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Treats for Dogs
Finding quality treats and toys for your dog has become a complicated research project because of safety hazards of various kinds. Some commercial treats and toys have been shown to cause blockages, others cause tooth damage, yet others have proven toxic.  
Many commercial dog foods and treats have contained garlic, which dogs enjoy, but can cause hemolytic anemia in large doses.  Some have even contained chocolate, which is highly toxic to dogs.  The message here is that we can’t trust the manufacturers, who are typically concerned with production costs and profit margins rather than the health of our dogs. Some well-known manufacturers have even threatened to sue dog owners for speaking out about dogs that have been killed by irresponsible marketing practices of unsafe products. So it goes.

Supervision can eliminate many of these hazards, but not completely. Use common sense and caution when buying toys and treats for your dog. Also, dog-related newsgroups are a good source of information for keeping abreast of recent findings and observations.

Natural treats that you make yourself will allow you to know exactly what you’re feeding your dog.  This is especially helpful if you’re dealing with food allergies.  Many dogs are sensitive to organ meats and treats that list “byproducts” on the label usually will have liver or other ofal that can cause diarrhea.  If you don’t have time to make your own treats, resort to things like fresh raw carrots or asparagus. Find a variety of things that keep your dog interested.

Toys that can be left with an unsupervised dog should be examined regularly for breakage, sharp edges, etc. Avoid the string variety, because rope or string can cause blockages if swallowed, similar to the damage caused by dental floss. Also, vinyl toys and PVC should be avoided due to toxicity and off-gasing—for example the “squeaky toys” used in training. (Be aware that many new products may “off-gas”, especially if they have plastic components.  Let these products air in an isolated place or outdoors, or avoid buying them in favor of less toxic alternatives. Avoid placing them in an area where puppies or children play or sleep. One example is the digital alarm clock; certain brands are notorious for off-gasing.)
The KONG is probably the safest most durable toy on the market, and the most useful. It's designed to be stuffed with treats so that the dog can lick inside it and chew on it or play with it when it's empty. Stuff it with peanut butter for a nutritious treat.

The KONG is made of rubber and can be cleaned and thoroughly rinsed. After a number of years the rubber may begin to break down if you're using vinegar to clean it. I'd like to see the manufacturer provide some information about safe cleaning and life expectancy of this toy so that we know when to replace it. I have some that are ten years old that have become gooey inside, probably from the vinegar solution I've cleaned them with.

For those who are away from home for hours at a time, a KONG dispenser has been designed to release a toy at intervals. This device is programmable and holds several KONGS, although other toys might work as well. I haven't had the opportunity to test this device, but it seems like a sound idea.

The Buster Cube is an adjustable toy that holds kibble and releases a little at a time when the dog plays with it. The cube is made of hard plastic. You should be able to take it apart to clean it, but I've never been able to disassemble mine. The biggest complaint I've heard about this toy is that it might cause scuffs when the dog slams it against furniture or baseboards. If you have a playpen or playroom for your dog, that won't be a problem. In your formal dining room, it might.

Please feel free to contact me with any testimonials about new toys you've tried, or great treat recipes!

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