I know I wasn’t supposed to feed the family dog table scraps. But I couldn’t stand eating cube steak as a child–you know the stuff that tastes like rawhide and you chew on it for days. So I shoved little pieces of it into the waiting dogs’ mouths as they hid under the table. Too bad they left telltale signs behind of my naughty behavior.
I know that the dog experts tells us not to feed dogs table scraps because we turn them into whiny beggars. And once we get those mutts started on the habit, they transform into relentless pests at the dinner table-often shocking the dinner guests that show up. The mutt slides down the slippery slope of mooching for food and remind me of squirrels, crows, and gulls digging through garbage bins for moldy morsels.
The bravest of dogs rests his chin on the tabletop with his puppy eyes working full force. If they also whimper as if they’re appearing in the movie Lassie Come Home (or maybe the ending to Old Yeller still haunts us), then we can hardly resists sharing our meal with the overweight dog. And why is he or she overweight, waddling and wagging his or her way into the room? It’s because us humans have this need to bond with others over food. Now, this works fine with other humans, but when we start tossing scraps under the dinner table for the family dog or (yuck) allowing them to lick the plate when we’re done with it, then Spot’s going to develop a weight problem. See Spot try to run. See spot fall on the ground and roll over and play dead obese dog.
(And I’ll mention that when people feed ducks human food such as bread, they’re decreasing the years the ducks will live upon the earth. Bread wasn’t made for a duck’s sensitive digestive system. But I digress).
Now, let’s take my brother’s dog, a German Short-Haired Pointer who is three or four times his normal size. Instead of gracefully entering a room like his recreational dog forebears (his own mother wouldn’t recognize him), he barrels into a room out of breath and in search of more food. And it’s hard to ignore him as he shoves his head into your lap while you’re concentrating on your meal or sits across from you staring with sad, you guessed it, puppy eyes (resembling one of the Beatles).
And it’s really hard to resist the poor fat fellow when he sits up straight as if he’s in obedient school expecting a reward for doing something right. When I ask family members why they keep feeding him junk food (my dad feeds him candy), they basically cave in to the dog’s charms and good acting abilities. Not that anyone would ever believe that he is starving with that waistline he’s sporting.
My family isn’t the only ones who give into the beggar’s eyes. I have lived around other human companions of dogs who also use food in a bonding ritual. Many vets are telling these human companions to exercise their dogs more (now there’s a way to bond with your dog that’s healthy for both of you) and to feed them less. In other words, dogs are going on diets. Is the correct term doggy diet? So instead of hearing the phrase, “He’s a rescue animal,” we can also hear, “who is on a doggy diet.”
Our pets take up our personalities and habits. People who tend to overeat tend to overfeed their pets. We, especially in America have an obsession with snack food and snacking throughout the day and unfortunately, dogs are sharing in those bags of chips and even lapping up ice cream remainders on the dessert bowl. And this is backwards love at work and even abuse of the health of a dog. It’s called smothering, folks.
Dogs are just as prone to obesity and diabetes as humans are and many dogs acquire the same diseases and medical conditions as their human companions. Some people theorize that this happens because of the human-dog bond that has lasted for thousands of years. Out of all the domestic animals, the bond between human and dog remains the strongest with 70 to 80 million pet dogs in the US alone according to ASPC. And I won’t even say what our bond with food is since the US leads in obesity rates.
I know the temptation to give into the puppy eyes and to bond with animals through feeding them. Many of us were taught to befriend animals with food. I know I learned this when attracting stray dogs as a child so that we could lure them in as pets. But there must be other ways to befriend dogs without robbing of their dignity by turning them into mutt the moocher.