Sweets, Snacks & Supplements, Oh My!

eating icecreamOne of the greatest things about having a dog is teaching him/her fun tricks. Our dogs can do a wide array of tricks on command and the training is almost as fun as the final result!
There is nearly no such thing as training without treats!
You can teach your dog to respond to a “clicker” during training, and that is fantastic, but probably not as satisfying for your dog. The experts can say what they will, but a tasty bite of food is going to be more rewarding any day than the click of a handheld device that reminds the dog of a treat that used to be forthcoming during that particular sound… That said, I do use clickers for training purposes. But I do like using treats in the beginning especially or to reward certain very positive behaviors!

Apart from training it is just fun to give dogs treats and snacks!

There are some excellent dog treats out there, and then there are some pretty awful ones (nutritionally). Furthermore, most dog treats are horrendously expensive.

NOTHING can be more frustrating than spending $15 on a small bag of treats just to have your pooch turn up his little black nose at them. Cockapoos can be picky eaters. This is a plus because they tend to not become overweight (which brings a whole host of health problems) but it can also be a con because they can frustrate you when you offer them a new, delicious-looking dog treat and they stare at you like “Yummy? Ok, YOU eat it, then!”

Dog treats don’t have to be outrageously priced. The whole idea that giving dog “people food” and “table scraps” is bad is a very new idea. Commercially extruded dog food pellets and kibbles are actually a very new invention, and one that was created by a very clever business man looking to find a good money-making use for the refuse from human processed-food production.

Now, it seems, everyone believes dogs must eat “dog food” and “dog treats” from expensive packaging to be healthy!! This couldn’t be farther from the truth!

There are many excellent commercial treats for dogs. Some of my favorite commercial treats are from the Blue Buffalo brand. These treats (and their food) have the added benefit of being made in the USA. This really reduces the risk of serious contaminants that have been found frequently in foods produced overseas in substandard facilities using unsafe methods. Of course I don’t know if all their ingredients are from the USA. I’d rather not give my dog lead poisoning or salmonella so I try my hardest to purchase and provide safe and healthy (and yummy) treats! Also, I really do prefer to support American companies as much as possible!

Apart from the Blue Buffalo brand there are other treats that generally look just like “jerky” or dehydrated bits of meat. These are generally just that, and are simple and healthy for your dog. They are generally not difficult to locate and the price isn’t always so horrible. As with dog food, you must check the ingredient label of any would-be dog treat, snack, supplement or training aid. You will be amazed at how many are made primarily with flour, whole or ground corn, soy, beet pulp, etc. The fewer and simpler the ingredient list, the better. I like a few brands and their ingredient list is one to three long (Bil Jac is a good brand, come to think of it).

*note on beet pulp* it is simply a byproduct of human food consumption. Beets make an excellent “natural” dye for lots of foods, so the pulp/skin/leftovers are often put into dog food (as there is an abundance of this leftover food waste) with the pretense that it adds healthy fiber and roughage to the diet. This is mostly complete garbage. Beet pulp does nothing for your dog; it merely acts as inexpensive filler for the food.

So what’s a dog lover to do?

I like the adage “Keep it simple”… this goes here too. “People food” (otherwise known as food) is perfect for dogs. Your pup will absolutely adore little bite sized pieces of cheese, whether it is cubed from a brick or a piece off of an American cheese type slice. Provided cheese does not make up a large portion of your dog’s diet, you will not have any dietary trouble at all! (Excessive cheese can cause constipation, so don’t give your pooch a whole wheel, ok?)

Bacon is also an excellent dog treat. “Beggin Strips” are a favorite of our dogs, however the price per pound on these treats is about 4 times that of actual, real bacon… and there isn’t any real, actual meat in these treats!! You can feed your dog a steak for less money per pound than “Beggin’ Strips” (really)!! Cooking some bacon (microwave it, fast & easy!) is a great way to provide treats for your pup. You can put them in a sandwich bag and give him/her a real bacon when he/she behaves well.
Another good idea is to give your dog half a hard boiled egg as a snack, a large spoonful of yogurt to lap up or chicken breast cut into cubes and stored in a plastic bag in the fridge.

For a great training aid you can put about a cup of cereal (like Cheerios) into a snack-bag and into your pocket. When your little guy is training (obedience or tricks) and does something right you can give him/her a piece. This is fast and easy to swallow so that it doesn’t disrupt your training session and it also gives a little reward.

There are also several treats that can be made relatively simply at home and can really make for a fun project with the kids!
Here are some decent recipes:

Yogurt Freeze Treats

1-32oz. container of vanilla yogurt
1 cup of peanut butter

1. Put the peanut butter in a microwave safe dish and microwave until melted.
2. Mix the yogurt and the melted peanut butter in a bowl.
3. Pour mixture into cupcake papers and freeze.

For your smaller pup you can actually put this mix into ice cube trays. Once it is frozen you can run the backside of the tray very briefly under hot water, twist the rack and pop them out into a freezer-safe quart sized bag and give your puppy one to play with & eat outside during a hot day.
Other good warm-weather treats include refrigerated carrots and chunks of apple and/or sweet potato.

PB doggie cookies:

2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375’F. In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk, then add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Bake for 20 minutes on a greased baking sheet until lightly brown. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight container. — This is the original recipe, but I have found the cookies burn easily. Its better to take them out before they are really brown and let them “finish” on the counter for a few minutes until they are perfect.

Doggie Bacon-Bits

6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
4 eggs, well beaten
1/8 cup bacon fat
1 cup water
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk powder
2 cup graham flour
2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup cornmeal

Mix ingredients with a strong spoon; drop heaping tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake in a 350 oven for 15 minutes. Turn off oven and leave cookies on baking sheet in the oven overnight to dry out. Yield: about 4 dozen dog cookies.

What about vitamins and supplements?
Your dog does not need extra vitamins and supplements if you’re feeding a commercial dog food. There is no reason to add any of these bottles, liquids, tabs, etc. to your dog’s health regimen unless a veterinarian recommends it for your particular dog. In fact, giving your dog vitamin and mineral supplements when you dog is already getting a good dose of these same synthetic vitamins and minerals from his/her commercial foods can be damaging to your dog’s kidneys and other bodily functions. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing, just like with us!

If you have a dog that rejects kibble (this happens a lot and is one of the main reason I’ve switched my dogs to a home-made diet) you may need to make the kibble you’ve purchased more palatable. Constantly switching dog food brands or hand-feeding your dog kibble because he/she won’t eat it alone simply reinforces your dog’s picky eating.
You can make the food more palatable by pouring a gravy or sauce over the kibble. Be sure you only put enough kibble in the bowl for one feeding. Once the food is all gone you can wash the bowl out and do this next time there is a feeding complaint.
There are many dog “gravies” on the market, but again, they are expensive and most of them contain a lot of unnecessary synthetic vitamins and mineral.
It is cheaper and easier to use a little chicken or beef broth or a can of tuna fish or shredded meat into the dog bowl to encourage consumption. Just be sure lift and discard any food remaining after a couple of hours (never more than 4).

Other supplements are unnecessary unless you choose a dog food recipe at home.

Again, I hope that I’ve been helpful!

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