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As a small animal veterinarian, I know all too well how much pet parents love spoiling their fur babies with the best natural dog treats. Food is love and we all want to show our pups how much we love them. Giving treats and rewarding our fur babies is a great way to strengthen the human-pet bond. But as much as we want to spoil our pups with treats, the kind and type of treat you are giving to your pets is really important.
I recommend treats that serve specific functions and ensure health and wellness. That’s why I suggest using different treats depending on the activity or training you are doing with your dog.
That’s right – I recommend different treats for different reasons!
I look at what you plan to use the treats for and make suggestions based around several categories:
- Best treats for training a puppy or treats for training dogs daily
- High reward treats
- Healthy treats for dogs using human food, which includes a lot of dog treats for sensitive stomachs
- Best treats for joint disease
- Treats for older dogs with missing teeth, and dental treats for dogs or pups suffering with periodontal disease
So today, I am going to break down the best treats for dogs and when to spoil your pet with them.
Best Natural Dog Treats for Daily Training
When choosing everyday training treats for dogs, make sure you’re using healthy dog treats. You want low fat treats for dogs that are made with higher quality ingredients in small bites. With everyday training, you will be utilizing these treats regularly and frequently. In my practice, I always recommend lower calorie, healthy dog snacks so your pup does not gain too much weight.
“For regular training cues or in a less stimulating environment, I will use a mixture of SOFT CHEW and JERKY treats. They are perfect for everyday consistency while out on walks, in the car, and at the park. When training with rewards, it’s important to provide a variety so that your dog is seeking out reinforcement, wondering what good behavior they can offer and what it will earn them. For in-home training with minimal distractions, I often advise clients to use their regular food to train their dogs. Settling behaviors such as Lie Down, Stay, and Go to Bed can be readily reinforced with lower value rewards.” – Michaela Collins, Founder & Owner of OM ObedienceIron in the beef lung is great for energy and disease resistance. And just like in humans, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can also fight off illness. These treats are also low in calories, so you can give them more frequently in a training setting.
As a veterinarian trained in Eastern Food Therapy (EFT), I know firsthand that whole food ingredients offer specific health benefits and can help balance and restore your pet’s health. I love Side by Side Pet’s treats because they are already in small bites (great for training), but they also utilize EFT to give your pet the best food for their specific health needs (great for their health).
According to whether your pet runs cool, warm, or neutral, you can pick a treat that is best for your pet. Take the pet assessment and learn what type of treat would be best for your pet and their training needs.
Best High Value Reward Treats for Dogs
Not all training treats for dogs are equal. I often recommend a treat for everyday training (sit, heal, stay, etc.) and a different, more appealing treat for more advanced training techniques. The best high value reward treats are typically jerky and any potent smelling treats.
“The most important behaviors such as Look, Come, and Wait should receive the highest value reinforcement. Dogs work off of their sense of smell, so the more potent smelling the reward the better.” – Michaela Collins, Owner & Founder of OM Obedience
We all know dogs LOVE jerky, so it definitely qualifies as a high reward treat. These treats are 100% natural, single whole food ingredient proteins with no artificial additives, flavors, colors, or extracts. Your dog will go wild for the flavor! But because they are actually healthy dog snacks, you don’t have to feel guilty about letting your pup indulge when they deserve an extra special treat for more advanced training techniques.
Anything fishy definitely qualifies as a potent smell. But your dog is going to LOVE these Wild Caught Salmon Nuggets! These are 100% natural, single protein, small bite freeze dried treats. They’re easy to digest, hypoallergenic, and help to keep the body balanced with their neutral formulation. They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote healthy skin and a healthy coat!
Best Human Food Treats for Dogs
Being trained in Eastern Food Therapy, I love to recommend and incorporate human food into my pet patients’ diets.
I believe whole food ingredients are a healthier way to feed your pet and can offer some incredible health benefits.
But many of my pet parents become overwhelmed when walking the pet food aisles wondering which treats they should give to their pets. Well, you can always go to your own refrigerator and pick out some great healthy dog treats!
My top recommendations for fruit and vegetable treats for dogs include:
Apples are a sweet, neutral food. They regulate the liver and the gastrointestinal tract. Apples are great treats for dogs with colitis, chronic diarrhea, dysentery, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Green beans are a sweet, neutral (or sometimes warming) food. They are excellent liver nourishing treats for dogs.
Cucumbers are a sweet, cooling food. They aid in clearing heat, and they quench your pup’s thirst. Cucumbers are a great diabetic dog treats and are good treats for dogs suffering with heat, sore throat, uveitis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Celery is pungent and cooling. It clears heat, cools the liver, reinforces the stomach, and eases urination. Celery is a great food to aid in feverish conditions, agitation due to heat, vomiting and anorexia due to stomach heat, and difficulty urinating due to heat.
Best Natural Dog Treats and Supplements for Joint Health
Joint pain, arthritis, and inflammation in older dogs is a common ailment I treat. As dogs age, the joints produce less lubrication, and the cartilage starts to degrade. Once the cartilage is damaged, it’s very hard to repair.
But the damage can be slowed and even prevented, which is why supplements for joint health are so important!
I highly recommend glucosamine chondroitin sulfate and omega-3 fatty acids as hip and joint supplements for dogs. I even have my pet parents start their pups on these supplements at a very young age because these supplements, especially glucosamine for dogs, promote joint health.
When you combine healthy dog treats with these dog joint supplements to improve mobility, it’s a win-win! And that’s exactly what you get with these supplements from Side by Side Pet. These treats contain natural, high-level sources of glucosamine and chondroitin.
This supplement is the best joint supplement for dogs with hip dysplasia or just general stiffness because they also provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to ease that pain and joint stiffness.
Best Supplements for Older Dogs or Dogs Missing Teeth
Periodontal disease is the most common and overlooked disease in pets. In fact, many pets lose teeth or must have multiple teeth extracted as they age due to disease.
Periodontal disease can be very painful. We certainly do not want to give these pets treats that may cause more pain and discomfort. I always recommend softer treats for older pets or dogs suffering with periodontal disease.
These little treats are one of my favorites for aging dogs. The small bites are freeze-dried for a crunchy texture. But for older pups or dogs with dental issues, you can rehydrate them for a softer treat. In addition, rabbit is 70% water and helps add moisture and hydration to the body. It is nourishing to kidneys and supports the liver. It is also a novel protein, with hypoallergenic properties.
high in protein to help support muscle repair as well as new hair and skin growth. Protein also provides energy and aids in immune support.
Final Thoughts on the Best Natural Dog Treats
I know how important it is to give your beloved pet treats as rewards. It’s also a gesture of love and an important part of the human-pet bond.
With the pet food industry being so massive, it can become confusing and even daunting to know which treats to buy and which ones are healthy for our pets. So I hope this information helps break down the best treats you can give your pets and provides you with confidence that you are giving them the very best.
As always, your pet’s health is my top priority, and nothing brings me more happiness than to strengthen the human-pet bond.
Dr. Alison Birken is a small animal veterinarian in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. She owns Victoria Animal Hospital, is the co-founder of Forever Freckled, wife to her amazing husband Rob, mom to her 3 greatest accomplishments Luke, Leah & Hayden and dog mom to her Saint Bernard Dory