When you get a puppy, you want to shower them with love, affection, and rewards. Whether this is your first time raising a puppy, or you have some experience under your belt, you know you’re gonna need a hefty supply of treats on hand not only to show that love and affection, but for training purposes, too.
So, what dog treats are the best for your growing pup? Are store-bought dog treats safe and healthy for a puppy? Does it matter if treats are soft or crunchy? Let’s dig in to the details!
Are Dog Treats Good For Puppies?
Before we jump into which dog treats are safe for puppies, we need to know, “Is it even a good idea to be using treats as rewards for puppies in the first place?” The simple answer to that is yes, treats can be good for your puppy, and they’re your strongest tool for training your pup to grow into a well-behaved, well-adjusted dog—as long as you use them correctly!
How Should You Use Treats With Puppies?
Even though you might be tempted to give your new puppy a treat every five minutes (and with an adorable face like that, who could blame you?!), it’s important to fight the urge to toss out treats just for being cute. Remember that treats are adding calories to your pup’s overall diet, so you’ll want to be careful about abusing the treat powers! A chonky, overweight puppy is going to end up with health issues later in life.1
Only Use Treats For Training
As hard as it might be with those puppy eyes, try your best to use treats only as a training tool. Of course, we’re all probably going to cheat on occasion and slip them a treat when their cuteness is overwhelming, but make sure to keep it to a minimum. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association suggests that treats not exceed over 10% of your pup’s daily calorie intake.2 Giving them no more than one small treat per command will help keep their calories in check.
Break Treats Into Smaller Pieces
You’ll also want to use small, pea-sized treats for training, or break larger treats into tinier pieces (shhh don’t tell your pup you’re cheating!). Small treats will be easier for your pup to chew, as well as limit you from tossing too many calories into their bellies.
So, in a nutshell, dog treats can be great for your puppy when you use them with intention, and when you give them the right kind of treats. But what, exactly, are the right kind of dog treats for puppies?
What Dog Treats Are Safe For Puppies?
You wouldn’t give an infant a potato chip, would you? Of course not. Both babies and puppies need time to get acquainted with the wide world of food and treats.
Likewise, the best treats for your 10-year-old dog are not necessarily the same treats you want to give your 10-week-old puppy. Certain dog treats can pose a safety hazard for puppies. Not only do puppies need smaller sized treats for their li’l mouths, but since puppies’ teeth aren’t fully developed, they’re at greater risk for breakage. Treats that are too hard can cause serious damage to your pup’s chompers, so it’s best to stick to treats that are on the softer side.
Soft-baked treats are always a great choice for puppies because—you guessed it—they’re nice and soft. These treats are easy on your puppy’s teeth—and a lot safer for them to eat than harder treats.
Dog-Friendly Human Foods
If store-bought treats aren’t really your thing, you can always try out different dog-friendly human foods in small portions. Veggies like carrots and green beans are great, low-calorie options, or if you need occasional high-value treats you can try small pieces of cheese or a small lick of peanut butter (make sure it’s xylitol-free!).
What Dog Treats Should I Avoid Giving My Puppy?
Besides avoiding the obvious ginormous treats that barely fit in your pup’s mouth, there are some other factors you should consider when deciding on puppy treats.
Related Article: Which Dog Treats Are Safe?
Although freeze-dried treats are a great option for adult dogs, these are still basically raw foods with the moisture taken out. Raw foods can be a risk to a small pup whose immune system hasn’t built up yet, so it’s best to wait until they’re a little older.3
Certain jerky treats and dried sweet potato treats have been linked to kidney disease in recent years and are discouraged by the WSAVA.2 Until more research is done, it’s probably best to keep these from your precious pup.
1Coy, Anthony E., et al. “Why Can’t I Resist Those ‘Puppy Dog’ (or ‘Kitty Cat’) Eyes? A Study of Owner Attachment and Factors Associated with Pet Obesity.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 19 Feb. 2021, https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/11/2/539.
2“Frequently Asked Questions & Myths – WSAVA.” World Small Animal Veterinary Association , Jan. 2018, https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Frequently-Asked-Questions-and-Myths.pdf.
3Zazie, Todd. “The Best Dog Training Treats.” Companion Animal Psychology, 15 Apr. 2021, https://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2018/06/the-best-dog-training-treats.html.