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Commercial Dog Treats: Are They Really a “Treat?”

From Rachel Jones. Email her at rjones[AT]borderstan.com. She is  she is the owner of K-9 Divine and a professional dog trainer,


Treat them right. (Rachel Jones)

I learned very early in my dog training career that not all dogs would eat dog treats, and I was forced to explore alternatives. After a while, I stopped using them altogether. By using a mixture of your dog’s own kibble and human food, you can provide a healthier, cheaper and more exciting array of “treats” for your dog.

Many people are told to never feed human food to their dogs. While it is true that you should never feed dogs from the table, there is no reason why dogs can’t get plain meat and vegetables as training treats.

After all, plain meat such as chicken is much healthier than a “chicken flavored” dog treat. It is also much less expensive. Dogs will be better students if they are highly motivated by the food you use as a reward.

If your dog gobbles down his kibble and needs to watch his weight, consider feeding him a part of his meals through training or in a toy instead of a bowl. This will slow down his eating and ensure that he is not getting too many treats every day. Some other low-calorie treat alternatives are Cheerios, carrots or apples. If you don’t relish carrying around veggies or meat in your pocket, consider buying a food dehydrator. They retail for about $60 and can turn any food into handy dried snacks.

For dogs that are picky eaters or whose anxiety makes them indifferent to treats, choose the smelliest meats and cheeses for treats. Meat from a can, such as SPAM, nearly always works, even with dogs who are said to be “not food motivated.” Stinky cheese such as Pecorino and sharp cheddar is usually a good choice as well. These foods are too rich to use as treats for a long period of time, but can be very useful to solve a frustrating training issue in the short term.

Whether your goal is to get your dog to slim down or increase her interest in training, it never hurts to get creative and explore new foods to use as treats.

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A Borderstan resident for more than five years, Jones is the owner and head trainer of K-9 Divine. She began training professionally in April of 2003 after attending an internship program at the Animal Behavior Center of New York. Jones is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator with the American Kennel Club and a Community Training Partner with Best Friends Animal Society. She has been in DC since 1994 when she came to study Spanish at Georgetown University, and then spent six years as a Spanish-to-English translator. Email her at rjones[AT]borderstan.com.

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