The Secret to Filling a Food Tube
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:
- Buy a couple of Coghlan’s squeeze tubes from REI or Amazon.
- 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.
- 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.
- Squeeze the air out, fold over the bottom, and close with the included clamp.
- 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
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.
- 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
- Actual dishes like spaghetti with meat sauce (pureed)
- Low salt broth
- Apple sauce
- 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
(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
- 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.
(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.
- Cheez Whiz (the U.S. stuff in a jar) mixed half and half with canned pumpkin. This makes a passable substitute for spray cheese, which can be hard to find.
- Honest Kitchen dehydrated dog food (rehydrated of course!).
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.”
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.
- 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, including bacon flavored. 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?
A Great Substitute for Canned Spray Cheese for Dog Treats
The Secret to Quick, Non-Crumbly Homemade Dog Treats
How to Give Your Dog a Pill: Several Methods (including with a food tube)
© Eileen Anderson 2014