Feeding your dog treats is a great way to build a bond and strengthen your relationship with him. Treats can be used to add interest to your dog’s day- whether this is through reward-based training, sniffing out treats from a doggy puzzle, or the sheer delight of a super yummy snack!
But how many treats should you feed your dog each day? What type of treats are good for dogs? Read on for all you need to know about choosing treats for your dog and following the 10% rule!
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Following the 10% rule
Dogs should have most of their calorific and nutritional requirements met through their main meals. But of course there is always a place for doggy treats! They’re great for helping with training, as boredom breakers, rewarding good behavior, and of course strengthening your bond.
But you may be worried that feeding treats will result in an unbalanced diet. The good news is that you can safely feed treats to your dog as long as you keep in mind a few basic guidelines.
How many calories should my dog have per day?
If you are looking for a guide to how many calories your dog needs (and therefore how many calories he can have from treats) you can use a simple formula to work out his daily Resting Energy Requirement (RER).
A dog’s RER is how much energy he needs for his body to function normally while at rest. Use this simple formula to work out your dog’s daily Resting Energy Requirement:
Calorie requirements will vary from dog to dog, according to their size, age, neuter status, activity level, and any medical conditions. You also need to consider the environment they live in (do they live indoors or outdoors?) and whether they are currently underweight or overweight.
The Resting Energy Requirement does not take into account how much exercise your dog gets, environmental conditions, etc, so you will need to adjust the calories according to your individual dog.
If your dog is underweight, he may need more calories. If he is overweight, you may need to reduce his calorie intake. It is best to take your vet’s advice on this.
What type of treats are good for dogs?
Dog treats can be bought from a shop or homemade. There are pros and cons for both. Whether you choose to buy your dog treats or prepare them yourself, try to ensure they are as natural as possible.
Junk food is not good for dogs, so avoid anything that is highly processed or seasoned. Dogs do not need potato chips, French fries, pretzels, biscuits or pepperoni pizza.
Feeding these on a regular basis will increase the risk of your dog becoming unwell or obese. Never feed your dog raisins, grapes or chocolate as these are highly toxic to dogs.
If you buy dog treats in a packet, check the ingredients. You should be looking for recognizable ingredients from trusted sources. If the treats have a long list of ingredients that you don’t recognize, they are probably highly processed and not the best choice for your dog.
Good quality dog treats are based on meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, and maybe a few herbs.
Homemade treats are a great way to give your dog healthy snacks, plus you have way more control over what goes into them. Homemade treats can be as simple as frozen carrots, cheese, or turkey.
You may choose to get adventurous in the kitchen and bake your dog some gourmet treats using natural ingredients. Homemade treats taste better and are usually far more nutritious.
If you include some nutrient-dense superfoods or tasty dog-friendly herbs, even better! Just be sure to check that all the ingredients are safe for dogs.
How to use treats to reward your dog
Using treats to reward your dog is the most effective way to train him. Reward-based training is based on the concept of ‘operant conditioning’, which means that if a dog gets a reward for doing something, he will do it again!
You can use treats to teach your dog basic cues such as ‘sit’, ‘lie down’, or ‘stay’. The most important thing to teach your dog is to come when called- this could get him out of trouble one day!
Reward your dog with treats each time he comes back to you and he will get better and better at coming when you call him. Treats can also be used to teach your dog fun tricks such as giving a paw and rolling over.
Here are some top tips for using treats to reward your dog:
Dogs love treats and owners love giving their dogs treats! Choosing the right type of treats for your dog is very important and treats should never make up more than 10% of a dog’s diet.
If your dog is overweight, choose treats that are lower in calories. Always check that the treats contain natural and healthy ingredients and prepare them yourself if you are able.
Training with treats is great fun and is a good way to provide mental enrichment for your dog, as well as encourage him to be more obedient.