There’s nothing quite like the feeling that comes with seeing the happiness that a special and well-timed treat can bring your dog.
However, when it comes to treats, your dog can sometimes have too much of a good thing. While it can be tempting to use treats to make your dog happy and excited, it’s important to use them wisely.
So how often should you treat your pet? Can treats be healthy? And when and how should you use them? Here’s some advice from Real Pet Food Company’s ambassador, and experienced vet, Dr Lisa Chimes.
How often should you treat your pet?
According to Dr Chimes, treats should make up no more than ten percent of your dog’s total dietary intake, as a general rule.
“Feeding your dog too many treats can result in nutritional deficiencies as well as unnecessary weight gain,” she says.
Dr Chimes also suggests working out your dog’s daily “treat” allocation, and giving it to your dog at various times during the day – rather than all in one go.
“The best way to give treats to your dog is to measure out their daily allowance and break this into smaller pieces so you can give smaller treats throughout the day,” she says.
She also suggests taking away a portion of your pet’s regular meal and offering it as a treat in between meals. For instance, this could include offering one of the Nature’s Gift ready-to-serve meatballs, or some small slices of a chilled roll. However if you do this, it’s important to ensure your dog is still receiving a consistent and measured daily allowance overall.
What should you give as a treat?
Not all treats are created equal, and some are definitely better options for your four-legged friend than others.
The Nature’s Gift range of Mini Treats offers a nutritious, as well as tasty option available in Chicken, Kangaroo and Liver flavours.
Nature’s Gift Mini Treats can also be offered daily, and they are easy to break up into smaller fragments, which means you can treat your pet without exceeding their daily allowance.
Dr Chimes suggests avoiding feeding your pet table scraps and leftovers from family meals, which can sometimes contain ingredients that dogs can’t tolerate, and have the potential to cause digestive upsets.
How should you use treats?
Treats can be a fantastic way to reward dogs, and to enhance the special bond you have with your pooch.
“Since dogs learn by positive reinforcement, offering a treat after they have displayed correct behaviour will encourage them to repeat that behaviour,” says Dr Chimes.
“Never give a treat for ‘free’. Instead, give your dog the opportunity to practice their obedience or even perform tricks before offering a treat. This is great mental enrichment for dogs and will strengthen the bond you have with them,” she says.
Conversely, it’s important to ensure you don’t give dogs treats for negative behaviour.
“Keep in mind that if you give your dog a treat while begging while you are cooking, you will only be rewarding them for begging,” says Dr Chimes. “Instead, give them the opportunity to ‘sit’, and then offer the treat for doing that instead,” she suggests.
About Dr Lisa Chimes
Dr Lisa Chimes is one of Australia’s most well-known vets and a proud ambassador for Real Pet Foods Company.
She has a Bachelor of Veterinary Science, post-graduate small animal specialist qualifications, and extensive experience working as an emergency and critical-care veterinarian at Sydney’s Small Animal Specialist Hospital.
A familiar face in many Australian homes, Lisa starred alongside Dr Chris Brown in Bondi Vet, and has her own TV program, Dr Lisa to the Rescue, in which she helps find forever homes for rescue dogs. She has also made appearances on Ready Steady Cook, The Project, The Circle, Breakfast, Ten News, The Nine Network’s Mornings, Studio 10, Today Extra, Kyle and Jackie O, and is a regular contributor to Houzz.com and Mamamia.
Lisa is an accomplished MC and speaker, a supporter of Guide Dogs Australia and a favourite on the pet expo circuit, where she shares her knowledge and animal know-how with fellow animal lovers and industry experts at events such as The Dog Lovers Show.
After the birth of her first child, Lisa saw a need to educate young children on looking after their pets and signed with Penguin Group to release two children’s books: My First Puppy and My First Kitten.
She lives in Sydney with her husband Brad, their three children Hudson, Darcie and Spencer, and their two cavalier cross poodles, Nelson and Lucas.