You want to start training your puppy from day one, and the best way to train them is with treats.
But ~ and it’s a big but ~ you also want to consider their health, weight, and need for a really good diet as their bodies grow into strong, healthy, adult dogs.
It’s not so much how many treats you want to give your puppy. It’s more you should use appropriate treats to train your puppy.
- Boiled and diced chicken or other meats – easy to make at home, and can be frozen in little freezer bags.
- Dried treats made from meat – also easy to make at home if you have a dehydrator. You can easily buy dehydrated treats, but be wary of imported treats as these can be irradiated (not good for your dog, can kill your cat).
Zoologists use an animals daily food intake for both training and preventing boredom, and you should too.
There is no benefit of using commercial treats made of humectants, glycerin, sugars, and cereals to train your puppy. In fact, this can lead to obesity, and set your puppy up for health issues in later years.
Let’s consider training treats and how many you should give your puppy a day a little further:
How many training treats a day for a puppy?
Commercial treats (especially supermarket brand treats)
If you decide to use commercial treats, make sure you read the ingredients and understand what you’re feeding your puppy. Training is important, but their health is more important.
You must also consider the size and activity level of your puppy:
- Small puppy – very at risk of inappropriate treats, especially if fed in excess which is easy to do.
- Medium puppy – less at risk, but if you have an active breed like a Kelpie or Collie who thrives off training, it is easy to overdo it with training treats.
- Large puppy – it is still possible to give a large puppy too many training treats, but as well as that it may cost you a fortune.
If you are feeding dog treats which are not meat-based, then keep training treats to an absolute minimum.
Home-made treats or meat-based dried treats
If you’ve decided to use healthier treats for training your puppy then I congratulate you. In my experience as a dog trainer, most new puppy owners buy the cheapest possible product without realising how unhealthy they are, then proceed to feed them in excess to their puppies.
Homemade treats and more premium dried meat treats are far healthier, but there are still things you must consider.
Most importantly your puppy needs a balanced diet, and their nutritional needs during the growth phase are very important to their health.
In a nutshell, the diet of a puppy needs to have a balance of proteins (preferably from animal sources) and fat (preferably from animal sources), as well as vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Too much, or too little of all of these can be problematic over a period of time. Or any given day you shouldn’t worry too much, but you definitely want to try your best to give your puppy a good balance.
Homemade and premium dried meat treats can be part of a puppy’s balanced nutritional needs, which means you can feed them more of these treats for training as you should cheaper commercial treats.
The 10% rule
Many veterinarians recommend other (appropriate) foods should be limited to 10% of the diet.
This may mean:
- 90% of an appropriate dry, wet, or other balanced puppy food. 10% healthy foods such as (appropriate) table scraps or treats.
- 90% of a BARF or raw meaty bones diet. 10% healthy foods such as (appropriate) table scraps or treats.
For an excellent guide to feeding BARF or a raw meaty bones diet, Dr Tom Lonsdale’s book Work Wonders is an absolute must read. In fact whatever you’re feeding your dog, I am certain their health would benefit tremendously if you read that book.
Tom is a highly experienced senior Australian vet.
Never feed training treats as more than 10% of your dog’s daily diet.