If you have a beloved dog keeping you company at home, you probably want to spoil them, or if you’re like me, you want to teach them to play the piano — but either way, you’ll need to stock up on dog treats. And taking a trip down the virtual pet aisle for treats can be overwhelming: As a caring dog owner, you want to find something your pup will love, but you also want to keep them healthy. And from subscription treat boxes to freeze-dried organ meats to sustainable insect chews, there are more options than ever before.
To help narrow down the choices, we asked ten experts — including veterinarians, animal nutritionists, canine-behavior specialists, dog trainers, and some Strategist dog parents — about the treats they recommend or feed to their own dogs. Just remember that “treats” don’t equal a balanced meal and that eating too many high-calorie snacks will actively harm your dog. “Treat calories should only account for a maximum of 10 percent of total calorie intake,” says board-certified veterinary nutritionist Dr. Lindsey Bullen. “Otherwise, they could unbalance the diet.” For example, if your dog consumes 1,000 calories per day, “they should get no more than 100 calories in the form of treats.” An easy hack is to use a portion of your dog’s regular food as a treat when you’re walking or training them rather than a specialized, high-calorie product. Of course, Bullen says, “this can be easy in pets that are not picky but challenging in those with a refined palate.”
Several of our experts told us you can avoid the pet aisle altogether by searching your kitchen for human-food treats you may already have on hand. Some, including veterinarian and Animal Acupuncture founder Dr. Rachel Barrack, actually recommend giving only fruits and vegetables as treats because obesity can be a big issue for dogs. Barrack’s go-to human-food treats include apples, bananas, and cucumbers (along with carrots, watermelon, pure pumpkin purée, and peppers), but she notes that you should always slice fruit and veggies and remove all the seeds before serving any to your dog. Pure Paws Veterinary Care owner Dr. Stephanie Liff’s list of approved human-food treats includes the ones Barrack mentioned as well as other low-calorie options such as blueberries, Cheerios, small pieces of cheese, lean proteins like chicken and beef, and even ice cubes. Veterinarian Dr. Tory Waxman, the founder of Sundays dog food, is another proponent of human food as treats but reminds dog owners to “remember to break it into very small pieces.” And canine-behavior specialist Shelby Semel, a trainer and the founder of Shelby Semel Dog Training, told us “human food is fine” with one caveat: “just not from the table.”
With that said, not all dogs like vegetable snacks, and bringing little pieces of beef to the park isn’t very convenient. The ten options here include treats for most any dog, from easy-to-carry snacks for picky eaters to treats that can help teach an old dog new tricks to long-lasting ones for teething puppies. To make buying them online as effortless as possible, all of the expert-approved and Strategist-tested recommendations below are listed in a simple table of contents — just click any of the links to jump straight to a specific kind of treat or read on to find out what we looked for when making our picks.