As a dog owner, there are countless choices to make; what food to feed our dogs, what leash to use, whether to go with a harness or a collar, and – let’s not forget – which treats to reward our pups with when they do something right (or when they just look so adorable that we can’t resist the urge to reward them for their mere physical perfection). There are hundreds of treats available to the average dog owner today; both in pet stores, grocery stores and online, and choosing can seem hard especially for those who want what is best for their pup. Here are some of the things that you will want to look for (and avoid) when choosing training treats for your fur friends.
1. Flavor & Scent
With treats, it is more important than ever to use a treat type that your dog will absolutely love. Many dog owners use treats to reward desired behaviors, or for teaching tricks and other obedience related conducts. Dogs are highly intelligent but can be stubborn at times, and for many it will take some true motivation to get them to do what we want them to do. Once you find a dog treat with a flavor they love – there is little to nothing your dog won’t try in order to get it. Flavor preferences are very individual, and while choosing a quality treat gives you good odds of finding a new favorite, there isn’t much to do but to test your way through products until you find the best dog training treats to motivate your dog.
Scent is another thing to pay attention to when choosing a dog treat; especially if you plan to use it for any type of training. With treats that have a strong and delicious smell, your dog will know right away what it is that you have in your hand, and he or she is likely to give you his/her full attention! If you only plan to use the treats as a snack while you wind down after a long walk – scent might be of less importance, but if you want that little extra help to catch your dog’s attention, then perhaps you want to get a treat that both smells- and tastes delicious. You will have your fur baby clued to you (figuratively speaking) before you know it, as soon as you open the bag and/or take out a treat.
Dog treats with substantial meat content will usually have a stronger smell and taste, so keep an eye out for products that use real meat in their production, since this is where you will find the most rich- and natural flavors and scents. Quality manufacturers are usually very proud of their delicious treats and their superior products, and information regarding meat content and richness in flavor is almost always easy to find.
2. Check the Content
Whenever you buy something for your dog (and for yourself), you will want to have a quick but thorough look at the ingredients’ list. That is where you can see what went into making the treats you are considering for your pooch, and it can tell you a lot about how healthy (or unhealthy) the treats are. The dog food industry is massive and stretches across the entire planet, and with such a wide selection, it is only expected that there will be both good and bad options. By knowing what to look for, you can make sure that your dog gets a treat that is beneficial for their wellbeing, rather than the other way around.
Look for a decent meat content, with meat from a named source. Some dog treats may have chicken, duck, lamb or perhaps beef, and it should be listed first or high up on the list for there to be enough present in the treat. A high meat content automatically means that there will be less of something else – potentially less as good – which ups your chances of getting your hands on a healthy dog treat. You will probably want to stay away from treats containing animal by-products; considering it is a low-quality protein source that may sound good in untrained ears, but that is really just unnamed animal left-overs from slaughterhouses – deemed unfit for human consumption.
A good rule of thumb is to go with a treat that has ingredients you recognize, and an ingredients’ list where at least half of the listed items are things you can actually name and picture. Meat, vegetables and fruit are good signs, along with healthy grains like rice, oats and barley. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are other things you will want to see in your dog treats, and why not look for treats with fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6?
3. Natural Ingredients
A benefit of going with dog treats with natural ingredients is that you know what you are feeding your dog, and anyone should realize the pros of supplying quality treats made with as little processing and artificial products as possible. Stay away from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, since some of these are known to be potentially harmful, but also because there are so many natural alternatives that it isn’t necessary to settle with anything less. A dog can’t tell you what he or she would like to eat, so it is our responsibility as their owners to provide them with quality snacks and treats.
There is a lot of media focus on feeding our dogs the right dog food; one that has enough protein, nutrients and is made with natural ingredients, but many dog owners forget that these guidelines and recommendations also apply for treats. What is the good in spending time and money on feeding our dogs quality kibble or wet food, if we are going to spoil it by administering treats that don’t live up to our food standards? A dog only eats what we – as owners – give them, so the least we can do is give them something that they’ll love, but that will also be good for them. The market is full of treats made with healthy and natural ingredients; with no significant difference in price, which means there is no good excuse for why you wouldn’t want the best for your pupster.
4. Small Treat Size
Small treats for small dogs and big treats for big dogs? Not exactly. While the kibble size is important when feeding your pup (since the right sized kibble can help keep their teeth clean) it is not exactly the same when it comes to treats. It is easy to accidentally overfeed a dog, especially if forgetting that treats also count towards their total calorie intake, so if you train a lot with your dog or use lots of treats – the smaller size the better!
You can also purchase dog treats that can be broken in half or into pieces, as a way to keep the calories down to promote a healthy weight. For example, if your dog won’t eat any other treats than the popular Milk Bone, then why not break each bone into 3-4 smaller pieces? Dog’s don’t think to themselves “Oh bugger, she only gave me half a treat – how rude” but are generally more than happy with whatever they get. They won’t know the difference; whether given a whole treat, a half or even less, so use that to your advantage when caring for your dog’s health and weight.
Small treats are also easier to carry with you; either in your pocket, in a treat pouch or a plastic bag, as they take up less space and allows you to bring a larger amount. Most dog treat products will specify the size of their treats on the bag, and otherwise, you will simply have to look for treats that might be easy to break into several pieces, or patiently test your way through a few different products until you find the right one.
5. Change It Up
Dogs truly are their own individuals, and just like humans – they have different preferences and variating tastes. Some dogs have favorite treats that they can eat every day for their entire lives without ever getting bored, while others need a bit more variety in their diet and treat intake. If your dog is a picky eater who tends to get bored with kibble or wet food, then it is likely that the same thing will happen with treats. Don’t let this scare you and solve the issue by offering different treats every time you finish a bag. You can also opt for purchasing a few different types of treats, mix them together and bring the multi-treat mix with you when it is time for some fun and training.
Understanding why some dogs might get bored of their dog food or treats shouldn’t be hard, because just imagine eating only one thing every day, for your entire life? Some dogs are perfectly fine with this, sure, but others need variety, so consider mixing or switching frequently to keep it interesting.