Treats are a great way to teach your dog tricks or just to reward him for being your best friend. But too many treats can quickly cause his waistline to expand. Like all good things, they should be given in moderation, especially if he’s overweight or has a health problem.
There are all kinds of dog treats, even low-calories treats for dogs that need to shed a few pounds. “If your dog has to follow a specific diet for medical reasons, ask your vet to recommend something as an appropriate treat,” advises Dr. Hamil. The treats you choose depend on why you’re giving the treat and what he likes to eat.
Biscuits are satisfyingly crunchy and have the added benefit of helping to scrape tartar off teeth. Tiny biscuits are good rewards during training sessions. Soft-moist treats are also good training rewards because they are gulped down quickly. But don’t forget that they are high in sugar and preservatives, so give them sparingly.
Something chewy, such as a jerky treat, is a “Just-for-being-a-great-dog” reward. Another treats that will have him enjoying himself for hours is an artificial bone or toy with a hollow that you can stuff with peanut butter, cream cheese or small, soft-moist food.
Then there are cookies. They come in lots of fun flavors, such as pumpkin, peanut butter and liver-chip, and are often made with healthful ingredients such as whole-wheat flour. But that doesn’t mean you can give them to him by the handful. Calories are calories, after all.
Even people food can be a treat, as long as you make the right choices, advises Dr. Wilford. “Treats are not your leftovers from the table; they’re bones, or the skin off the chicken, the carcass from the turkey, the fat trimmed off the steak. Treats should be healthful. So I get the potato chips, the chocolate and the popcorn with butter and salt. My dogs get the green beans, the carrot sticks and bits of lean, cooked meat. They also like popcorn, but they skip the butter and salt.”
Dogs have also been known to enjoy the odd stalk of broccoli (beware, though; it can cause gas) and fresh tomatoes. And bits of apple, banana and avocado, grapes, strawberries and other berries, as well as peeled, sectioned organs all make good, healthy treats for your dog. Before you give him his vegetable or fruit snacks, be sure you wash them. And keep it to a few pieces at a time – you don’t want to give him diarrhea.
Remember that treats should be special. If you give them to him all the time, they won’t be.