Are you on your phone, browsing dog treats? You may be standing in the treat aisle of your local pet store. Either way, is your first choice to grab the same ‘ole bag of treats? “Oh, these are their favorite! I need to get these.” Keep in mind that the entire aisle is full of options. Some are much healthier than others; some are just junk food, like grabbing a candy bar for them. With so many options, is there something better? Different? Should you develop your dog’s pallet? Dogs do enjoy flavors. Many enjoy pumpkin spice! There is mint, gingerbread, blueberry, and so many more. If you choose whole-food treats, there may also be health benefits. Ginger is great for inflammation; mint freshens breath and tout’s digestive benefits. Flavors from authentic nutritional sources add to the benefits of the bag.
Ok, you’re back in the treat aisle and have resisted the urge to grab the same bag you do all the time. Good for you. Your dog can benefit from the change in protein; that’s why you see unique proteins, like buffalo, duck, and rabbit. Those proteins offer different nutritional profiles. Chicken anything is the least expensive, yet your dogs are carnivores; they need red meats, too. Spend the extra dollar or two and go for something other than poultry from time to time. Your dog will delight in the new taste and pick up a bite of healthy protein as well.
There is a mental health component, too. Canine mental health is an emerging field. With so much ongoing research at the Kyoto Institute in canine cognition, other universities are branching into canine mental health. Some veterinarians are now skilled in recognizing canine mental health issues; not all behaviors are training-related. We know more today; our dogs can have low serotonin, just like humans. There is growing information on a variety of canine mental health concerns. I digress.
What if the only treats your mate brought home for you were the same ones they always buy? How exciting is that? Your dog feels the same way, and now we have proven research on the topic. Then, too, it’s so easy to see it yourself. Grab a bag of the same old treats you always buy and pick up something new. Then, take both bags to your dog and dole out the treats, one of each. The odds are very high that your dog will ask for another of the new ones, dogs like variety, too.
If you made a horrible choice and brought home treats that taste like cardboard, you may not get those results, so choose carefully. Read the label for a quality product; cardboard dog treats will have inferior ingredients, and you’re just back to the empty calorie candy bar analogy.
Our dogs cannot choose for themselves. At the same time, dogs can go into pet stores and sniff. Often, items that will delight their senses (things they might make off with) are away from dog height. It’s all up to you to make careful and interesting choices for your dog.
This applies to their dog food, too. Most dog food producers offer different proteins within the same product line, and most dogs will have no stomach challenges from a switch in protein. If your dog has a medical condition, reviewing a protein switch with your veterinary professional is a good idea before a change.
You can add flavor and nutrition to your dog food bowl with dog-appropriate fruits and veggies. Yogurt or Keifer are also great choices; just a tsp. for a small dog and a Tbs or two for a large dog has lots of digestive benefits. While the market is rich in “toppers” and “mixers,” nothing is more nutritious than fresh.
Remember, variety has both nutritional and mental health benefits for your dog. Adding a little extra or rotating protein keeps things interesting for your dog.
Written by: Sandy Phillips of Grand Living Magazine LLC