’s the big one! Unless you’re planning for a New Year’s resolution and ridding yourself of chocolate for the year, chocolate is probably in your home and could be a serious problem to your dog. Foods like chocolate candy, cookies, brownies, chocolate baking goods, cocoa powder and cocoa shell-based mulches all pose a risk to your pup. Caffeine and theobromine, which belong to a group of chemicals called methylxanthines, are what cause the issues. The rule of thumb with chocolate is “the darker it is, the more dangerous it is.” White chocolate has very few methylxanthines and is of low toxicity. Dark baker’s chocolate has very high levels of methylxanthines, and plain, dry unsweetened cocoa powder contains the most concentrated levels of methylxanthines. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, the signs seen can range from vomiting, increased thirst, abdominal discomfort and restlessness to severe agitation, muscle tremors, irregular heart rhythm, high body temperature, seizures and death. Dogs showing more than mild restlessness should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Now you have the tools to switch your pup off the kibble. So have at it, get your pup on that whole food diet! Get them off the kibble and mystery meat canned food and help them get to a healthier, happier life!

Dog Food: Going beyond the Kibble (Part 1)

I live in Seattle, so the idea of a healthy, whole foods lifestyle isn’t reserved for just us humans. Articles galore online describe how easy it is to switch your dog from byproduct riddled kibble and mystery meat canned food to a real, you can actually see the ingredient whole foods diet.

Why would you bother? First, it’s healthier, especially knowing that your pup is getting real meats and vegetables, and you get to pick what goes inside. Second, in most cases it’s cheaper. A local pet shop owner tipped me off to a brilliant idea (and talked me out of buying some canned food). Throw some chicken in the slow cooker on a Monday morning, and you’ll have fresh chicken all the way till Sunday! Lean, healthy protein source for about 36 cents a serving, compared to about $1/serving for the wet food we feed Pickle. That’s a 65% savings!

Okay, now you’re intrigued, right? The issue now is what can we and what can’t we feed our dogs. Here’s a list of some great, tasty options to feed your pup that are safe for your pup to eat:

Fresh, cooked meat.

Fresh meat can be a great stand in for the mystery meat canned food you may be serving up now, and works great in a pinch if you accidentally run out of food. Chicken, turkey, lean ground beef, and chuck steak or roast are animal-based proteins, which help dogs grow up strong. Make sure to cook the meat well as raw or undercooked meat could transmit food born illnesses to your pup. Many pet health sites will advise against fatty cuts, including bacon, but I encourage moderation. A piece of bacon will make your dog happy, a whole pound may leave him with a belly ache. Lastly, cut meat into easy-to-chew chunks to avoid choking.

Sweet potatoes.

Pickle loves her some sweet potato! Mixed up in her food or as a stand alone treat, sweet potatoes are a great source of dietary fibre and contain vitamin B6, vitamin C, beta carotene, and manganese. Sweet potatoes are great sliced and dehydrated as a chewy treat for your dog.



A wonderful, crunchy, sweet and/or tangy treat for your dog. Apples with the skin on are full of plant chemicals (phytonutrients) and are a source of vitamins A and C and fibre. Be weary of the seeds, however, as they contain cyanide. Don’t let your dog eat the core, but don’t be too worried if they get a seed or two. Issues occur when they regularly eat seeds, but a couple shouldn’t cause an issue.



Another cool, crunchy, see treat. Carrots are good for a dog’s teeth, low calorie, high in fiber and beta carotene/vitamin A.


Fiber is a huge theme here, and pumpkin is no exception. Also a good source of beta carotene (a source of vitamin A), we use pumpkin as a way to regulate Pickle’s bowel movements. It’s a tasty treat that certainly keeps her regular (and her belly happy).

Nut Butters.

Move beyond the peanut butter when you are giving your pup a midday treat. We have used everything from almond butter to sunflower seed butter to help spice up Pickle’s meals and treats (especially spreading it on her antler chew, she digs it!) A great source of protein and nutrients. Try to stick with raw, unsalted butters.

Cranberries and Blueberries.

Cranberries and blueberries good sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Both are high in antioxidant content, which can help protect against free radicals that damage normal cells and tissues, are good for cardiovascular system and immune system. Cranberries have been used to help relieve to effects of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in dogs (still go to your vet if your dog is showing signs of painful urination). At the same time the effect of antioxidants can protect the structure and tissues from the radical damage and delay aging. So blueberries provide special benefits for older dogs.


Blueberries and cranberries should be fed in moderation so as not to upset the digestive system of your dog. Over feeding of berries could lead to upset bellies and diarrhea.


Yogurt is awesome for dogs! Not only is yogurt a great source of calcium and protein, but it is also a great source of stomach friendly probiotics for your dog! When Pickle was on antibiotics for her kennel cough, we gave her a small amount of yogurt everyday to keep her regulated, and she loved it. Choose low fat yogurts with no added sugar or sweeteners. On a warm day, frozen yogurt (with berries!?) can make a great treat for your pup!

Make sure to check back later in the week when we look at the foods that are dangerous for your pup and need to be avoided.

What are your favorite ways to spice up your dog’s meals? Leave a comment on our Facebook page or on Twitter!