Dogs are simple creatures at heart. If yours is anything like mine, they will have an insatiable appetite and desire for treats and snacks. But if you’ve ever wondered why dogs are driven by food like this, and what makes them like treats so much, read on.
I will explain why your dog loves treats, to whether large amounts are bad for his health, and many more related questions. If you have ever wondered why canines go ga-ga for treats or are just curious about finding out information about them to share with your fellow dog owners, then I’ve got you covered.
Why do dogs love treats so much?
First and foremost, dogs love treats because they have been specially designed to appeal to both their sense of smell and taste. They are usually made out of savory ingredients and are high in protein, containing chicken, lamb, fish, beef, and turkey – all of which appeal to your dog’s omnivorous nature.
Although we may not realize it, typical dog food can taste extremely bland to our dogs, especially after several mouthfuls, and treats can provide an exciting and tasty alternative.
Likewise, the majority of dog treats are extremely pungent (being made this way by design). This means that your dog can smell these treats from a mile away, sometimes even before you have taken them out of the packaging.
Interestingly, this strong smell is precisely why treats are so beneficial when it comes to training. Almost all dog trainers carry them around in their pockets, relying on a mix of commands and the rewarding of treats to train their dogs into well-behaved and obedient canines.
Additionally, almost all treats vary a lot in texture and flavor compared to traditional dog food, offering canines something different from their usual boring kibble.
Not only that, but the right treats can provide dogs with hours of entertainment. Pig ears, jerky, and chews provide dogs with a fun and safe way to exercise their chewing abilities, with the tough and hard textures of the treats often taking them hours to finish.
Likewise, when it comes to working dogs, an added challenge is always beneficial for their mental health and rewarding them with a treat when they have completed a trick can go a long way in keeping them happy and satisfied.
For dogs, unique odors, strange textures, and colorful flavors are very important, forming a large part of their daily lives. For example, you have probably noticed your pooch’s incredible sense of smell when out on a walk.
Not only that, but you will also have probably seen how adept he is at finding food, be it morsels in the kitchen or someone’s discarded hamburger lying in the corner of the park. Dogs appear to never want to stop eating.
Dogs are intelligent and will often seek out new types of food (or at least try to sneak or beg for them) when they are bored.
Lastly, every dog enjoys being given something he is usually not allowed to have. In most homes, treats are kept hidden in a jar or cupboard, only coming out on rare occasions.
Similar to human food, treats are exciting because they are scarce and not something a hungry canine can easily gain access to.
For naughty or high energy dogs, being given treats can feel like a once in a lifetime event.
Furthermore, our furry companions can come to associate treats with positive behavior, becoming extremely excited when realizing they have been a good dog for their owners.
If that isn’t enough reasons for why dogs like treats so much, I don’t know what is!
How many treats should you give your dog a day?
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of dog treats are relatively good nutritionally, containing important nutrients and vitamins vital for a dog’s health. However, there are certain rules you should follow to ensure they stay healthy.
For example, despite how nutritious dog treats are, they should still only be given to your dog as a “treat” and not as a regular occurrence or substitute for meals. Many treats contain high amounts of calories and when given too often, on top of meals, they can cause dogs to become overweight or obese.
Therefore, you should always aim to be aware of how many treats they are being given daily, be it by yourself, your partner, or your child.
On average, most professionals recommend that treats only take up 10 percent of a canine’s diet for them to stay at a healthy weight.
When it comes to training, treats are a necessity, and as a result, monitoring how many treats you are giving your pooch can be difficult. However, as long as you make sure to exercise your dog rigorously during training and do not go overboard with rewards, this should not be a problem.
Likewise, it should come as no great surprise that elderly dogs, or those unable to exercise, should be given fewer treats. Instead, you can offer bedridden canines less calorific alternatives, such as carrot sticks, apple slices, and bananas.
With extremely active dogs (for example, those living on a farm or employed in an intense line of work) treats can be rewarded a lot more often due to the number of calories they burn per day… you can see a video below where my dog attempted to catch the treats he likes!
Can treats be harmful to dogs?
Dogs like treats so you do need to be careful about what they are eating. Although most dog treats are safe, there are a few dangerous types on the market that you should avoid at all costs.
For example, although rawhides are a common chewable treat popular amongst various dog owners, they are also a major choking hazard for canines. Made from the inner layer of cow or horse hides, rawhides are a tough treat designed to last for several hours.
Unfortunately, like pet toys, rawhide chews can sometimes contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals. Additionally, once broken down they can easily be swallowed by dogs, sometimes causing serious blockages in the esophagus or other areas of the digestive tract.
Without immediate surgery, these blockages can quickly prove fatal, and as such, it is better to avoid rawhide chews than risk your dog’s health in the future.
When choosing packaged treats, you should always make sure to check the ingredients that are written on the back. Some dog treats, especially counterfeit or cheap treats bought in foreign countries can contain ingredients that are potentially dangerous for dogs.
For example, certain food additives used to dye dog treats a more vivid and appealing color has been linked to cancer in canines.
Similarly, despite strict regulations and bans in the US, certain treats can still be found on sale that contain traces of salmonella, antibiotic residues, and toxins (although they are unlikely to admit to these ingredients on the box!).
With all this in mind, it is important to do extensive research before purchasing dog treats. Always try and stick to treats that are manufactured in the US if possible, as these are subject to rigorous tests and have to meet certain standards to be approved for sale.
Treats originating from countries like China should be strictly avoided unless you are certain that they do not contain harmful ingredients. At times, asking your vet’s opinion on which treats are best for your pooch can go a long way in keeping you both happy.
There is nothing more rewarding than giving your dog his favorite treat after he has been a good boy. All over the world, dogs come in many different shapes and sizes, from tiny terriers to massive mastiffs.
Similar to humans, they have all types of personalities, from confident and self-assured, to cautious and gentle. However, despite these many differences, almost all of them share one thing in common – a love for treats.