What Goes With What?
If you have dinner parties and get excited about pairing wine with different courses you will appreciate this analogy. To my mind pairing treats with puppy life requires the same consideration.
From making a good impression when introducing your pup to the nail trimmers, to a smooth and effective training session, pay attention to the food you use.
And remember a ‘treat’ is not a treat unless it is a ‘treat’ in your pup’s eyes.
The Right Treat For The Job
I’ve said it before, all treats are not created equal. There should be different options available based on what the occasion calls for.
For example, a gooey or soft reinforcer won’t work in a food dispensing ball or snuffle mat. Sometimes a handful of kibble tossed in liver dust or the teeny tiniest speck of bacon fat is just what’s needed.
Other times we must up our game and go higher on the pay scale. Say we really want to pull out all the stops when it comes to introducing our puppy to his new crate. Why not cook up a little steak or chicken for the occasion.
I encourage you to experiment and get creative. Keep things interesting for your dog.
A Meal’s Worth
Use your dog’s daily food in training and play.
A great way to use your pup’s kibble comes from Susan Shelton’s (Austerlitz German Shepherd Dogs) blog post The Power of a Pacifier. I love this one. Use the kibble blended with some vegetable stock and cooked egg. Mash and stuff into a topple treat toy or a hoof.
Any regular meal portions can be used for training sessions, ‘toy stuffing’, or hand feeding.
If you are doing rapid fire training sessions with your puppy a softish, tiny treat works best. You want something easy for you to ‘dispense’ and easy for the pup to ingest.
A healthy baked dog biscuit is a good choice for a quick snack to toss on the mat when you want your dog to do a quick ‘settle for a spell’ or stick a few in a Holee Roller ball for some problem-solving enrichment fun.
An airtight jar of tiny dried treats such as kibble, dehydrated lung or dried liver provides ready to use reinforcers for recall or bathroom training. Stash by the back door or by your puppies’ bathroom location. You will never miss an opportunity to reinforce a recall or a bathroom training win.
A Case For Whole Food
We love good food and so do our dogs. When we need to up our game in the treat department this is a good category to explore. Experiment with whole fresh food for stuffing, training or snacking. The prized ‘high value’ nuggets that may be needed for certain training or management situations will fall into this category.
Unseasoned cooked chicken, beef or lamb, hard-boiled or scrambled eggs, toast with a titch of butter, cheese, apple, carrot or blueberries all serve as options for extra delicious treats. Stuff a toppl treat with plain goat yogurt and blueberries and freeze it. Scramble an egg with a titch of grated cheese for a fun morning training session. Tiny pieces of chopped up boiled chicken breast are great for playing some ‘in and out’ of the crate or any other fast, fun training sessions you want to use them for.
Romaine hearts or bits of apple or a green bean make a healthy, crispy chew for your pup. You don’t need to wait for a special occasion to lavish your dog with healthy delicious treats in life. They can be part of the everyday.
What’s On The Menu?
If your treat larder is uninspiring shake things up. Your pup will love it and you will have fun. Whether it is for training, playing, snuffling or snacking the treats they eat matter. Below are a couple of recipes that I love. The meatball recipe is a go-to for me and many of my students now make it for their puppies too.
I hope this inspires you. Buon appetitio to your perrito!