Treats - The Good, the Bad, and the Healthy
Treats - They're not just small and tasty, but they're also often one of the words that dogs actually understand! Their ears perk up, they tilt their head, and they watch your every move as you move to where the treats are, wondering what they need to do to earn one, and just like saying "Ice cream" around a toddler, it's more of a promise than just a word as soon as you say it!
The problem with treats, is that they're not all the same! Treats for dogs are often just like the snacks we have for us that we give to our kids - We think we're doing the right thing by giving them out, but they might not be as good as we thought!
I get the question all the time - What treats are safe for puppies? Because treats are perfect for many occasions. They provide a bond between you and your pet. They're the perfect and obvious rewards for when your pup does something correct or downright adorable. They're a word they get excited to hear.
You need to be careful, because the treats you give your puppies are crucial. They can either help or hinder their early health. They can either teach them that positive behaviors get rewarded with positive reinforcement, or that they need to perform for food. They can also hurt themselves if getting the wrong types of treats! So when I get asked this question, I usually give the following list:
1. Read the ingredients. Tons of treats have preservatives to ensure they're good for years or artificial flavors. Treats don't need either, and the treats that will help preserve your dog's health long-term will have neither in their ingredients list!
2. Pick the right size. Make sure the treats are bigger than your dog's mouth. That way, they won't be able to swallow them immediately and are forced to break them into smaller pieces. Dr. Foster & Smith have an article that even recommends that you don't give treats and let them chew them unsupervised to make sure. The article can be found here.
3. Moderation. WebMD, though not a great place for diagnosing your own health issues, does have great advice on treats for dogs, and suggests that they should be only 10% of their daily diet. I definitely agree, especially when training, because that's when you start teaching them that food is associated with behaviors. I've seen a lot of dogs see a treat and guess a trick to get the treat, such as rolling over unprompted. This means they associate tricks with food, which you want to avoid, since when you don't give them treats, it will make them think they're doing something wrong.
4. Know your treats. Certain treats are only right for certain breeds or ages. For instance, Greenies have gotten a lot of hype recently, which is great because they're excellent for dental health, but I've met people who have given these to puppies, but Greenies are meant for dogs over 6 months old. I've also seen owners giving their small breeds treats for large, aggressive chewers, and this has led to cracked teeth. Know your treats and do a little reading before guessing.
5. Enter shameless plug here. You know who has great treats with only real ingredients? Bandit's Buddies! Had to be done. But really, we do pride ourselves on having the freshest treats in the Cary-Apex-Raleigh area with only real ingredients, and more than that, ingredients a child could pronounce! All of our treats are made-to-order, so you know they won't even be made until you order them, and we have Free Shipping for orders over $35. Check out Bandit's Buddies Treat Shop to see our Hard Treat and Ice Cream Treat options today!