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Tricks for Treats

Tricks for Treats

DISCLAIMER:

Special consideration should be taken if your dog has allergies or is on a limited ingredient or prescription diet. Please consult your veterinarian if this is the case.

Dog training is an art which requires a lot of treats to help you achieve certain outcomes and behaviors, especially at the start of any training program. There are a LOT of options out there, so which ones are best? And which ones should you avoid?

Avoid:

We’ll make it simple and start off with the ones that should be avoided. Treats which contain wheat, soy, corn, glutens, and by-products should be avoided. Wheat, soy and gluten (a by-product of wheat) are common allergens in dogs, by-products are often obtained from unknown animal origins, and corn… well. Let’s just say you know what corn does when you eat it! It isn’t very digestible, is it?

You should also avoid ingredients such as corn syrup (a by-product of corn and can cause hyperactivity in dogs), artificial dyes and BHA&BHT, which have been linked as cancer-causing ingredients.

Try to avoid or use sparingly any hard, crunchy treats, or treats that are bigger than half an inch. You want the dog to be eating each treat quickly, so anything too difficult to chew will slow down the training process or potentially be a choking hazard.

Phew! So now that you know which treats to avoid, which ones are best for training? Let’s proceed.

Store-Bought:

Store bought treats are a comfortable go-to. They’re easy to obtain, with no effort into the production process on your end. However, certain store-bought treats can be pricey. There are other more affordable options than store-bought, which I will be going into detail on later.

When choosing a type of treat from the store, you’ll want to find ones that are about the size of a pea or your pinky nail. You want the treats to be soft since dogs will be swallowing most of them with minimal chewing, and we want to avoid choking. Some treats can be broken into small pieces if you can’t find any that are small enough.

The first ingredient should be a type of animal protein such as chicken, beef, turkey, fish, etc. Grain-free is always a great option, often with the remaining ingredients being eggs, veggies or fruit. However, there are some grains that are okay to feed, such as oats, barley and brown rice. Dairy products such as cheese or yogurt are also safe.

If you don’t prefer using treats from the store for whatever reason, don’t worry, you still have options! While many people agree that there is “dog food” and “people food”, dog food is made from “people food”, therefore, people food is also dog food. *

*Certain people foods, such as chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, walnuts, garlic, artificial sweeteners, apple cores, cooked bones, etc. are UNSAFE for dogs and should never be included in any canine diet.

Homemade:

Cooked meats are always a favorite. Lean turkey, chicken, beef, pork, fish, deer, et cetera baked or boiled and chopped or torn into chunks are usually a favorite of any dog. Make sure to avoid cooking the meats in any spices or seasonings (generally, a small amount of oil is okay).

Eggs are always good. Again, no seasoning or spices, but scrambled or boiled eggs work well.

EZ cheese, string cheese, cheese chunks, cheese shreds, plain yogurt, plain pumpkin, cooked mashed or cubed sweet potato, carrots, hot dog chunks, deli meat, wet pet food, blueberries, apple slices (no core), banana chunks, peanut butter and apple sauce (be cognizant of artificial sweeteners) are also great reinforcers.

Lastly, keep in mind that treats have different values to dogs. Make sure you have many options available that have varying values on the reinforcement scale. For instance, a store-bought treat might be fine for a simple behavior like sit, but not effective if training something more difficult like jumping through a hoop. In that instance, you may have to opt for something like baked chicken, EZ cheese or chunks of hot dog. As the behavior increases in difficulty, so should the value of your reinforcers. (But remember, every dog has their preferences, so while some might prefer cheese, others might prefer steak, and so on.)