For us, one of the best things in life is having the occasional treat such as a bar of chocolate or a cake, perhaps when watching TV or quietly reading. It’s sometimes tempting to share these with our canine companions who no doubt will sit drooling at our feet in the hope of snaffling a falling crumb. Treats are especially nice at certain times of the year like Christmas or Halloween when tradition dictates that we indulge ourselves more than usual. But – we must beware of indulging our dogs with dog treats in the same way.
Treats should generally be given only when we want to reward good behaviour in our dogs. This is known as positive reinforcement and can be a useful training tool. If you are using treats for this purpose the trick is to be consistent; never give a treat when the dog is in an excitable state. Wait for him to become calm and don’t hold a food treat close to his nose; he can smell it from yards away anyway and you don’t want to run the risk of him biting your finger as he tries to snatch the treat.
What Treats to Give and What Not to Give
So assuming that you’re going to give your dog food treats – and of course, it doesn’t have to be food as some dogs will be just as delighted with toy treats – what should you give?
There are so many different types of dog treats in pet stores and online, ranging from biscuits to meaty bones, to chews of various sizes and flavours. You can pay anything from £1 for a small pack of puppy biscuits to £10-12 for a large antler chew for a big dog. Whichever you decide to buy for your pet remember the golden rule; don’t over-indulge him and keep an eye on his weight. Biscuits and hide treats all contain calories so if you’re giving these it’s best to reduce his regular food portions accordingly.
But what about human foods? There are certain things that we love which are toxic to dogs. For example, those chocolate and sweetie Halloween treats. Both chocolate and sweets contain substances known to be toxic for dogs, including theobromine, artificial sweeteners and sugar, which can cause heart problems and digestive upsets, as can many nuts, some vegetables and some fruits, though green beans, carrots and apples are safe.
In conclusion, use treats sparingly to avoid obesity and if in any doubt about what you can give to your dog then ask your vet for nutritional advice.