Question: How many treats do you give your dog each day? Really think about that for a second and be honest with your answer. Do you reward your pup every time he goes outside to potty? Do you then pass out treat-after-treat during training sessions? And then what about interactive puzzles and toys – do you stuff them with a handful of tasty snacks to let your pup play?
Rewarding our canine kids while training is key. Plus, mentally stimulating them through treat-filled toys and puzzles is wonderful. But, it’s important to keep tabs on how many snacks (and the type of snacks) we dole out to our furry friends, or else we’ll quickly watch them pack on the pounds.
Get this: According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 54 % of dogs in the United States are considered overweight or obese. Where does your pup fall on the scale? Check out this chart from GuideDogs.org for a clear look:
So, How Many Treats Can Your Dog Have Each Day?
Unfortunately, there is no set answer to this question. The number of treats that’s appropriate for my 6-pound Chihuahua is very different than someone’s 130-pound Great Dane. Plus, a lap-dog who snoozes all day won’t be able to have quite as many snacks as an active dog. How many treats your dog can eat depends on their size, activity level, age, and health status. Makes sense, right?
My Personal Philosophy
In general, if you’re feeding one healthy mid-day treat and a couple of tasty bites during training/enrichment sessions then your pup’s treat intake is likely just fine.
I personally offer my toy Poodle and Chihuahua between three or four treats throughout the day. When they train or play with puzzle toys, I break one biscuit into a lot of super teeny tiny pieces, so they think they’re eating more. Since my furkids are small, I keep their treats small too. Through moderation, they’re easily able to maintain ideal body weight.
The More Formal Guideline
If you ask your veterinarian or canine nutritionist, they’ll likely tell you that treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s total caloric intake.
Counting Calories? Here’s Where To Start
Do you know how many calories your dog should eat in a day to maintain a healthy weight? Most canines need to eat between 25 and 30 calories per pound to maintain bodyweight. But, your pup’s requirements may be slightly different. So, work with your veterinarian or use an online calorie counter tool to help you figure that out.
Once you know the total number of calories your dog should eat in a day, do the math to calculate 10%. So, for example, if your dog can eat 500 calories a day then no more than 50 calories should come from treats. The other 450 would come from their meals.
If you’ve ever been on a diet before then you know how quickly those calories add up. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of treats, table scraps, and any extra bites.
Remember: Treats are Treats (Not Meals)
Your dog’s treats are equivalent to your afternoon snack or dessert. Dog treats are meant to taste yummy and excite your pup’s taste buds, but they’re not properly balanced to satisfy nutritional needs.
If you feed a lot of treats then you’ll need to adjust Fido’s meals accordingly. But, keep in mind, if you consistently pull back on your pup’s main meals to offer more treats then you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies.
Always Make Treats Healthy
While treats shouldn’t be viewed as meals, I still urge pet parents to choose treats wisely and use snack-time as an extra way to nourish their dog’s body with key nutrients.
Just equate it to your own snack time. If you’re going to consume calories for an afternoon snack, you’re much better off eating celery sticks with a little peanut butter or a cup of fruit than a chocolate bar or bag of chips. Well, it’s the same for our dogs.
That’s why I personally prefer to make my own treats that rely on fresh produce, quality meats, nutrient-rich fish, and gluten-free flours … with no added preservatives or red-flag ingredients.
Looking for quick single-ingredient treats? Organic fruits and vegetables make great dog treats. Check out our Food Facts section, which highlights a variety of “human foods” that are healthy for dogs.