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Research Note: Treats & Owner Psychology

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The objective of this study was to examine owner attitudes and views about treats, with a focus on owner perceptions and motivations for feeding treats. In response to researcher-mediated questionnaires, pet owners (n = 280) almost unanimously viewed the word treat within a nutritional context as opposed to as a toy or reward. Most (96%) owners fed treats, with 69% feeding store-bought treats on a daily basis. Most owners fed multiple types of treats, with dog biscuits and chews predominating.

Many views, both positive and negative, regarding the feeding of treats as beneficial and as a contributor to weight gain were expressed. Nearly three-quarters of owners considered treats to be an additional component to their dog’s diet; however, only a minority made adjustments to their pet’s meal intake. Owners cited such reasons for giving treats as providing essential variety in the diet, rewarding good behavior, or keeping their pet happy.

These views demonstrate the complex and multifactorial roles that pets have in society, with many owners equating their pet with a friend or child. The authors concluded that more research is needed to understand pet owner psychology regarding provision of treats, especially as it relates to the rise in pet obesity.

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