9 Surprisingly Dangerous Foods for Dogs

9 Surprisingly Dangerous Foods for Dogs (Starting with Popcorn)

It’s hard to resist sharing food with your dog, but while some human snacks are safe in small doses, others are downright dangerous for dogs.

Keep cabinets closed and counters clean, get some help keeping an eye on your dog if you’re going to be away for long periods—and have a pet first aid kit on hand in case of accidents. (See this article for how to assemble your own!)


You May Also Like: The Most and Least Dangerous Halloween Candies for Dogs

Surprisingly dangerous foods for dogs

1. Popcorn

Plain, air-popped, unsalted, unbuttered popcorn may be okay in small amounts. But let’s be honest: how often are you enjoying plain, unsalted, unbuttered, un-delicious popcorn?

For dogs, high levels of fat and sodium typically found in popcorn can lead to dehydration in the short term, and obesity in the long term. In addition, the hard, un-popped kernels can hurt teeth and gums on the way in.

Instead, try: low-calorie dog treats for a safe, crunchy snack

2. Avocado

The true issue with avocados? The skin and leaves, which contain persin, an oil-soluble toxin that can be dangerous to non-human mammals. The ASPCA says that pets sensitive to persin may experience “respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the heart, and even death.”

Avocado is safe if you avoid the skin and leaves—so it’s ok as an ingredient in dog foods, for example. In general, dogs are not as susceptible to persin poisoning as animals like horses, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Instead, try: dog treats or grain-free dog food with added avocado

3. Macadamia Nuts

Nobody’s sure exactly what about macadamia nuts is toxic to dogs, only that they can cause vomiting, ataxia (the loss of control of body movements), weakness, and depression. In other words, macadamia nuts can make dogs very, very ill.

Thankfully, most dogs recover without any specific treatment. So if your pup accidentally eats a macadamia nut, a full recovery is expected.

Instead, try: mini peanut butter chews for a healthy, nutty dog snack

4. Grapes

Grapes are among the people foods most toxic to dogs. Of all the dangerous foods for dogs, they are among the worst, which surprises many people.

In dogs, grapes can lead to kidney failure and even death, and it’s unclear why it affects certain dogs and not others. In this case, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.


Instead, try: blueberry dog treats for an antioxidant-rich treat

5. Onions and Garlic

Garlic and onions belong to the Allium plant family, and are toxic to dogs in any form, whether fresh, cooked, dried, or powdered.

Allium plants damage dogs’ red blood cells, decreasing oxygen flow, and can also lead to anemia, which may cause organ damage. So think twice before you slip your dog an onion ring at the drive-thru.

Instead, try: dog-safe brewer’s yeast supplements

6. Tomato Plants (Raw Potatoes, Too)

Ripe tomatoes themselves aren’t on the list of dangerous foods for dogs, but if your dog ingests a green, unripe tomato or the leafy green part of the plant (including stems), watch out. Unripened tomatoes and tomato plants contain a toxin called solanine that can cause gastrointestinal distress, lethargy, weakness, and confusion.

Green potatoes can cause the same problem, so while it’s okay to sneak your dog a spoonful of mashed potatoes here and there, don’t let her gnaw on a raw one.

Instead, try: sweet potato jerky for a healthy starch. You can even make your own!

7. Coffee and Tea

We all know chocolate is toxic for canines, but did you know that caffeine is also one of the most dangerous foods for dogs? Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and according to the ASPCA, it can cause “vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, restlessness and an increased heart rate” in pets.

Early treatment is key to preventing more serious problems, so if you know that your your dog has ingested coffee, tea, or an energy drink, don’t wait for symptoms to show up. Get to the vet right away.


8. Dairy (Yes, Even Cheese)

This one is a huge surprise: dairy can be really bad for your dog. Cheeseis a popular dog training treat, and it’s not really one of the most dangerous foods for dogs. However, too much cheese can cause constipation or diarrhea in the short term, and in the long term, obesity and lasting gastrointestinal issues.

As with humans and dairy, some dogs will be more sensitive than others. Check with your vet if you have concerns.

Instead, try: Himalayan dog chews made with hard yak’s cheese for a long-lasting treat

9. Sugar-Free Gum

The problem here is a sweetener used in many sugar-free candies and gums. Xylitol is a naturally-occurring substance in popular use as an alternative sweetener—and it’s deadly to dogs.

Xylitol ingestion causes life-threatening hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar). Be extra-careful about where you store your gum and double-check labels of sugar-free foods for this sweetener. It can occur in sugar-free peanut butter, sugar-free toothpaste, and more.

The Bottom Line

Some people food is safe for your pup, such as lean meats, carrot sticks, and many fruits and veggies. If your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, then plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese can be enjoyed in small amounts, too. It’s okay to treat your dog to a nibble of your food on occasion, but steer clear of the stuff with noted dangerous effects.

As always, when in doubt, consult your vet!

Winter Is Coming! What Do I Do For Fun With My Dog???

With our first real chilly day of the season in Denver, Colorado, many of you may be wondering what to do with your dog during the fall and winter months. The days may be shorter and colder, but winter blues shouldn't prevent you and your canine from enjoying the outdoors. There are many things you can do when the mercury drops and snow falls - here a few ideas from us at Polite Paws Dog Training.

Fetch and Beyond

For most of us, winter is all about snow. And the chief purpose of snow, as every retriever knows, is to make snowballs. If your dog loves to play with balls, he will love snowballs. "Catch and chomp" is a favorite among many retrievers, so count on making a lot of snowballs. If your walk takes you near a hill, all the better-Annabel and Jasper, two golden retrievers, love to chase snowballs down hills and come back to their owners with mouths full of melting snow.

Snowball fights are a ball for most dogs too - think of it as winter Frisbee. It works best if you don't pelt your dog with snowballs, but throw them at someone else, and let your dog play interception for one (or both) of sides. 

Taylor, a German shepherd, came up with her own version of canine snowball fights. After a snowfall, when trees and boughs were covered with snow, she would stand by a small tree or bush, waiting for another dog or person to walk by. When they came close enough, Taylor would bump into the tree, releasing all the snow from its branches. 

Theodore, a standard poodle, likes to help his family build snowmen. He learned to fetch sticks to use as hands and decorations. Fetching or finding sticks, incidentally, is much more fun when they are buried under snow. If your dog is not a natural retriever, you may need to help him out a bit at the beginning. Say, "Find a stick," and then go looking for the stick with your dog. It may involve digging, so wear mitts!

The Classic Hide and Seek

Snow is perfect for hiding and finding games. Hide and seek games run the gamut from simple to complex. Begin with "find a stick" - if your dog is having a hard time understanding find, go back a step, and start with "find a cookie." If your dog is not a natural finder, you may have to hide the cookie right under his nose for the first little while. But, with a tasty finish to the seeking he will learn quickly.

Hide and seek games are great for reinforcing some everyday comments. "Sit" your dog; then tell him to "wait" or "stay." Next, tell the dog what you're doing, "I'm hiding the cookie" (or stick, or toy). Initially, you may need two of you: one to help the dog with the staying, and the other to do the hiding. Then, tell your dog to go find whatever you hid. "Find" is a good command, but "Where is...", "Look for..." etc. will do as well. You will find this command very useful in the house too ("Find the leash, Fido." "Where's your bone?").

The best hide and seek involves hiding yourself, of course. If there are two of you, the person who stayed with the dog should give the commands, including the command to go find. If there is just you, you may need to shout "find" from your hiding place. It's not really giving away where you are, of course - the tracks you left in the snow will do that anyway! 

Most dogs love to seek and a few love to hide. Be careful about playing any hide and seek games in which the dog is the hider in an unenclosed area, however - you don't want to create a situation in which you cannot find your dog.

Winter Sports

You can't take your dog to most ski resorts, but there are quite a few people winter sports that your pooch will love. Cross-country skiing and snow shoeing are two such activities, provided you do them in an area where dogs are permitted off leash. It's very awkward for you, and unsafe for your dog, to ski while leashed to your dog. Snow shoeing on leash is a little bit easier, but much more fun for both of you if you're both unencumbered.

Keep in mind that if your dog's a novice to the sports, you'll need to spend some time familiarizing him with the equipment. A human being on cross country skis looks like a very strange creature to most dogs - and those two sticks he keeps on swinging about, they're just asking to be chewed.

Indoor Fun

There will be days when neither of you want to venture outside - especially if your pooch is shorthaired and short-legged. Before you curl up by the fireplace or in front of the television, consider playing an indoor game with your dog. While you can't throw snowballs or build snow forts or labyrinths in your living room, you can construct an obstacle course, you can play hide and seek (this time, it's safe for the dog to be the hider), and you can play many of your dog's other favorite games, including fetch, catch and tug of war. If you have hardwood floors, you can even slide.

Two things to keep in mind as you romp around the house. First, be considerate of your neighbors, especially if you live on top of someone. Second, remember that whatever behavior you permit as part of a game has now been allowed in the house. In other words, if you don't want Nellie to slide on the parquet or crawl under chairs whenever she feels like, you probably shouldn't teach her to do so during a game.

Safety First

Indoors or outdoors, when you play, remember to keep yourself and your canine companion safe. While you don't have to worry about heat stroke in the winter months, dehydration can be a problem even in the coldest conditions. If you're out for a long period of time, make sure you make time for a drink break (I prefer not to let my dog eat snow, and carry tepid water in a thermos). And remember that having fur doesn't mean you don't feel cold. Dress up your pooch in really cold weather, and don't be out too long when the weather is particularly harsh.

Take care of your dog's feet, too. During walks, check paws for icicles and balls or hard snow. They make walking very difficult. If you live in a city where roads and sidewalks are salted, you may want to consider getting some dog booties or rubbing your dog's paws with petroleum jelly before going out, and washing the salt off when you get home. Salt can dry and crack paw pads.

With a little imagination and effort on your part, winter can be as much fun as summer for your dog and you. Who knows - it might even become Fido's favorite season.

Recommended Books and DVDs for Pet Dog Owners

Recommended Books & DVDs for Pet Dog Owners

Books for Pet Dog Owners

DVDs for Pet Dog Owners

  • Paw-Sitive Dog Training – Allan Bauman
  • Ready to Rally! A Video Guide to APDT Rally – Clarissa Bergeman
  • Perfect Paws In 5 Days Featuring Jean Donaldson’s Modern Training Methods – Jean Donaldson
  • Dog Training for Children – Ian Dunbar
  • Sirius Puppy Training – Ian Dunbar
  • Training the Companion Dog Vol. 1, Socialization & Training – Ian Dunbar
  • Training the Companion Dog Vol. 2: Behavior Problems – Ian Dunbar
  • Training the Companion Dog Vol. 3, Walking & Heeling – Ian Dunbar
  • Training the Companion Dog Vol. 4, Recalls and Stays – Ian Dunbar
  • Crate Games for Self Control and Motivation – Susan Garrett
  • Lassie, Come! – Patricia McConnell
  • Really Reliable Recall: Train Your Dog to Come When Called … No Matter What! – Leslie Nelson
  • It’s Pawsible! Dog Training – Beth Ostrowski-Parks
  • The Dog Whisperer – Beginning & Intermediate Dog Training – Paul Owens
  • The Dog Whisperer – Problem Solving Volume 2 – Paul Owens
  • Train Your Dog – Nicole Wilde and Laura Bourhenne

Books and DVDs for New Puppy Owners

Books and DVDs for General Training Information

Books and DVDs for Homes with Children and Dogs

Books for Dealing with Dog Behavior Problems

Activities You Can Do With Your Dog

A tired dog is a good dog, and fortunately, there are several fun activities in which to participate with your dog. Many are overseen by umbrella organizations that sanction various levels of competitions, while others are offered by local training centers and obedience clubs. Whether or not you choose to participate at a competitive level, time spent learning a new activity with your dog is an excellent relationship-builder and provides needed mental and physical stimulation.

Rally Obedience

In Rally Obedience, dog and handler teams navigate a course with numbered signs indicating different exercises to perform such as Sit-Down-Sit, Straight Figure 8, Send Over Jump, Recall Over Jump. Teams navigate the course at a brisk, continuous performance without direction from the judge. Unlike traditional obedience handlers are encouraged to talk to their dogs during the performance.



A popular dog sport where the handler guides his dog over, under and through a series of obstacles, and the dog/handler team is judges on their speed and accuracy through the course. Competition is generally offered at three levels – Novice, Open and Excellent – and exhibitors must successfully title in one level before progressing to the next. Most organizations allow dogs over the age of six-months (AKC requires over the age of one year) to compete, and the required jump height is based on the dog’s height at the shoulders. Some organizations have historically allowed both purebred and mixed breed dogs to participate, and as of April 2010, mixed-breed dogs who register as such with the American Kennel Club (AKC) will also be allowed to participate in AKC agility trials.



The sport of obedience measures the dog/handler team’s ability to work in a synchronized fashion as the handler cues the dog to perform a variety of exercises with minimal instruction. Like agility, competition is offered at three main levels – Novice, Open and Utility, with three qualifying scores required at each level in order to earn a title. Exercises incorporate on- and off-lead heel work, retrieving, response to hand signals, recall, jumping, scent work and stays. Like agility, most sanctioning organizations (including the AKC in early 2010) allow both purebred and mixed breed dogs to participate.



Herding utilizes a dog’s instinctual abilities to control the movement of livestock. While some herding breeds actively move livestock from place to place, others specialize in flock guarding behaviors, protecting livestock from natural predators. Talented herding dogs are a necessity for ranchers, but even city slickers of the human and canine variety can try their hand and paw at the sport in a recreational manner.


Earth Dog

Earth Dog and Go to Ground events are designed to offer owners of small terriers and Dachshunds a way to utilize and measure their dogs’ natural desire to hunt in an underground situation.


Lure Coursing

Lure coursing simulates the live game coursing that comes naturally to sighthound breeds (dogs that hunt primarily by sight vs. scent) such as Whippets, Greyhounds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Salukis and many others. Dogs follow an artificial lure across a field in a pre-designed pattern of twists and turns that is meant to simulate the path of live game. Unlike the commercial Greyhound racing industry, no gambling is involved in lure coursing events.


Other Field Events and Hunt Tests

Over time, several breeds have been developed with a specific skill set that can be utilized in some fashion out in the field. For example:

  • Retrieving Breeds – Demonstrate a natural ability to mark and retrieve game.
  • Pointing Breeds – Demonstrate a natural ability to point and trail game.
  • Spaniels – Demonstrate a natural ability to flush and retrieve game.
  • Hounds – Demonstrate a natural ability to hunt using sight or scent.

Many organizations, including the AKC, offer hunt tests and field trials that allow owners of purebred dogs to involve their pets in a breed-specific task. Many owners report that their dogs seem to “come alive” when given the opportunity to participate in the very activity it was originally bred for. Involvement in such activities can be extremely fulfilling for both dog and owner.



Tracking is a sport of endurance! Dogs are trained to follow their nose and follow a laid scent trail. The AKC offers three titles in tracking, and the tracks vary according to the difficulty of the title. The more advanced scent trails incorporate a variety of surfaces like roadways, grass, and brush as well as require the dog to work or follow an older scent path. Dogs love to follow their nose, and this activity is an excellent exercise for both you and your dog.



Schutzhund is the ultimate performance sport. Originally developed in Germany as a method to test the workability of the German Shepherd Dog, it is now used to prove the strength, trainability, and character of a dog. While it is a primary event for German Shepherds, other breeds like the Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, and Belgian Malinois, also participate. In Schutzhund, a dog is required to perform equally well at three things: obedience, tracking, and protection work. A Schutzhund dog must be a well-trained dog.


Conformation & Jr. Handling

Conformation, also known as the “breed ring,” is a type of dog show in which a judge familiar with a specific breed of purebred dog, evaluates individual dogs on how well the dogs conform to the specific breed standard. When a dog has completed the necessary number of wins in conformation shows, and fulfilled any other conditions that may be required by the individual breed club or kennel club, the dog is said to have completed a conformation championship. Dogs must be purebred and may not be altered (spayed or neutered) to show in conformation. Jr. Handling is a conformation program for children under the age of 18, that judges the handler’s ability to properly exhibit a dog in a conformation setting.


Therapy Dog

Therapy dog teams are specially-trained, volunteer dog/handler teams to help people in a variety of settings just by visiting and providing temporary companionship. Facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, residential treatment centers and crisis shelters frequently utilize therapy dog teams to help provide comfort to clients.


Dock Jumping

For dogs who love water and swimming, dock jumping gives them the opportunity to take a flying leap into a body of water, while being judged on the length of their jump! Dock jumping is open to both purebred and mixed breed dogs and newcomers are actively encouraged to join in the fun!


Disc Dogs

Also known as Frisbee Dogs. In this competition sport dogs and their owners use a free for long distance catching that can sometimes involve choreographed routines and elaborate jumps.


Canine Freestyle

Canine Freestyle consists of teaching your dog a “dance” routine between the two of you. Sometimes the competitions for Canine Freestyle can involve extensive music and costuming. The emphasis of the sport is on teamwork between you and your dog and you can be highly creative in the routines you create together!


Ongoing Training Classes

It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, and even dogs who have mastered the basics can enjoy continued training. Look for a local obedience class that offers several different types of classes and activities for students, or consider attending classes at various facilities to offer your dog the chance to work in new environments and around different types of distractions.