There’s one thing that almost all of us are guilty of when it comes to spoiling our dogs: treats. Let’s face it, it can be almost impossible to say no to the little faces of our dog friends when they’re in full begging cute mode. Treats are, in and of themselves, not a bad thing for Service dogs. In fact, the right treats, at the right time, in the right amount, is one of the best ways to reward your little friend while making sure he/she is well-behaved. Unfortunately, it can be easy to get into habits that lead to bad behavior and weight gain. Ultimately, you aren’t just your service dog’s best friend, you are responsible for their well-being and there are a lot of easy things you can do to keep them happy and healthy. This is another reason it's important to get a service dog kit.
First, let’s go over some of the ways you shouldn’t be using treats with your Service dog. It’s important to understand the difference between positive and negative behavior reinforcement. Treats should be given out when a dog acts appropriately of course. They should not be doled out for misbehaving dogs simply to get them to be quiet or leave you alone. This is the kind of strategy that leads to an unhealthy relationship between you and the pet that relies on you for their wellbeing. For more information on dog training.
Of course, not just any treat should be given out for good behavior. Just like with human snacks, not all foods are created equal. There are two things to consider when choosing good treats: how healthy the food is, and how good or bad it is for your Service dog’s teeth. Let’s tackle some ideas about healthy treats first.
A lot of store-bought, brand-name treats look like healthy little bits of meat but actually contain high amounts of filler, salts, or other additives. Yes, Service dog’s need meat, but you’d be surprised how good fruits and vegetables can be for them as well. Instead of spending a lot of money on fancy Service dog treats, simple cooked or even raw vegetables and fruits can make nice little treats for your furry friend – just stay away from the grapes, they’re poisonous to Service dogs! Carrots or steamed broccoli are two favorite options, and they might already be in your kitchen. Preparing treats like this is simply a matter of cooking a bit extra at your meal time (unseasoned of course) and setting it aside for your dog throughout the week.
Dental health is not something people always think of when they think of treats for their Service dog. Or, alternatively, they think about it all wrong. Chewing is an important part of dental health for dogs, but too much or too little can be bad. A greedy dog might swallow small or soft treats so quickly that he/she doesn’t even chew at all! At the same time, excessively hard treats like hooves or bones can seriously damage or break a dog’s teeth. Of course, not all dogs are the same and a pit bull is going to have a different time with a tough treat than a chihuahua will. One great option for most dogs when it comes to chewable treats is raw hide. Although it’s hard, it softens in a dog’s mouth but maintains a degree of toughness. Raw hide can be great for keeping your dog’s teeth healthy and also keeping them busy for long periods of time!
Many experts agree that the right amount of treats, in any form, shouldn’t be more than 10% of your dog’s daily calories. But as always, the best thing to do if your concerned about your dog’s health is talk to your vet.