I have a lot of people ask what kind of treats to give their new puppy. So let’s chat about it.
I’m going to go over two different categories of treats; treats for training and treats for other occasions.
When I’m doing clicker training or obedience training and I want to give my puppy a quick reward I will use simple things like a small piece of cheese, chicken, hot dog or a commercial training treat that is small and soft. I want something I can break into small pieces and quickly reward him with. I don’t want to give him a hard dog biscuit that turns into a five-minute meal.
I buy the cheapest block of hard cheese and just cut it into appropriate sized pieces for the size and age of puppy I’m working with.
Here are some small, soft, store-bought treats that I’ve picked at my local store.
For younger puppies (usually before they go to their forever home) or those that are just settling into their new home and maybe not really excited about taking treats yet, I might try cream cheese or squeezy cheese in a can. (Obviously, we’re just squeezing out a small amount for the reward.)
If I’m not training and just want to keep my puppy busy with a treat of some kind I will use something bigger and “sturdier”. These type of treats work great for keeping puppy busy, whether it’s in his crate having some “crate time” or keeping the teething monster happy with something besides your chair leg or the kids shoes (by the way, puppy should not be at fault for chewing on shoes, children’s toys, computer cords, etc. as the responsibility lies with the humans for keeping those picked up and out of puppy’s reach).
For sturdier chews I have several favorites;
These are like chicken jerky. A big dog would snarf it done in a minute, but this might keep a puppy occupied for a quite a while and they can eat the whole thing. This brand is something our Costco carries. Be careful and read the package with chicken treats as many come from China. Stay away from those! The Costco brand is an American made product from American-raised chickens.
This is another Costco product. Bully sticks are great! These are about a foot long, so I actually use a hacksaw and cut them in half for my puppies. Dogs and puppies love them and will happily chew on one for quite a while. These are great for keeping a puppy busy during crate time. This is a meat product (unlike rawhides which we’ll talk about later) and can be consumed. But let me caution you to throw the bully stick away before your puppy or dog has chewed it down to a small enough piece that they think they can swallow it. I speak from a bad (expensive) experience. If you’d like to read more about it, here are links to our story.
But don’t let Reba’s story you scare you about giving your dog a bully stick, just throw the small piece away before the dog or puppy tries to eat them. Oh, and bully sticks can be smelly sometimes so try to find the odorless ones.
Another chew that the dogs and puppies love are cow hooves. Yes, they really are cow hooves. (I know for some people this seems like a bizarre dog chew. But you should see my dogs hang around when my farrier is here trimming the horses’ hooves just waiting for “snacks”.) They are very hard so it takes a dog a long time to chew them up and will keep a puppy busy a long time! Do not let your dog eat the whole thing though. As with the bully sticks, throw it away before it gets small enough to be a choking or potential obstruction hazard.
They are hollowed out so these can be stuffed with canned food, raw food (if you choose to feed raw) or even puppy kibble with an added layer of soft cheese or peanut butter to seal the kibble in, then frozen. This is a perfect way to soothe a teething puppy, plus keep him busy “working” for his meal. (One caution, always use a natural peanut butter with no added oils and sweeteners. Many kinds of peanut butter are sweetened with xylitol which is deadly to dogs. So please read labels before using peanut butter with your puppy or dog.)
This one has been chewed on for quite a while.
A word of caution (for your olfactory system) when the big dogs zealously start gnawing on one, they can smell awful. You probably won’t have that issue with a puppy though as their little teeth will take a long time to “dig in”.
What kind of treats should you NEVER give your puppy? You should never give your puppy rawhide treats (and they come in all shapes, sizes and “flavors”. Here’s a silly, but informative video to convince you why.
Hopefully, this has given you some ideas and answered some questions about treats for your puppy!