At Real, I often get a lot of questions about how to introduce our treats and chews to your dog, or I will get concerned pet owners, who fed some of our treats and chews to their dog, and the dog had diarrhea. This is a pretty common concern, so I put together some tips and tricks I have found helpful for me over my years as a fresh food advocate.
Have you ever gone to a different country? One of the biggest attractions when you visit a new place, is the local cuisine. You’ll get so excited and try all these new foods, and afterwards you will sometimes feel a bit queasy and sick. You may throw up or you may even have diarrhea. Imagine this: if you are used to eating pasta and bread nearly every day of your life, then you travel to Japan and eat lots of sushi, you may have an adverse reaction. It doesn’t necessarily mean the fish has gone bad or the food isn’t good, your body just needs time to adjust to something new.
Now imagine your dog. If your dog is used to one texture or type of food, it’ll be a total culture shock to try something new! Some dogs will love it and gobble it all down, and some will be unsure. These tips are helpful not only for our treats and chews, but for any time you introduce anything new to your dog! They are also helpful if you already feed a fresh diet and your dog is sensitive to change, or just picky!
- Rehydrate the treats! If the treat or chew is dried (air-dried, freeze-dried, dehydrated) rehydrating them will bring out the aroma, and change the texture a bit. The aromatic meaty smell will stoke your dog’s interest!
- Use the treat or chew as a toy! Sometimes dogs won’t realize that the treat or chew is edible until you start “playing” with it. You can throw the treat or chew and play a game of fetch with it! You can even try to tug with the larger chews! Not only does this make mealtime more fun, dogs then see the treat or chew as a prize! This also mimics natural instincts that dogs have to “hunt” for their food.
- Use a foodstuffable toy! A food stuffable toy is a godsend, and I have quite a few that I rotate out. My Labrador has no interest in fetch or tug, but he LOVES a good foodstuffable toy! The most popular one is the KONG, but I also have quite a few West Paw ones I use. I usually make a mix of pumpkin and greek yogurt and break up a few small pieces into the mixture. I spoon the mixture into the toy and freeze it. I usually give it to my dog in the crate, that way my dog has something to do in the crate, and it helps incorporate new treats slowly into her system.
- Use the treat as a food topper! Take a small piece of the treat and crumble it on top of your dog’s food. This way, your dog gets just a tiny bit on top of their regular food, this way your dog can have a little at a time, and if your dog is doing okay, you can start giving more.
- Hold your chew out for your dog, and just let them chew for a quick 3-5 minute session! This is especially helpful if you have a dog who is a gulper (Where you at, my Labrador owners?!) Let the dog chew for a few minutes, then take the chew away and monitor their stool. If they are doing fine, you can increase chewing sessions, until your dog is totally used to the new chews.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Dogs are very texture sensitive! I had a friend who I convinced to switch her dog over to raw. She went out and bought all types of meats and her dog would not touch chicken wings or drumsticks because of the texture of the skins. She started by introducing muscle meat and organ in, and then trying skins after he was used to eating raw, and he loved it then! Give it time and play around with to see what your dog likes!
- Sometimes dogs will roll on treats you offer them. This is usually seen with fish treats (most likely because of the smell) but happens with other proteins as well. Usually this means the dog likes the treat, and wants to coat themselves in the smell.
- Always keep some slippery elm, or fiber on hand! Slippery elm is a staple here at Real. It helps soothe the digestive tract, and doesn’t have the sugar content of pumpkin. You can watch the video here on how to prepare it. If you don’t have slippery elm on hand, you can always use pumpkin (be sure not to over do it!) or rice if your dog isn’t grain sensitive.
All dogs are different--and at the end of the day, you know your dog best. Some dogs may need quite a bit of adjustment period, and some can go cold turkey right in to new treats and chews. Keep these tips and tricks in mind, and know which one to apply to your dog. Remember, any bit of fresh food is beneficial to your dog!