We all love to offer our animal companions treats and snacks, but how many we give and how often can have more than a little impact on both their behavior and total health.
As a general rule of thumb, it is best to limit “snacks” (free mini-meals) to once a day, if at all. A good time to snack would be right before bedtime after going potty, or as a peace offering and food-based distraction when you leave the house and Fido’s going to spend a little time alone.
Good examples of snacks include a couple of tablespoons of plain yogurt, a very small portion of his regular food or a juicy, meaty bone to gnaw on, which also cleans the teeth. Perfect departure-based snacks are something that will last longer and take Fido’s mind off being left alone. Stuffing food into an interactive toy (such as those from Kong, or Planet Dog) can make it extra interesting.
Many commercial treats are loaded with sugar, chemical preservatives, colorings, by-products and allergy-causing grains like wheat, corn and soy. Aim to keep Fido trim by limiting treats, making him work for them and using healthy “people foods” or natural treats such as those below. Use raw baby carrots, diced up chicken or tiny pieces of cheese for training sessions in place of commercial treats—but remember to never treat Fido with grapes, raisins, candies or chocolate.
Top quality treats include those from Zukes (Mini Naturals are really tiny and ideal for training sessions). Or try making your own—See our pet recipe section!
Homemade and other soft foods such as dehydrated mixes work really well for this and can be frozen to prolong the fun even more. For treats (cookies or other goodies fed in individual morsels), the best approach is the Nothing in Life is Free (NLF) rule. This means you do not just walk up and give a treat for doing nothing—unless of course you are working on behavior modification, and “doing nothing” is the behavior you are specifically looking for.
Request a behavior that Fido is required to perform in order to receive his treat or reward. It could be as simple as “sit” or a more complex sequence of tricks, and the reward can be adjusted to suit the level of difficulty.
Using the NLF program helps to reinforce your position as the leader of the pack and is an excellent way to practice certain behaviors
Lucy Postins is a monthly columnist in Fido Friendly Magazine.
© 2013 Lucy Postins & The Honest Kitchen This article may only be copied with prior written permission from the company. Reproductions must include credit to the author and a link to this website.