The dog treat section of the animal supplies store can be a very confusing place. How do you sort the good from the bad? Sure the packet has some information, but as the pet industry does not have the same ingredient reporting responsibilities that human food has, it can be difficult to choose what is best for your pooch.
A Tail of Two Types
Generally dog treats will fall into two categories:
- Packaged – the treats are sealed into a plastic bag
- Unpackaged – these are all loose and you can buy one or many
We would recommend starting with unpackaged treats and moving to the packed variety when you know what suits your dog the best.
What to look for in Unpackaged Treats
Most often unpacked treats are an easily identifiable animal body part. They come in a variety of toughness and you should be able to find something that suits your dog.
Small Breeds & Puppies (under 3 months)
Pigs ears are the most popular natural treat for dogs. However, they can have a high fat content, if your dog is overweight opt for Beef, Lamb or Rabbit ears.
Veggie Ears are a good alternative. They are usually very soft and easily digestible and, as a bonus, they are very low in calories.
Bully sticks are an excellent longer lasting chew that is high in protein that is suitable for smaller dogs. These can be smelly, so outdoors is usually best for these.
Medium Breeds & Older Puppies (3-12 months)
Smoked and raw bones are a great fit for many medium breed dogs. They come in a variety of types, such as beef, pork, lamb and kangaroo. Pork is the highest in fat content, but usually the cheapest. Pork bones are usually quite small and easily digestible. Beef and Lamb are very similar, often the only variation is size. Make sure you pick a size that is not too small. The bone should be big enough so your dog can hold the bone and chew on the ends. Kangaroo bones are high in protein and low in fat. They can be rich in flavour and may take your pooch time to get used to, but once they do they will love them!
Large Breeds & Strong Chewers
Beef bones, these are very large bones, usually around 30cm. A strong chewer will take some time to get through the ends and as a bonus the middle section can be split open for the marrow inside. Goat horns come in a variety of sizes, check the thickness of the wall and pick one accordingly. Sometimes these are filled with marrow which can be high in calories. Deer antlers are the longest lasting natural chew. Like the goat antlers they come in a variety of sizes and shapes. However, the inside is not hollow and these should last most dogs a few months.
What to Avoid in Unpackaged Treats
Usually you are reasonably safe picking from the unpackaged variety. However there are a few things to look out for:
- Treats with rawhide – these are not suitable as a dog treat. Rawhide is a by-product of the leather industry that has been chemically treated and formed into a pleasing shape.
- Sweet biscuits – often they look like regular cookies. These are only acceptable for special occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries.