Treats are important

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If you have a dog or are seriously thinking of bringing a new dog into your home, you’ve likely heard a lot of expert dog training advice, either from books, magazines or television programmes. Expert dog trainers agree that dog treats are an effective and appropriate training tool and a great way to say “well done” in terms that your dog clearly understands.

But did you know that treats are also important to bonding with your canine friend? Dogs are a social species, just like humans. Both four-legged and two-legged friends can benefit from the social aspect of treats – a display of love and affection from one individual to another through sharing.

When and where to give treats

Be sure to think outside of your usual routines when giving treats to your dog. Bonding can happen at any time, and your dog should learn that any moment spent with you is a positive one. Surprise them with a delicious treat while you’re both curled up on the sofa or when you come home from work. Make these kinds of treats a randomly timed surprise, and be sure not to encourage treat-seeking behaviours or give potentially harmful human foods.

During training sessions, give treats promptly when your dog has done something well, whether you are at home, in the dog park or in the town. In this case, you will be rewarding proper dog behaviour within any given environment, which should be the goal. Aromatic treats are best for training. The appealing scent will be positively associated with the new skills helping to build on the training results.

If you want to condition your dog to like a new location, such as the vet’s surgery or your new home, giving treats and lots of praise and attention in those places can help them feel at ease.

Carefully consider the circumstances before you give a treat, and stay on guard for potential training traps. Giving treats to your dog while you are sitting at the dinner table may simply teach them to pester you every time you sit down for a meal. This will require paying close attention at first, but it will soon become second nature.

Give treats only when your dog is calm and acting in a way you want. If jumping up or barking to demand a treat, you can end up rewarding naughty behaviour by giving in.

Not all treats are created equal

Giving human foods or low-quality pet treats can give your pet a tummy full of unhealthy fats, sugars, flavourings, or excess salt, all of which can easily cause digestive upset or worse. Some human foods are even poisonous or toxic for dogs, especially chocolate or anything containing onions, raisins or caffeine.

Too many treats, or inappropriate treats, can significantly impact a dog’s weight and overall health. Canine obesity is a serious health issue that’s best prevented. Obesity can even shorten your dog’s lifespan and lower quality of life. Be sure your dog is getting healthy treats that won’t cause weight gain or compromise the weight loss goals you’ve already set.

Here’s a little comparison chart to show in human terms just how unhealthy some commonly fed dog “treats” can be:

15kg dog (854 kcal/day)   Average adult (165cm tall, 2000kcal/day)
28g cheese = 1 hamburger
1 cookie = 2 scoops of ice cream
2 slices of salami = 4 cookies
1 dental stick = 1 chocolate bar

The best treats for your dog are those that are not only tasty but also support their overall health. Some treats offer health benefits beyond being simply a tasty snack, so check labels carefully and also choose treats that have no added artificial preservatives, flavours or colours. Treats should not exceed 10% of your dogs daily calorie intake.

Choose your treats – as well as the time and location of giving them – wisely, and you’ll help reinforce a deeper bond along with better behaviour and better lifelong health in your beloved dog. A treat indeed.