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Dog Treats: How Much Is Too Much?

by Irene Hislop

07 August 2020

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Treats are a powerful force in dog’s life. We might not realise it, but we dog owners use treats as a method of communicating with our pets. We often use treats to show a new dog we are their friend and can be trusted. When our dog follows a new command correctly or toilets in the appropriate place, we use treats to reward them and say ‘well done!’. Food is primal for all of us, and people also use treats to show love to our dogs. How often have you gotten yourself a snack and settled down in front of the telly, then gotten back up to get your dog something too? That communicates that they are included and we value their company.

It’s easy to load your dog up with treats. Those big brown eyes are hard to resist! But they can have too much of a good thing. Obesity and poor nutrition shorten a dog’s life, and that is the last thing we want for our best friends. All dog owners need to know how many treats should a dog have and which treats are best.

Types of Dog Treats

Not all treats are the same. Some are canine junk food, while others are more like health supplements. That makes understanding how many treats should a dog have more complicated. When you shop for treats, keep in mind that your dog does not care what the treat looks like. Fun shapes and colours are purely marketing to appeal to dog owners. Dogs only care about how the treat tastes and what the texture is.

dalmatian dog in training red mills go native and leader treats

Dog treats can be grouped according to what they offer our pets, and it is helpful to have a variety on hand.

Older dogs particularly can benefit from treats giving some extra nutritional support. Every dog owner needs to take care of their pet’s teeth, and dental chew sticks are the easiest way. We still need to brush their teeth too, though. Pups and young adult dogs are learning so much every day. They want to please us, and rewarding them for following a command correctly is the key to training them. Low calorie training treats let them know they’ve done it right and give them to the motivation to keep doing it. Boredom is the root of most canine destructive behaviours. Giving your dog a toy filled with treats for them to find and pull out or a treat that will take them a while to chew can effectively prevent a lot of trouble.

How many treats a dog should have depends on which kind of treats as well as the dog’s size, activity level and age. Treats should be just that  – treats, not a main source of food for your dog. And we can all survive a day without treats! It’s fine to give your dog a reasonable amount of treats every day, and it is fine if you don’t dole out treats every single day.

How Many Treats Should a Dog Have in a Day?

Experts say treats should not be more than ten percent of your dog’s daily food intake. But what does that mean? This is where it gets tricky. It’s ten percent of the calories your dog consumes, not ten percent by weight or volume. If you are feeding high calorie treats, that means you shouldn’t give very many treats at all. But if you are giving your dog a low calorie treat such as Leader Train Me treats, they can have many throughout the day.

How Many Treats Should a Dog Have in a Day

Yes, this involves counting calories and that is not fun. You can also be less scientific about deciding how many treats should a dog have. If you follow some guidelines on feeding treats, you can get away with skipping the calorie counting.

  • Feed treats that are low in calories and high in nutritional value.
  • Use treats only as a reward in training or at specific times of the day. Don’t succumb to those big brown eyes at other times.
  • If your dog is leaving their regular food uneaten and you’ve ruled out any medical issues, cut back on the treats.
  • Feed one or two treats at a time, not several.
  • Watch your dog’s weight. If an adult dog is gaining weight beyond the recommended range for their breed, cut back the treats and increase the exercise.
  • If you have children in the family, be sure that they aren’t loading the dog up with treats. (This actually applies to people of all ages – many households include at least one person who loves to spoil the dog with too many treats.)

Dangers of Too Many Treats

We all love to indulge our beloved pets a bit. And doesn’t the best dog ever deserve it? But the truth is, eating too many treats actually harms our dogs. It can create medical and behaviour problems. That’s why owners need to pause and consider how many treats should a dog have in one day.

overweight dog

The most obvious issue is weight gain. Obesity harms dogs. It shortens their lifespan and reduces their quality of life. It strains their joints and their hearts and robs them of enjoying a vigorous game of fetch or a long walk in the countryside. They don’t understand the connection between overdoing the treats and becoming obese, but we do.

Excessive treats can also lead to behaviour problems that take the joy out of life with your companion. A dog that constantly begs and tries to snatch food is a nuisance. Even if it doesn’t annoy you, it will definitely annoy others in the home. And it will undermine your dog’s trust in you as the pack leader. While treats are a powerful training tool, overdoing it can lead to your dog only following instructions when you are dangling a treat in front of them. Food isn’t the only way to indulge our dogs. A game of fetch or a belly rub also makes them feel loved and special. Some dogs love a relaxing grooming session with a soft brush. By all means, dogs can enjoy a couple of treats a day. Some treats containing extra nutritional supplements are really good for them. But the keys are to chose healthy treats and to use them in moderation.

Irene Hislop

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