Our pets know quite well how to earn their treats. One look at that saucer-eyed face and you’re ready to give them whatever it is that they want. But are we giving our pet his treats the right way? And in the appropriate measures? Let’s find out what the experts have to say about it.
Are We Offering Treats The Right Way?
If you have your pooch jumping up excitedly for treats and offer him the treat right when he’s jumping, you are inadvertently encouraging this behavior. And your pooch is going to assume that jumping up (while greeting guests and at other times) fetches him treats. What you are also doing is, putting your fingers at risk, as your dog may accidentally nip your finger, while reaching for the treat that you’re holding high up.
The safest way to hold out a treat is to keep it in the palm of your hand and hold it out to the dog at chest level. This way the treat is closer to his mouth and not waved in the air and he can take it calmly without having to jump.
Are We Rewarding Bad Behavior?
Being aware of when and why you’re treating your pet is very important and treating him at the wrong time can reinforce behaviors that you aren’t happy about. If your pet is trying to get your attention by jumping up, whining or by pawing at your leg, you may be tempted to quieten him by offering him a treat. But what happens then, is that he learns that his attention-seeking behavior has earned him a treat and will continue to behave this way expecting a treat.
That’s because dogs operate on a cause and effect learning, and it’s of utmost importance for us to pay attention to what we are rewarding and how. For instance, getting your pooch all excited for his treat and offering him the treat right then will encourage excited behavior, whereas offering a treat to a dog when he is calm encourages calm and controlled behavior.
How Much Is Too Much?
Treats for pets are quite like foods like cookies are for us. They aren’t healthy enough to be the bulk of your pet’s diet. They aren’t made with balanced nutrition in mind, which is why we need to limit their use. As a rule of thumb, your pet shouldn’t get more than 10% of his daily calories from his treats. These would include treats, table scraps and
food you use to hide your pet’s medicines in.
Treats can be used as rewards for behaviors that you want to encourage. Some people also use them to show their love to their fur-babies. While there’s no rule regarding how often to dish them out, the 10% rule holds good in all situations. How you may want to split the 10% over the course of a day is up to you. You may want to give it as a huge chunk or in bite-sized measures over the course of the day. Sometimes giving no treats is fine as well, as you can replace them with signs of affection and extra one-on-one time.
Are Table Scraps Okay?
Let’s face it. Our pets like human food more than their own food. And if you have trouble saying no to the pair of hungry eyes staring you down, you might end up adding loads of calories to your pet’s diet. What you can do instead, is keep bites from the table very small (the size of your fingernail, for instance) so that your pet doesn’t end up ingesting too many calories.
There’s however a major downside to feeding your pets table-scraps. It encourages begging, as food is the reward for their begging. So, if your pet begs for food and you offer him some, he will continue to beg every time you sit down for a meal. You can discourage your pet’s begging behavior by serving his meal at the same time that you eat yours, or by confining him elsewhere as you have your meal.
Having said that, it’s alright to offer some human food to your pet, as long as the portions are in control. It’s also important to keep them away from foods like chocolate, onions, raisins, grapes and garlic, that can be extremely harmful for them.