The Secret to Filling a Food Tube

 

Two Coghlan's food tubes used for dog training. They are clear plastic with black caps and a white clamp at the bottom. The one on the left has a white filling (Neufchatel cheese, milk, and peanut butter) and the one on the right has a brown filling: canned cat food.

Yummy goodness for dogs. Recipes below.

 

A food tube (aka squeeze tube) is a vehicle for delivering soft, tasty food straight into your dog’s mouth. Food tubes are great for general dog training when high value treats are needed.  They are also invaluable for doing desensitization/counterconditioning for dogs with fear issues.

There is a trick for using food tubes successfully, and just as with the non-crumbly treat recipe, I’m going to tell you right up front. I wish someone had told me, because the first time I ever tried a food tube, it didn’t work for us and I didn’t try it again for more than a year.

The secret to good use of a food tube is to get the filling just the right consistency. If it is too solid or dry, like ground up roasted white meat chicken without much moisture, it won’t extrude correctly. Likewise if it’s lumpy. If it’s too liquid-y, like chicken baby food or plain yogurt, it drips out when you are not trying to feed your dog and makes a mess.

So what you do is either buy something that is already the right consistency, or mix and match different filling types to achieve that in a do-it-yourself way.

The rest of the post covers what you can buy and what you can make, and has a few other tips for successful use.

The Easiest Way

Here is the very easiest way to use a food tube for successful high value treat delivery:

  1. Buy a couple of Coghlan’s squeeze tubes from REI or Amazon. (Trainer Randi Rossman recommends these tubes, which are similar but have a larger opening. The discussion in this blog is geared towards the Coghlan tubes since they are what I have used and can make recommendations about.)
  2. Go to a pet food or grocery store and buy a can of pureed style dog or cat food. Or for raw feeders, get finely ground meat.
  3. Put the lid on the tube, turn the tube upside down, and spoon the food in. If there is separate juice in the canned food, save it for something else.
  4. Squeeze the air out, fold over the bottom, and close with the included clamp.
  5. Take off the lid and offer a squirt to your dog when he does something right. You will become a god in his eyes. (And he’ll soon learn how to get the goodness efficiently into his mouth!)

Mixing It Yourself

Zani food tube

Zani loves the white meat chicken & baby food mixture

Again, it’s all about the consistency. In the series of pictures above: the “too thick” one was 8 oz of baked white meat chicken, chopped fine in a food processor. The “too thin” one was 2.5 oz of Gerber chicken baby food straight out of the jar. The Goldilocks version was simply those two things combined in that proportion.

So that gives you the idea. In most cases, if you use 3 – 4 parts of something thick cut with 1 part of something thinner, you’ll probably hit the sweet spot. Here are some suggestions to choose from. Be mindful of the fat content whenever you give your dog rich stuff. Some of these adapt very well to low fat though.

Thick Things 

  • Pureed cooked meat
  • Pureed boiled liver
  • Pureed liverwurst
  • Cream cheese (regular, low fat, or non-fat)
  • Neufchatel cheese
  • Pureed cooked rice or oatmeal
  • Smashed banana
  • Mashed potatoes

Thin Things

  • Low salt broth
  • Yogurt
  • Apple sauce
  • Milk
  • Baby food
  • Pureed veggies (baby food or homemade)

Can Go Either Way

  • Peanut butter
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Canned tripe (but every once in a while there is a piece of…something…that doesn’t want to go through the hole). That stuff is crack for dogs, though.
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Small curd cottage cheese

Thickeners

(These are things you can add to something that is too drippy. See Micha’s filling method below.)

  • Oat or rice flour
  • Guar gum
  • Tapioca flour

Tips

  • Test the mixture at the temperature at which you will be using it. Most will be softer at room temperature, more solid when refrigerated.
  • Test the consistency by taking off the lid and pointing the end down. If filling drips out without squeezing, it’s too thin.
  • Avoid canned foods that say “chunky,” “stew,” “homestyle,” or “flakes.”
  • If canned food is too moist, let it drain in a strainer–Randi Rossman.

Fillings

(Thank you to members of the Facebook Fearful Dogs Group for fillings suggestions and others throughout this post!)

  • Canned dog or cat food: pureed or mousse style. Examples: Wellness 95% canned food; Newman’s Own Organic Dog Food (Debbie Jacobs of Fearfuldogs.com says this one cuts nicely with canned pumpkin); Friskies pâté style canned cat food.
  • Honest Kitchen dehydrated dog food (rehydrated of course!).
  • Food tube heather edgar

    Heather’s dogs are crazy about this liverwurst!

    Heather Edgar of Caninesteins says: “The hands-down favourite of all of my dogs is liverwurst. If you wanted to dilute it down because it’s both high calorie and a bit thick, it could be pureed with a baby food veg or cooked pureed vegetables–the easiest is probably using jarred baby food sweet potato.” 

  • Alex Bliss starts with pureed baby food and adds chicken breast, a tin of sardines, or tuna. She says that low fat soft cheese is also very popular with her dogs as a base for other flavors.
  • You can use pure peanut butter at room temperature, but oh, the calories! You’d better have a big dog or a very special occasion!
  • Ground raw meat for the raw feeders!
  • Deb Manheim CPDT-KA, CDBC of Happy Tails Family Dog Training purees the special diet of one of her dogs: baked North Atlantic cod and rice congee with vegetables. If you home cook for your dog already, this could be a very straightforward solution.
  • Micha Michlewicz starts with a protein or fruit, perhaps some veggies, and then oat or rice flour as a binder. She too mentions that you can blend up your dog’s meals and make a paste for the tube.
  • Dr. Jenny LeMoine suggests boiled chicken breasts, thinned down with the broth, and some yogurt mixed in as an optional treat.
  • The tube on the left in the large photo at the top of the post has: 4 oz Neufchatel cheese, 1/2 oz peanut butter, and 1 oz skim milk. The one on the right has commercial cat food!
Crack for dogs.

Tripe: crack for dogs.

Other Tubes: Commercial or Do It Yourself

I really like the tubes like Coghlan’s with a screw top and clamp because they are so resistant to leaks and mess. I have used the same two tubes in agility for years and used them hard. I throw them ahead of my dogs and have never once had a leak or explosion. That being said, here are some alternatives. Readers, if you know of other tubes, let me know and I’ll add them.

  • PawGear Treat Toob
  • Evriholder Dressing to Go
  • Used mustard or other condiment squeeze container. Denise Donnelly Zomisky has experimented with this: she says you need to play around with the texture of the filling.
  • A sandwich bag, sealed, with a lower corner cut off –suggested by a Fearful Dogs member
  • Re-used toothpaste tube–Anna Jane Grossman explains how in a Huffington Post article
  • Organic baby food in a pouch–a couple of people suggested this!
  • Here’s another food that’s already in a tube: Carly Loveless points out that in Norway you can buy flavored cream cheese in a tube. How cool is that? And bacon sounds like a nice flavor for a homemade version as well.

What do you put in your food tube?

Link to the silly movie for email subscribers.

Related Posts

The Secret to Quick, Non-Crumbly Homemade Dog Treats

How to Give Your Dog a Pill: Several Methods (including with a food tube)

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Eileenanddogs on YouTube

© Eileen Anderson 2014                                                                                                             eileenanddogs.com

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Passionate amateur dog trainer, writer, and learning theory geek. Eileen Anderson on Google+
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44 Responses to The Secret to Filling a Food Tube

  1. westwinddt says:

    I love these. I have had clients with tactile issues (often associated with autism spectrum issues) and one loved her dog but she could not handle the feeling of teeth as the dog took a treat (gently but the tactile issues were too much for the owner), these tubes are a godsend. It made it physically more comfortable for her to deliver treats. – Karen Peak

  2. Ingrid Bock says:

    Thanks for this great post! I wanted to add three things. I, too, sometimes use the Newman’s Own Organic canned food (the 95% meat varieties) for making tubes, and it might be helpful for people to know that the beef is a much more rigid consistency than the chicken, and the turkey is softest of all. The same is true of Gerber baby food–the beef is most solid, than the chicken and the ham, and the turkey is most ‘drippy’. Right now I’m using plastic Wilton cake decorating bottles for tubes, although I think I’ll eventually switch to the brand you recommend here, since being able to throw the thing (for instance, ahead of a dog who’s doing agility) is a great plus. The red ketchup and yellow mustard bottle pairs sold in the summer also work nicely, if people want to give tube feeding a try before upgrading their equipment. I have even thrown one of these at agility and no disaster happened, although I considered myself lucky. Thanks again–love this.

  3. Marjorie says:

    Are the tubes disposable? I would imagine you would have to be very careful not to leave the food in too long and to clean them really well so that bacteria doesn’t grow in them. I suspect they work better for larger and or multiple dogs. Small dogs fill so quickly and it wouldn’t take very much of any of the possible contents you listed to be too much. Can you get really small tubes?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      The Coghlan tubes I use are easy to clean because they open on both ends. So a good scrub with a bottle brush and a day in the dish drainer and I feel fine about using again. I think some more recommendations will be coming along in the comments, though!

  4. I want a food tube with a pointy tip for easier use with a muzzled dog. I have never found the perfect thing. Any ideas?

    • Tonna says:

      A pastry tube for decorating cakes. Also, someone mentioned a condiment bottle. The smaller the opening the more liquid the food has to be though, I would change to an Ultra Muzzle, it has plenty of space for a dog to lick and ould be much easier to deliver treats.

    • Rue says:

      I know you posted months ago but I have used kong stuffer tubes for my one dog when he has to wear a muzzle. It has a long pointy tip that works perfectly and it comes in prefilled yummy flavors 🙂

    • Barb says:

      I use the reusable food pouches to give treats to our dog if we need to muzzle him at the vet. I used to buy the pouch baby foods but most contain onions. The Wee Sprout ones work well and they also have a nice funnel you can get for filing. We feed Honest Kitchen which works well in the pouch if you remove any larger pieces before adding water. here’s a link for the pouches -http://smile.amazon.com/dp/B014UC3FTG
      Works well with the Jafco muzzle.

      • Eileen Anderson says:

        Thanks for these very specific recommendations, Barb! I’m sure they will help some folks.

  5. Thanks for the shoutout, Eileen! I love the Evriholder tubes. Also a fan of the cute Hutzler Flavor-It Sauce Containers: http://www.amazon.com/Hutzler-Sauce-Pod-Container-To-Go/dp/B00EZQ8LN8

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Thanks Anna! Loved your article on money saving tips. Thanks for the product recommendation. People are looking for all different kinds of these.

  6. elaine says:

    Very handy post I may try food tubes again if I can overcome this problem. I can’t give one of my dogs most kinds of solid treats as rewards when we are doing agility or playing fetch because even when I wait and I’m positive he has swallowed it, he hasn’t and then has a choking fit. I tried a food tube and that soloved the choking problem, but scared the heck out of him when the filling hit a pocket of air and “burped” at him. Any ideas?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Elaine, one of my dogs has that response to spray cheese. I have learned to extrude a little about a foot from her face. She watches it intently and as soon as she is sure the can won’t sputter, she nabs it. But that’s at home, not in a busy training environment. I bet the “burping” in the food tube varies by the brand of tube, though. I have never had a food tube do that, even when it’s running out of stuff. You might want to try a few of the different brands people are recommending. Good luck!

  7. Frances says:

    Primula low fat cream cheese in a tube is great, if you live in Europe – I don’t know whether it is available inthe US.

  8. I tried using food tubes a LOT when Barnum was on his elimination diet of ground ostrich and quinoa. Because making treats by hand in a dehydrator was a real PITA.

    I do NOT recommend squeeze tubes for ground meat! It is always too thick, clogs the tubes, hard to squeeze. Since he’s not that foodie to begin with, if it was too hard to get the food into his mouth, he’d just give up. The only way I could use them was to put small amounts of the already-ground ostrich in a blender, add a little water and cooked quinoa, and regrind, take it out, do another small bit, etc. This was messy and time consuming.

    The easiest use of the tubes was pate dog food, as you mentioned, but for a dog with a million food allergies for whom you cannot find pate dog food, not so much.

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  10. This is a game changer! I’ve seen people using tubes before and I always assumed they were pre-packaged peanut butter and that seemed too wasteful and too fattening to me but seeing this post made me rush to REI. I got the GooToob instead and it works great filled with Wellness canned food. My pittie is a bit fearful and I’ve had trouble walking her – she hears something ahead then refuses to go in that direction. No amount of treats have helped her but since I started using a squeeze tube full of canned food she is less reluctant. Still taking it slow but I’m feeling optimistic, thanks!

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Victoria! That’s what I like to hear! I hope you don’t mind that I have another recommendation for you. If you are on Facebook, join the Fearful Dogs group. I bet you could pick up some tips to help your pittie even more. Here is the URL: https://www.facebook.com/groups/fearfuldogs/ . I’m delighted the food tube is working out for you.

  11. I feed raw and raw meat works with a food tube. You have to play with thickening or thinning out the ground meat (depending on type of meat and how finely it is ground) to get to the right paste-like consistency.

    The tubes clean well. I soak them in the sink first with hot water and some white vinegar to get all the bits of debris out, and then stand them up in the dishwasher and run them through to sanitize. I do the same with kongs.

    Note from Eileen: Randi uses these tubes from Pet Expertise. I think they have a bigger opening than the Coghlan tubes that I use.

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  14. Tania Kothera says:

    I have a dog with multiple food allergies and sensitive stomach. No chicken, fish, venison, turkey, or dairy… He does well with peanut butter, but I would be afraid of too many calories. We are working on overcoming anxiety and an underwater treadmill. I was referred to your site. Any suggestions for a tube fill that is allergy friendly, but not weight inducing? Thanks for the great idea so far.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Tania, and thanks for coming to check out the post. I think if I were in your shoes I would experiment with using a food processor with the meat he is able to eat. Since you can’t use dairy, I would thin it I guess with broth or even some kind of pureed vegetable–peas or sweet potatoes? As long as you can get the texture right, most things can go in a tube. If you wanted to stay with the peanut butter, you could try thinning it with canned pumpkin. It’s supposed to be pretty tummy friendly and blends well with other things. Good luck! Perhaps some others will chime in. I know there are a lot of dogs with allergies out there.

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  16. Katie says:

    I haven’t used them myself, but I have heard good things about those IKEA fish tubes: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/90201650/

  17. Alisa says:

    I live in Malawi, Africa and have a fearful dog. I’ve been wanting to start using a food tube for training, but they don’t have anything like them here and Amazon doesn’t deliver to this country. But, as I was cleaning my closet I came across one of those reusable travel containers for shampoo or lotion. It’s the perfect size too. I blended up some boiled butternut squash with bacon and parmesan cheese. My fearful guy loves it, and my non fearful one does too! Can’t wait to try some of your recipes. Thanks for sharing this post, so helpful!

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      That’s great! I’m so glad you found something that works, Alisa. Sounds like a good recipe, too!

  18. Cricket Mara says:

    Thanks for the nice details Eileen. I know food tubes have become popular, but I’ve been resistant, worrying over just these details. Since first seeing your post recently I found these tubes on a trip: http://www.containerstore.com/shop/travel/bottlesMedication?productId=10029776&N=253 I’m getting a new puppy soon and will give your recipes a try.

  19. Great article – good resource info!!

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  21. Linda says:

    Have you tried a reusuable squeeze pouch ?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      I haven’t personally, but perhaps some here have. Anyone? Or have you done it, Linda, and you are suggesting it? I’m all ears!

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  23. Shana says:

    What a fantastic idea! Any recommendations as to how to use these for counter conditioning/desensitization?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      I certainly use them for that. They are especially good because when dogs get just a little experience eating out of them, they tend to put their mouths around the end of the tube and suck. So food tubes are perfect when you are doing the open bar/closed bar type of DS/CC, where you feed the dog during a duration exposure to the trigger. You just keep squeezing the food out as long as the dog is aware of the trigger. Trigger disappears; flow of food stops.

      They are also a great way to carry around something really stinky with minimal mess. The only thing is where to put the cap when you take it off. (Don’t get it mixed up with treats and feed it to your dog!) Perhaps some others can chime in as well.

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