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 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 the sharing of (yummy) resources.
When and where to give treats
Be sure to think outside of your usual routines when sharing treats with your dog. Bonding can happen at any time, and your dog should learn that any moment spent with you is a positive one. Surprise him with a delicious treat while you’re both snuggled up on the couch or when you come home from work! Make these kinds of treats a randomly timed surprise, and be sure not to encourage cheeky treat-seeking behaviours or give potentially harmful human foods.
During training sessions, give treats promptly when he’s done something well, whether you are at home, in the dog park or out on 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 skill, 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 him feel at ease.
Carefully consider the circumstances before you give a treat, and stay on guard for potential training traps. For example, giving treats to your dog while you are sitting at the table may simply teach him 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 he is jumping up or barking to demand a treat, you can end up rewarding his naughty ways 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 avoided entirely. Obesity can even shorten your dog’s lifespan and lower his quality of life! Be sure your dog is getting healthy treats that won’t cause him to gain weight or compromise the weight loss goals you’ve already set for him.
Here’s a little human 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)|
|28gr 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 super-tasty titbits that he'll love to nosh and which will support his overall health by avoiding excess calories. Seek out natural ingredients whenever possible and check labels carefully before you buy. Remember – not all treats are created equal, and some can even offer health benefits beyond simply a tasty snack.
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.