When it comes to feeding Fido, we often don’t think the odd table scrap here or occasional treat there will make much of a difference in their diet–however it can. So today we want to share with you the importance of understanding some basic nutritional rules when it comes to feeding your dog treats.
Understanding these basic ideas will enable you to give your dog tasty and nutritious treats while not upsetting their diet, weight or health.
Even though treats are a superb aid for positive reinforcement in dog training, they should not be used so freely. The consequences of overfeeding a dog can result in obesity and numerous other health issues for your dog. Today we will share some tips for you to think about when you next feed Fido a tasty treat!
Basic Dog Nutrition and Diet
A dog’s diet has been historically comprised of protein and fats with minimal carbohydrates.
As dogs share common ancestors with wolves, their physical appearance and anatomy (e.g., teeth and digestive tract) suggest they are carnivores. However, as we can see from feed manufacturer mistakes in the 80s and 90s; strict meat-only diets will cause many health issues for a dog.
So, a dog’s primary energy source should come through proteins and fats being transported by water and fortified with vitamins and minerals.
When we speak about nutrition for dogs, the nutrients are typically referred to as the big six. Any living organism requires these six nutrients to survive as they provide energy, enabling them to function and grow.
The big six represent a classification of nutrients which are deemed essential for life, these are:
Water is widely considered the most essential nutrient from the big six for your dog and any living organism. Water accounts for anywhere from 65 to 80% of a dog’s body mass. It is fascinatingly complicated, and without which, life cannot exist as it dissolves and transports nutrients to your dog’s cells.
Behind water, protein and fats are essential to consider because of their natural supply of energy for your dog.
One of the reasons we are so interested in treat nutrition is that it is entirely controllable by the pet’s owner.
So now you understand some basic concepts regarding your dog’s nutrition, and we can explore three tips for how treats can support and contribute towards a healthy and balanced diet for your dog, or, in some cases, how treats and snacks contribute towards ill-health and obesity in Fido.
Three Tips for Feeding Fido Treats
When it comes to feeding Fido tasty and healthy treats you should understand:
- How Many Treats to Feed
- When to Feed
- What to Feed
How Many Treats Should You Feed Fido?
It’s probably something you haven’t considered closely. How many snacks are too much for your pooch? Can science put a number on it?
The odd table scrap can soon add up to a considerable number of calories.
For example, some scraps like part of a banana, a piece of bacon and a spoon of peanut butter combined can be over 200 calories. Whilst 200 calories for a human can be considered a healthy sized snack we need to understand what size fits your dog.
A dog should consume anywhere between 20 to 30 calories per pound of body weight to maintain their weight depending upon the following parameters:
- Activity Levels
For example, a dog with a target weight of 30lbs should consume around 600 calories.
So, when we look back at the earlier table snacks given, contributing a vast 200 calories, this is over 30% of your dog’s daily nutritional intake – not good!
It’s important we look at treat size relative to calorie consumption. The golden rule is no more than 10% of your dog’s calories should come from treats.
So for your 30lb dog, they should consume around 50 calories of treats per day and no more.
That’s easy to work with, right? You can easily calculate your dog’s calorie intake and take 10% of that, and you have the magic number… not so fast.
It’s not just about how many calories should be in the treat, we must also know when is the best time to feed a dog treats.
When Should you Feed Fido His Treat?
Typically, a puppy should be fed four meals consistently throughout the day. This is to prevent their stomach from stretching due to overfeeding because of their high-calorie requirements during their juvenile stages.
After six months old, it’s considered safe for your dog’s meal intake to be reduced down to two meals a day. Normally, breakfast and dinner.
So, assuming your dog is being fed at a normal routine, which is essential for their well-being, you should feed Fido treats at different times during the day from their meal times.
It’s a good idea to combine treat time with training. Treats are one of three main applied uses of positive reinforcement dog training; the other being toys and praise.
So, a good idea would be to feed your dog treats to reward positive behavior or traits during a training session. The training should take place at least one hour after meal time. So a good time to feed Fido some tasty treats would be anywhere from between 11:00-16:00.
What Should You Feed Fido as a Treat?
Now you know how many treats to feed Fido (10% of his daily calorie intake) and when to feed him, it’s time to understand what to feed him.
The selection of treats to feed your dog comes down to 2 choices:
- Commercial (i.e. Shop Bought) Treats
- Homemade Treats
If you decide to try and make your own dog snacks, stick to either simple recipes or single ingredient snacks, such as eggs. It will make nutritional control much easier. However, you shouldn’t always target a specific vitamin or mineral with a snack, your dog’s dietary requirements should come from a balanced core diet fed at breakfast and dinner.
If you are purchasing commercial treats for your dogs, always start with the label.
It’s very easy to be led astray by keywords such as “organic,” “protein,” “healthy” or “vitamins” on the front of the treat packaging.
Make sure you always turn over the packaging and read the nutritional information, make sure the treat mirrors what a healthy dog diet should be. Look for relatively high protein and fats with a smaller number of carbohydrates. Look for the ingredients, something you can’t understand or spell? It’s probably best to move on then. Only feed your dog snacks you know and know what’s inside.
Three Golden rules for feeding Fido treats. Hopefully, you have learned more than the importance of these rules and started to pick up on some fundamental concepts for dog nutrition.
Nutrition has a significant role to play in your dog’s health, especially the big six, and should be understood by pet owners.
If you feed Fido sensible treat portion sizes (10% of his calorific intake/day), at ideal times during the day (11:00am – 4:00pm) which contain reasonable amounts of protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals (e.g., eggs) then he will be all the happier and healthy for it.
About the Author
John Woods is a dog lover, enthusiast and author at All Things Dogs. He has studied animal behavior and welfare and is on a mission to educate 40 million dog owners on how to care for dogs.