Friday, June 18, 2010

What Dog People Really Argue About -- Food

I have a great idea for a book that will make me millions. Except that there's really only a few paragraphs worth to say on the subject, so you'll get it here for free.

What dog people really argue about it what to feed their dogs. OK, maybe this is off topic from the whole behavior science thing, but what can I's free insights. So anyway, dog people and dog food. If you are someone who says "What's the big deal? You feed dogs dog food -- what else would you do?" then you may have dogs, but you are not a dog person. Dog people argue about whether to feed dogs raw food, cooked food, kibble or some combination of the above. The raw food people argue about whether or not to feed veggies, pureed or cooked, and the merits of prey model vs. "Biologically Appropriate Raw Food" aka BARF. And yes, they do call it BARF with a straight face.

The raw food movement is predicated on the fact that wolves eat raw meat, not kibble, so it stands to reason that dogs would do better eating raw meat and raw bones, rather than extruded grain-based products. But here's my idea. Dogs became dogs by hanging around human habitation in order to eat stuff off of scrap heaps and garbage dumps. They evolved into the friendly, let me hang about your feet, beings that they are because of the opportunity to eat leftovers and the grody stuff like intestines that we didn't want. So really, the evolutionarily appropriate diet for dogs should be the leftovers and scraps of whatever it is that we are eating. My dogs are extremely enthusiastic about this idea. In the name of science, they have volunteered to lick all of the plates and pans, and to empty out any leftover containers before they get forgotten and ugly in the back of the refrigerator. Taz is even happy to serve as the pre-rinse cycle for plates that are already stacked in the dishwasher.

Think about it, though. It totally makes sense. In fact, dog food has only been around for the last 50 years or so. Feeding your dog anything other than table scraps is an extremely recent invention, and the whole "never feed human food to a dog" thing is largely an invention of the dog food companies. But here's the really brilliant part of the Feed Your Dog the Same Thing You Eat campaign. What would it do to your diet if you only ate stuff you'd be willing to feed your dog? Now, there are a few things that are fine for people that are bad for dogs -- onions, macademia nuts and grapes are pretty much it. Alcohol, caffeine and chocolate are certainly worse for dogs than they are for people, and I for one do not plan on giving them up.

But other than that, really if you just limited yourself to eating things that you'd be willing to feed your dogs, just think how healthy you'd be.Any kind of meat -- good. Dairy products and eggs -- excellent. Any kind of fruit or vegetable -- fine. Legumes, nuts (macademias aside), whole grains -- all cool, although your dog probably doesn't really need them. But Coretta would like to point out that the crusts of peanut butter sandwiches could be a staple of the canine diet without any objections on her part. Heck, entire peanut butter sandwiches (or jars of peanut butter) would be just fine by her.

What if, every time you put something in your mouth you had to evaluate whether you'd be willing to include it in your dog's diet. Sure, your dog could probably handle a french fry or chip every now and again, but you wouldn't want it to be very often. You wouldn't (I hope) feed candy or soda to your dog. Coretta would, however, like to point out that a little cheese popcorn or crunchy green beans from Trader Joe's never hurt a dog, and provide a very satisfying snacking experience. Even if you're human. You might not end up with the idea diet for a dog, but it wouldn't be too bad, and just imagine how much healthier the people would be.

It just might turn out that watching out for your dog's health would turn out to be more reinforcing than watching out for your own.

So there you have it -- my brilliant idea. Yours for free.


  1. Great post, Lynn! (BARF--that really cracked mama & I up!!). In our house, mama has been fretting over our food. What she thought was good, no longer is... now we're on a new natural salmon/rice kibble. So far, so good, but we agree, the "what to feed a dog" conversation is never-ending.
    Wilbur & I also love what mama eats...well, most of it. You see, she's vegetarian, so some of the things she finds edible...well... I could take it or leave it. Don't get me wrong, I Always take it! but I'd much prefer steak to tofu.
    My entire family enjoys your blog! thanks for the good read...

  2. Atticus, I think that the exception to the "dogs eat what people eat" rule should be if the people don't eat meat. Then the dogs should eat meat AND whatever the people are having. Me and Coretta are happy eating raw meat, so long as we get some of whatever the people are having.

  3. Oops. Meant to post from Mama's account, not the kid's. Mama is trying to train the kid to log on from her own page, but it's not going so good.