Treats play a crucial role in a puppy's diet, serving as rewards for good behaviour, aids in training, and a source of additional nutrients. In this guide, we will explore how to choose the best treats for your pup, including various types designed to address specific needs such as dental health, training, and hydration.
When can puppies start enjoying treats?
Puppies are ready for treats once they have been weaned and can comfortably consume solid food. It's important to wait until they have all their baby teeth, including the molars, to ensure their gums aren't at risk of discomfort or injury from hard treats. Also, offering treats before they have the proper teeth for chewing can potentially lead to choking or digestion issues.
Typically, most dog breeds begin the weaning process around the second or third month of their lives. It's worth noting that individual puppies within a breed may develop at varying paces compared to their littermates.
What to keep in mind when choosing puppy treats
Only 10% of your puppy’s daily calories should be from treats. Too much of treats, can lead to obesity and other health issues. Therefore, choose the best dog treats to make sure that it does not have any negative impact on your pup’s health. Here are several important factors to consider to ensure you're providing them with the best possible options.
1. Ingredients matter
Always check the ingredient list. Opt for treats made with high-quality, natural ingredients. Look for whole meats like chicken, beef, or fish as the primary protein source, and avoid treats containing artificial additives, preservatives, and fillers.
2. Age-appropriate treats
Puppies have different nutritional requirements than adult dogs. Look for treats specifically formulated for puppies, as they will provide the right balance of nutrients needed for growth and development.
3. Size and texture
Choose treats that are appropriately sized for your puppy's breed and age. For small breeds, smaller, softer treats are ideal, while larger breeds may benefit from larger, more robust options. Additionally, consider the texture of the treat. Some puppies may prefer softer treats, while others enjoy the challenge of a harder, more satisfying chew.
4. Consider food allergies or sensitivities
Take into account any specific dietary requirements your puppy may have. If your pup has allergies or sensitivities, opt for treats that are specifically labelled as hypoallergenic or tailored to their dietary needs.
5. Caloric intake
Be mindful of the number of calories in each treat. While they are a valuable part of training and positive reinforcement, excessive treats can contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Consider using smaller, lower-calorie treats for training sessions. Treats should complement your puppy's regular diet.
Things to check in puppy treat package label
Targeted for puppies
Ensure that the treat is specifically labelled for puppies, as their nutritional needs differ from adult dogs.
Opt for treats with easily recognizable ingredients. Be cautious of any potential allergens or artificial additives. If you do come across an ingredient that you are not familiar with, do some research or check with the manufacturer before purchasing.
Avoid artificial additives
Look for treats that are free from artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives to ensure your puppy's diet is as natural as possible. Some treats are given artificial colouring so that it appeals to pet parents. Others are added with artificial flavours to entice the dog to eat. You may find preservatives like potassium sorbate, ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT or calcium propionate added to dog treats too. While shopping for pet treats, ensure to check the packaging and choose a brand that does not contain any of these artificial additives.
Check nutritional panel
Check the nutritional value on the label. This helps to provide crucial information about the treat's protein, fat, fibre and other nutritional content.
Be mindful of any potential allergens listed on the label. If your puppy has specific dietary sensitivities, choose treats that align with their needs.
Examine any feeding guidelines provided on the package. This ensures you're offering treats in moderation, in accordance with your puppy's dietary requirements.
Types of treats for puppies
Dental health treats
Dental health is a crucial aspect of your puppy's overall well-being. Dental treats are designed to promote oral hygiene by reducing plaque and tartar buildup. Look for treats with a chewy or textured surface that helps scrub teeth as your pup chews. Here, we have selected two chew treats designed to help remove plaque and tartar buildup while allowing your pup to chew to her heart’s content. The first teeth-cleaning treat is the WHIMZEES Natural Puppy Dental Dog Chews. This is grain-free, gluten-free and made with 100% non-GMO ingredients. Then, we have the Sunrise Natural Dehydrated Yak Milk Chews which is made from 100% dehydrated yak milk and contains no binders, artificial ingredients or lactose. It’s suitable for teething puppies as well as grown dogs.
Puppy training treats
Training treats are small, bite-sized rewards that serve as positive reinforcement during training sessions. They should be highly palatable and easy to break into smaller pieces. Look for treats with a strong aroma to capture your puppy's attention, but lower in calories to ensure that your pup does not overconsume his daily caloric intake. The Wellness Puppy Bites Lamb & Salmon Recipe Puppy Treats is a 100% grain-free treat and designed specifically for puppies. Each mini-bite is packed with great flavour and premium ingredients to promote a healthy, shiny coat and brain development.
High hydration treats
Ensuring your puppy stays properly hydrated is essential for their overall health. Treats that contain a higher moisture content or can be a great way to supplement their water intake, especially during warmer months. Frozen bone broth or lactose-free pet milk will help your pup to stay hydrated and cool on hot days.
Raw treats are becoming an increasingly popular choice among pet owners seeking natural and minimally processed options for their pups. Raw treats can encompass a variety of options, including dehydrated meats, fruits, and vegetables. They are typically free from artificial additives, fillers, and preservatives, making them an appealing choice for pet parents looking to provide their dogs with a nutrient-dense snack. Raw treats should be sourced from reputable suppliers to guarantee quality and safety. If you are not comfortable with giving raw but still want to give your pup the nutritional value of raw, try freeze-dried dog treats like this single ingredient Freeze Dry Australia Chicken Training Freeze Dried Cat & Dog Treats.
Homemade puppy treats
For pet owners who prefer complete control over their pup's diet, homemade treats can be a fantastic option. There are numerous recipes available that allow you to create delicious, nutritious treats using simple, wholesome ingredients. If you have a dehydrator at home, try making some simple dehydrated treats for your pup.
Choosing the right treats for your puppy is a crucial aspect of their overall care and well-being. By considering factors such as ingredients, size, texture, and specific needs, you can select treats that not only taste great but also contribute to your pup's health. Basically, choose treats that don't contain additives, artificial colouring, flavouring as well as excessive carbohydrate, salt and sugar. The healthiest treat should contribute to a puppy’s growth and not merely contain empty calories. Remember to consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about which treats are best suited for your puppy's individual needs.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.