You can't over-value high-value treats

April 7, 2015
dvm360 Staff

When pets are at home, they shouldn't be snacking on people food. But even nutritionists agree, you need to break out the big guns to break patterns of fearful behavior when pets visit your practice. Here's a guide to super snacks that get great results.

Asking pet owners to bring in pets hungry-and then treating liberally with high-value treats-is one of the first steps toward fear free practice visits. The upsides of this strategy:

> pets associate you and the practice with an enjoyable experience

> treats can distract them from other issues that might cause anxiety

> and you become a person of interest, because you're a source of deliciousness.

We connected with Fear-Free champion Marty Becker, DVM, to ask what treats, exactly, he's using to cloud pets' minds with overwhelming thoughts of yum. For cats and dogs both, he recommends trying:

> bacon bits

> tiny frozen shrimp

> small pieces of deli turkey

> Pure Bites freeze dried chicken or wild salmon

Cats are less interested in this next list, but Dr. Becker says these are terrific enticements for dogs:

> Cap'n Crunch cereal

> small pieces of other deli meats

> slices of turkey hot dogs

> Honey Nut Cheerios

> Natural Balance Dog Food Rolls

Dr. Becker says that since he's been using a Fear-Free approach that includes high-value treats he gets instant attention from pets any time he walks by in the reception area or walks into the exam room. "Dogs, especially, stare at me, then at the pocket in my smock, then back at me," he says. "The dogs and I both know we're using their taste buds to manipulate the situation. That's just what I'm aiming for, of course. And they certainly don't seem to object."

Some tricks to managing the treats: You'll want to keep juicy treats in re-sealable plastic bags to keep your pockets (and your person) clean. Dr. Becker says it's also a great idea to stick these juicy treat bags in the microwave for 7 to ten seconds to release the aroma and then re-seal to keep the treats warm and smelly. "Even if a pet won't take the treat, smelling the aroma when you open the bag and offer the treat is a positive experience for the pet," Dr. Becker says.