Here at IndyHumane, we practice positive reinforcement with all of our shelter pets, and encourage adopters and pet owners to do the same. This means praising and rewarding good behavior, usually with tasty snacks! However, an abundance of treats, especially without exercise, can lead to weight gain and a myriad of other health issues for our furry friends.
While high-value snacks tend to be most effective for teaching new tricks, building confidence, and redirecting, you can treat your pet with non-food rewards, such as toys, play, and affection.
If you’re using treats to work on training and socialization, look for low-calorie options. You can also try breaking their treats into even tinier pieces, or offering small morsels of wholesome, natural foods such as boiled chicken, shredded cheese, or fresh or frozen green beans.
If your pet begs or cries for food, it’s likely that they’re bored rather than hungry. Try taking them for a walk or playing with them instead. The average dog will benefit from a moderate walk of 15-30 minutes daily. Young pups and more active dogs may require more vigorous activity or exercise.
Find an activity that you enjoy doing with your furry friend, such as hiking, or swimming. Your dog might benefit from walking in unfamiliar areas or places with more interesting surroundings, like a nature park, rather than their neighborhood. Exposing your pet to new sights, sounds, and scents is a great way to maximize the impact of your walk!
Brain games and mental stimulation keep your pets’ mind engaged, helping them relax when playtime is done. A tired pet is a happy pet! Try hiding their food in a puzzle feeder or treat ball, and extend their snack time by giving them long-lasting chews rather than high-calories treats which are gone in a few bites. Cats like to hunt and chase, so try enticing your cat with toys and games like lasers, bells or feather toys. Installing a bird feeder or bath outside their favorite window is another easy way to give your cat hours of enrichment.
Why is weight important to keeping your pet happy and healthy? As in humans, many acute and chronic health conditions are caused by, or exacerbated by, excess weight, including arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and more. Keeping your pet slim and trim gives them the best chance of a longer, healthier, and pain-free life.
Worried that your pet is overweight? Work with your veterinarian to develop realistic goals for reducing your pet’s weight and maintaining their ideal weight. Rapid weight loss can also result in serious health problems, especially for cats, so it’s important to maintain a close relationship with your veterinarian to determine the best plan for your pet.