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Is it OK for my dog to eat things he finds on walks?

 by lucy on 06 Oct 2016 |
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Given half a chance, dogs will devour rancid sandwich meat, discarded chicken bones, hamburger wrappers, Popsicle sticks and most anything else they can get their paws on. While his palate seems peculiar to us, Fido’s odd eating habits evolved with his ancestors, who relied on scavenging when food was scarce.
 
Your dog’s wild relatives couldn’t always count on finding a meal, so they developed the ability to binge eat large portions and scavenge barely edible scraps. While your domesticated pet comes by his eating habits honestly, then, scarfing down mystery morsels can wreak serious havoc on a modern dog’s health. Some dogs simply throw up after eating rotten food, but others suffer serious upset stomachs for hours or even days afterward. Chicken bones are a prized find for your pet, but can splinter and cause serious damage to dogs’ digestive tracts. Other non-digestible items can cause intestinal blockage or even poison your pet.
 
Because dogs are naturally inclined to eat whatever they find on the ground, it’s important to keep their attention away from the street while walking. To keep your pet’s interest on you instead of the sidewalk, carry a bag of treats with you during walks. Start by saying your dog’s name and rewarding him with a treat each time he looks up at you. Soon, he’ll be looking at you frequently for food, drawing his attention off the ground. If Fido does pick up something up from the street, never tear it from his mouth— from his perspective, you are simply stealing the food for yourself. Instead, offer your pet a treat, which should cause him to drop the mystery morsel.
 
You can go one step further and teach your dog to “leave it” by giving the command and then offering him a treat inside a closed fist. Your dog will likely beg and paw at the treat, but only reward him with the food and an affirmative “yes” once he has given up and backed away.  This will teach your pet that he gets a reward for avoiding offending foods when given the “leave it” command. Once he has mastered this step, have your dog look at you to earn the treat, too. Do this by giving the “leave it” command, and then wait until your dog is both still and looking at you before rewarding him with the treat and “yes” affirmation. With some time and patience, you’ll be able to curb your companion’s consumption with this trick, helping him avoid nasty “treats” he finds on the sidewalk.

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