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Please Don't Treat My Dog

If you go to dog parks, I am sure you have run into this problem—people who give your dog treats without first asking your permission. I had a run-in this morning over such an offering.

The park that we go to is around 25 acres, with ridges and swales, easy for a dog to be nearby but be hidden from your view. Being able to spot my dogs even though they are off sniffing or playing with others, is important to me. What I don’t like is for well-intentioned humans to provide “incentives,” in the forms of treats, as I am trying to call to my dogs and instill reliable recalls. This morning that is exactly what happened, with the same person who has been “treating” Kit for some time now. This time I was close enough to her to ask her politely to please not treat my dog. Her reaction? She blew up at me, and wouldn’t let me finish explaining how important it is for Kit not to run to her when she sees her (or even hears her dogs), knowing that she will get a treat, and that only enforces a behavior (running off sometimes at a great distance) that I am trying hard to redirect. The “treater” seemed insulted that I brought this up. 

A long time ago, when I was new to the whole dog-walking scene—years before I helped to establish the off leash area we were at this morning—I was one of those “treat” ladies. I loved that dogs seem to respond to me … and my homemade liver treats! Who doesn’t enjoy having a group of dogs sitting around you, waiting politely for a reward? But even then, I would first ask permission.  I realize that I overplayed that a bit and realize now that there is a whole host of reasons not to feed someone else’s dog including how it might impact training, health, diet, etc.

Obviously there are exceptions as well. When we first got our under-socialized, fearful pups from a Southern shelter, I would ask others at the park to treat them, even providing them with treats. This helped ease the pups’ fear of humans. It also quickly made them into little roly-polies, so I would substitute kibble for treats and kept track of how many they got as “treats,” subtracted that from their regular meals.

To treat or not to treat other dogs—let me hear what you think.



Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and editor in chief. thebark.com
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Submitted by Zabby | February 27 2013 |

I couldn't agree more. I recently had a similar situation with a house guest who gave my dog scraps. She asked after the fact if it was okay and I said it was fine this once, but would prefer she didn't do it anymore. Yet she continued to give them... I requested again that she refrain, but to no avail. I finally had to get a bit in her face about it before she finally quit handouts. I understand wanting a dog to like you, but please people, always ask the owner first!

Submitted by Libby | May 31 2013 |

I agree with you, Please people, ask the owner 1st before you give table scraps. Most owners will allow it because they do it themselves, witch is so bad for your dog. Dog food then will not be eaten because they prefer people food. I however don't allow that., They eat their own food NOT OURS, and they get their TREATS along with training. I don't let others at Parks to feed my dogs treats do to the fact that they ar alway in training and my treats are for training.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 27 2013 |

Certainly not without asking permission first! And I certainly see your point about the inability to recall your dog when he's getting a free meal!

Submitted by Anonymous | February 27 2013 |

I don't have a dog with any dietary issues and I know it gives people lots of pleasure to give him treats because he is so mannerly. Ask my permission and I'll happily tell you to go ahead. Please, do not give him treats without asking. Not asking is simply rude and inconsiderate. I've taught my dog good manners the least you can do is exhibit your own good manners.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 27 2013 |

I definitely agree! My dog has some minor resource guarding issues around unfamiliar dogs- and our dog park has it listed in the rules that you cannot bring treats into the park. Regardless, people bring treats in, but if they treat my dog without asking, she can get pretty defensive and it ruins our whole trip! She has never harmed another dog, but if it involves treats, she will growl, which then makes the other dog owners nervous and angry. But the thing is, she's otherwise fine with other dogs- just don't give her a treat!

Submitted by Methadras | February 27 2013 |

All people have to do is ask, it's my dog, so let me decide whether I think the treat is worthy or not. Outside of dietary/behavioral issues, there are issues of safety, awareness, and most of all territory. I don't understand why people believe that because a dog that isn't theirs is in a public and communal area, that they believe, think, or feel that it's okay to to treat your dog without your consent, knowledge, or permission. Would they do this to a human child? It's about courtesy and respect most of all. That dog is your responsibility not theirs, respect the dog and most of all the owner and do not be that person unless there is a specific reason to allow it to happen.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 27 2013 |

I agree that the treaters should ask permission but (BUT!) the dog park is no place for treats. The dogs are there to exercise and socialize and adding the promise of a treat changes the dynamics of the group. A dog may be very social but still be food aggressive and in a park with strange dogs is not the place to find this out. Any dog park I've been in had a list of rules and "no food" is always on the list.

Submitted by Terry | February 27 2013 |

I agree!!! Please ask ME, the owner first if it is OK to treat my dogs. I have 2 beagles which I don't want to become end tables. I don't go to dog parks, however I have a neighbor on the north side of the house that will come over with a pocket full of quality kibble sized treats. The neighbor to the south comes over and gives my dogs half of a large meaty bone biscut. He gives them enough cookies to equal almost 2 1/2 full cookies before he leaves. My one dog puked before he left from too much. Then My one girl had a cyst removed from her face, came home and the neighbor was here and gave her cookies just being out of surgery. I told him not to give her anything as advised by the vet until she was out of her daze. He laughed and did not abide by my wishes. I only give my pups 1/3 cup 2xs/day of food. The extra treats are adding weight to them. Now my dogs have become beggars when these people come to my house. My one dog now runs to the driveway when she hears the postal lady's truck. You want to know why!! Cuz she knows the postal lady will shoot her a cookie! How do we stop these people from feeding our dogs without pissing off the neighbors...?

Submitted by Paws and Pedals | February 27 2013 |

Permission definitely. I carry treats & other dogs know it but I won't share unless the owner agrees.

Submitted by Katie Cook | February 27 2013 |

I agree completely about asking first. Most people have the best of intentions, and their generosity and good nature are appreciated. But seeing as my pup has allergies, asking first is critical. I have run into situations where my Pixel has broken out in hives, come to find out later someone gave him something he was allergic to. This makes life very challenging for the next several days while he recovers from the incident. Like others have mentioned, since you don't know off hand the person's preference or situation regarding their dog, please always ask first is my stance.

Submitted by La Trenda | February 28 2013 |

asking permission is great, but please ask *before* waving the treat right in my dogs' faces.

Submitted by DevonTT | March 8 2013 |

It's not a good idea to treat dogs other than your own at a dog park--and if you're treating your own, be sure no other dog is around. I've seen some ugly food guarding behavior from dogs huddled around a treat-giver. One such fight sent a dog to the vet with a ripped ear.

Submitted by Saxon'sMum | March 8 2013 |

My dog has severe allergies, so I completely agree! Please don't feed my dog without clearing it with me first! He could become very ill as a result!

Submitted by Anonymous | March 8 2013 |

Actually this situation is an excellent example of a reason to teach food refusal to the dog. There are so many reasons to teach this, sad to say, but there it is.

Submitted by Donna L | March 8 2013 |

I never want others to give my dog treats unless they are with me and I provide the treat...too many issues and I do not want my dogs drooling every time they see someone approach either!

Submitted by sharon | May 31 2013 |

i totally agree in the asking first! at one of our local dog parks there is one person who carries a bag the size of half a loaf of bread at her side, with her three dogs with her, two of whom are reactive and charge other dogs! accident waiting to happen! no common sense!

Submitted by Darrin Greene | May 31 2013 |

This is where high quality remote training becomes very valuable.

Submitted by vicki masterson | May 31 2013 |

I am on the asking side. We have a pet friendly hotel and have doggie treats at the front desk. We ALL ask first! BUT, we have a police K-9 facility on the edge of town. So I think we learned from that it was important to ask first, treat second.

Submitted by Ingrid | May 31 2013 |

For many people, a treat isn't the tool it is for those of us who use treats to train. If you get the chance, you could try explaining just how valuable that treat is, and why we need to be specific in how we use it. Maybe you could even rope that lady (or another one like her) in someday, the way Jean Donaldson did in a seminar I saw a vid of, where she was teaching, 'recall from a distraction'.

Submitted by Michelle | May 31 2013 |

I very much need people to ask permission, though not everyone does. I'm not a huge control freak or anything, but I need to know how much food my dog is getting because I don't want her gaining weight (she does agility) and she has issues with chicken, so someone feeding her pieces of chicken or something with chicken in it means I have to deal with a couple days of diarrhea. I find most people I meet are decent and ask first and if I say "Oh no she can't have that, it'll make her sick" they're ok with it. But we don't go to the dog park and most of the folks we run into are people we've gotten to know to some degree.

Submitted by Linda | May 31 2013 |

You are 100% correct. Our Dalmatian is on a prescription high protein vegetarian diet which guards against the recurrence of stones which have to be surgically removed, he had to have the surgery once which the vet felt had been caused by the meat proteins in his previous food. I read the contents of every treat box thoroughly as even some advertised as vegetarian can have some type of "meat". I never want this dog to have surgery again due to something we have fed him so under NO circumstances do we allow anyone to give him a "treat".

Submitted by Mary DiBlasi | May 31 2013 |

I think you should always ask permission. Especially now when certain kinds of treats are hazardous to our dogs health. Also some dogs are on restricted diets, don't eat grains, or are allergic to some things, etc. You wouldn't run up to someone's child and start feeding it. Also I think treats at a dog park are a bad idea in general. Yours sounds like a very large one, but the ones in my neighborhood are not that expansive and bringing treats is likely to start a brawl even among dogs who are not likely to fight otherwise.

Submitted by Kimberley | May 31 2013 |

There are certain benefits of having extremely finicky dogs and mine have yet to take treats from strangers other than a cashier at one particular pet store (they broke the code!). But I carry treats with me during walks and have had dogs express keen interest in them. I've taken a few out and offered them to the "owner" / "gardian" or whatever term you wish to use, telling them what it is and letting them decide if they wish to treat or not. I don't believe in reinforcing a dog's questionable behaviour but if the object of his interest can be offered by his keeper at the appropriate time, then I believe that reinforces that only appropriate behaviour is rewarded. Besides, we don't know if a dog is alergic to something and that too should be kept into consideration.

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