7 Suggestions for Giving Your Dog Treats

Dogs love getting treats and dog owners love giving them. Unfortunately, too many treats can lead to canine obesity.

Plus, some dogs can be downright demanding about treats and when they aren’t given what they want, behavior problems can ensue. However, just because giving treats can lead to some problems doesn’t mean you have to stop handing them out. It just means you need to choose and use treats wisely.

Use the 10% Rule

To maintain the nutritional balance of your dog’s food, anything given in addition to their food should not exceed 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. For example, if you have a fairly active fifty pound dog, he probably needs about 1400 kcalories (kilocalories or kcal) per day. If he gets any additional food items during the day (special treats, training treats, chew toys or bones, or bits of food) they should not total more than 140 kcalories. That way 140 kcalories in treats plus the 1260 kcalories of his normal food equal 1400 total calories.

A Few Exceptions

Caloric needs vary according to breed, size, age, exercise, and temperament. Puppies need more kcalories than older dogs while active dogs need more than a couch potato of the same size would need. Busier dogs, dogs who fidget, dogs who play and work hard, and dogs in training generally burn more calories than dogs without these characteristics.

No Free Lunch

Asking your dog to do something for you can help prevent a spoiled, demanding dog who wants a treat just because he wants one. Instead of becoming a treat dispenser, ask your dog to sit before he gets a treat. When sit is too easy, ask him to sit, lie down, and then sit again. If he knows these exercises but chooses not to do them—well then, no treats for him!

Challenge Him

When sit, lie down, and other obedience exercises become too easy, teach him something new. Teach him some tricks. Spin in a circle, shake paws, weave through your legs, and many others can be great fun and a good challenge for your dog.

Food as Treats

There are many foods that you may normally have in the refrigerator that could be healthy treats. Do you have some chicken leftover from last night’s dinner? Pull some meat off the bone and use that as a treat. Don’t feed it from the table or in the kitchen as that could lead to begging. Instead, prepare the chicken, then take your dog to another room or outside, ask him to do something for you, and give him the chicken as a treat. You can also use cheeses or other meats if they are boneless, not greasy, and not overly spicy.

Low Calorie Treats

If your dog is overweight (or just doesn’t need to gain any more weight), don’t worry. There are good foods he’ll enjoy. Carrot sticks, halves of green beans, banana slices (chilled or frozen for easier handling), and apple slices are all great low calorie treats. Air popped, plain popcorn is another healthy favorite.

Check the Label

If you prefer to buy commercial treats, that’s fine, just check the label. The treats should be made from good whole foods. Avoid treats with too much sugar, salt, fat, and cereal grains. You should be comfortable giving your dog all the foods listed as ingredients.

Our dogs are our companions and friends so it’s only natural that we would want to share our food with them. Just make sure the foods you share help to keep your furry companion around for the long haul.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika, CDT, CABC

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant as well as the founder and co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in northern San Diego county. Liz is also the founder of Love on a Leash therapy dogs; her dog, Bones, goes on visits on a regular basis. A prolific writer, Liz is also the author of more than 80 books. Many of her works have been nominated or won awards from a variety of organizations, including Dog Writers Association of America, San Diego Book Awards, the ASPCA, and others. Liz shares her home with three English Shepherds: Bones, Hero, and Seven, as well as one confident and bossy orange tabby cat, Kirk. To relax from work, or to take work on the road, Liz and her crew travel the West and PNW in their RV. If you see an RV on the road named "Travelin' Dogs", honk and say hi!

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