Dogs love getting treats and dog owners love giving them. Unfortunately, too many treats can lead to canine obesity.
Plus, some dogs can be downright demanding about treats and when they aren’t given what they want, behavior problems can ensue. However, just because giving treats can lead to some problems doesn’t mean you have to stop handing them out. It just means you need to choose and use treats wisely.
Use the 10% Rule
To maintain the nutritional balance of your dog’s food, anything given in addition to their food should not exceed 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. For example, if you have a fairly active fifty pound dog, he probably needs about 1400 kcalories (kilocalories or kcal) per day. If he gets any additional food items during the day (special treats, training treats, chew toys or bones, or bits of food) they should not total more than 140 kcalories. That way 140 kcalories in treats plus the 1260 kcalories of his normal food equal 1400 total calories.
A Few Exceptions
Caloric needs vary according to breed, size, age, exercise, and temperament. Puppies need more kcalories than older dogs while active dogs need more than a couch potato of the same size would need. Busier dogs, dogs who fidget, dogs who play and work hard, and dogs in training generally burn more calories than dogs without these characteristics.
No Free Lunch
Asking your dog to do something for you can help prevent a spoiled, demanding dog who wants a treat just because he wants one. Instead of becoming a treat dispenser, ask your dog to sit before he gets a treat. When sit is too easy, ask him to sit, lie down, and then sit again. If he knows these exercises but chooses not to do them—well then, no treats for him!
When sit, lie down, and other obedience exercises become too easy, teach him something new. Teach him some tricks. Spin in a circle, shake paws, weave through your legs, and many others can be great fun and a good challenge for your dog.