Finding the Perfect Dog Treats

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By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS January 4, 2010

1968-2014 R.I.P.


I love watching your videos. What treats do you use in your veterinary practice? They seem pretty irresistible. They also look like they are something that allows them to nibble off small pieces at a time. We have trouble finding something the fearful or anxious dogs will eat.


Lily from Grand Rapids, Michigan


I use a variety of semi-moist treats such as Pup-Peroni and Natural Balance Food Roll which can be cut into variable-sized pieces and nibbled off in little bits at a time. The ability for dogs to nibble small pieces comes in handy for keeping dogs focused on the food during potentially scary procedures and, thus, helping to control their head. I also keep treats such as canned spray cheese and baby food in my food arsenal, just in case.

You’re right in that using really tasty treats in the hospital setting is important. I often have people tell me dogs won’t take treats in their hospital and then I find that their giving treats that are about as enticing to dogs as celery is to kids. If you use boring dry dog biscuits, only the happy-go-lucky chow hounds, who don’t really need treats to have a good hospital experience, will eat them. But if you start with something most dogs love, it makes a big difference.

A selection of treats and toys for dogs and cats

That said, the environmental set-up, as well as how the treats are delivered, will make a huge difference too. For instance, even though I see a huge number of fearful and anxious dogs in behavior consults, most of these dogs readily take treats during the course of the consult. I ask the owners to withhold food that day since the dog may get its meals-worth of food in treats during the consult. Then there’s the hospital set-up. The waiting room of our hospital is comfortable and calm and my behavior room has throw rugs or fleece beds, chairs that look like couches, dog toys, and other homey things. You’d be surprised the difference that a little washable bathroom rug makes in improving the dog’s comfort level quickly.

Next, when I first greet the ambivalent dog, if he does not immediately look relaxed or approach me, I just ignore him and talk to the owner. I let him see that I have food, which I may discreetly toss to him. Once these dogs have had a few treats from a safe distance in the absence of people staring at them, they quickly warm up. Pretty soon they’re walking right up and offering a sit to earn treats. Even the dogs who won’t initially take treats tend to eat the treats after they habituate to the room for several minutes, especially when it’s clear I’m not going to put any pressure or demands on them. For a regular veterinary health exam, the perfect time to inconspicuously toss treats to a dog who won’t yet take them by hand is when the technician is doing the pre-examination history.

Once you put all of these things together-starting with a hungry dog in a dog-friendly room and a ho-hum low key greeting you’ll find that most dogs will eat almost any semi-moist, tasty treat you offer them.

For more information on these techniques refer to Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats.

Let’s hear from you!

What are your favorite treats for dogs and cats in a hospital setting and what percentage of dogs and cats take treats in your practice?


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6 responses to “Finding the Perfect Dog Treats

  1. Hi.
    Well, I discovered that for my Yorkie cat-sticks will do. They are soft and I can slice them into very small bits giving me up to 20 bits per stick. The package includes 10 sticks, so it is a dollar friendly (LOL). The sticks smell of smoked meat and she just can’t resist them! By the way – Dr. Yin, you are a genius!!!

  2. My little Yorkie hates exams at the vet. She starts shaking and is usually not cooperative for anything. However, I learned that little pieces of treats that she never usually gets does the trick. She so into the “new” treats that she doesn’t even pay attention to the exam. I do test these “new” treats out ahead of time to make sure she likes them or that they don’t upset her stomach.

  3. My dogs love dehydrated liver they also like cooked chicken.
    My little really loves baby carrots and they are low calorie.
    When I use my manners minder I use Zukes Salmon flavor
    My dog also get Roll Over for training treats.
    Now my dogs also love toys and they will tugg for a reward.

  4. I love making tuna fudge. I have yet to meet a dog or cat that doesn’t like it. One can of tuna in water and one in oil, one egg, some garlic salt, a bit of grated parmesan cheese, and add enough flour to make the consistency of a brownie mix. Put it into a pan that’s greased and bake for 15-20 minutes on 375 I believe. I also do string cheese, hot dogs, or cubed ham.

  5. We love using Yummy Chummies (soft salmon dog cookies), bits of cooked chicken, hotdogs and my boy’s favorite- Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese. He has good taste :o)

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