Who doesn't love a tasty treat from time to time? Pet food treats come in a wide range of formats and flavours and are generally designed to satisfy one of 3 key need states. Here we look at how to use treats wisely.
Who doesn't love a tasty treat from time to time?
Pet food treats come in a wide range of formats and flavours and are generally designed to satisfy one of 3 key need states: to reward/bond, to occupy and for functional health.
Types of treats
Treats provide an important mechanism for strengthening the bond you share with your pet and are frequently used as a motivating tool for training. Certain treats are designed to be longer lasting to help keep a pet entertained for a period of time. In addition, some treats have positive effects in areas such as oral health and joint health.
How can I use treats wisely?
Treats are particularly useful for training, but due to the risks of overfeeding and nutritional imbalances, their use should be controlled. As a general rule, no more than 10% of the calories in your puppy’s diet should come from dog treats. Keep a close eye on how many treats your puppy is getting, and how often they are getting them.
It’s likely in the early days of puppy training that you’ll use food treats as rewards a lot. Consider using part of your puppy’s daily dry food allowance as treats.
Get the timing right
When using food treats as training rewards, timing is crucial. Only offer a treat when your puppy responds correctly to your training command and is calm. That way you’ll avoid inadvertently rewarding any over-excited behaviour.
Stick to pet treats
Treats designed specifically for dogs and puppies are best. Chocolate and foods containing xylitol (a sugar substitute) are just a couple of examples of human treats that are highly toxic to pets.
Consider life rewards
Whilst food treats can be very effective for a puppy when learning a new behaviour, you should introduce other rewards that your puppy responds to. A ‘life reward’ is anything that your dog desires in their day to day life.
Consider the following life rewards:
• A tickle on the belly
• Verbal praise
• Playing a game of tug
• A pat on the head
• Playing with a toy
Life rewards teach your puppy that it’s important and worthwhile to listen to you, even in the absence of food.
By using food treats, in conjunction with life rewards, you'll keep training fun and interesting for your puppy while helping build reliability in their behaviour.