How to “Treat” Your Pets

October 28, 2014

My pets know exactly where their treats are stored and often sit in front of that pantry door when I’m in the kitchen, in hopes of a handout. Enough of those soulful stares, and I’m likely to give in. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Treats serve a good purpose for pets but if overdone, those extra calories can contribute to weight gain and a host of other health issues. According to petmd.com, there are 3 reasons to give treats to pets:

1. To fulfill chewing needs (for dental health and the basic, biological need to chew).
2. To help with training and exercise.
3. To make the humans in the family happy.

All of those reasons make sense. Dogs need to chew, and we should provide them with something other than our furniture on which to exercise those teeth and gums. A longer-lasting treat is best for that purpose, such as a Nylabone Original or a Beef Trachey Chewz or Lamb Trachey Chewz from Clear Conscience Pets. Raw baby carrots also work on the teeth and gums.

Training a dog always goes better with treats as a reward. When our pets were younger, I carried small treats in my pocket when I worked with the dogs. Gator always behaved better and followed instructions when he knew it would be followed by a treat. I used the same methods with Maggie in teaching her hand signals.

Our dogs love their Kong toys that can be filled with treats. We only place a couple of treats inside, and it does take them awhile to remove them. The Kong brand are the only ones that seem to survive our dogs’ very strong teeth and Maggie’s Bulldog jaws.

At the moment, Gator is being treated with a steroid to clear up his hot spots, which we think are finally on the road to improvement. This has caused him to pack on a few unwanted pounds. While he does receive a Healthy Gourmet Treat at bedtime, along with Maggie, he also gets raw baby carrots for treats during the day to cut down on calories.

But what about cats, you may ask? Once past the kitten stage, most cats aren’t really chewers, so treats may best be used for training and exercise. First, determine what triggers your cat’s taste buds. Is there a certain small treat or kibble that really grabs her attention? If so, stick with it.

If Kitty has a weight problem, use pieces of the kibble she normally eats at mealtime and before dinner, play a game of “toss the kibble with her. Be sure to deduct the amount of the kibble you use from what she receives with her dinner. Have your cat see and sniff the kibble in your hand and then gently toss it across the room for her to chase. With luck, she’ll burn a few calories with this game.

Our Lucy loves to play the game, but Chico prefers to sit and watch. Both cats enjoy a toy that holds treats. They have to work at it like a puzzle to remove the treats, and it keeps their minds active as well as providing a bit of exercise.

Petmd.com recommends tossing frozen peas for cats to chase. Just keep track of the number of peas you put out in case your pet doesn’t eat them.

Our cats will chase Cheerios, but they won’t eat them. I can count on the dogs to handle that part.

Later in the evening, our animals expect a treat. I guess that takes me to the third purpose mentioned in the article by petmd.com. It pleases us to make our pets happy. All our pets line up in front of the pantry door where the Healthy Gourmet Treats are stored.

We practice sit and stay commands using hand signals with the dogs. Then I break a treat in half for them to share. The cats receive their Healthy Gourmet Duck & Orange treats and all is well. The animals are satisfied and we humans are happy.

Treats are important for our pets. We just have to choose them wisely and use good judgment in dispensing them.

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