Choosing a treat for your dog can be challenging; there are so many different types and varieties on the market. But which is best and right for your dog?
There isn't a definitive answer to this question, and it depends on the dog as there are many factors to consider when making your choice; however, to help, we've put together this guide to help you decide on the treats most suited for your dog.
All dogs are unique, and we must remember this when choosing or recommending a dog treat. It's not a case of one treat fits all. The truth is that not all treats will suit every dog, and that's okay. We must look at the dog in front of us, consider their needs and preferences and make our decision based on that.
What is the intended use of the dog treat?
The first thing to consider that will influence your choice when choosing a dog treat is its purpose. Here are some possible ideas as to why you may want to feed your dog a treat: -
- The aim of a snack is for no other purpose than because you want to treat your dog and show them how much you love them and who doesn't love giving their furry best friend something they can enjoy.
- We must remember that a snack is just that, a small amount of food, or in this case a treat, given between meals and is not meant as a replacement for a meal.
- Any treat is suitable for this; we recommend keeping the treat small and being mindful of how many you are feeding. Dog biscuits are great for this purpose.
- The purpose of dog training treats is to reward good choices and behaviour from your dog. When you reward good choices, it is more likely that your dog will choose that future behaviour because you have positively rewarded it in the past.
- For training, smaller treats are best for easy delivery to your dog. These can be soft or crunchy but ensure they are not too hard for your dog to eat. Treats that can be easily broken up or sliced are a perfect option.
- A dog chew aims to provide an appropriate outlet for chewing and to keep your dog busy.
- They provide your dog with something appropriate to chew on, which is crucial because chewing is a natural behaviour for dogs that requires to be satisfied; otherwise, inappropriate chewing may become a problem.
- Choose a treat that your dog will need to have a good chew on to eat and take them a little longer to finish. Chewing is great for providing mental stimulation.
- A dog dental treat or dental stick aims to promote teeth cleaning and good dental hygiene.
- Choose a treat that will provide a longer-lasting chew so that your dog must work their teeth for longer.
- Alternatively, choosing rough and textured dog treats such as fish skins is an excellent tooth cleaning option.
- Health treats aim to supplement your dogs daily diet.
- There are many different treats for this purpose - for example, treats that help support and promote good joint health are common.
How often do you plan to give dog treats?
The frequency that you plan to feed treats may have an impact on your dog treat choice.
As with all treats, we recommend taking care of how many you feed to avoid overfeeding as too many treats can cause weight gain and cause upset stomachs. If your dog is prone to putting on weight, then low-fat treats are a great option. In this case, we recommend looking for treats made from leaner meats such as rabbit, venison or turkey.
Dog treats should be treated as complementary and not replace the regular diet. Depending on the number of treats fed, you may also need to adjust your dog's daily food allowance accordingly by lowering the quantity to account for the treats.
If you're looking to work on your training, you may need to feed many treats; therefore, we recommend choosing smaller treats and considering using lower fat ones if your dog is prone to putting on weight.
"Ditching the bowl" is also an excellent option for this. This concept involves using your dogs' daily food allowance when training. Of course, don't forget to increase how much you pay in terms of value when you get to more challenging training situations or environments. Daily food allowance such as kibble may not cut it for this, so mix it up.
Our favourite training treat and a firm favourite with Kero and Bree are the JR Pet Products Pure Meat Paté sausages with a firm paté like texture which is incredibly versatile for preparing.
Your dogs' age and health
Consider your dogs' age and health as this may have an impact on your dog treat choice.
Puppies would benefit from softer treats that are not too hard for their delicate mouths. The thing with puppies is that they are still growing and developing, so you don't want to harm their teeth. Make sure treats are puppy-friendly before making your choice.
Elderly dogs or dogs with dental issues would also benefit from softer treats that are not too hard or difficult for them to eat. Elderly dogs may also benefit from low-fat treats if they aren't so active anymore to avoid weight gain. Excess weight can put pressure on your dogs' joints.
If your dog isn't too active anymore, then scatter feeding is a great way to get them moving. Scatter feeding involves scattering a portion of your dogs' daily food allowance over an area to encourage them to search for it. It can be done indoors or outdoors and is a great way to provide enrichment and gentle exercise as dogs slowly move around sniffing out their food.
Dogs with food allergies or intolerances would benefit from a single-protein treat or treat with minimal ingredients. We recommend looking specifically for hypoallergenic dog treats. Ensure that you check the ingredients label and you know what all the ingredients are. It's always best to find out what your dog is specifically allergic or intolerant to and what they can and can't have, as this will make choosing a treat much easier for you. We recommend speaking to your vet, who will be able to help you determine your dogs' allergies or intolerances.
Your dogs' preferences
Your dogs' preferences will ultimately determine your choice of dog treat. Like people, dogs all have their preferences and what one dog loves, another will not. This preference is something only your dog can tell you because all dogs are different.
Take the time to let your dog try different things – different flavours, smells, textures, proteins, novel proteins, furry or non-furry treats. Listen to your dog; they will tell you what they like and enjoy and what they don't.
For example, not all dogs are fans of hairy or furry treats, but they are worth trying out. Hairy rabbit ears are a great starter chew for dogs that have never experienced these types of treat.
Your dogs' chewing "style" – Is your dog a responsible chewer?
All dogs are unique, and we must remember this when choosing or recommending treats. Not all treats will suit every dog, and we must look at the dog in front of us, consider their chewing style and make our decision based on that. No one knows your dog better than you.
It is vitally important to consider if your dog is a responsible chewer. If you know your dog is a power chewer, then a Yak Chew, for example, may not be suitable for them due to their harder, tougher nature. If your dog chews too hard on a harder chew, it can make gums bleed and cause tooth damage. Please ensure the chew is appropriate for your dogs' chewing style.
There are still plenty of dog treat and chew choices that are long-lasting but not as hard for these particular dogs - for example, Natural Venison Ears.
Choose a suitably-sized treat
Ensure that the treat you choose is a suitable size for your dogs' age and size. We recommend that the treat be larger than your dogs' mouth so they cannot stuff it all in at once or swallow large pieces as this can cause your dog to choke.
It is essential to ALWAYS supervise your dog with treats or chews and NEVER leave them unattended whilst they have one.
Ingredients to avoid
Are you aware of the ingredients in the dog treats or dog chews that you feed? Do you regularly read the ingredients label before buying anything? And if you do, do you know what each of the ingredients is?
We recommend checking the ingredients label on your dog treats and don't just accept that something labelled for dogs is best for your dog because, sadly, this is certainly not the case with many conventional treats these days.
Take rawhide chews for dogs as an example. These chews are one of the most common treats you will see on the shop shelves but is also very dangerous. Did you know that rawhide is a by-product of the leather industry?
RELATED: Is Rawhide Bad For Dogs?
When looking for dog treats, ideally, you want to look for treats with:
- A named protein as the main ingredient. For example, rabbit, duck, liver, heart, lung, ears. Avoid anything with the term derivatives in it as this term is vague and doesn't tell you what is really in the treat, so it doesn't allow you to assess the quality.
- No artificial flavours, colours, or preservatives. These are not required. They aim to make the product more appealing to the consumer and give the product longer shelf lives.
- Avoid excessive cereals or grains in treats. We're not saying cereals and grains are a bad thing unless your dog is allergic or intolerant to them; however, cereals or grains shouldn't make up the bulk of the treat as in these cases, its use is as a cheap filler rather than to produce a quality dog treat.
If you would like to try a new treat with your dog, go for it. Sometimes it may just be trial and error. Try a treat, and if it doesn't suit your dog, you now know, so try another. There is no right or wrong answer. We must look at the dog in front of us, consider the dogs' needs and preferences, and decide based on that. No one knows your dog better than you, but always remember to choose a suitable treat for your dog.
Have you got any tips for choosing a dog treat? What are your dogs' favourite treats? We'd love to hear from you; let us know in the comments below.
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