I can imagine primitive dogs creeping up to the garbage pits of our ancestors, then running off with a nourishing bit of trash. Ancient people probably watched this scavenging with amusement, and went from coexisting with dogs and cats, to symbiosis.
So small dogs and cats living near people removed potentially harmful small wildlife, while large dogs provided guard services for people and other domestic animals.
Especially in urban areas, the roles of dogs changed about a century ago with mass commercial auto production.
People could have fresh meat delivered to butchers via truck, so dogs were not needed to guard flocks on local farms. Commercially prepared and packaged foods for pets and people became very popular by the mid twentieth century, when convenience was a big selling feature. As a society, we transitioned from feeding the pets left overs, to feeding a specially formulated diet.
About thirty years ago, commercial premium brand foods became available. This trend is still strong, with famous faces telling us their dog food is better. Other vendors invest many advertising dollars convincing us there diet is better than the tried and true manufacturers, causing us to spend more on pet food than we do on our own groceries.
When the dust settled, here is how I decided to feed my 22 pound dog: My dog gets a combination of premium kibble and cans, treats and people food. However, I don't just dump all of it in a bowl. Our schedule starts with about two tablespoons of Purina Proplan Focus canned food. This is mixed with any crushed pills that are needed for the day, and the bowl is placed on the floor only after tooth brushing. I never place canned pet food on the floor unless a spectacular behavior is completed first.
Then, I place at least a cup of Hills t/d diet in my coat pocket or treat bag. This gets used as a reward for good behavior during a walk. For example, if I ask the dog to sit and stay while I speak with a neighbor, I place Hills t/d directly into her mouth periodically during the stay. If the dog was not interested in eating much during her walk, I place a cup of Purina Proplan Focus kibble in her bowl. If she is hungry in the evening, she will eat this.
When I am training her to do tricks inside or if she is working out in the gym, she gets cooked chicken that I shredded and froze. If she is bored and my schedule does not permit me to exercise her, she gets Freeze Dried Beef Liver Dog Treats wedged inside a Kong toy. When I am not around, she begs for what ever my husband is eating.
You may be thinking that it is a lot of work to feed my dog in this way. However, my decision was influenced by Sophia Yin, a veterinarian who said if you give your dog food without asking for work in advance, you have missed an opportunity to train your pet. I wanted to train this dog with rewards based learning only, and not using punishment. There is a study that shows punishment training is associated with relinquishing the pet, and also there is some concern that punishment may cause aggression.
My experience with my five year old dog that has never been trained with punishment is that she has zero aggression. She loves every body and every thing. She is not the best behaved dog I have ever had, but I feel that she is the best dog for me. This does not prove that failing to punish prevents aggression, but this is definitively some anecdotal evidence.
What methods do you use to feed and train your pets? Let's work together to give your pet his best life.
Maureen Kubisz, DVM
Total Pet Hospital LLC
1100 US Highway 9
Howell, NJ 07731