Pet lovers use treats and chews in a number of ways: as training aids or rewards for good behavior; to support exercise; to provide long-lasting occupation; and sometimes just to give a treat. No matter the reason, the result is a strengthened bond between humans and four-legged family members. Some suggested guidelines for your pet’s safe enjoyment of treats and chews include:
- Feed treats in moderation. It is recommended that no more than 10% of a pet’s caloric intake come from treats and for pet parents to refer to the feeding guidelines on the package.
- Keep it safe. Your pet’s safety is the priority for PFI members. To help keep your dog safe, supervise when he or she is enjoying a chew. In addition, to help avoid the rare chance of choking, pet lovers should look for chews recommended for the size of their dog and slightly larger than their dog’s mouth.
- Use pet treats alongside a complete and balanced diet. Pets require a complete and balanced diet containing the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and proteins and amino acids in the proper amounts for the specific life stage of your pet. Some pet treats are complete and balanced. Be sure to check the treat package information.
- Avoid feeding table scraps. Many human foods are not recommended for a pet and can disrupt a pet’s balanced diet. Some foods people eat can cause digestive upset when fed to pets and contribute to pet obesity. Some human foods can cause serious health problems in a cat or dog (e.g., chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol). Feeding pets table scraps can also encourage undesirable behaviors, such as begging or jumping up at the table.
- Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise and fresh water. Exercise and play are not only good for your pet’s health and wellbeing, but can also help strengthen the bond you have with your pets.
Furthermore, as indicated above, treats can be a useful motivator and provide behavioral reinforcement during the process of training a pet. Some dog trainers have noted that particularly strong-smelling treats can be especially useful in the training and obedience process and can engage dogs’ strong sense of smell. Remember, sometimes a treat that smells delicious to your pet may not smell quite so appetizing to you, but it may help with training!