T-R-E-A-T. That's probably how you have to spell the word around your pup so they don't freak out when you say it! Hey, we totally understand--we like rewarding our pups for good "sits" and "stays" (and sometimes just for being freaking adorable.) But you may be treating them too much: “In many cases, there are multiple family members who like to show their pet they love them through treats, but to the dog, food is food,” says Travis Brorsen, animal trainer and and host of Animal Planet's My Big Fat Pet Makeover. Translation? It can cause some major weight gain. Here's how to make sure you're treating the right amount:
Do the math
In general, no more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily caloric intake should come from treats, Brorsen says. But, it’s important to remember that most feeding guidelines you see on traditional bags of food are geared toward active dogs. “If you have a couch potato and follow the guidelines on the bag, chances are you are overfeeding,” Brorsen says. Find out how much you should really be feeding your dog, then calculate their daily treat quota accordingly.
Try this treat trick
A treat here and a treat there add up quickly—just like popping a handful of M&Ms in your mouth every time you take a bathroom break might not be a good idea. “I encourage my clients to put all the food plus treats in one bag for the day,” Brorsen says. “The whole family can work out of this bag for meals and treats.” That way, you’re not overfeeding your dog—and when the bag is empty, that’s it for the day.
Assess the ingredients
The best treats are fresh and minimally processed. “It’s also good to choose treats that have whole food products instead of by-products,” Brorsen says. “You want to avoid treats with artificial colors and artificial preservatives.” You can also replace packaged treats with fruits or veggies, such as carrots and apples (high in fiber and Vitamins A and C), bananas (high in potassium, biotin, fiber and copper) and blueberries (filled with fiber and phytochemicals).
Give praise instead
“What I ask owners is, ‘Why are you giving the treats?’” Brorsen says. “Nutritional value or because you think it will make them love you more? It’s almost always the latter.” In fact, a recent study found that dogs actually prefer praise over food. So every other time you want to reward them, try an old fashioned, 'good boy!' and we bet they'll love you back just as much.