Maggie looooves her treats.
But with a dog like Maggie, it’s never that simple. My little rescue mutt has refined tastes and is very picky. When other dogs are begging, barking and gobbling, she’ll turn her nose up and drop the treat on the ground. (Fortunately, she’s not at all selective about tennis balls; she loves them all equally.)
I have to admit that treats aren’t that simple for me, either. Horror stories abound about contaminated treats made in unregulated foreign processing plants or of recalls due to large, solid pieces getting caught in dogs’ throats. Being a protective pet owner, I’ve adopted one non-negotiable rule of caution: no treats made anywhere outside of the USA. That seems like a good first step to ensuring that treats are both delicious and safe.
Then there’s also the matter of Maggie’s allergies. Even benign-seeming ingredients like chicken and peas make Maggie itch like there’s no tomorrow. So I read labels carefully, because you can’t have a dog scratching on a photo shoot, unless, of course, it’s on command. But allergies don’t work that way.
In our dog-happy household, we go through a lot of treats, or rather, num nums, as Maggie calls them. We train using positive reinforcement – small rewards which range from belly rubs to In-n-Out burgers and everything in between. If Maggie had her way, it would be burgers for every meal, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), she isn’t the one deciding her dietary fate. I usually use treats that are more protein-based and similar to her regular diet, avoiding products that contain a lot of sugars, dyes and additives. I think we both win this way: I’m not concerned about her having too many sugary treats and she gets to work for a delicious, healthy reward.
Even though we have our regular menu of dog treats that we rely on when we work or go out on adventures, I’m always looking for new additions to give Maggie a surprise or to reward a perfect performance with an extra-special-occasion favorite bite.
Because it’s the start of a new year, we’ll be starting our 2015 hunt for the USA’s greatest dog treats. Think of Maggie as an extra-picky, super-experienced food blogger, not unlike the restaurant critic in Ratatouille. She knows what she likes, and she won’t lie to you.
If you have a favorite treat we would love to hear about it so others can benefit too!