How to Use Pet Treats to Keep Your Dogs Happy
Photo: KONG

It can be incredibly difficult to keep your dog happy if you work outside of your home or don't have a lot of time for fun after work.

Inactivity can easily turn your dog into a couch potato who wants nothing more than to eat, sleep, and for you to rub his tummy, and that's the best-case scenario!

Inactivity can also lead to boredom, and a bored dog can take many forms. Your pet may become depressed if bored for long periods of time.

This can lead to sluggish behavior, weight gain, and numerous other health issues.

On the other end of the spectrum, boredom can also force your dog to entertain himself.

Dogs entertain themselves in many ways, and most of them have to do with chewing and destroying your home or belongings. Bored dogs may begin to chew, scratch, or otherwise ruin your property.

They may also decide to whine or bark incessantly. Any way you look at it, a bored dog is an unhappy dog, and that's never a good thing.

If your pet is left alone for long periods of time, one of the best things you can do for him is to provide him with some stimulation while you're gone.

You can easily do this if you know how to use pet treats to keep your dog happy. Here's how I do it…

How to Use Pet Treats to Keep Your Dogs Happy

Dogs love treats, but when you just hand them to your pet and walk away, he isn't getting anything but the good taste.

There are lots of things that you can do with dog treats to provide your dog with some stimulation and activity, and there are lots of products on the market to help you do that.

We've written columns on many different interactive and treat dispensing toys, including:

…and many more. For more information on specific toys, you can check out our dog toy section, which we're always adding to. But treat-dispensing toys aren't the only way to entertain your dog with pet treats. You can play games with pet treats or use them to train your dog.

Here are a few of the fun things we do with pet treats at my house.

Bring on the Hunt

One great way to use treats to keep your dog happy is to give them a hunt. Before dogs became domesticated pets, they spent half their time hunting for food. Think of wolves and how much time they spend searching for food. Believe it or not, your dog still has these instincts. One thing I like to do for my dog before I leave the house is to hide a number of treats around our home to give her something to do.

How to Use Treats to Keep Your Dogs HappyFor my dog, I always use a specific kind of treat: Green Bark Gummies. If you will use this trick, I recommend using a specific type of pet treat only for this game.

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Here comes the hard part. To get your dog to play, put them in a room while you hide the treats around your house, and don't make it easy. There's no point to the game if your dog sees you hiding them, is there?

Therefore, put your dog either in his crate, if he has one, or put him in the bathroom with the door closed for five minutes. Once you've hidden as many treats as you'd like, I usually hide five or six, then let him out. Give him one before you go so he has the scent and the taste recognized. Once you've given him that treat, you're free to leave.

Not only does this keep your dog happy because dogs do love treats, but it'll keep him occupied for a couple of hours. As long as your dog can easily reach them, you can stash treats anywhere. Try hiding them behind furniture, in boxes with a lid that can be easily removed, or even under the bed. Don't make the hunt an easy one, but make it so he has to really search for his rewards. Otherwise, it isn't much of a game.

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Invest in a Good Chew Toy

How to Use Treats to Keep Your Dogs HappyIf you're only going out for an hour or so, then this trick is perfect for your dog.

Whenever I'm going grocery shopping or picking something up, I always fill my dog's Kong chew toy with peanut butter.

Kongs are perfect for dogs who love to chew things, and you can create a fun game for them.

There are products that you can use to fill a Kong with, such as the Kong filling, but I prefer to use peanut butter because it's my dog's favorite treat above all else.

Fill the Kong up until you can see peanut butter or whatever filling you choose oozing out of the little hole at the top and the bigger hole at the bottom. Peanut butter is sticky, so it'll give your dog something to really go at for a while.

If you'd like to make this strategy last a little longer, try freezing the KONG with the filling beforehand.

If I know I'm going to be gone for a while the next day, I'll stuff my dog's KONG with peanut butter the night before and freeze this.

It lasts a lot longer that way, and it's a great way to help your dog stay cool in hot weather as well.

Fetch, Boy!

My dog loves her Kong, especially because there are so many ways to play with it. This is another game where you use a specific brand of treat only for this purpose, so your dog knows what you're about to play when you take them out. For this game, I use Three Dog Bakery Soft Baked PB&J Bites.

I play this game with my dog by taking a treat out, wedging it into the Kong so she can't get at it, and then I throw it.

Larger treats work best for this game because the smaller ones will fall out of the big hole in the bottom of the KONG.

When she brings it back, the treat comes out, and she gets her reward. This is also a great way to teach your dog how to play fetch in general but with an added reward.

However, if you plan on playing this game for a while, start using a system.

Having a set system will prevent your dog from eating too many treats in a short period.

For example, I use a system where every three times she brings the Kong back, a treat is placed inside. Make sure you are consistent with your system so your dog can learn it, too.

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Remember, some pet treats are high in calories, and too many can be harmful to your dog's health.

Play these games in moderation, or offer some reward, such as “gravy” on her kibble.

Instead of it actually being gravy, I just add a little bit of water to my dog's kibble during dinner; she doesn't know the difference. Your dog, however, might.

Serious Dog Training

Is there a specific trick that you've always wanted to teach your dog but haven't had much luck yet?

Well, there's a great way to teach your dog to do anything, and it's really easy.

Using any treat you want, have your dog sit and get ready.

For example, if you want them to bring you your slippers, stick a treat inside each one. Have them go to the slippers, let them eat the treats, then tell them how good they are. Remember, praise is key.

Once they associate something with pet treats, they'll pay more attention to it, and you., because, hey, you're the one with the treat bag.

Afterward, let them get a little more familiar with what they're doing.

Get the slippers, bring them over to you, and put two more treats inside each one. Before you do, however, ensure that they are watching.

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I did this with my dog a couple of times a week, and after a while, she learned what I was trying to get her to do.

Now, whenever she wants a treat, she brings me my slippers. Instead of always giving her one, I usually give her praise.

Because, as previously stated, too many treats are not good for your dog.

Playing games, giving him something to do, and learning while paired with treats will keep your dog happy while you're away, when they get bored, or when you want them to learn something new.

Try out these tips on using treats to keep your dog happy, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how it changes their behavior.

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Pet Treats to Keep Your Dogs Happy

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Katherine is certified in Domestic Animal Sciences and Animal Grooming with primary focus on dogs. She has had her pet canine, Anastasia, for two years now, who is also her ESA service dog. Katherine has written multiple articles about pets and their grooming, and has knowledge on multiple specialty pet grooming products for dogs.