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Give Your Dog a Healthy Valentine

good brown and white dog sitting in the grass looking intently at human holding treat

With Valentine’s Day approaching, you might be tempted to give your canine pal a special treat or two. As tempting as it is to sneak him a piece of Valentine’s candy, don’t give in. Sugar is high in calories and chocolate is toxic for dogs.

If you choose commercial treats, stick to those that are low in sugar, sodium, and fat. Better yet, try substituting healthier treats in their place. You might be surprised how much your dog likes them.

5 Healthy Valentine’s Treats

Dogs, like humans, enjoy a range of taste sensations: They especially love crunchy, sweet, and savory snacks. Here are 5 delicious choices that can easily be found in a typical kitchen.

  1. Carrots: Bite-size baby carrots are a good choice—or slice whole carrots into thin, two-inch sticks.
  2. Baked canned dog food: Choose your dog’s favorite food, slice it, and bake at 350°F until crispy.
  3. Popcorn: Be sure to hold the butter and salt. Goes great when you and your dog are watching your favorite pooch flick.
  4. Green Beans: Choose either frozen, raw, or canned, no-salt-added green beans.
  5. Chunks of apple and banana: Many dogs love the taste of fruit. Just slice and serve.

Remember, your dog can’t open the pantry or freezer to get himself a snack. What he eats is up by you. So, choose wisely. As always, make sure treats don’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. And keep in mind that treats don’t always need to be the edible variety: your dog will also love a new chew toy or an extra-long game of fetch.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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