Treats are a great way to show your dog a little more love. These special treats can be anything, homemade cookies, dog food, or even just a piece of steak from your plate. With all of these options, how can you choose the right treat for your dog?
How do I pick healthy dog treats?
The variety of treats available at your favourite pet store can make it a little difficult for you to choose. Some are small or low in calories and therefore perfect for training. Some offer a double action, such as clean teeth and fresh breath in one bite. Many contain natural ingredients carefully chosen by canine nutrition experts and promise an irresistible taste. The ingredients are usually listed on the label, making it easy to find the nutritional value of these snacks, their long shelf life and ease of storage also make prepackaged treats an attractive purchase.
Parents of pets tend to look for different qualities when choosing a dog treat. Some focus on flavour or texture, while others worry about allergies and opt for those that contain no wheat, corn, or soy. But what makes a great dog treat and how to choose the right one for your dog?
Preparing healthy rewards that are appropriate for your dog’s diet is one way to do this. In stores, a good starting point is to read the label. Many ingredients are best avoided, such as sugar and artificial colours. No matter the packaging, it’s the label that really matters.
Natural vs artificial
Avoid lower quality ingredients like meat byproducts and unhealthy carbohydrates. It is best to avoid inexpensive or filling ingredients such as by-products, meat flours, corn, wheat, etc. and look for these ingredients instead: whole meats or fish, fruits and vegetables. Baby carrots and other vegetables can also be offered as an occasional treat, but never give your dog onions, garlic, grapes or raisins, as they are toxic to dogs. Read about safe and non-safe fruits for your dog here.
A natural product does not mean “all you can eat”, you will still have to monitor your puppy’s portions and prevent his daily caloric intake from exceeding his needs. If you choose low-calorie treats, such as frozen green beans or low-calorie dog treats, your puppy will have more of these thirst-quenching snacks than he would have with a high-calorie treat. Even a single treat high in calories – like bacon or cheese snacks – can meet up to a fifth or a quarter of a small dog’s daily calorie needs.
If you are concerned about allergies, consult your veterinarian and try a one-ingredient or limited-quantity treat. Read more about dog food allergies here. The treats for dog made from frozen-dried raw meat are among the healthiest available. Avoid human “snacks” as dogs should not have the excess salt or sugar in our snacks. Note that treats should only represent around 10% of your pet’s diet.
When to give treats to your dog
All dogs deserve an occasional treat; a favourite food can also be a great source of motivation for your dog during training or when you want to encourage him to behave well in certain situations. It is recommended that your dog get 90% of his daily food from food for a complete and balanced dog and only 10% from treats. When considering snacks for your puppy, quality and quantity are both important.
You can also prepare homemade treats for your dog, but avoid using the following ingredients, which can be really harmful to your pet:
- Yeast baker, often undigested
- Chocolate, cardiac stimulant and diuretic
- Garlic, onion, shallot, which can cause heart problems
- Grapes, poorly digested and cause intestinal disorders
- Macadamia nuts, harmful effects on the nervous and digestive systems of dogs
- Lactose since it is not always properly digested, it is preferable to avoid milk and to replace it with another liquid.
Healthy dog treats homemade recipes
- Carrot and chicken liver cupcakes: mix a cup of flour with 50g(1.7oz) of grated carrots, and 50g(1.7oz) of chicken livers cut into small pieces, add an egg and two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Cook for about 30 minutes. You can use apples or bananas instead of carrots, depending on your dog’s preferences.
- Peanut Butter Cookies: Mix a cup of flour with half a cup of cornmeal and a quarter cup of chicken broth. Add 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Fish cakes: well-drain a can of tuna, sardines or canned salmon and mix it with 1 cup of flour, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 1 egg. Cook for about 20 minutes.