Sometime after World War II, American soldiers returning from Italy found themselves yearning for a dish they had discovered there—bread covered with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese.
The pizza boom was born.
Soon, Americans discovered that mozzarella alone was pretty good stuff. Manufacturers, led by Baker Cheese, in St. Cloud, Wisconsin, began to experiment with production and packaging. In 1976, Baker developed twisted ropes of mozzarella, the forerunner of today’s string cheese and introduced the creation in what seemed to be the natural market —bar patrons. They liked it.
Before long, parents discovered that these ropes of cheese, now individually packaged, were great additions to a child’s lunch box, so says an Atlantic Monthly feature on the history of this great American foodstuff.
Once parents leap on a trend, can dog owners be far behind?
In the past few decades, string cheese has become omnipresent in training circles. You see it stuffed in pockets and pouches, tucked into armbands and even bras of show-dog competitors, or rolling around the mouths of obedience pros. Agility trainers can often be seen spitting small white cylinders at their dogs after a good run. One trainer jokes that a particularly challenging canine delinquent consumed $5,000 worth of string cheese in training to pass a Canine Good Citizen test.
We asked dog experts, who have earned GCGs, as well as titles in conformation, rally, obedience, agility, and a slew of other sports, to weigh in on its allure. Here’s what some told us:
Dog trainer Lindsay Hill says, “Strands of string cheese are great for teaching a dog to heel. Also, it shows up well on dark matting when training indoors.”
Tanya Bielski-Braham, who recently passed her CGC with her young Italian Greyhound, wrote, “Abbie is obsessed with it. But not fun when you leave an open cheese stick in your coat over the weekend and then find it on a snowy Monday morning.”
Cheryl Butchko, who partcipates in, among other sports, carting with her Shetland Sheepdog, says, “I use it in combination with other treats. I use it mostly because my dogs love it. It is one of the high value treats I use in training.”
Brenna Hanratty, who competes in conformation with her Leonberger, Bentley, says, “For a while I would use a chunk of string cheese as bait in the confirmation ring. It was easy to hold, [you] could nibble off smaller pieces, and [it’s] not absolutely disgusting to hold in your mouth.” She notes she has since moved on to hamburger, to suit a fickle canine palate.
Lindsey Dobruck, who has put CGCs, obedience, rally, and conformation titles on her Pomeranians, writes, “Team string cheese for all the reasons Brenna mentioned. Also, I could put it in my arm band when I didn't have pockets.”
Agility competitor Gina Mireault says she loves it because “Because I can eat it too, and god knows when I'm training my dog, she is not the only one who deserves treats!”
But not everyone is a fan. Here’s why some people opt for other goodies:
Dog trainer Amy Samida writes, “I'm one of those who isn't in love with string cheese for training. I don't like the greasiness on my hands or clothes, the dogs don't seem to like it if it hangs out in a pocket for very long, it’s strings instead of chunks. If it’s all a dog will go for, I use it. Otherwise, I use something else.”
Carrie Anderson, who lives with a pair of Leonbergers, says, “It's processed and has way too much salt in it. If you're going to use cheese, use real cheese and cut it into pea-sized pieces.”
And the final word goes to Caroline Coile, award-winning dog writer and long-time Saluki exhibitor, who notes, “It seemed like it would be handy except for the part where my dogs wouldn’t eat it.”