There are so many fun things about being a pet owner. Having someone to walk or run with, having a couch buddy and even spoiling your pet are all part of the charm of owning a dog. Giving a dog treats is a way to help in training as well as a way just to spoil your dog.
It is not breaking news that dogs love treats. But there can be too much of a good thing. Treats are just that – treats. They should be given sparingly and not every time your pet looks at you with that longing in his eyes.
Feeding too many treat can result in an overweight dog. Dogs that are overweight are more likely to develop serious health problems and, in general, do not live as long as dogs that are kept at a more healthy weight. So offer treats, but only in such a way that is healthy for your pet.
With that in mind, let’s talk about types of treats. There are probably as many choices for dog treats as there are for treats for the humans in your family! The sheer number of choices can be overwhelming, so how do you know which treats are best? If you’re really in doubt talk to your vet, but most treats are fine in moderation.
Here are a few of the types of treats available:
These are relatively inexpensive treats that can be found in many flavors, shapes and sizes. These are a good choice for the every day after dinner treat (if you give treats that often) because of the low cost. Some brands are higher in fat content than others, so you may want to choose carefully if you are trying to limit your pet’s fat intake.
These are typically smaller treats that can be kept in a small container that you can take with you on walks or anywhere else you may bring your pet. They are designed specifically to be used as a treat you give while working on training your pet. Because they are small in size, they are a better choice than a normal sized treat for when you need to give several at one time.
Many jerky treats are available for dogs. Some list only one ingredient on the label: meat. For this reason, these treats are popular with people who do not want their pet to eat a lot of artificial ingredients. The high quality jerky will cost more than treats that contain artificial ingredients. Some jerky is also a bit high in fat so, if that is an issue to you be sure to select a jerky that is made with a low-fat meat such as chicken.
These treats have been an absolute blessing to pet owners who have struggled to get their pets to take medications. Some pet medicines now are available in a chewy treat form! The pet can’t wait to get his medicine. There are also treats available to help aid in giving your pet pills. One brand is called “Pill Pockets” and they are made in such a way that the pill can be placed in the center and the treat folded over the pill. It’s VERY important to keep medicated treats in a place where your dog cannot get to them as they will happily scarf down an entire package. If your pet does ingest more of his medication than his prescription calls for, contact your vet or the animal poison control center immediately.
Rawhide is a treat that some pet owners love and some avoid. Some feel that the rawhide is dangerous as dogs will swallow large pieces and this could be a choking hazard. But many vets feel that rawhide is completely safe for your pet. Most agree, however, that you should not allow your pet to chew on rawhide unsupervised. When the rawhide becomes very soft, it should be removed and replaced. The rawhide will harden once it dries and can, at that time, be given back to the dog.
A fairly new trend involves pet owners making treats for their dogs at home. There are many recipes available and this is popular as the homemade treats are usually healthier and often less expensive than store bought treats. Homemade treats are an especially good choice for dogs with food allergies as the ingredients can be carefully monitored by the pet owner.
When to Give Treats
Some pet owners give their dogs treats every day while others save them for only special occasions. You’ll need to figure out what is best for your pet while keeping his good health in mind.
Here are some times you may consider giving your dog treats.
- As a reward when training
- When you put him in crate for the day or for the night
- When you are leaving for the day
- After his evening meal
When NOT to Give Treats
Some pet owners give treats at the wrong times. Here are some situations in which giving dogs treats is a really bad idea.
As a bribe. For example, you dog has one of your favorite shoes. You want him to put it down, so you wave his favorite treat at him. Of course, he drops the shoe immediately! The problem is that giving treats in that way will train him to take your shoes as doing so earned him a treat!
When he is sick. It’s tempting to want to spoil your dog when he is under the weather, but giving treats can make it worse.
If your dog is overweight. This isn’t to say you can NEVER give treats to an overweight dog, but you’ll need to cut the number of treats considerably. Also, try to stick to low-fat treats or make them at home.
Giving your dog treats is a fun part of being a pet owner. Just be wise in the types and number of treats you give. Remember, your dog’s good health is more important that the instant gratification he feels when he is given a treat!