Dog Treats Do’s and Don’ts

Jocelyn Bishop
February 12, 2014

How To's, Pet Nutrition, Pet Parenting

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Dog Treats

Your dog is loved more than words can tell and in return is a loving companion. So, it goes without saying that you would take every opportunity to spoil them with treats. You can find dog treats in pet supply stores, grocery stores, home & ranch stores, online retailers, and you can make them at home. They are accessible and are always well received. Even so, there are some Do’s and Don’ts when feeding dog treats to your dog.

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Dog Treats Do’s

1) Dog Treats are a great way to train your dog. Rewarding good behavior with dog treats will help your dog become the well-mannered pup you knew they could be. Over time, you can decrease the amount of treats given for a particular behavior, and your dog will behave without the dog treats.

2) Always read the ingredient label of any dog treat purchased online or in-store. Analyzing the label helps you identify any ingredients that may not be ideal for your dog. If your dog has allergies, it is important to watch out for any ingredients that may trigger undesirable reactions in your pet. Otherwise, the dog treat may end up doing harm instead of providing enjoyment.

3) Be sure to observe feeding guide recommendations when feeding your dog a dog treat. Calories count, and you wouldn’t want your pup to put on any unnecessary weight. Sometimes, you may need the expertise of a vet to help you determine the right amount of dog treats for your dog. Young, active dogs may be able to enjoy more dog treats than older dogs, as aging dogs rarely involve themselves with more strenuous types of physical activity.

4) Your dog should have a bowl designated for both its food and water. If you are feeding dog treats, they should be fed in a clean, well-maintained bowl or by hand. Just like human beings, dogs too may not be happy about eating from dirty bowls or plates.

5) Give your dog some space when he is with the treat. Dogs do not like interference at feeding time, and most likely would like a little peace when fed a treat.

6) Always provide fresh, clean water when feeding dog treats. Never disregard the importance of clean water, whether he is eating food or a special treat.

Dog Treat Don’ts

1) Do not over-feed dog treats. Your dog still needs to consume plenty of food at mealtimes. While dog treats can contain essential nutrients, your dog’s should consume food for their primary nutrition.

2) Do not feed human snacks and junk food to treat your dog. Just like such foods provide more calories than necessary to your body, feeding too many treats can harm your dog.
Avoid giving your dog chocolate! Chocolate can be harmful to your pet, so make sure it is out of their reach.

3) Dog treats can be used to reward good behavior. Don’t feed a treat to a dog that is excited, jumping around, climbing on things, etc. Treating your dog when they are hyper will reinforce negative behaviors. A treat should be given when the dog is calm. Wait until he or she is sitting or lying down and waiting patiently.

4) Do not give treats during mealtimes. Give a treat when the dog is hungry enough for a treat, but never replace regular, nutritious meals.

Treats are a great way to reward and train your dog. Knowing the right kinds of treats for your dog, the ideal amount to give, and the best times to give treats are crucial to the health of your pet.

Pet Parent Q&A

“I feed my dog training treats and also give her chewable dog treats when I need to leave the house. Should I go by Kcals or by volume?” – Anne White

This is a great question because this can be where a lot of pets begin their trail to obesity. We feed them their food based on their weight, which is formulated to provide them with adequate calories for the day, then we feed them treats on top of that which adds even more calories.

Just like people, there are some dogs, such as my Great Dane, who have a high metabolism and can eat all the calories you give them and remain thin but others who gain weight on normal calories.

You need to base it off of the calories, not volume. To relate it to us, we can eat six pounds of celery and be fine because there are no calories, but if we eat six pounds of ice cream, we are consuming an enormous amount of fat and calories. There is a wide array of healthy, low fat, and low-calorie dog treats out there that you can use without much problem.

A general rule, especially for those inactive dogs that are prone to gaining weight, is to subtract the calories you give in dog treats from the food you are feeding them. So if you are going to feed 300 kcal in dog treats every day, then you need to decrease the daily food by 300 kcal so that you maintain a steady intake.

Also always keep in mind the activity level of your pet. We often overlook our pets when it comes to exercise. If your dog runs 10 miles a day with you, then they can handle some extra calories, but if they lay on the couch all day they need to be strictly regulated so that they do not become overweight or even obese. If your pet is overweight, they will be much more prone to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and increased wear and tear on joints leading to arthritis.

 – Dr. Matt Fehr, DVM

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