Not all dogs are food motivated during training, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t scamper with excitement when they hear the rustle of the treat bag. Dogs have a well-earned reputation for an obsession with eating, which makes pet treats a powerfully effective tool to communicate approval to your dog. When you think of it that way, treats can do a lot to build the human-canine bond. As rewarding as they are to the dog, the human also gets a hit of rewarding serotonin for making that furball so glad.
As a rule of thumb, you want to keep treats capped at 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. Overdoing it could lead to tummy issues (and messy stools) in the short run, and weight gain in the long term. Because obesity in dogs can lead to serious health problems and is arguably the No. 1 threat to your dog’s health, being mindful of your dog’s daily limit is a good idea.
How do you know how many treats is enough for your dog?
Figuring out your dog’s daily limit is a smart idea. Especially if you’re getting ready to train your pet, or if you think you and your family are getting carried away with the rewards. To find that 10% limit on your dog’s daily treat allotment, you’ll want to take a look at the chart on the bag of pet food. It will say how many cups of food they should be getting per day based on their weight, and how many calories are in a cup. (Don’t forget to factor in the age and activity level of your dog. Less active adult dogs will need a lower calorie count than a highly active pet.)
For our example, let’s use NutriSource Chicken and Rice Recipe.
- There are 429 kcal (or to use the vernacular, calories) per cup of food.
- The daily allotment for a 60-pound (adult) dog is 2 1/3 cups, which comes to 1,001 calories a day.
- That means their maximum allotment of treats should come to no more than 100 calories a day.
Smaller dogs have capacity for fewer treats.
- Using the same diet, a 15-pound dog would get 1 cup of food, or 429 calories a day.
- That smaller dog may have about 43 calories’ worth of treats before reaching their 10% limit.
As we can see, the smaller the dog, the more mindful you should be of how many treats they’re getting.
How do your dog’s treats affect feeding time?
You may be wondering if it’s OK to stack that 10% on top of that daily meal. Generally, it means you should subtract a few kibbles from the feeding bowl so they don’t get overloaded on calories. Do your best to hold the limit to 10%. Keep in mind, not all calories are created equal, so don’t think of treats as a meal replacement, even if they do feature good-for-dogs extras. Otherwise, your dog could miss out on the minerals and vitamins they need to be healthy.
Which treat is right for your dog?
When it comes to treating our pets, there is no shortage of options. While it’s fine to indulge your dog with a special treat (such as that fancy dog cookie that caught your eye at the pet supply shop) from time to time, being choosy and mindful of your pet’s treats is best for their health (and their tummies). We’ll focus on a few:
Many pet parent enjoys tossing a cube of cheese, a slice of ham or a sample of their meal to their eager furry friend. As you may suspect, now that you have a handle on your dog’s calorie limits, too many handouts from the dinner plate and the snack bowl can be the culprit of weight gain for dogs. Their appetites may tell you differently, but a dog doesn’t have a lot of room for extra calories. When you’re sharing your meal or snack, it won’t take long for the calories to stack up. To control the pudge (for your dog and yourself), stick to healthy, low-cal snacks, and unprocessed foods (which are often loaded with bad fats and sugar). Some dogs actually enjoy carrot sticks and cooked unseasoned green beans. Other options are fresh berries, lean turkey breast, non-fat yogurt and air-popped popcorn (but hold the butter and salt).
[Check out our ultimate list of people foods for dogs.]
These meaty bites can be tempting enough for humans to eat. Their powerful meaty smell lights up a dog’s super sensitive olfactory senses, so if you’re training your dog in a distracting environment, keeping a few pieces of jerky on hand can help you cut through the clutter of stimuli and focus your dog. They’re also great for hikes and other long outings. That said, keep these rewards to no more than a few a day for a large breed, a couple for medium-sized dogs, and one for small dogs. At 20 calories apiece, too many jerky treats can push your dog’s caloric limits. So if you’re offering a lot of them, remember, serve a smaller portion of food at dinnertime so you can keep the calories in balance.
These offer a way to treat your dog without breaking the budget. But you’ll want to keep an eye on the label, as many supermarket brands use wheat and soy, sometimes as the primary ingredients, which can be irritating to your dog’s system if he has a food sensitivity. With a high-quality brand, you’ll see meat or meat meal listed first on the ingredients, followed by a variety of fruits and vegetables to create a healthy, tasty reward. Though not as calorie dense as a serving of jerky, check the label for the calorie count so you don’t overdo it.
These small, low-calorie soft bites offer the perfect solution for pet training. At 3-5 calories per soft chew, you can keep the rewards coming, while reinforcing the behaviors you like. Even better, these soft bites take only seconds to eat, so you both stay focused on your training — without having to wait and wait for your dog to chomp his way through the tougher texture of biscuits or jerky.
Bottom line, when it’s time to reward your dog, knowing how many treats is too much can help your dog maintain a healthy weight.
Whether you’re working with your dog on their leash manners, or teaching him to sit still during bath time, be sure to keep a handful of NutriSource Soft and Tender Treats on hand. At 3.5 calories apiece and fortified with Carniking™ (which is a trusted source of L-Carnitine, an amino acid that can help your pet burn fat), you can make progress without worry of overloading your dog. They come in three delicious flavors: chicken, lamb and salmon. Shop local, and pick up a pouch at an independent pet supply shop in your community.