Rarely is there a dog owner that does not have a cupboard full of treats for his or her dog. But, as pet owners we tend to go overboard with the use of dog treats, contributing to bad behaviour in our pets and even weight gain.
The appropriate use of dog treats, as well as the types of treats that are best for dogs, are explained here.
What kinds of treats are appropriate for dogs?
Treats that are tasty – yet low in calories – are most appropriate for our pets. Dogs do not have a concept of serving size in the way that humans do, so many owners do not realize that a large treat can be broken up into several bite-size pieces and the pet will be just as happy. Owners should avoid treats that are high in calories that contain fillers or preservatives and should stick to wholesome products or whole foods instead. Common treats that can be made at home include baked sweet potato, cooked or canned green beans, cooked carrot, small pieces of cheese, dollops of peanut butter and bits of cooked chicken.
How should treats be used?
One of the top reasons for the use of dog treats is in conjunction with training as a positive reward. Dogs learn best when appropriate behaviour is rewarded with something they consider high-value, such as food. When house training a pet or practicing obedience commands, a handful of treats are necessary.
For Dental Cleaning
Some treats are specifically designed to clean a dog’s teeth. The use of dog treats can be given after dinner as a way to promote healthy gums and enamel, especially for dog breeds that are prone to poor dentition. These treats should also be low in calorie and contain healthy ingredients.
To Relieve Boredom
The use of dog treats can relieve boredom in pets, such as when an owner leaves for the day. A popular example is to use a treat-filled KONG, which can keep pets entertained for hours while they try to get every last morsel out of the toy. Common examples of ingredients used to fill a KONG include spray cheese, peanut butter, kibble, cream cheese and pureed foods. Pet owners should beware that when routinely giving their dogs a treat-filled KONG they should properly account for the additional calories the dog is receiving and scale back the food given at meal times.
For Mental Stimulation
Some dogs require their brains to be exercised as well as their bodies for proper fulfillment. One way to do so is to hide treats around the house and ask your dog to find them. This fun game encourages a dog to use all of its senses in order to find the tasty rewards.
How should treats not be used?
The use of dog treats should never be given – for no reason at all. This behaviour can cause bad habits in pets, such as begging and a sense of entitlement. When giving your pet a treat, always ask for a behavior, such as a simple “sit,” before giving a reward.