10 Ways to Liven up Your Dog’s Dinner

If you’re going to feed your dogs “people” food, shouldn’t you feed them something that’s actually good for them? Here are some healthy, easily obtainable options straight from market shelves that can be added to spice up your pup’s regular fare. There are, of course, a few cautions to keep in mind. First, none of these items by themselves constitutes a “complete and balanced” meal, and if your dog has health or weight issues, check with your vet before introducing them. Next, considering that many dogs are willing to eat almost anything they find, they can be surprisingly fussy about new things in their food bowls; start with a small portion to see if it’s a go… or no. And finally, always introduce new foods gradually. Look for 10 more “easy pieces” in the next issue.

1. Banana
High in potassium (great for muscle and blood vessel function as well as for regulating the acidity of body fluids), fiber (a handy home remedy for the occasional bout of doggy diarrhea or constipation) and magnesium (important for energy transport and protein building in the body). Bananas have lots of pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), which helps metabolize proteins and regulates blood cell function so the blood can bring more oxygen to the brain and muscle. They also contain Vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects cells from damage and helps build cartilage. Pup Prep: Mash a banana and mix it in with your dog’s food. Be forewarned that the compounds in bananas that make them smell banana-y are offensive to some canines.

2. Rutabaga
A sorely ignored veggie, similar to a turnip. Rutabagas are very good boiled and mashed. They’re available year-round in most grocery stores and keep well. Their high levels of Vitamin C, potassium and carotenoids (precursors to Vitamin A) aid eye health and maintenance of DNA activation in cells. They are also important in immune system function and have a number of lesser-known phytochemicals, which are shown to reduce the risk of several chronic diseases associated with aging. Pup Prep: Peel, boil and mash the rutabaga, then add a little bit of safflower or olive oil; these oils are not harmful to dogs, who need fats and handle them far better than do humans.

3. Sweet Potato
Loaded with nutrients, such as the carotenoids and Vitamin C, in addition to some lesser known antioxidants and phytochemicals. They are high in pyridoxine, potassium, fiber and magnesium. They also are good sources of copper, iron and manganese–all essential minerals that perform myriad functions in cells, from transporting oxygen to assisting in the assembly of proteins. Pup Prep: As with rutabaga, boil, mash and add a bit of good oil.

4. Flaxseeds
Small seeds–known for their alpha linolenic acid (ALA) content and benefits to coat, skin, bone and brain function–that pack a big nutritional punch. These seeds are also high in fiber and lignans (a fiber type), which may be beneficial for insulin action. They are a great source of manganese, pyridoxine, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. They also contain the B vitamin folate, which is important for cell regulation. Pup Prep: Grind fresh flaxseeds, which are nutty and crunchy; flaxseed oil is also available in most health food stores and contains a more concentrated amount of ALA. Add the ground seeds or a teaspoon of oil to your dog’s food and increase the nutrient density of any meal. (Note: Store in refrigerator to maintain freshness.)

5. Yogurt
Active cultures known as probiotics (necessary, friendly bacteria) help keep the bad bacteria away. Yogurt, which may improve gut function, contains a number of nutrients, including protein, calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin B12, potassium, zinc and iodine. It is also a fair source of other B vitamins such as riboflavin and pantothenic acid (required for enzyme action and energy production, as well as other cellular functions). Pup Prep: A dollop of non-fat yogurt is a great way to disguise some yucky medicines.

6. Salmon
Bursting with Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s do wonders for skin, coat and brain as well as limit inflammatory processes that cause arthritic pain and other chronic canine conditions. (If your dog has any of these conditions, ask your vet if fish oil in capsule form might help.) Salmon is also an excellent protein source, with many essential vitamins and minerals.* Pup Prep: When you’re cooking salmon steaks for yourself, toss a few extra on the barbie for your dog. Refrigerate or dehydrate the grilled chunks and serve them cold.

7. Nori
Dried edible seaweed (red algae species), a Japanese staple. Often associated with sushi, nori is available in some supermarkets, and certainly in those with Asian food items. It has protein, galactans (a soluble fiber), Vitamins C, E and all the Bs, and minerals such as zinc and copper. It also contains some lesser-known sterols and chlorophyll, which have been investigated for their effects on regulating metabolism. Nori may have beneficial effects on fat metabolism, immune function and anti-tumor response. Pup Prep: Nori does not have a strong odor or flavor, and the paper-thin sheets can be torn and soaked in broth, then added to food, or just added dry. Puppy sushi, anyone?

8. Blueberries
Member of the Heath family and loaded with phytochemicals. Available year round either fresh or frozen, blueberries are a great treat for your dog. The deep blue color comes from anthocyanidins, which are potent antioxidants, and the berries also supply Vitamin C, Vitamin E, manganese and fiber. Slow introduction in small quantities is particularly essential here; as anyone who has ever gorged on this tasty fruit knows, the blueberry “trots” are most unpleasant (and you’re the one who will be cleaning up!). Be judicious. Pup Prep: Rinse and serve whole, or mash lightly.

9. Rosemary
Aromatic mint relative. Rosemary provides some fiber, iron and calcium in addition to several phytochemicals thought to improve immune function and act as anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants. Pup Prep: Wash a sprig of fresh rosemary and add the minced needles (leaves) to foods.

10. Swiss Chard
A pretty veggie known as a “green.” Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and has tons of nutrients, which are best maintained by blanching and not boiling the leaves and stalks to mush. (Some feel that, in order to lap up any leeched nutrients, the water in which chard is blanched should be consumed too.) Blanching sweetens the leaves and frees up some of the oxalates, which can bind minerals. Chard’s nutrients have the potential to maintain bone health, blood vessel integrity, eye health and immune function and benefit optimal muscle function and energy production. Pup Prep: Offer your dog some blanched, chopped chard enhanced with a bit of olive oil; if you’re lucky, your best friend will want the blanching water too!

*The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors the levels of mercury and industrial chemicals that end up in fish, both fresh- and saltwater; updates regarding contamination are readily available.

The Bark is the award-winning magazine of modern dog culture—it speaks to the committed dog enthusiast—and is the indispensable guide to life with dogs, showing readers how to live smartly and rewardingly with their canine companions. Bark is the recognized expert on the social/cultural world of dogs in America, and what they mean to us. Click here for your FREE issue.

By Roschelle Heuberger, PhD, The Bark

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Brendan Q.
Brendan Q.8 months ago

The Can Dogs Eat Free website is now released! Check out our website at http://whatcandogseat.com

Our free website and mobile app with 495+ food and drink products is a comprehensive quick reference guide to what products are dangerous or safe for dogs to eat.

Apologies for the second post could not edit first.

Brendan Q.
Brendan Q.about a year ago

My partner and I have built an Android app "Can Dogs Eat" that is a comprehensive quick reference guide to what human foods and drinks are dangerous or safe for dogs to eat that dog owners can have on hand anywhere, anytime.

The idea for the app was prompted by a scary experience earlier this year when a friend's puppy wolfed down a bowl of macadamia nuts before any of us could react (Charlie Brown the Chocolate Lab made a full recovery after an expensive emergency trip to the vet to induce vomiting).

It has a huge database containing common food and drink products (currently over 400+) and allows you to simply search for a specific product or alternatively, scroll or swipe through the alphabetical list. Every food or drink product is categorised as SAFE, CAUTION or NOT SAFE with additional detailed information given where necessary.
The database updates each time you open the app – meaning you get the most up-to-date information available on what human foods are safe for your pet, straight to your mobile or tablet device.
We would be so grateful for your support to help us get this project off the ground.

You can download from the Google PlayStore using this link:

We also made a Facebook page which you can like:

IOS and Windows Phone versions coming soon, along with a website. Like our Facebook page to be notified of

Luke J.
Luke J.about a year ago

apples and pears , as long as you take the pips out the dogs love them

Ulane V.
Ulane V.about a year ago

Thanks, I had not thought about some of these.have to try.

Debbie Bemister
Debbie Bemister1 years ago

Thank you.

Alicia N.
Alicia N.1 years ago

My dog is crazy about seaweed and dried bananas when going hiking-THANKS

Arlene Morrison
Arlene Morrison1 years ago

Hi Deborah ~thanks for your comments.Nice to hear from you.Your GSD cerainly looks good on it! I am thinking of trying sweet potatoes and will check what other veg Boxers can eat and we will all try them with dinner.
I had one of my Boxers get Liver Cancer which they are prone to and we kept him going feeding him cooked best salmon and chicken breasts and rice for nearly a year .
I am sure years ago the food was more natural and you didn't have to worry about it coming in from goodness knows where full of water and goodness knows what else!The price we pay for cheaper food!

Deborah Neikirk
Deborah Neikirk1 years ago

Arlene M. -- I cook for my German Shepherd Dog, too. Rice, meat, and squash (pumpkin or butternut or acorn). He also gets a dollop of yogurt with each meal. They do not need sugar or all the other chemicals that are in fruit yogurt. I couldn't believe it, but he loves plain yogurt! Licks it up first, then eats the rest. He's not overweight, but I give him low-fat. He had a lot of digestive issues (GSDs often do) but now he's healthy and has a shiny coat. Good for you for taking care of your pup!

Arlene Morrison
Arlene Morrison1 years ago

I feed my Boxer dogs yoghurt three times a day with their meals and usually use a good quality mango and papaya brand but am becoming worried at how much sugar and fat there are in them.
If you want a fat free one there is an alarming percentage of sugar in them and the only low fat, low sugar ones are usually plain.As a general rule is it better to have low fat or low sugar?
I feed Chicken and rice dry food formulated by a local vet with a small amount of their chicken and rice meat plus the yoghurt, and any cooked veg from our meals such as carrot parsnip peas potato in small amounts.
I used to feed cooked brown long rain rice and less dry food for my previous dogs and they loved it but my daughter insists that they need nothing other than the dried food and when her dog comes to stay with us he definitely knows that our dogs get better tasting food than he does, which I find sad, but I stick to her instructions.
We are now being told that sugar is the new tobacco and should be drastically cut out of our
diet but you need to check everything you eat for the low sugar brands.
What is Stevia and is it better than sugar~it's not readily available in supermarkets here in the UK but can be obtained from Amazon.
I would appreciate anyone who is kind enough to reply~thank you!
As a last thought we have had Boxer dogs for 40+ years and the one who lived the longest (14) was fed a mixer biscuit with tinned dogfood or our cooked meat and a good proportion of what ever veg w

Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.