Teaching a dog a new trick requires patience and, quite often, a pocketful of treats — but not just any treat. The best food rewards are small, so that a dog can eat them quickly and move on with its training. Treats should also be healthy and low in fat, so that your dog won’t gain any unnecessary weight. Of course, training rewards need to be tasty so that your pup will be motivated to earn its reward.
Fortunately, you won’t have to make a special trip to the pet store to purchase training treats for your furry friend. Your refrigerator probably contains several human foods that make excellent high-value training treats for your dog, including the following seven:
These little berries make an easy, no-fuss, low-calorie treat for fruit-loving Fidos. Plus, blueberries supply ample vitamin C and fiber. They also contain antioxidants, which can help boost your canine’s immune system. Another plus for senior pups? Studies have shown that when antioxidants are added to a dog’s diet, they can reduce the effects of brain aging.
Not surprisingly, many dogs enjoy the sweet taste of apples, as well as this fruit’s satisfying crunch. Apples are a low-calorie snack that provide pups with fiber and vitamin C. Just make sure to wash the apple to rid it of any pesticides. Avoid feeding your dog the hard core, which can be a choking hazard — as well as the seeds, which contain a small amount of cyanide.
For some dogs, peanut butter is the ultimate treat. Because peanut butter is a good source of protein, and vitamins B and E, it can also be considered a nutritious snack. Some trainers have discovered that it offers a few side benefits, as well. For instance, dogs that are yappy during training may bark less when they have peanut butter stuck to the roof of their mouths.
Peanut butter has two drawbacks, though: It is rich in natural fats and proteins, so it should be given in moderation. Also, peanut butter can be sticky and messy to handle. One of the best ways to dispense peanut butter as a training snack is to use refillable squeeze tubes. That way, when your pooch performs the required task, simply squeeze the tube and allow it to lick off a bit of peanut butter.
Important: Before purchasing a jar of peanut butter, please read the label carefully, as some brands now contain xylitol, which is extremely poisonous to dogs.
Raw carrots cut into bite-sized chunks are a super healthy treat for your pet. They are crunchy, so they’re good for your dog’s dental health, and are a great source of vitamin A and fiber. Just make sure to wash the carrots to remove dirt and pesticides.
Cheese is a favorite snack for many dogs and, thus, can be extremely motivating to pups. Unfortunately, some cheeses are high in fat, while others contain a lot of salt. It’s important to use only small amounts and/or to choose low-fat cheeses, such as string cheese or mozzarella as training rewards. Also, while it’s rare, some dogs are lactose intolerant and may exhibit intestinal issues after eating cheese.
As long as your dog is not allergic to it, chicken is a terrific choice for a high-value, low-calorie training treat. There are numerous ways you can cook the chicken, including boiling and baking. If you own a dehydrator, you can always make chicken jerky strips.
However, avoid feeding your canine fried chicken, which can be too fatty for dogs. It’s also best to skip feeding your pooch those convenient rotisserie chickens that are available from grocery stores, as they are typically prepared with a lot of salt. A standard 3-ounce serving (about the size of a deck of cards) contains approximately 600 milligrams of sodium.
Pumpkins are not just Halloween decorations. Plain mashed pumpkin is a healthy treat for dogs. It is high in fiber; low in calories; and a fantastic source of vitamin A, iron and potassium. To use it as a training tool, you can either give your hound little spoonfuls of pumpkin or bake it into a tasty treat. If you’ll be purchasing canned pumpkin, don’t pick up pumpkin pie filling, which contains unnecessary sugars and spices.
Your pet’s favorite food? It’s whatever you’re eating, and that’s why human food can make such excellent training treats. Just remember to cut back on the amount of food that you feed your tail-wagger during mealtimes to balance the caloric intake from the treats that you’ll be giving during training sessions.
Stephanie N. Blahut is Director of Digital Marketing and Technology for Figo Pet Insurance. Figo is committed to helping pets and their families enjoy their lives together by fusing innovative technology — the first-of-its-kind Figo Pet Cloud — and the industry’s best pet insurance plans.
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