A grain-free snack with jerky flavor and texture. Made with wholesome ingredients such as turkey, sweet potatoes, and blueberries. Grain-free. Comes in a 24- or 48-ounce pack and backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee from the manufacturer.
Contains a few preservatives and by-products, but also offers ingredients that are beneficial to a healthful canine diet.
Boasts a 100-percent grain-free recipe with only natural, wholesome ingredients – contains real meats and vegetable. They are baked and contain no chicken products.
They are pricey, and somewhat thin.
Offers a variety of flavors in 6, 6 ounce packages – salmon, pork, rabbit, chicken, duck, and peanut butter. Contains wholesome ingredients and quality protein with no wheat, corn, or soy.
They are small especially for large dogs, but the size is ideal for training.
Has a unique shape designed to help clean teeth and fight tartar buildup. Made of natural ingredients, and available in a variety of sizes and flavors.
They are on the costly side, and very small dogs may have a difficult time chewing them.
A natural, slow-cooked jerky treat that's available in beef, chicken, or turkey. Soft and chewy with no by-products – ideal for training and treating all sizes of dogs. Comes with a money-back guarantee.
Some testers found they cause upset stomach in some dogs, and others showed little interest in them.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
To a dog, nothing says “great job” like a tasty treat. Whether he’s earned a reward for obeying commands, being a good boy, or simply being his lovable self, your pooch deserves the best.
While many dog treats taste great, not all are healthy. As a daily part of your dog’s diet, choosing treats with a good balance of flavor and nutrition is essential. But with endless treats available, it can be difficult to know where to start. Does size matter? Is texture important? Which ingredients should you look for and which should you avoid?
At BestReviews, we’re dedicated to giving our readers the answers they need to find the best buys. We research, analyze, and test products, seeking out expert advice and user feedback, too. And you won’t find any free samples in our labs. Every product we test is selected by us and purchased with our own funds.
If choosing the best dog treat is driving you barking mad, you’ve come to the right place! No time to spare? Browse our five favorite dog treats in the matrix above. Or keep reading for our guide to finding the perfect dog treats for your best friend.
Your dog’s wagging tail and adoring eyes may be motivation enough to always have her favorite munchies on hand, but there are other great reasons to give your pooch treats as well.
Most dogs would turn cartwheels for their favorite treat if they could. Using treats during training will not only give your dog extra incentive to cooperate, but she will stay attentive longer, too.
Rewarding Good Behavior
Treats are a great way to reinforce good behavior. Giving Fido a yummy snack for remaining calm while you pet him or not jumping on visitors when they walk through the door, lets him know he’s on the right track.
Dogs are every bit as susceptible to plaque and tartar buildup as we are, and proper dental care is essential. Some treats are designed to boost oral hygiene. These help keep your pup’s teeth and gums healthy, and certain varieties actively work to freshen breath – a huge plus for any dog owner!
If using dog treats primarily for training, it’s best to do so in between meals. A treat may not be as effective if your dog has a full stomach. Also, choose a smaller size treat or one that can easily be broken up. This will help your dog stay focused and will keep him from packing on unwanted pounds.
With a long list of essential nutrients to look for and an even longer list of artificial ingredients to avoid, treating your best friend can get complicated. Here’s what you need to know about dog treat nutrition labels.
Just because a dog treat has a high percentage of protein doesn’t mean it’s good protein. Sometimes high-protein grains and vegetables are added to dog treats to boost protein percentages. These proteins aren’t nearly as beneficial to dogs as quality meat proteins. Similarly, “meat proteins” or “meat derivatives” may be listed as the first ingredient, but these ambiguous terms are often used to mask inferior protein sources.
Easily identifiable proteins should come first and be listed clearly. These may include:
Meat Meal (should be specified: chicken/beef/lamb/turkey, etc.)
Fish Meal (should be specified: wild salmon/mackerel, etc.)
Whether the main protein consists of a single meat or a hearty combination, the nutrition label should never leave you wondering about the animal source.
Treats made with ingredients that are sourced close to home usually offer superior freshness.
The following ingredients aren’t necessarily red flags, but they shouldn’t appear in large quantities, and some may not agree with all dogs. If you notice any of these in your dog’s treats, remember that moderation is key, and keep an eye out for adverse effects.
Sugar: Too much sugar isn’t good for anyone, and the same applies to dogs. Chances are your pup gets plenty of natural sugar from other sources like fruits, vegetables, and grains. Adding unnecessary, highly processed sugars to the mix could lead to weight gain, tooth decay, hypoglycemia, cataracts, allergies, and numerous other conditions. Added sugar isn’t always obvious and may be listed as sucrose, caramel, or corn syrup.
Salt: Many dog treats use salt as a natural preservative and flavor enhancer. While salt is an essential part of every dog’s diet, it should be consumed in appropriate amounts. Too much salt can lead to increased water intake and frequent urination, placing the kidneys under strain. A higher heart rate and dry mucous membranes are also commonly observed in canines who consume too much salt. As a rule of thumb, salt, sometimes listed as sodium, shouldn’t be one of the first five ingredients.
Soy: A common allergen with questionable nutritional benefits, soy is sometimes used as an affordable meat substitute. However, due to its reputation for causing gas and bloating, this is one filler you may want to avoid.
Corn: Corn is another grain that is frequently used to boost the protein content in cheaper dog treats and food. Aside from the fact that many dogs find corn difficult to digest, corn is not a complete protein and lacks essential amino acids. When used extensively as a protein substitute, some dogs may experience muscle loss.
Grains: While most dogs do just fine with the inclusion of healthy grains like oats and brown rice, grains aren’t a natural part of a dog’s diet. As such, they shouldn’t account for the bulk of any dog treat or food.
If your dog displays common symptoms of grain allergies, such as hot spots, gummy ears, itching, chronic ear infections, or irritable bowel syndrome, consider grain-free treats.
When it comes to preservatives and sweeteners, try to keep it as natural as possible. Some artificial ingredients added to dog treats to extend shelf life and boost palatability can be harmful.
Harmful Artificial Preservatives to Avoid
BHA and BHT are suspected carcinogens.
Ethoxyquin, also used as a pesticide, may cause blood and liver disorders.
Propyl gallate, used as a stabilizer in cosmetics and food packaging, may be linked to cancer and liver disease in dogs.
Propylene glycol, sometimes used to keep dog treats moist, is a common chemical component of antifreeze.
TBHQ is linked to stomach tumors in dogs.
Harmful Processed Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners to Avoid
Corn syrup, caramel, sucrose, fructose, and other processed sugars can cause a spike in blood sugar and may lead to weight gain and other health issues.
Sorbitol, malitol, and other artificial sweeteners can cause low blood sugar.
Vitamin C, vitamin E (often listed as “mixed tocopherols”), and certain essential oils (clove, sage, and rosemary) are preferable natural preservatives.
Applesauce, honey, or molasses are healthier sweeteners if your dog already has a well-developed sweet tooth.
Your dog doesn’t care about the color of her treat. Artificial food dyes can have a negative impact on your dog’s health and should be avoided.
There’s a dog treat for every taste. Experiment with different textures and flavors to find your dog’s favorite.
Biscuits: These traditional baked dog treats are usually hard and dry, making them perfect for dogs who crave a good crunch.
Soft: If you have a puppy or an older dog who has trouble chewing hard biscuits, opt for soft treats.
Freeze dried: If you’re concerned about preservatives and harmful chemicals, freeze dried dog treats are a great option. Most consist of a single meat, which is freeze dried to preserve freshness and flavor. These treats tend to be a bit chewy but can be softened with water.
Jerky: Most dogs love the meaty flavor of jerky treats. These can be soft or extra chewy.
Dental treats: These treats come in the form of chews, bones, or biscuits and are specially formulated to reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
Use high-value treats sparingly to ensure they never lose their ability to grab your dog’s attention, even when training in a distracting environment.
Don’t forget to consider these factors when choosing a treat for your dog.
Some dogs are happy to eat just about anything, while others have more discerning palates. For training purposes, finding a treat that your dog can’t resist will boost the productivity levels of each session.
Keep your pantry stocked with a variety of treats in different flavors and textures to reduce the likelihood of your dog losing interest in a particular treat.
If you don’t keep careful track of the number of treats you’re giving your dog, calories can quickly add up. Choosing a low-calorie treat will prevent unwanted weight gain.
Smaller treats aren’t just for pint-sized pups or toy breeds. Small treats often contain fewer calories, making them perfect for training or rewards. If you just can’t resist giving your dog an extra treat (or two!), keep a stash of mini treats on hand.
However, larger dogs who receive a limited number of treats per day will likely appreciate more substantial treats.
The order ingredients are listed is directly related to their quantity. Prime ingredients should always be listed first.
It may be tempting to reach for a bulk pack of budget treats, but check out the label before you do. Quality ingredients tend to cost a bit more, and treats at the lowest end of the price spectrum are usually full of cheap fillers and undesirable additives.
Biscuits: Budget dog biscuits typically cost $3 to $5 per 20-ounce bag, but many within this price range are packed with undesirable ingredients. Natural dog biscuits are generally healthier and tend to be priced around $5 to $15 per eight-ounce bag, depending on the ingredients.
Soft treats: Soft dog treats range anywhere from $3 to $10 for an eight-ounce bag, depending on the quality of the ingredients.
Freeze dried treats: Freeze dried treats are the most expensive, averaging between $20 and $30 for a 10-ounce package.
Jerky: Jerky treats tend to cost between $6 and $15 for a 10-ounce package, with prices increasing with higher-quality cuts of meat and less preservatives.
Dental treats: Dental treats that are specifically designed to clean teeth usually cost between $20 and $30 for a pack of 30 regular chews or 60 small chews.
Q. How many treats can I give my dog per day?
A. This depends on a number of factors, including your dog’s size, her level of activity, and the number of calories per treat. As a general guideline, treats should account for no more than 10% of your dog’s diet.
Q. Can I still give my overweight dog a treat?
A. With so many low-calorie options on the market, some containing as little as three calories per treat, there’s no reason an overweight dog can’t enjoy the occasional indulgence. However, you’ll need to take extra care to ensure that treating your pal doesn’t interfere with his weight loss efforts. When in doubt, it's best to consult your veterinarian.
Q. What is a high-value treat?
A. While your dog may love a number of different treats, the one that motivates her to go the extra mile during training sessions will be her personal high-value treat.
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