Treats are a great way to train your dog, but giving them too many makes them less effective as a training device. The possibility of a treat is enough to motivate most dogs, but when they are common, the motivation is gone and the treats are no longer effective.
How often to give my dog treats?
Treats are a good thing for your dog, but too many can be a bad thing. A lot depends on the size of the treat. Some treat makers make dog bones that are 2-3 inches long and are big for most dogs. Very small treats can be given more often.
As noted, treats are good for training, but you don’t need to give them one every time. Giving them a treat when you call them to come inside, is a great motivator. You don’t have to give them one every time. That they “might” get one is enough as long as they do get one once or twice a week.
The kind of treat, as well as its size, is very important. Too many treats make them not special anymore and can cause them to not eat their regular food that is more healthy.
You may think you are being good to your dogs by giving them treats. Most dogs will take as many as you offer. At some point, it becomes too many and you are not being good to the dog anymore.
Excessive treats can cause them to get overweight, which is unhealthy for them. Being overweight can be bad for their back and legs, as well as their internal organs. Pay attention to calorie content to keep your dog healthy.
There is not a set amount, but understanding the point of the treats and how they affect your dog can give you some direction. Don’t give them enough to where they expect them, or to the point that they are not meaningful. Also, don’t give them to the dog if she is overweight.
What are good treats?
Treats high in protein and low in fat content are good for your dog. The less processed the food is, the better it is for your dog. Natural treats have become more popular in recent years. These are treats that have very little processing and are plant or meat-based.
Here are some good treats
- Frozen strawberries, or most kinds of berries
- Many vegetables, like green beans or cucumbers
- Commercial treats are low in fat and calories.
- Meat. It is controversial but dogs have been eating meat for thousands of years.
How often to give my dog dental treats?
Dental treats are a great way to keep your dog’s teeth healthy. They help clean the teeth and can help with bad breath. Plaque becomes hard tartar after two or three days, and it is harder to get off the dog’s teeth.
Dental chews are meant to be given regularly to keep plaque from settling on the teeth. Once a day is often recommended, and twice a day should also be good enough. Puppies under four months should not be given dental treats, but they are great for dogs over that age.
Veterinarians say good dental chews reduce bacteria in the dog’s mouth by 60 percent. They are effective against the buildup of plaque by scraping the teeth as they are eaten. Just like with people, that does not replace the need for dental cleaning now and then. We may brush our teeth but we still benefit from having our teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist’s office. The same is true for dogs. Dental treats help, but for the best dental health, it is good to still have them cleaned by your vet about once a year.
Can you give a dog treats everyday?
Yes, you can give your dog treats every day. The number of treats is not as important as the calorie content of the treats. Veterinarians say treats should account for no more than 10 percent of the calorie intake per day. There are calculators online that can help you figure out how many treats that would be.
You could also give your dog a piece or two of kibble, or dry dog food, as a treat. The dog does not know whether you are giving him something from a dog food bag or a treat box. That is a sensible strategy and will make the percentage of calories easier to determine.
The more treats you give your dog, the more they will come to expect them, and at some point the treat is commonplace. They should be given often enough that the dog realizes they will happen sometimes. They should not be given to the point that they are nothing special.
Treats are a great motivation for training and are effective. If the dog gets a lot of treats, the effectiveness of training will fade fast. The dog will do whatever you want for a treat, but if the dog knows he will get a bunch of them anyway, there is no incentive to do what you want. In training dogs, it has been shown that you don’t have to give them one every time, and you can gradually give them fewer treats. If it happens sometimes, that is enough incentive for most dogs.
Like anything else, there are positives and negatives concerning dog treats. There are also differences of opinion concerning what is best for a dog. There is an agreement, however, on the idea that treats should not be more than 10 percent of the total calorie intake. There is also agreement that treats are a great training device. The differences come when it involves meat and some other human foods. Some say a little bread, or crackers, is fine for dog treats.
Some gourmet dog treats are very expensive, and there is some question as to whether those are really the best ones for your dog. Read the labels carefully. Some have a lot of calories or even fat, and that is not good for your dog’s overall health. Those with real beef, chicken, or some other kind of meat, will be more expensive but have nutritional value. You can use plain dog food for dog treats. Your dog doesn’t know or care whether you spend a little or a lot on his treats.
Here are some basic pros and cons of dog treats.
- There are some positives in giving your dog treats:
- Good ones have high nutritional value.
- It can act as a diet supplement with vitamins and minerals.
- Overall health benefits
- Good for their mental health
- Some have low nutritional value.
- Table scraps and junk food are not healthy
- Over-treating can get them overweight
- Some foods, like chocolate, are toxic.
- You can create bad habits if you give too many.
How many treats is too many?
It is too many treats when the treats lose their meaning, or when they make the dog start to gain weight. Of course, dogs want more food. It’s a survival instinct that is perhaps millions of years in the making. Before dogs were domesticated, they didn’t know when they would eat again, so they would eat all they could. In the wild, dogs and other animals may not eat every single day.
What matters most
It is not the number of treats as much as it is the calorie content of those treats. Check the content of calories and fat on the label of the treats. If it does not have that information, you should not get it because you don’t know the ingredients.
Your dog should have a certain number of calories per day to remain healthy. Your vet can give you an idea of the proper amount based on the breed, age, and size of the dog. No more than 10 percent of those calories should come from treats. If you use the dog food as treats, just give them the proper amount for the whole day and use as many of those for treats as you like. It is a little harder to figure out when you are using separate treats, but it can be done without too much effort.
Giving them people food
Most veterinarians advise against giving dogs food that we eat. It is usually high in fat content, and that is not healthy for a dog. It can be hard to digest, can make them overweight, and can cause problems with other internal organs.
Giving them our food also makes them into pests. Dogs learn fast. If they know they can get a piece of food from you with a certain behavior, they will do that. If whining a few times and a sad look is what it takes, that is what they will do.
If it works once or works some of the time, that is even more incentive for them to keep the behavior up. If you do not want your dog to pester you at the dinner table, do not give him any food from there. The dog will learn that he will not get anything while you are eating, and won’t bother you. You can eat at the same time as the dog eats, and that helps in some cases.
Dogs learn a lot from our behavior. If they have never gotten a piece of your food while you are eating, they will eventually not bother trying. However, if they know they can get something by staring at you for a while, they will do that. If you want to give your dog some of your food, do it a little while after you have finished eating, so there will be no connection between the treat and your eating.
What is being good to your dog?
We may think we are being good to the dog by giving her what she wants, or by giving her treats often. Really being good to your dog means doing what is best for their overall health, even when it is not what they would prefer.
In some ways, dogs are like small children. They want what they want, and it may not be good for them. Children would eat candy all the time if they could, and dogs would too. As the dog’s owner, we are responsible for its well-being. This means making choices for them that they may not like, but that is in their best interest.
You do not need to, or have to, give your dog any treats at all. You can still be very good to your dog with playtime, praise, and just generally hanging out with the dog. If you had a puppy and never gave them food other than mealtime, they would not know there was such a thing and would not bother you for it.