Treats – the good, the bad and the toxic

Dog treats can be an enjoyable part of your pet’s routine, enhancing training and strengthening your bond. Dogs absolutely love them and they are a fantastic tool when selected wisely. And my goodness they’re great to ease dog parent guilt! How many of us fill up a KONG or hide treats around the house as entertainment because we feel bad when leaving them at home?

The Healthy Treat Hunt

Unfortunately the market is flooded with a plethora of dog treats, ranging from wholesome, natural options to those filled with sugar to disguise the bitter taste of poor quality ingredients and make them more palatable and addictive to your dog. These artificial options can be filled with empty calories and chemicals, all in the name of rewarding your dog. As with our own diets, it’s important to carefully consider the choices we make when it comes to dog treats. 

Reading ingredient labels is essential to make informed choices. If a treat sounds like a science experiment, it’s probably not the best choice for your pup. A long ingredient list does not equal better quality. 

Look for products that are made in Australia and contain naturally occurring ingredients such as bone, organs, dried meats and vegetables. Be wary that some treats contain preservatives, chemicals and sugars that can have nasty (and windy) effects on your dog’s tummy. This can often be the case in treats imported from overseas as they are processed in ways we don’t allow here. Look for treats that use 100% Australian meat and ingredients, with no chemical additives and preservatives.

Training with Treats.

Treats are particularly helpful during training sessions to reinforce that good habit and encourage them to repeat it in the future. Puppy training would be even harder without them! However, do be mindful of the portion size to avoid overloading their calorie intake. Many dog parents use a breakable treat such as Liver, as it can be broken into tiny pieces – better for the dog and your wallet! And it’s a bonus because your dog should have liver in its diet – it’s like a multivitamin and many dogs prefer it in the air dried form.

Fussy dog?

Beware of Overindulgence.

Too many treats is often the primary reason for “fussy dogs” at meal times. If your dog isn’t enthusiastic about its food at meal times, consider how many snacks they are getting. 

The stuff that’s hard to hear.

While treats have numerous benefits, overindulgence can lead to detrimental effects and excessive treats can lead to weight gain, digestive problems, and those finicky eating habits.

Remember that treats should only constitute a small portion of your dog’s overall diet. A general rule of thumb is that treats should make up no more than 10% of their daily calorie intake. It’s important to prioritise your dog’s main meal portions, to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need. If your dog seems to lose interest in their food, it may be because they have had too many treats in the day. 

The ones to avoid.

  • Synthetic bone substitutes such as raw hides contain toxic chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process
  • Brightly coloured green chews are full of dyes and synthetic ingredients
  • Deer antlers can break your dog’s teeth if they’re a vigorous chewer
  • Basted, smoked and decoratively tinted treats are full of nasties! 

New to dog treats or looking to add some variety to your dog’s snacks? The Butcher’s Dog has created a range of meat treats, air-dried to retain flavour and nutrition for your dog. The Kangaroo Tail and Beef Spare Ribs make for great dental treats that can help clean plaque from your dog’s teeth and gums as they chew. For training treats, try Lamb Crumble or Liver which can be broken down into appropriately-sized pieces. Like with their food, your dog will enjoy a variety of flavours and textures, so keep a few different treats on hand. 

Our top treat tip : Only feed treats that would naturally be part of your dog’s diet and then try and stick to the 10% treat rule.