Dog Treat Guide: Choosing the Right Dog Treats

Brittany Randolph


What are the best treats to give my dog and why? How many treats should my dog have every week? What treats should I avoid giving my dog? All loving dog parents have asked themselves these questions at some point so we’ve set out to provide some answers.

Choosing the right treats for your dog can be an overwhelming process with so many different kinds available. Who wants to spend a bunch of time and money, only to find out the ones you’ve chosen are unhealthy or your dog hates them? Not I, said the fly.

This simple guide will help you choose the best treats for your pup. In here, you’ll find tips on using treats for:

  • Training
  • Snacking
  • Overall health
  • Dental hygiene
  • Keeping your dog occupied

Plus, you’ll learn what type of dog treats are best to avoid.

Yes, dogs deserve treats!

No bones about it, treats are great things to incorporate into your dog’s normal routine for multiple reasons. Treats can be used as training tools, nutritional supplements, for dental hygiene and as a way to keep your dog occupied for longer periods of time. Certain treats are better for certain scenarios.

While you might have to experiment a little to find the best mix of treats for your dog, and especially if you’ve just brought home a new pup, knowing the different ways they can be used will help you narrow down your options.

Also, no matter how you are using a treat, always make the ingredient list your number one decision criteria. The first ingredient should always be a protein, veggie or fruit rather than a filler grain like rice or corn.

5 ways to treat your dog, at-a-glance

Keep this handy handout nearby for when you need a quick reminder of what treats work best for different purposes.

Dog treats for training

For initial and intensive dog training sessions, feed your dog “high-value” treats. These can be small pieces of human food like cheese or sausage bites but for long-term use you’ll want to use dog treats with high-quality ingredients.

Choose a treat that is high in protein and Omega-3 or Omega-6 foods or supplements. Blue Buffalo has a chicken option that has a nice crunch. They also carry a beef flavor that is a bit softer for a different consistency from your dog’s kibble.

Dog treats for snacking

For treats that are used as snacks between meals, make sure to keep the intake to 10% of your dog’s daily diet. Not a fan of pre-packaged jerky or flavored dog treats? No problem! Snacking treats for your dog can be found in your refrigerator.

Lean towards feeding your dog snacks that are low in fats and oils so they don’t make him or her gain weight.

Snacking treats can also help soothe ailments or other problems your dog might be having such as arthritis, upset stomach or dehydration. Try cooked or canned pumpkin as a good source of iron and potassium and as a quick fix for upset stomachs. Watermelon, which is 92% water, is great for keeping your dog hydrated - especially during the summer months.

dog waiting for treat

Dog treats for overall health

Treats that are low in calories are a good option for keeping your dog trim. For example, in the  Fruitables Skinny Treats, the first ingredient is a wholesome fruit or veggie and they have been proven to reduce hunger between meals, helping your dog to not overeat at meal time.

These types of treats can also be helpful for rescue or shelter dogs who have grown up not learning how to control their food intake. Treats like Natural Balance Mini Rewards are also low in calories and good for dogs of all ages.

Eggs are also a great homemade treat option - scrambled, hard boiled, or poached. Not only are eggs a great source of protein but they also contain Vitamin A, D, Calcium and Folate, all essential nutrients to maintain in your dog’s diet.

Dog treats for dental hygiene

Dental hygiene is an essential part of your dog’s health and happiness. Brushing your dog’s teeth is one of those tasks that can fall by the wayside - at least that’s what often happens for us - but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. Fortunately, there are some treats that can help!

Treats in this category are not only healthy and nutritious for your dog but they also help remove plaque and tartar build-up to promote strong teeth, healthy gums and good breath. Examples include Blue Buffalo Dental Chewies, Greenies Dental Chews and good old-fashioned carrots.

Treats for keeping your dog occupied

Chewing is a natural behavior in dogs. This activity gets a bad rep when the chewing happens to be on your favorite pair of shoes or your brand new couch pillows, but the act of chewing actually helps relieve tension in dog’s brains and helps to keep them entertained and occupied.

Setting your dog up for chewing success is an important thing to keep in mind when choosing treats. Things to keep in mind when choosing treats that are meant to keep your dog occupied are to make sure they are long-lasting, contain a problem solving trick or puzzle and that they are as durable as possible. Examples include bully sticks, Kong with peanut butter frozen inside and flavored Nylabone chews.

Dog treats to avoid

The dog treat market is nothing short of saturated and each and every dog has a unique set of needs. So while our recommendations are a good guideline, there are many variations on these standards that you can choose for your pet. That said, there are also guidelines for types of treats that you should avoid no matter what diet your dog is on this month.

With 45% of American dogs considered overweight millions of pets are at risk for developing arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and behavioral problems all linked to poor nutrition.

Remember how we said that a protein, veggie or fruit should be at the core of your pets treats? Well if sugar (also known as dextrose and corn syrup) are the main ingredient in any of the treats you are feeding your pup, it’s time to make a change.

In addition to sugar, be on the lookout for wheat flour, coloring and preservatives such as sodium nitrate. Products such as Raw Hides, Purina Beggin’ Strips, Wagg Tasty Bones, and Pedigree Dentastix claim to be good for your dogs, but their ingredients prove otherwise.

When it doubt, read ingredient labels and stick to single ingredient treats (bully sticks, anyone!?) or treats with ingredients that you can pronounce.

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