Treats: the best, the worst, and the know how

I cannot imagine a pup parent who would not give their dog a treat. Unless it is absolutely forbidden due to medical reasons or spartan lifestyle (which, let’s be honest, is not really common among cocker spaniel families), all dogs get a little something special every day to express love, improve training, bribe them (again, I am simply keeping it real) or simply because they absolutely nailed the sad look.

To treat or not to treat? That is the question. And if you do choose to indulge your pooch, the list of questions turns into a puzzle…

What treats to give? Which ones to avoid? How many? How often? When? What if? And suddenly a simple moment of pleasure becomes a nightmare… So today we are going to talk about making this experience a joy for both you and your spaniel, just to make life easier…

The good news is that treats can be definitely on a menu for most dogs, and you should not feel guilty about including them in your spaniel’s diet. I personally think my boys would become depressed if I suddenly stopped making dog biscuits, or refused a little bit of yoghurt that they love to the point of ecstasy.

On the other hand I am fully aware of what I can and cannot do when it comes to treats to keep things in balance and avoid potential problems. And here are a few important pointers…

… keep the quantities of all treats under 10% of your dog’s daily calorie amount. You can count the calories yourself, but it is easier and more precise to contact customer care of the pet food company you buy the main food from. They will give you calories per 100g of dog food, so you can then calculate your daily total and what the 10% number would be.

… remember that just because your dog can have 10% of calories in treats does not meat you must meet this amount or put it all into a single type of treat. For example, an average raw carrot or massive cucumber can generously fit into 10% but feeding so much carrot or cucumber in addition to main diet may cause fermentation in the gut, bloating and upset tummy. Feeding almost 100g of natural yoghurt (which is also about 10%) may either tip over the balance of fat or lactose, and cause either weight gain (in first instance) or tummy problems (with the latter). So it is best to create a range of treats to include a variety of food groups – a handful of regular kibble, a couple of biscuits, 1-2 tsp of natural yoghurt, a slice of cucumber or carrot and a slice of fruit or a few blueberries, for example.

… if you feed over 10% you are likely to face a few issues from excess weight, changes in appetite, skeletal problems due to faster development or bloating or diarrhoea because of the higher volume of food, specific ingredients or excess of certain nutrients.

… be very cautious when giving treats to a growing puppy. This is such a crucial stage that reducing main food can lead to imbalance of vital vitamins and minerals, and imbalance of proteins, fats and carbs can affect his weight, bones, cause runny tummy or make your pup gassy, or may even alter his behaviour. It is always best to use main food as food and training or stuffing treats with a couple of extra special high value rewards (think puppy biscuits or carrot slice etc) thrown in when/if needed.

… if you choose to give raw or dehydrated treats, you potentially put your dog at risk of serious, very serious health problems.

know your ingredients by checking the label on every treat you get for your cocker, and checking every company to ensure they are PFMA-registered.

… store the treats correctly. Biscuits would normally last for a week or so in a beautiful pet treat jar, and any chopped raw veg, eggs, chicken pieces or occasional desserts should be refrigerated and eaten within 2-3 days.


Image credit: photo taken by me

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