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Pet Parenting Articles

Am I giving my dog too many treats?

How would you like to ensure that you can keep your dog alive longer? It can be done – just exercise him, don’t overfeed him, and feed him a good quality food.

Obesity is one of the most common contributors of your dog having a painful and early death. Why painful? Because when your dog is fat, it causes damage to his joints, bones and ligaments as well as leading to diseases such as cancer, heart problems, and diabetes to name a few, and all those diseases affect life expectancy.

Why are 30% of dogs obese? Because most dogs were bred to do something – herd sheep, retrieve game, pull carts, hunt rodents, and more. Today’s dogs are mainly pets, and for many dogs, their exercise is limited to barking at the mailman or when they see another dog passing by their property when all that pent-up energy is released along with endorphins in the brain, which makes it a pleasurable experience.

It seems that some breeds gain weight easily – or they have owners who love to feed them. I have elderly relatives with a cockapoo who should weigh about 17 pounds who weighs about 35. Yikes! Nothing I say will convince them that they are killing their dog with kindness because every time she looks at them, “Look at those sad eyes. How can you not give her a treat? Otherwise, she will think we don’t love her.”

Also, some medications cause weight gain, especially those in the Prednisone family.

If you are training your dog to do obedience exercises, then many trainers (including myself) use treats. Why? A couple reasons.

If I’m teaching a dog obedience commands such as Down, I reward him while he is doing the exercise because I want it to be repeated or prolonged. And I want him to associate the treat with the body position he is in. For example, during the first lesson of Down, it is not unusual to use over 100 treats in less than 5 minutes. Wow, that’s a lot of treats! We start decreasing the number of treats for subsequent lessons, and the dogs have a dynamite Down by the end of the fifth lesson.

How can we use so many treats and not have the dogs become obese? The trick is to match the size of the treat to the size of the dog. It’s the repetition of the treat rewards, not the size of the treat.

  • A Chihuahua should have a treat that’s about the size of a grain of rice.
  • A Cocker Spaniel should have a treat that’s about the size of a pea.
  • A Great Dane should have a treat that’s about as big as an almond.

If you think the sizes described here are too small, remember that your dog can find a crumb of food on the floor and be ecstatic about it!

Along with training your dog in obedience, how about training him to fetch? Fetch is the single best game you can teach him.

  • He gets exercise. (You sit on the couch and exercise your arm.)
  • He learns to come to you.
  • He learns to release things from his mouth.
  • It increases the bond between you both because you are doing something enjoyable together.

How cool is that!!!

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