When they got home from the party, Alison and Gil O’Connor noticed something was wrong. The potted tomatoes were toppled over, strewn about as if a microburst had hit the patio. But nothing else looked wind-tossed and, puzzled, they glanced at their eight-year old. Her face told the whole story.
Willow’s smiling mug was green; her younger brother couldn’t keep the guilt from his eyes. Gazing at her eyebrows, yellow with pollen, the O’Connors knew that while they were out, their tomatoes had been burgled by beagles.
The pilfering pooches, Willow and Linden, aren’t alone in their love of garden fresh produce. Ask around and you’re sure to find dogs who like to super size their kibbles with vegetables.
“Dogs are like we are, they eat protein and vegetables,” says Rebecca Ruch-Gallie, Assistant Professor at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences . “Some seem to prefer vegetables, and for the most part, it’s ok if they eat them.”
Ruch-Gallie’s own dog snitches a few treats, snacking on gooseberries in her mother’s garden. As long as it’s not avocados, currants, grapes, raisins, or brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc.), dogs can eat what they like.
For some, that means their human has to cook it for them. “My first clue that Dar liked butternut squash was when he sat facing the pan of cooked squash after I brought it out of the oven,” says Sukey Williams, speaking of her bronze-colored Vizsla. “He wouldn’t leave it and kept looking at me to make sure I saw his interest in it.” Sitting pretty, Dar convinced Williams to give him a taste, and from there it was love at first bite.
Dar enjoys squash, skin and all, in every meal possible, licking the bowl clean when he gets it and pouting when he doesn’t. Williams chops the skin into the squash to aid Dar’s digestion. “It’s a reasonable source of fiber, which their gut likes. It’s soluble and good for them,” says Ruch-Gallie. “But make sure they have a balanced diet, or it throws their system off.” To avoid doggie digestive disorders, be sure the produce they get is never more than 5 to 10-percent of their daily food.
With a highly sensitive nose, Willow sniffs to find perfectly ripe red tomatoes; though she’ll nibble a green one, they aren’t her favorite. Canines choose vegetables much like humans do, says Ruch-Gallie, using sight and smell to tell when they’re ripe. “Dogs aren’t completely color blind, they just see colors less intensely. Willow sees the red tomato, and just like we can smell ripe produce, so can she.”
Gardens aren’t the only place dogs learn to eat vegetables; often they learn it from us. Zoe, a silver and white mixed breed, enjoys corn on the cob whenever her family cooks it. “She chews it right off the corn in rows, just like people do. When she sees that you’re cooking corn, see starts whining,” says Carrie Shimada. Nibbling the ears with gusto, Zoe cleans every kernel from the cob.
Train dogs to relish produce early, says Ruch-Gallie. “Carrots are one thing we recommend for puppies that are teething. Freeze the carrot first, then give it to them. The cold feels good on their gums and they like the taste; it’s saves your shoes and furniture.”
Not every pooch appreciates vegetables. May-May, a nine-year old mixed breed, can’t stand them. “Our vet told us to give her green beans and carrots with dinner, so we mixed them into her meal. She picked out the dog food, eating around every bean and carrot,” said Amy Lippold, laughing. “Corn she likes; she snarfed some dropped on the floor. So we tried dropping beans to trick her, but she left them alone.”
Vivienne sent in photos of her Italian Greyhound, who loves to nosh on the vegetable garden. Here he is, at first fussing over not being able to get to the fenced off goodies, then taking matters into his paws by pushing past the obstacle.