Yogurt is a Great Food and a Wonderful Treat

Dogs love yogurt! And it’s also great for them.

Yogurt has come a long way from being an edgy food found only in health food grocery stores to a mainstream food now found in most households. It’s easy to see this difference at grocery stores, the yogurt shelves in the dairy aisle are constantly expanding. With regular plain yogurt, Greek yogurt, yogurt with sugar or honey, with fruit, granola; the selection is amazing.

dog yogurt

Finn and Hero wait, not so patiently, while Bones enjoys his share. | photo by Liz Palika

Yogurt for our Dogs

Thankfully, yogurt is also good for our dogs, adding nutrition and probiotics to their diet. For example, yogurt is a great source of calcium. Avoid the sweetened yogurts for your dogs, though, and choose a plain yogurt with nothing added (no sugar, honey, granola, or fruit).

Not all yogurts are created equal, however. If you want to add probiotics to your dog’s diet to aid his gastrointestinal health, for example, look on the label for the statement, “Contains live, active cultures.” Without this statement the yogurt, although fermented during processing, may no longer contain live milk microorganisms.

How much yogurt to give your dog will vary from dog to dog. Give a toy breed dog half a teaspoon per day; more may provide too many calories. A twenty-pound dog will love a heaping teaspoon while a fifty-pound dog can have a tablespoon. A Newfoundland and other giant breed dogs could have a couple of tablespoons.

You can mix the yogurt into your dog’s food, stirring it into the already rehydrated Honest Kitchen foods, or your homemade dog food. Or, since most dogs love yogurt, just plop it on top of each meal.

When you initially introduce yogurt, add just a taste to his food for a couple of days and then watch for any negative reactions. While most dogs thrive eating yogurt some are more sensitive to any form of dairy, including the fermented yogurt. If you see soft stools or discover your dog has flatulence, your dog may not be able to tolerate it.

dog yogurt

1 cup of plain yogurt with one cup of cooked diced chicken. | photo by Liz Palika

Yogurt as Dog Treats

My dogs’ nutrition is always important to me, and that includes their treats as well as their daily diet. Because it’s so nutritious, I like to use yogurt as a base for a variety of different treats. Well, my dogs don’t know it, but these are really just good foods disguised as treats.

My dogs enjoy cooked meats mixed with yogurt. I will take one cup of yogurt, put it in a bowl, and then add one cup of cooked chicken diced or shredded into small pieces. I mix the two ingredients and then portion them into small containers that hold about one tablespoon of the mixture. (I have found these containers in my local grocery store in the baking aisle.) I will keep a few of the filled containers out for the next couple of days and freeze the rest.

Other meats I’ve used in this recipe in place of the chicken include tuna fish, salmon, mackerel, sardines, beef, turkey, and bison. Just make sure the fish or meat is thoroughly cooked and drain off all of the liquid before adding it to the yogurt.

You aren’t limited to meats, though. My dogs enjoy cheese, too, and suffer no dietary upsets with cheese so I may add a cup of grated cheddar cheese to the yogurt in place of the meat ingredient. Or I’ll crumble a cup of goat’s cheese.

Another good recipe combines two favorite foods: peanut butter and banana. Add 1/2 cup peanut butter and 1/2 cup mashed banana (depending on the size of the banana this is usually half of one) to one cup of yogurt. Mix well and again portion into small containers. Keep a few out for the next couple of days and freeze the rest.

dog yogurt

When the yogurt and meat are mixed, portion into smaller containers. | photo by Liz Palika

Giving Your Dog Yogurt Treats

When you give your dog fresh (not frozen) yogurt, it won’t take him any time at all to lick it out of the small container. Simply pop the top off, offer it to your dog, and hold it while he licks it out. Watch for the yogurt mustaches or beards. It’s fun!

If you’ve frozen some of the treats, simply pop it out of the container and give him the frozen treat. I do suggest you give it to him outside or while lying down on a towel though as some dogs can make a mess with a frozen treat.

Try some of our DIY yogurt dog treats here!

dog yogurt

Finn loves his yogurt! Look at that yogurt beard! | photo by Liz Palika

Yogurt as a Training Treat

Using treats in dog training is important. Food is a great reward for most dogs and for dogs who are food motivated, any treat will work. I’ve often said I could give my seven-year-old English Shepherd, Bones, bits of cardboard and as long as it came from my hands he would eat it. Although that’s funny, I do try to provide healthy treats for my dogs during training and one of my favorites is The Honest Kitchen’s Wishes. These dried fish treats are easily broken into small pieces and my dogs love them.

I also like to use yogurt treats for some training, though, for a couple of different reasons. Although not as easy to use as hard treats for some exercises, teaching my dogs to come to me reliably when called, for example, I want to use a high-value treat. A high-value treat is one the dog really likes; a treat that easily gets his attention and serves as a special treat or reward. For my dogs, yogurt treats do this.

To use these during training, I will have a couple of the fresh (not frozen) yogurt treats (using any of the recipes) at hand. When I want to reward my dog I offer the container and let him have a lick or two.

dog yogurt

When using yogurt as a training reward, offer a couple of licks but not an entire portion. | photo by Liz Palika

Don’t Over Do It

Yogurt is a good food and adds nutrition to your dog’s daily diet. Even when mixed with meat or cheese, it’s a good food. But that doesn’t mean your dog can have an unlimited amount.

Too much could increase your dog’s calorie intake and cause weight gain. The peanut butter and banana mixture, especially, needs to be a special treat.

On the other hand, two of my dogs are very lean, to the point their veterinarian told me they need to gain a couple of pounds each so I have a fresh batch of yogurt treats in the refrigerator right now.

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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