A Guide To Festive Food

Today I’d like to talk about sharing ‘human food’ with our dogs. Sharing is caring, right? Well not always. There are plenty of human foods that are not good for dogs, and some that are positively dangerous.

As the holidays approach for many families, it’s especially tempting to want to split all our festive treats with our furry friends. So today, I’d like to share with you my guide to the different types of foods you can give to your pup, the foods that you really shouldn’t share, and the foods that can make your dog very sick.

And if you find those pleading eyes just too hard to resist, I’ve got tips for you at the end of this email, on teaching your pup not to beg at the table!

To Share Or Not To Share

Thousands of years of living alongside humans has led to dogs being able to digest a wide range of food. However, they are still essentially carnivores. And they thrive on a diet designed specifically for carnivorous dogs.

This could be a balanced diet of raw meats and bones. Or it could be a manufactured diet of dry or wet food manufactured and promoted, for canine consumption.

How Much Can I Share?

Feeding a dog anything outside of that carnivorous diet, is likely to produce an imbalance in the nutrients that your dog is consuming. The greater the quantity of inappropriate food, the greater the impact is likely to be.

It’s important to bear this in mind even for ‘safe’ foods for dogs, and keep quantities small. The vast majority of the food your dog eats should be a properly balanced raw diet, or a commercially produced dog food.

Foods That Can Harm Dogs

How vulnerable a dog is to being poisoned by human food depends on the body weight of the dog and to some extent their age and state of health.

Below are some examples of very common foods that can and do kill dogs. This is not an exclusive list.


You should not share chocolate with your dog. Chocolate is most dangerous if it is dark chocolate, and if the dog is quite small.  The culprit in chocolate is a chemical called theobromine. Dogs are sensitive to theobromine and it can be lethal.

If your large breed dog has eaten a chip from a chocolate chip cookie, they are probably not going to come to any harm.  But if they steal a box of chocolates or eat a large slab of chocolate you need to get advice from your veterinarian immediately. Smaller dogs can get sick after eating much smaller quantities. It is safest to avoid chocolate altogether.

Peanut butter

Pure peanut butter with nothing added may be safe for your dog even if it does not contribute nutritionally to your dog’s wellbeing. But peanut butter is often sweetened with a chemical called Xylitol. And xylitol is poisonous to dogs.

Peanut butter is not the only human food that may be sweetened. Always check the labelling on any human food that has been processed for the presence of xylitol. It is most commonly found in chewing gum so always keep your gum well out of reach of your dog.


Grapes, raisins, and some other dried fruits can make dogs very ill, and even cause kidney failure. It’s important to keep these foods well away from your dog.

Remember, these are just examples. You can find more information in this article: Which Foods Are Toxic To Dogs.  Harmful foods are often found mixed with other foods, which is another reason why it’s not a great idea to share food produced for humans, with our dogs.

Pecans and Walnuts

Pecan nuts and walnuts are poisonous to dogs. Some dogs can tolerate cashews but it's best to avoid nuts in general when sharing food with your dog.

Foods That Are Unhealthy For Dogs

Many of our favorite snacks are high in salt and preservatives. Or very high in sugar. That’s why we like them so much, and why your dog likes them too. And while some of these kinds of food are unlikely to harm your dog in small quantities given very occasionally, there really isn’t much point. Your dog would be just as happy and far better off, with a treat designed for their own digestive system.

If you try to follow these principles for your dog, you won’t go far wrong:

Little cubes of hard cheese can make a great occasional treat for dogs that can cope with it. But some dogs are very sensitive to dairy products, and will have loose stools some hours after eating too much.

Foods that are safe to share with your dog

Examples of human food that is considered safe for dogs are:

The problem tends to be the sauces and seasonings we put on them.  If you did not prepare it yourself, everything you give to your dog needs to be checked to make sure it does not contain xylitol.

But here’s the thing.  Your dog will be better off without sharing your human rations, and keeping to a diet designed and purpose built, for dogs. That’s the bottom line. And I do understand that dogs can be very persuasive and pleading when they see you with a tasty snack!

How To Stop Your Dog Begging In Three Easy Steps

The rewards you use for this simple training exercise can be pieces of kibble set aside from your dog’s own dinner ration. Or small chunks of roast meat. The pieces should be really tiny. Not much bigger than a pea. So that you can give lots of rewards before your dog is full.

Step 1

The first step is to recognize that every time you share food with your dog while you are eating, you are teaching them that whatever they are doing at that time, will be rewarded. If they are sitting with their head in your lap, or drooling next to the family dinner table, then that’s what you are rewarding them for. And that’s what they will do again.

The answer is to reward a more appropriate behavior, instead. I suggest you reward the dog for lying quietly in their bed, or basket. We have a dog bed quite near our kitchen table for that purpose. And we always have a pot of dog training treats on the table when we are training dogs to lie on their bed while we eat. .

Step 2

The second step is to reward the dog for simply going near to the bed, or moving away from the table. Make sure that the bed is close enough that you can throw some dog treats into it, whenever your dog moves close to it.

Soon your dog will start to purposefully move towards the bed in expectation of finding a treat there. Once they step onto the bed, stop rewarding the dog unless they step on the bed.

Once they are on the bed, throw treats to them at intervals throughout the meal.

Step 3

The final step is when the dog starts to relax and lie down on the bed. This is what you have been waiting for, and you can now stop throwing treats unless the dog is lying down. Over time you can space out the treats until eventually they just get a small handful of treats at the end of the meal.

Treats Used In Training

I thoroughly recommend you use food for training your dog.  But your training ‘treats’ can be taken from your dog’s daily food allowance. If you are feeding raw this can be messy so I recommend you use little cubes of cooked roast meat. This is the least likely to interfere with the balance of your dog’s diet.

When it comes to sharing human food, my advice is to resist the temptation to share. Your dog deserves the food that is most suited to their own biology. And they will be perfectly content with training treats instead of ‘people food’. Even when the humans are celebrating!