Dog treats are not only an essential tool in reward-based training methods, but they are a great way to make your dog feel appreciated and an ideal tool to have on hand while traveling. Not only that, but dog treats can also have a positive impact on your pooch’s dental health, keep them from chewing your household items, and aid in bonding between you and your beloved canine.
We all love a tasty snack on occasion, and your pooch is no different. Chewing can quickly become a bad habit, especially in growing pups, and providing them an edible alternative will go a long way in saving your favorite slippers from imminent destruction. That being said, dog treats should only be an occasional snack and make up no more than 10% of their daily calorie intake. The included ingredients should ideally contain essential nutrients and be free from any nasty filler ingredients, sugars, or preservatives.
There are a ton of different dog treats available on the market today, some of which are great and some of which contain dubious included ingredients. In this article, we rounded up the 10 best dog treats that we could find to help you pick out the perfect treat for your canine companion.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||SmartBones SmartSticks||
|Best Value||USA Bones & Chews||
|Best for Puppies||Wellness Soft Puppy Bites||
|Bones & Chews Bully Stick||
|Milk-Bone Original Large Biscuit||
The 10 Best Dog Treats — Reviews 2021
1. SmartBones SmartSticks Chews Dog Treats — Best Overall
Made with real chicken and vegetables, the SmartBones SmartSticks are our top choice overall for a healthy snack for your pooch. There are potential risks associated with feeding your dog rawhide as a treat, and these chewsticks are an ideal alternative. They are 100% rawhide-free and made to be 99.2% digestible, so you can be sure your pooch won’t suffer any intestinal blockages or stomach issues. The sticks contain real peanut butter for a flavor that your dog will love, and they are enriched with vitamin E and zinc for added nutritional benefits. Designed for even the toughest of chewers and any size or breed, the long-lasting sticks are sure to satisfy your dog for hours without the danger of splintering or choking hazards.
Despite the sticks being designed for long use, large powerful dogs are likely to chew these up in minutes, which may cause stomach cramps or constipation. Other than that, the only fault that we could find with this treat is the high price, especially if your dog munches them up like candy bars.
2. USA Bones & Chews Roasted Marrow Bone Dog Treat — Best Value
The best dog treats for the money according to our tests are the USA Bones & Chews Roasted Marrow Bone Dog treats. It doesn’t get more natural than 100% beef bones that are slow-roasted to preserve the tasty flavor and keep the nutrients intact. The marrow inside the bone will keep your dog chewing while providing them with essential vitamins and minerals and calcium. The bones are untreated, ensuring that they are free from bleach and other chemicals, and optimum moisture levels are maintained to minimize the chance of splintering. Because the bones are 100% natural, you can rest assured that they are free from any artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, and they are sourced and made in the U.S.A.
Several customers reported that they received bones with little marrow left inside, which of course, will not interest your dog very much. While the bones are slowly roasted to preserve moisture, there is always a chance of splintering, especially with larger breeds with powerful jaws. Splintered bones can cause serious issues, including dental and mouth injuries, and potentially lodge and puncture your dog’s digestive tract, which keeps this treat from the top spot.
3. Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Grain-Free Dog Treats — Best for Puppies
Growing pups love to chew, and these Soft Puppy Bites from Wellness may be the ideal healthy distraction. These soft and chewy treats contain lamb and salmon as the first two ingredients and have fruits and vegetables that are packed with added nutrition. The bite-sized treats are specially formulated for puppies under 1 year, with all-natural ingredients free from meat by-products, corn, wheat, and dairy. The included salmon and flaxseed are a great source of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, and the blueberries will provide beneficial antioxidants. The treats are packed with protein for muscle development and energy, calcium and phosphorus for healthy teeth and gums, and probiotics and prebiotics to aid immune function. Best of all, these healthy treats are free from artificial flavorings and colors.
Some picky eaters may not enjoy these treats because they have a powerful fish smell. Some customers reported that the treats gave their dogs diarrhea and loose stools, even when given in moderation.
4. Bones & Chews Bully Stick Dog Treats
If you are looking for a treat for your dog that is packed with protein, these Bones & Chews Bully Stick dog treats are a great choice. These chews are as simple and natural as they come, are made from 100% beef, and are 100% digestible, making them a great healthy alternative to rawhide. They are tough and chewy and won’t splinter or lodge in your dog’s stomach, yet they are tough enough to withstand large jaws and will even help keep your dog’s teeth clean. The sticks are also not chemically treated, are a single ingredient, and are free from artificial flavors and preservatives.
Bear in mind that these sticks are not cooked as long as other bully sticks, so they have a strong odor that can give your dog a bad breath or put off picky eaters. Some of the sticks have a small diameter, and large dogs will chomp through them in minutes.
5. Milk-Bone Original Large Biscuit Dog Treats
These large biscuit treats from Milk-Bone have a crunchy texture that your dog will love. It will keep their teeth clean and their breath fresh. The crunchy texture can also assist in the reduction of plaque and tartar build-up. The biscuits contain 12 essential vitamins and nutrients to provide your dog with a treat that is not only tasty but also nutritious, and they are packed with meat and bone-meal for added protein. They are around 4 inches in length and ideal for both small dogs and large breeds over 50 pounds.
Many customers reported receiving boxes of these treats with most of the biscuits being broken and powdered inside. The biscuits also contain potentially harmful ingredients, including BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), which is a potential carcinogen. They also contain milk, wheat, and various preservatives that aren’t great for a sensitive pooch.
6. Greenies Pill Pockets Canine Dog Treats
These irresistible chicken flavor dog treats from Greenies contain real chicken as the first ingredient. The treats are shaped like small capsules or tablets (both shapes are available separately), making it easy to conceal the smell and taste of pills that your dog may need, and they are ideal for pooches on chronic medication. These treats are made using all-natural ingredients, with trace nutrients and minerals that serve as a tasty and healthy way to dispense medication. The treats are also completely free from artificial colors and flavors.
While these treats are great for dispensing medication, they are not an ideal everyday treat. They contain wheat and wheat gluten, corn syrup, and dairy, all of which can cause digestive issues in some dogs. Several customers report that they received dry and crumbly treats, making it impossible to insert any pills.
7. American Journey Beef Recipe Grain-Free Dog Treats
These grain-free dog treats from American Journey are soft, chewy treats that are ideal for training. They are made with real beef as the first ingredient, making them both tasty and a great source of protein. With only 4 calories per treat, they are an ideal on-the-go training snack for your dog that won’t cause them to pack on the pounds. The treats also contain essential omega fatty acids from the included salmon and flaxseed, giving your pooch healthy skin and a shiny coat. They are made with easily digestible vegetables like peas, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas, are free from grains, soy, wheat, and corn, and contain no artificial flavors, preservatives, and colors.
A high number of customers report that their dogs simply would not eat these treats, possibly due to the pungent smell caused by the included salmon. Be sure to store these treats properly or use them quickly, as they mold easily. The treats are also small-sized and are not ideal for large dogs.
These Premium Jerky dog treats from True Chews are made with U.S.-sourced chicken as the first ingredient. The chicken is raised without antibiotics, hormones, or steroids and is slow-roasted to perfection. The jerky is made with limited ingredients and all-natural flavors, so you can be sure your pooch is getting optimum protein without any nasty additives. In fact, the treats have a crude protein content of 25% for optimum energy levels and muscle development. They are free from corn, wheat, soy, and animal by-products and come in a nifty resealable bag for on-the-go training.
Although these treats contain limited ingredients, one of those ingredients is potato, which means more carbohydrates and calories. These treats also mold easily, so be sure to store them correctly. The high protein content may cause stomach issues in some dogs.
9. Pup-Peroni Original Dog Treats
These dog treats from Pup-Peroni contain beef as the first ingredient, giving them a 24% crude protein content for optimum muscle development. The treats are slow-cooked to ensure the preservation of nutrients and flavor, and the beef is simmered in its own juices for an irresistible smokey flavor. They also come in varying sizes, perfect for all dog breeds, and are soft and chewy, so they won’t harm your dog’s teeth or get lodged in their throat.
These treats have BHA used as a preservative, which is a known carcinogen, and they also have soy and added salt. Sugar is the third ingredient, which is not good for dogs even in small quantities. Several customers reported the treats gave their dogs loose stool and diarrhea and even caused vomiting in some dogs. While these treats are supposed to be soft and chewy, many customers report receiving hard and dry treats.
10. Merrick Power Bites Grain-Free Soft & Chewy Dog Treats
These Soft and Chewy dog treats from Merrick contain deboned beef as the first ingredient for a protein-rich energy boost and muscle development aid. They also contain antioxidant-rich blueberries and sweet potatoes and are made from high-quality fruits and vegetables sourced from local growers. The treats are grain-free and gluten-free and contain flaxseeds for the addition of essential fatty acids omega-3 and -6. Also, these treats are free from meat by-products and artificial preservatives.
These treats contain dubious ingredients, including potatoes, peas, and potato protein. They also contain both cane molasses and brown sugar, neither of which are good for dogs in any quantity. Several customers report that the treats are either hard and dry or too chewy and almost impossible to break apart. Many reported that their mostly un-picky dogs would not touch the treats, and they caused vomiting in some that did.
Buying a healthy treat for your pooch should not be difficult, but as there is a wide variety of treats available, there is a wide variety of questionable ingredients that are often hidden. Although treats should only make up around 10% of your dog’s caloric intake, they should still be as healthy as possible and free from ingredients like wheat, soy, corn, and sugar.
Before buying a treat for your pooch, here are a few important points to consider:
- Obesity is one of the fastest-growing health problems in dogs in the U.S. today, with more than half the dogs in the U.S. being overweight or obese. Obesity can cause a cascading effect of other health issues, including heart disease and joint issues. As dog owners, it is up to us to keep a sharp eye on our dog’s caloric intake, and treats are a great place to start, either by reducing the number of treats that we give our dogs or by choosing healthy, low-calorie treats.
- The ingredients contained in the treats you give your pooch should be of the highest quality possible. Whether you use treats for training purposes or just for an occasional snack, they are a great way to add essential nutrients to your dog’s diet. Be sure that the treats are free from high-calorie, filler ingredients like wheat, corn, and sugar and free from artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors. Puppies and senior dogs will benefit greatly from extra protein, and many treats come fortified with essential vitamins and nutrients.
- Origin of production. Dog foods produced in the U.S. typically have stricter means of production and tighter levels of supervision. Ingredients sourced locally will be fresher and typically of better quality, especially meat and poultry.
- Most dog treats come in a variety of sizes, and the ones you buy should be suited to the size and breed of your dog. Puppies and senior dogs will prefer smaller, chewier, and softer treats, while adults will enjoy a treat that exercises their jaws and takes them time to get through.
- Puppies’ jaws and teeth are not yet fully formed, and seniors may have weakened or missing teeth, making hard textured treats potentially harmful. Also, large breeds will enjoy hard treats like bones that they can work on for hours, whereas small breeds will enjoy soft, chewy treats.
When and how often should you give your dog’s treats?
The most important benefit of giving your dog’s treats is in training; the health benefits are secondary because they should already be getting all that they need from their diet. Treats are an important component in positive reinforcement training methods, as your dog will get a reward for good behavior, leading them to want to repeat the behavior more and more. Once they are well accustomed to the command that you are trying to teach them, they should be able to perform the tasks without treats, and their reward will be praise and your loving approval.
Treats can also perform a beneficial function in your dog’s overall health. Growing puppies and senior dogs need more protein than average, and a daily protein-rich snack is a great addition to their diet. Treats can add variety to your dog’s diet, and some may even assist in dental health by preventing plaque and tartar build-up, as well as aiding in bad breath.
Of course, too much of a good thing can quickly become problematic, and you shouldn’t be too heavy-handed when handing out treats to your dog. No matter their use or nutrient content, treats should make up less than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake. How much to give your dogs will depend on their weight and the calories contained in the treat. If your dog has a caloric requirement of 600 calories, their daily treat should consist of no more than 60 calories, preferably less.
Above all, remember that treats are just that — treats — not a staple part of your dog’s diet. While they can provide health benefits, a well-balanced diet rich in essential nutrients is optimal for your dog.
The SmartBones SmartSticks are our top choice overall for a healthy snack for your pooch. They are made with real chicken and vegetables, 100% rawhide-free and made to be 99.2% digestible. The sticks contain real peanut butter, are enriched with vitamin E and zinc, and are designed for even the toughest of chewers of any size or breed.
The best dog treats for the money according to our tests are the USA Bones & Chews Roasted Marrow Bone Dog treats. These 100% natural, U.S.-sourced beef bones are slow-roasted to preserve their tasty flavor and keep the nutrients intact, will provide your dog with essential vitamins and minerals like calcium, and are untreated and free from bleach and other chemicals. Because the bones are 100% natural, they are free from any artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
With all the great and not-so-great dog treat options available today, it can be difficult to find a tasty yet healthy treat to give your dog. Hopefully, our in-depth reviews have helped you narrow down the options to pick out the perfect treat for your beloved pooch.
Featured Image Credit: Snap_it, pixabay
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 10 Best Dog Treats — Reviews 2021
- 1. SmartBones SmartSticks Chews Dog Treats — Best Overall
- 2. USA Bones & Chews Roasted Marrow Bone Dog Treat — Best Value
- 3. Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Grain-Free Dog Treats — Best for Puppies
- 4. Bones & Chews Bully Stick Dog Treats
- 5. Milk-Bone Original Large Biscuit Dog Treats
- 6. Greenies Pill Pockets Canine Dog Treats
- 7. American Journey Beef Recipe Grain-Free Dog Treats
- 8. True Chews Premium Jerky Cuts Dog Treats
- 9. Pup-Peroni Original Dog Treats
- 10. Merrick Power Bites Grain-Free Soft & Chewy Dog Treats
- Buyer’s Guide