Treating Safely

We all like a treat now and then, I know I do. Sometimes it’s to reward myself after doing a task like cleaning the car or mowing the grass, sometimes it’s just because I can.

Using food as a reward for our dogs can often depend on their motivation. Leo my late Springer wasn’t bothered about edible treats outside, it was all about his ball. In order to positively reinforce training, recall or learning new things, I would produce a tennis ball to mark the moment. Jake and Truly are both food motivated which obviously helps for this blog.

It doesn’t take long for extra food or treats to cause weight gain. Jake has arthritis, so I’m conscious that to help him stay mobile I need to keep him on his target weight. Any treats I give Jake and Truly are calculated as part of their overall daily allowance, that may sound harsh but I don’t apologise! If you don’t know what your dog weighs, most Vet practices will let you pop in a weigh your dog when passing. If you aren’t sure what your dog should weigh particularly if they are a mix of breeds, then your vet or the practice nurse will be able to help you. Some practices offer slimming classes too.

What makes a good dog treat? Apart from the quality of the ingredients, if it’s to act as a reward then it has to be a treat that your dog really rates. If their choice is to continue following a trail of a deer, a rabbit, an interesting left-over pizza box, or to come back to your call… then it has to be an incentive to your dog. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’d find a stale flavourless dog biscuit much of a reward.

The test I often do is to buy sample size treats and offer up a taste trial with a bit of recall or training at home. You’ll know which treat works, unless you have a Labrador (or half of one) in which case anything is tasty. With Jake and Truly I tend to rotate the treats to reduce boredom and to keep their interest. I mostly find the smellier the treat the more they like it. If you’re not sure about the quality of the treat, I’m happy to share my go-to site to compare ingredients https://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/the-dog-treat-directory

For Jake and Truly I tend to stick with raw, or dehydrated, baked treats. If your dog likes fish too then you can find a variety to try at a local pet store nowadays. Once you know what they like you can also order them online from Fish4dogs or Skippers (other companies are available too). If you do go with fish, then it’s only fair to warn you that the smell is quite over powering, I often feel the need to apologise to the courier company when they deliver a really smelly box of fish treats. If you have a resident Truly type, you may also want to find somewhere secure to keep bulk purchases. I once came downstairs to intercept Truly dragging a 5kg bag of sea jerky towards her bed. Thankfully a trip to the vet avoided as I have no doubt she would have eaten as much as possible!

Jake and Truly also enjoy half a cored apple or a carrot. They also love a small amount of peanut butter (100% peanuts no salt and no sugar) smeared on a Licki mat. I don’t share my meals or give them left-over food from my plate, apart from weight gain it’s because of hidden toxins.

Toxic Foods

Not all food we eat is suitable for dogs, and some foods are highly toxic. I’m sure most people have heard stories of dogs being rushed to the vet because they’ve eaten chocolate. You can find a choc toxicity calculator online, but to be honest if it was Jake or Truly I wouldn’t faff around I’d get them straight to the vet (calling the vet on the way).

For info on toxic foods Battersea have a list on their website with a helpful explanation why the foods aren’t suitable https://www.battersea.org.uk/pet-advice/dog-care-advice/toxic-food-dogs

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