Thursday , 23 November 2017

Ask A Trainer: My dog only eats ‘people food’!

Q:  I am writing to you with the hope that you know of or can direct me to a good canine nutritionist in the Montreal or Verdun area. I have the most precious and loveable chocolate-colored miniature poodle (Gucci). LOL and naturally, we just love him to death. Had him since last October. he is now about 10-11 months old.

My problem is that he absolutely refuses to eat anything but people food. He just simply won’t eat dog food (we’ve tried… every brand and even the most expensive vet foods, dry or wet). And we have watched him lose weight (noticeably) for the past several weeks in trying to follow the vet’s orders to NOT give him anything BUT the recommended vet food. The vet saidthat poodles are very manipulative and intelligent and they know that they can manipulate you into giving him people food if they don’t eat their dog food…whatever.

He has completely refused to eat more than a few bitefuls per day. This has been going on for several weeks now and I refuse to let it go on any longer. Yesterday he started vomitting yellowish-color bile because he just doesn’t have anything in his stomach. I thought…Enough is enough!!!

So, I boiled some skinless & boneless chicken breasts with green beans and carrots. I cut it all up into tiny pieces and gave it to him. It honestly brought tears to my eyes and just broke my heart to see how hungry he was. He gobbled it all up and then seemed to be happy and content and played around for a while with us and with his toys and then went for a long nap.

So, I will continue to do this until I can find a good dog nutritionist that can give me recipes or ideas on which (people) foods I can give him that won’t be bad for him and that can be just as nutritious as canned or dry dog food.

Hope you can help! Thanks.


A: Hi there Lynn!

Thanks for writing in with such a good question!  I am sorry to hear about the troubles you are having with Gucci.  It’s obvious how much you love and care for him.  To begin with, I would definitely want a vet to rule out any medical issues,  Which seems to be what you have done.  If for any reason you are unsatisfied with your vet’s findings, then I’d recommend getting a second opinion from another vet.  I know that you wrote in to question our vet, Dr Seto, but since your vet didn’t find anything wrong medically with Gucci, this leads me to believe that you are dealing with a behavioral issue.

Your vet was bang on the money when he told you about the intelligence of dogs, and how they can train you to do what they want.  As harsh as it may sound, dogs happen to be very selfish beings, and will ALWAYS do what pays off best for them.  Especially when it comes to getting what they want.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with feeding your dog cooked food.  So long as it’s a balanced diet, then it can be a good thing, although I would recommend Raw Feeding if you didn’t want to go the dog food route with your puppy.  But there are high quality dog foods out there that will more than meet your dog’s dietary needs.  Feeding cooked food, or raw food to our dogs can be very costly, and whenever someone asks me what they should feed their dog, I always recommend feeding the best that you can afford.  And this is something that only you can deduce.

The thing that we should keep in mind though, is that dogs are natural scavengers.  Most homeless/feral dogs survive on garbage, and forage for their food.  Not that I believe that this is

"Where is my beef roulade in a savory tomato sauce?"

what a dog should live on, but just to point out that dogs do not require people food to live on.  There is a happy medium.  And that happy medium is a quality dog food.

When mother dogs wean their pups off of their milk, they do not wean them onto people food.  I would think it very unlikely that Gucci’s first food, after being weaned, was people food.  But there did come a time, obviously, that Gucci did get some people food, and it seems that he liked it VERY much.  So much so, that he shunned everything else in favor of it.  And who could blame him?  If I were offered a salad and yummy blueberry cheesecake, I can assure you that I’d choose the cheese cake!  I know that most children would!  And this is where the comparison comes in.  Most children will choose the sugary yummy goodies rather than a plate full of healthy vegetables.  (Unless they were consistently offered a healthy, vegetable filled diet.)  But as responsible parents, we know that our children cannot survive on cake alone, and it is our duty to enforce rules, ensuring that we give them a well balanced diet.  Not that we can’t ever give them cake.  Of course we can!  Just not for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  So, of course I can understand that Gucci was more than content after being fed a meal of cooked chicken and vegetables!

This also brings to mind my sister and my niece’s eating habits.  When my two nieces were little, they wouldn’t eat most things unless they had some ketchup (dip-dip) to drench everything in.  I can’t even begin to describe to you how loud things would get if you told the girls that they couldn’t have any ketchup, or worse, that there was NO ketchup at all.  Full blown hysterics, I tell you!  So, I ask you, how do you think it got that way?  They weren’t born loving ketchup.  They were taught the joys of ketchup.  It started off small.  Just a bit here, a bit there.  And then they started asking for it.  And they got it.  And then they started to refuse to eat other foods, unless there was ketchup to go along with it.  And my sister felt guilty, because she couldn’t let her girls starve, so she always caved in, and gave it to them.  Now, we all know that the girls wouldn’t have starved without the ketchup.  Nor would they have starved if my sister refused to give them any ketchup.  Yes, they may have refused to eat a meal or two, but I can assure you that it wouldn’t last too long.  Their need to eat, their instinct to survive would kick in eventually, and they would eat.  And they did.  They are now preteens who don’t need any more dip-dip to eat their meals anymore.  (Which I am so thankful for!)

I think that Gucci’s people food is the same as my niece’s ketchup.  But it’s up to you if you want him to eat it or not. If you choose to feed him people food due to it being a conscious choice, then I see no reason to change it.  But if you are feeding him people food only because he won’t eat anything else, then you are letting your dog dictate how you should provide for him, and you have let your dog train you.  And believe me, dogs are the best people trainers out there!

You say that when you tried feeding Gucci only dog food, that he lost a lot of weight.  What amount did he actually lose?  Unless there are serious medical issues, dogs will not let themselves starve.  Dogs do not go on hunger strikes, but they do offer tantrums, just as children do.  And this is what pulls at our heart strings and makes us feel guilty!

You also mentioned that Gucci only ate a few mouthfuls of the dog food per day.  How much did he actually consume?  Small dogs, especially those weighing in at under 10lbs really do not need that much food.  They actually need less than is recommended on the bag of food.  The suggestions written on the bag are for unaltered males, who consume more energy.  That plus the fact that the dog food companies want us to feed our dogs more, thereby getting us to buy more of their product.

We also need to keep in mind that dogs do not need to eat every single day.  There are some dogs that are more than alright to eat every second day, and this is no cause for worry.  My staffy, Bullet sometimes will go a day and a half without eating and there is nothing wrong with him.  I would only start to worry if he wasn’t drinking any water, or hadn’t eaten after three days.  So, that being said, Gucci probably doesn’t need to eat as much food as you think he does.  That and the fact that you say that he did eat a few mouthfuls of the dog food each day.  He might not need much more than that, in reality.  He is a small dog, so his food needs will not be as large as of let’s say a Great Dane.

Remember when I said that dogs will always do what pays off best for them?  Well, this also works at the other end of the scale in that a dog will also not starve himself unless there was a serious medical issue going on.  So, the bottom line is that Gucci has learned that people food is more to his liking, and he’s also learned that if he refuses to eat what is put in front of him, that his owners will cave in, and give him what he wants.

Like I said before, feeding him people food isn’t a bad thing, depending on how you got to that choice.  If he manipulated you into this situation, then you’ll need to keep in mind that he’s learned that you will always do what he wants, so long as he works on you hard enough.  And this can cause much bigger problems down the road.  Especially considering his age.  He is a doggy teenager right now, and he will test your limits.  Whatever attitudes he has now will only become cemented in his mind during this stage of his development.

You are the only one who can decide, because you know how things got this way.  But I am sure that you will make the best choice for you, your family and most of all, for Gucci!

Good luck and Happy Training!






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  1. WAT? I had to reread that third paragraph a few times to make sure I hadn’t missed something. A Dog Professional Who Knows About Dog Things, endorsing raw feeding? I can’t even begin to tell you how happy that makes me. I have been feeding my dog raw for years, and while I have found a lot of support for it online and occasionally even in person, raw feeding and its advocates have been routinely ridiculed and dismissed by anyone operating in an official capacity in any dog-related services.

    It may not be the best option for every single pet out there, there are certainly risks and safer ways to go about it, and there definitely needs to be more unbiased research into the matter. But raw feeding has made a real contribution to the health, longevity and quality of life of many animals. Here’s hoping that more informed, reasonable professionals and animal lovers come out in favour of it.

  2. I think home-cooked and raw foods are much healthier for dogs and cats, as long as they’re prepared properly. Would you think your child was 100% healthy if you were feeding him/her Kraft dinner everyday? I honestly see no difference between that and kibble. There are many good books out there with recipes, such as Dr. Pitcairn’s New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, The Whole Pet Diet by Andi Brown, and Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats for starters!

    I don’t know of any local pet nutritionists, but there is one in the Ottawa area who offers long distance services. Her name is Cat Lane and her website is

    I know this is an old question so hopefully you see this, or maybe it’ll help someone else who stumbles across it.

  3. Well said Meira

  4. I’m guilty of feeding my puppy people food. I want her to eat raw but it is expensive. But how to make her happy with raw that hasn’t got much flavour. She is on strike waiting for people food. She is unhappy and so am I. I put gravy or broth on the raw and she links it off and leaves.

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