I used to be quite against treats. Of all the parts of pet care, I believed treats are so enthusiastically embraced that our pets are joining the epidemic of obesity coating the world. Treats become part of a routine and are sometimes used to beg forgiveness that we just don’t have time to walk or play with our pets as we should. Diamond Back Drugs, the pharmacy we get some of our very specific compounded medications from, ran a wonderful article about Affection Without Treats, saying what I’ve always thought, and still think.
Your Pet Really Just Wants Attention
Your attention, to be specific. When you give treats, you are giving your attention, which is what they really crave. So next time your pet begs, give an extra dose of ear rubs, praise and mounds of affection. Better yet…
And yet… I’m giving into treats more and more lately, for a few reasons.
This is a movement in our hospital to make office visits increasingly more enjoyable and less downright terrifying. Treats are making puppy vaccinations at least less scary, in lots of cases fun even! Your puppy doesn’t even know it’s being vaccinated because it’s far too busy eating some delicious treat! Your veterinarians office might soon turn into Grandma’s house where your fur kids are given all the treats they want as a bribe to like going to the vet and not be so scared of needful things. Kind of like the lollipop for good children at the doctor’s office, we want them to be happy to see us, at least a little bit.
Research is showing that rewards for work done is actually quite stimulating for our pets. I read the study itself, and am sad to say I didn’t understand it, but reading Zazie Todd, PhD translation of it, made a lot more sense. Dogs just given treats because it is a treat don’t enjoy the treat as much as dogs that had to work for that same treat.
That’s right. They love the mental stimulation of working for, and achieving a goal. Praise or treats as a reward are much more enjoyed than free handouts.
Because come on, we’re going to do it. Good or bad, most everyone uses food treats. Sparingly makes them more of an actual treat and variety can be fun sometimes.
The perfect high fiber, low protein snack. Just make sure to remove the core and seeds and then apples can be a great treat. Freeze them in hot weather for a nice treat or as ice cubes for their water bowl. Not a bad way to increase water intake!
Bananas are quite high in sugar so definitely a holiday treat and definitely not for our diabetic friends. Bananas don’t freeze too well but can be tossed to your dog for some fun bonding time! Or add them to the water bowl to encourage hydration.
Carrots and Celery
Is your dog already a little chubby? Toss them some carrots or celery from your party vegetable trays. Try teaching them to catch little bites to help with stimulation and gives them a little focus and activity with you, without taking away treat time.
Speaking of fun treats to toss to your dog, blueberries are already tiny balls ready to be tossed and snapped up out of the air. Nummy! Have some yourself. Full of antioxidants and flavor.
Green beans, cucumbers and cranberries are also great snacks that can add variety to your pets life.
Toss them or float them in water bowls, cranberries make great treats for you and your pet to share. They might even help stave off those dreaded bladder infections, but are absolutely no substitute for vet care.