Choose pet treats carefully and combine generously with love.
Most humans love snacks and so do their pets. As with human treats, some pet treats are quite healthy, nourishing and good. Others are full of foul and unhealthy stuff.
Dog and cat treats should not take the place of or interfere with regular nourishing meals. Some pets are very clever about demanding treats and can keep at us until we give in.
Two rules about treats: we should decide the kind of treat and when the pet receives one.
As with pet food, treats should not contain artificial color, flavor or chemical preservatives. Reading the label is important.
If it looks like an Oreo cookie or a mini hot dog in a bun, you can be sure it is full of artificial ingredients. If it looks like a dog biscuit and is a natural color rather than green, red or yellow, it is probably pretty good, but read the label to be sure.
Dog biscuits come in a variety of sizes from puppy and tiny dog size to huge. A nice big biscuit provides good chewing pleasure for any size dog.
Cats tend to be quite finicky about what they eat.
Read the label to make sure that the colors and flavors are natural, and with all treats for dogs and cats, watch the amount of salt.
Ingredients must be listed in the order they make up the product, starting with the largest quantity.
It is not necessary to buy expensive pet treats. Lots of dogs love carrots and they are a wonderful, healthy treat and good for teeth and gums. Popcorn, without butter, salt and other additions, is a great treat, unless the pet is allergic to corn. (Allergies will be discussed in an upcoming article.)
Liver, boiled in water and cut into bite size pieces and then microwaved for a few minutes, will have your dog jumping through hoops and your cat dancing around you.
Slice turkey hot dogs and microwave them for 5 to 10 minutes depending on your microwave. The liver and hot dogs are great treats for motivation during training. If you are training, save these special treats only for training.
There are many recipes for dog treats you can make yourself, including a great collection compiled in a booklet by Barkery Bakery, a division of Paws in the Park. When you bake them yourself, you can alter what you put in according to your dog's special wants and needs.
Science Diet makes a product called t/d which is designed to promote healthy teeth and gums. Marketed as a pet diet, (I would not use it as a dog food) it makes a wonderful treat. The nuggets come in a couple of sizes and are hard and crunchy. The large size provides a good jaw workout even for big dogs. There is a cat variety also. Available only through the veterinarian, a large bag lasts forever and (my) dogs love them.
For dogs with allergies, treats are available at pet food stores that are free of wheat, soy and/or corn.
Rice cakes or rice puffs, made for people, are great treats for dogs with allergies.
Pets need to earn their treats. Give a treat when the dog goes into the kennel or when you are leaving him behind or at bedtime or when you think he is especially wonderful.
Use treats in great abundance for training. When teaching your dog to come when called, keep a bunch of small treats in your pocket and when he comes to you, give him a treat. For this purpose, dog food kibble works well and does not mess up your pocket, unless you forget to empty it before putting the clothes in the washing machine. A flavor and shape of food other than the dog's regular diet is ideal.
Dogs and cats love treats. Read the label to insure a healthy treat and add abundant love and ear rubs.
If you have a particular subject or pet problem you would like to see covered in this column or a question you need answered, please send an e-mail to me at the address below.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.