Many packaged dog treats are laden with chemicals and/or highly refined ingredients that have been deemed not suitable for human consumption. Sometimes the label even says that you should wash your hands after handling them. To me it’s obvious that packaged, processed treats are not often the healthiest thing to feed your dog, even though he may love them alot.
Many people turn to dried treats, like dried liver, lamb lungs, or dried chicken tenders. These make great tasting treats for dogs, and if they are locally grown and processed (like the ones from Pet Treats Bakery) they don’t generally have anything but the meat they are made from in them. The only problem I have with dried liver treats is that they are made from an organ that accumulates heavy metals slightly more than muscle meat. A study in 2002 found that cattle raised where pasture or grain were affected by polutants had high concentrations of mercury, lead and cadmium in their liver than in other meat from the same animal. These days, is there anywhere grain or pasture is not effected by pollution?
The liver also contains really large amounts of Vitamin A. If liver (or any other meat for that matter) is fed cooked or raw, these heavy metals aren’t as concentrated as they are in dehydrated liver and probably won’t have any effect on your dog’s long term health. If we feed our dogs dehydrated liver every day as training rewards, his body has to deal with and accumulate relatively high concentrations of heavy metals on a daily basis. This can’t be good at all.
The other concern I have about dehydrated treats is that they absorb moisture from the digestive tract as they pass through. If you are feeding many bits of dried liver while you train, this can eventually be dehydrating. Not keel over and die dehydrated, but still the level of dehydration that reduces the ability to concentrate and to perform. Adequate and copious hydration is absolutely necessary for dogs to perform at their peak. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying dehydrated treats are evil and should be avoided at all costs. You need to be judicious with them though. Make sure your dog is adequately hydrating as you train with dehydrated dog treats.
The best dog treats don’t come in a package at all. I’ve found dogs respond best to bits of moist, lean roasted meat or even liver as training rewards. It’s easy to make these for your dog. Just put the meat on a roasting pan. If you want to get fancy, sprinkle with a little lime juice and a little olive oil or bacon fat, and a bit of tumeric and black pepper, for flavour and to help your furry friend’s joints to stay healthy. Pop the pan in a 350 degree oven and set the timer for about 30 minutes per pound. When the timer goes off, pull the pan out and let the meat cool before you cut it into tiny little bits (about .5 cm cubed). Stick them in a baggy and refrigerate or use immediately to train. Go ahead: Experiment to see if your dog works better for your moist treats or dehydrated or processed treats.
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