Sometimes when I’m entertaining, my guests will give my dog table scraps without my knowledge. I feed her a very specific diet, and although I know these individuals are acting out of kindness, I don’t approve of anyone feeding my dog human food. I’ll be hosting a socially-distanced Friendsgiving this year, inviting a few people who have never met my dog. What is the polite way for me to intervene if they attempt to feed her?
It’s up to all pet parents to research and determine the best food choices for their dogs. And yet, that measure of control disappears when well-meaning friends, family members or even strangers give our dogs something to eat. This is particularly challenging during the holidays, when a bevy of human goodies that can be harmful to our pets are in such ample supply.
And our dogs make it oh-so-easy for others to slip them table scraps. Whether at the dinner table, in the kitchen or at a backyard picnic, they can be relentless with their begging and pleading. More often than not, they win out.
Rather than putting one more thing on your plate (literally and figuratively) by having to remain on your guard during the gathering, I would make a brief but polite announcement to your guests. This can be done in the invitation or once everyone has arrived, something along the lines of: “For those who have not yet met Daisy, she can be relentless when it comes to asking for table scraps. Unfortunately, she’s on a restricted diet, so if she asks for anything you’re eating, please don’t give in.”
That’s what New York-based commercial and film actor Haas Manning does for his 4-year-old Doberman Pinscher, Diesel, who has a particularly sensitive stomach. After food allergies caused him to lose hair, break out and scratch, Diesel endured a dietary process of elimination that ultimately determined lamb to be the best meat for him. All was well until—without Manning’s knowledge—one of his nephews fed the Doberman some chicken. It was only when Diesel started scratching behind his ears in the days following that the actor tracked down the cause—and the culprit. With experiences such as that one fresh in mind, Manning ensures that all guests know plain and simple that his pup is not OK eating human food—not even “once in a while.” Calling Diesel a “Velcro dog” because he sticks so close to his papa, Manning says that fortunately, he’s able to keep close tabs on his sidekick, as Diesel is rarely out of his sight.
For anyone who starts begging you to feed your begging dog, I encourage what longtime dog lover and pet parent Robin Arnold does: have sanctioned, healthy treats on the ready. The Greenwich, Connecticut, resident often brings her 6-year-old Standard Poodle, Jimmy, on visits to schools and hospitals. Packing treats that Jimmy likes, she instructs any child who wishes to feed the therapy animal to do so with an outstretched arm, open palm and an Arnold-approved goodie. The poodle, who features regularly in Arnold’s Instagram, is an angel around kids, but since that is not the case with every dog, Jimmy is helping little ones practice a safer way to engage with a pet.
Those who want to treat your pooch to something from their plate have good intentions. They may not know a little bit of turkey or chocolate could do your pet harm. Ease your worries and avoid awkward mid-meal conversations by making house rules clear from the start. Include a brief explanation about why feeding your dog human foods can be a no-no, and then allow guests to indulge their desire to treat your pet by having approved dog-friendly snacks on hand. After all, pups should be able to embrace the spirit of the day and give thanks for their blessings, too.