This is a question that many new owners ask.
We all love to spoil our canine companions. We love them and want them to be happy. They love treats, so we should give them a lot of treats, right?
Think of treats like cookies. If you eat cookies too often and for meals, you’re going to get sick. There will be negative impacts on your health.
You may experience stomach upset in the short term, and weight gain and other negative effects in the long run.
That’s how treats are for your dog. They aren’t nutrient dense enough to be a complete meal no matter how many your dog chows down on.
They’re meant to be the occasional tasty reward or bonding experience.
So, to answer the big question: no, you can’t feed your dog treats as a meal.
That probably leaves you with another question:
“When can I feed my dog treats?”
And maybe even “What are appropriate treats for my dog?”
We’ll be taking a closer look at both of these questions, so your dog can continue to enjoy their favourite snacks.
How Often Should You Give Your Dog Treats?
There’s no concrete rule as to how often you can give your dog treats, but you should be mindful of how many.
Some owners choose to give one large treat and others choose to give small rewards throughout the day. Others still choose to give no treats at all and opt for affection or toys instead.
Whichever way you choose to handle giving treats is fine. There’s just one rule to keep in mind: Treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake.
This 10% includes store bought treats, table scraps, or anything else outside of your dog’s regular meal.
Yes, even that piece of cheese you used to hide their medication counts towards that 10%
Most dogs are smaller than us humans, so the same amount of food has a different caloric impact on them.
When Should You Give Your Dog Treats?
Just like there’s no hard rules about how often you can give treats, there’s no rule about when you should give treats. Though some times are certainly better than others.
✅During Training ✅For Bonding ❌At Dinner Time
This is the most common time people dish out the treats for their dogs.
They’re an amazing way to help with positive reinforcement and a lot of dogs are food driven. They’ll do anything for that tasty morsel that you have with you.
Some companies even sell specific “training treats.” They’re very small, so that you can give a larger amount during training sessions while staying within the 10% rule.
There are also owners who opt to use their dog’s regular kibble as treats. This is a great alternative. If your dog really enjoys their kibble, this is a healthy way to give them treats.
Just remember, if you do use their kibble, you may need to reduce the amount of food given at their next meal time to prevent overeating.
Something like that Fenrir Dog Training Pouch is perfect for carrying all of the kibble or treats that you’ll need on your next training session.
This is another great time to dish out the treats.
Whether you’ve just gotten a new puppy or you like to celebrate the holidays or birthdays with your canine companion, this can be an amazing opportunity to give them a snack.
This is the perfect time to give them that pig ear you’ve been saving for a special occasion.
You can sit together while they chew on it and give them some love.
The bonding process is especially important if you’ve just adopted a dog of any age. They need all of the positive association they can get.
At Dinner Time
This is a difficult one for many dog owners.
Your dog comes to sit and gives you those big puppy-dog eyes. It can be hard to resist.
So, you give them a piece of something off your plate. Just a little won’t hurt.
While that can be true, it can cause other problems for you and your dog.
They’ll learn to beg, because giving them food from your plate reinforces the behaviour. They’ll think it’s a reward for begging and do it more often in the future.
Before you know it, you have a dog that goes around and gets scraps from everyone.
This can cause things like stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhoea, pancreatitis, weight gain and more.
If you absolutely cannot resist those puppy-dog eyes, consider eating in a room without your dog. It might make you feel bad at first, but it’s better for them in the long run.
You can also try feeding them their meal at the same time, so that they don’t feel left out.
How to Choose Healthy Dog Treats
There is no lack of dog treats on the market. It can feel overwhelming at times. You want to find something your dog will love, but you also want to make sure it’s good for them.
A lot of the popular choices have a lot of filler or other ingredients that aren’t the best for your dog. It’s like choosing a snack for yourself. You can buy something like Oreos or you can opt for trail mix. While they’re both considered snacks, one is a much better option than the other.
You can choose your dog’s treats in much the same way.
You want to find treats that have fewer ingredients. Ideally, the ingredients list would have only one thing on it such as chicken breast.
There are a lot of good choices out on the market such as dehydrated meats, fruits and vegetables. These can all be broken into small pieces with relative ease and they’re packed with nutrients that your dog needs.
For larger treats such as chews, you can use the same method for choosing them.
Things like antlers, pig ears and trachea are all great choices.
Your dog may not be able to finish it all in one sitting and that’s okay. You can wipe off and dry things like bones and antlers for later, or with softer chews such as pig ears, they can be split in half and given at different times.
Human Food as Treats
Some human foods are absolutely okay to give as treats in moderation. They can be healthy and even beneficial to your dog's health.
✅Some Vegetables ✅Some Fruits ✅Proteins ⚠️Dairy
Vegetables are a great low calorie option for a treat to share with your dog. They’re packed with vitamins and minerals that your dog needs to be happy and healthy.
Not all vegetables are suitable for your dogs and the ones to be avoided are listed later in the blog.
You can blanch or steam them to avoid adding extra salt, fat or sugar while cooking them.
✅Cucumbers ✅Green beans ✅Asparagus ✅Carrots ✅Broccoli
Just like vegetables, fruits are high in vitamins and minerals, but low in calories, so they’re a great choice for snacks. As with veggies, not all fruits are suitable for dogs as you will see later on in this blog. Fruits should be able to be served raw, so if you’re having a snack that is on the list below, feel free to share.
✅Watermelon ✅Apples ✅Blueberries ✅Bananas
Proteins can be a great source of healthy fats and B vitamins. You can try boiling, poaching, or baking them without extra seasoning.
Just make sure you trim any extra fat off of things before sharing as too much can cause pancreatitis.
✅Shrimp ✅Salmon ✅Tuna ✅Turkey ✅Chicken
Dairy can be shared in small amounts, but some dogs are lactose intolerant and shouldn’t be given any dairy, so this treat is very dog dependent.
Dairy should also be given as a rare treat and never regularly.
Dogs have low levels of the enzyme lactase present in their digestive system. Lactase is what allows humans to process the lactose in dairy.
Due to the low levels present, dogs cannot digest large quantities well and a lot of dairy can cause vomiting, bloating, stomach upset and even diarrhoea.
⚠️Milk ⚠️Cheese ⚠️Plain yoghurt
Foods Never to be Given as Treats
No one wants to make their dog sick, because they want to share their favourite snack with them. A very common question for dog owners to ask is, “Can I give my dog this human food?”
It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry in any case. If you aren’t sure, don’t share it.
It can literally be the difference between life and death for your dog.
We’ve created a list of common foods that you should never share with your dog. It’s not definitive, but it should make you feel a little more confident in what you can and can’t share.
While you can’t feed your dog treats as a meal, you have plenty of opportunities during the day to share a snack with your canine companion.
Treats can be given during training sessions, while out on walks for a job well done, for bonding, and even just because they’re tasty and you want to show your dog some love.
The possibilities are endless as long as you’re mindful and don’t overdo it!
What treats do you keep in your Fenrir Dog Training Pouch? Is there something that your dog likes best as a reward?
Do you give them treats as part of the time you spend bonding with them?
Come over to our social media page and tell us what treats mean to you and your dog. We’d love to hear all about it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I feed my dog treats as a meal replacement?
No, treats should not replace your dog's regular meals. Treats are meant to be occasional rewards or snacks and do not provide the essential nutrients required for a balanced diet.
How often should I give my dog treats, and is there a limit?
Treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog's daily calorie intake. The frequency of treat-giving can vary, but it's important to be mindful of the calorie content to prevent overindulgence.
When is the best time to give my dog treats?
Treats can be given during training sessions, for bonding, or as occasional rewards. It's important to avoid giving treats during dinner time, as this can lead to begging behavior and other issues.
How do I choose healthy dog treats?
Look for treats with fewer ingredients, ideally with a single main ingredient like chicken breast. You can also opt for dehydrated meats, fruits, and vegetables as healthier options. Avoid treats with excessive fillers or additives.
Are there human foods that can be given to dogs as treats?
Yes, some human foods like certain vegetables, fruits, proteins, and dairy can be given to dogs as treats in moderation. However, it's essential to avoid foods that are toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, grapes, onions, and alcohol.