Dog treats: Best homemade and healthy treats for dogs

Treats aren't the only way to reward your darling doggo for good behavior, but they are pretty darn effective. TAG24 has taken a look at some of the best and healthiest dog treats for your pup.

Giving your dog a treat is great positive reinforcement, but needs to be done in moderation.
Giving your dog a treat is great positive reinforcement, but needs to be done in moderation.  © Unsplash/James Lacy

A common trend among dog lovers at the moment is to remove treats from the equation. While good for your dog's physical health, avoiding treats altogether can make things very difficult in the long run. After all, dog treats are an integral part of training, and also make your perfect pooch very happy.

In this dog guide, we're going to prove that you don't need to get rid of dog treats entirely. TAG24 takes a look at the best homemade, healthiest, and safest treats for dogs.

Important: Before we begin, we want to reiterate that we are not medical professionals. If you want to develop a proper diet plan for your dog, consult your veterinarian.

Dog treats: The good, the bad, the ugly

Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room: is there no alternative to giving treats when trying to train a dog? While of course there are alternatives, few of them (if any) come close to the effectiveness and the bond-building abilities of treat giving.

Sure, pets and cuddles are a great way to show affection and appreciation, but in many cases, dogs don't actually like hugs. Either way, it's not the most effective way to instill positive reinforcement. There's something immediate and clear that's communicated through food-based treats, and it's hard to replicate.

Of course, the reality is that treats can be less than ideal. They are often very unhealthy and fattening, and can reduce your dog's life expectancy due to unwanted weight gain and an overabundance of certain chemicals and nutrients within their body.

Nevertheless, dog treats are useful to have around, whether you're trying to teach your perfect pooch new words, get it trained as a puppy, or do some hardcore agility training. The dangers come with over-consumption and the choice of less-than-suitable treats.

Safe dog treats

The first thing you need to think about when deciding on dog treats is what's "safe." Dogs can't eat just anything, and even those who choose to give only raw meat aren't making the most sensible of choices. Any food you give your dog should be vet-approved and should follow a number of simple guidelines.

These basic rules around safe dog treats are as follows:

  • Nothing that is too high in carbohydrates
  • Sugar-free should always be a must
  • Where and when possible, only feed your dog food specifically designed for dogs to consume
  • Raw meat isn't ideal, as it can contain dangerous bacteria and parasites
  • Dairy should be kept to a minimum, but a little is okay
  • Nothing with caffeine
  • Chocolate is deadly for dogs
  • Meat should be provided boneless, to reduce the risk of bones being swallowed – this goes double for chicken bones
  • A variety of fruits are okay for dogs in moderation
  • Wet food and dry food need to be balanced
  • Any non-dog food should be given the tick of approval by a vet before consumption

While your dog may accidentally consume things that are less than ideal from time to time and be okay, feeding your dog such things directly is simply negligent. You need to be careful to keep your doggo safe. That's kind-of your job as it's human, so don't let it down.

Remember, though, not to panic if you find your dog has eaten something off the floor. Check what it was and, if dangerous, go to the vet. If unknown, wait and monitor for any symptoms before worrying.

Healthy dog treats

Like with human food, low-calorie dog food is widely available and encouraged. While you want your darling doggo to get the nutrition it needs, there's a high degree of risk associated with allowing it to consume too many calories each and every day.

There are a vast assortment of healthy dog treats available on the market. Ask the assistants at your local pet store, or even your vet, for direct advice on the brands available in your area.

In the meantime, here are a few generalized healthy dog treat suggestions:

  • Grain-free biscuits made up of high-protein ingredients like chicken, or even vegetables
  • Meat jerky, preferably specifically made for dogs
  • Bones to chew on but not eat
  • "Protein puffs" are often fantastic options, as they're kind of like the doggo-equivalent of cheese puffs but healthier
  • Dried organ meat
  • Anything low calorie and recommended by your veterinarian

We get it: Look, it's hard to say no to your beloved canine companion sometimes. The way it looks at you with those big puppy eyes and begs for a snack, it can be hard to refuse. If you talk to your vet, they'll be able to recommend a specific product that your doggo will love but that's still healthy.

Dogs don't understand which treats are healthy for them and which are not.
Dogs don't understand which treats are healthy for them and which are not.  © Unsplash/Olga Nayda

Homemade dog treats: Recipes

There are a few homemade and healthy dog treats you'll find lying around the average family kitchen. It's about knowing what to look for and choosing the right things – that leftover lasagna, for example, should be your lunch, not your dog's lunch. Got it? Let's take a look at your options.

Here are a few homemade dog treats worth their weight in gold:

  • Apples are a great source of nutrition if provided in moderation
  • Vegetables such as green peas, carrots, beans, and sweet potatoes are good as long as they have been lightly cooked
  • Mushy peas are an absolute banger if seasoned a little with salt
  • Dogs love watermelon, go figure
  • Peanut butter and oatmeal cookies, simply flour, oatmeal, beef broth, egg, peanut butter, cheese, and vegetable oil all mixed together and baked as a cookie
  • Beef or chicken patties, prepared in a pan or on the grill with no oil until cooked through
  • Cooked pumpkin mashed up, mixed into yogurt, and then frozen into bite-sized cubes

There are so many great options when it comes to dog treats, but there's no excuse for opting to go with unhealthy foods. Try a few healthy options out and develop a better relationship with your dog while doing so.

Choosing good treats for dogs is super important

Whether you're making your own dog treats, buying them from the shops, or avoiding them altogether, it's important to keep an eye on what, and how much, your dog is consuming. Dogs that gain too much weight quickly develop health issues and generally live much shorter and less happy lives.

Make sure you're making healthy choices on behalf of your darling doggo. While it might disappoint them not to get that fatty dog treat, it's far better for them in the long run to have a nutritious diet.

Cover photo: Unsplash/James Lacy

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