How Many Dog Treats Should a Dog Have?

black dog sitting waiting on treat

Treats are an excellent tool when one is training dogs. However, it is important to use them carefully to reap the true benefits of the training. Many owners can’t resist providing treats to their dogs just because they look so cute. And honestly, that is okay; as long as you know what the limit is.

Dogs don’t know when to stop eating, especially if they’re eating something delicious. If you keep doling out treats to your pup, it’ll end up obese. So how much is too much? Read on to find out.

Counting Calories

Counting calories is the key to understanding how many treats you can safely give to your dog. Most vets recommend that calories from dog treats should not exceed 10 percent of a dog’s daily intake. But how does one find out how many calories a dog should ideally have every day?

No One Number Fits All

Large dog laying in grass with small dog

An adult human male requires 2500 calories a day on average. Unfortunately, there’s no single number to associate with dogs because of the massive variation in their size. The actual number of treats your pet can consume also depends on his/her age and activity level. The sheer number of variables makes it prudent to consult your vet.

Let’s say you give your pup four cups of food a day, and your vet approves of the dog’s weight. The dog food packet should tell you how many calories there are in one cup. So you can multiply that number by four to find out how many calories your dog needs daily. Divide this by ten to determine the treats (in terms of calories) you can give to your dog.

Confounding Factors

Nutritional values printed on the side of a box

Don’t get confused if the packet refers to “kcals”. The fact is, that when we say we need 2000 calories a day, it’s scientifically inaccurate. We actually need 2000 kilocalories or 2,000,000 calories, but those are both a bit of a mouthful. So, essentially, “calories” and “kcals” are interchangeable.

Furthermore, you can’t give your dog 10% of its daily calorie requirement as treats if it is already getting that from meals. Always remember to reduce your dog’s portions to account for the calories it’s getting from treats.

Similarly, you shouldn’t depend on the packet guidelines to calculate your dog’s food intake. That is just an estimate. Your dog’s actual requirement can vary greatly because it also depends on the activity level. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to consult your vet for clear instructions.

NOTE: Remember that the cup the packet refers to is the unit of measure used in baking.

A Matter of Scale

St bernard laying in grass with small puppy standing on it's back.

You should always remain vigilant regarding what you’re feeding your dog. Especially if it’s a small one like a terrier. It can be hard to understand how much of a small dog’s daily requirement can be met by a tiny morsel.

Cheese, for example, is a popular alternative for more processed dog treats. Having said that, an inch-high cube of cheddar cheese has about 69 calories. That’s 4 times more than 10% of the requirement of a 5-pound Yorkshire terrier.

Therefore, you must know how many calories you’re providing your dog with, and how many it needs. It’s best to stick with vegetables, and even then, to remain vigilant.

How Many Treats are Too Many for a Dog?

Bowl of dog bone treats on a dark grey background.

Dog treats are nutritionally unbalanced. They are generally high in fat, sugar, or both. It is NOT a good idea to give your canines too many treats because they will eat less dog food. Consequently, they will be deprived of the necessary protein and vitamins that can cause obesity and other health issues.

Obesity leads to joint pain and increases pressure on the heart that may cause it to cease functioning. This is why it’s absolutely essential to know how many calories each treat has. Count those calories, and make sure that no more than 10% of them come from dog treats.

How Many Treats Per Day for a Dog?

close up of 2 Boston Terriers waiting  for a treat

This depends on the type of dog treat, and the size and age of the dog. Older dogs are generally less active than younger ones and will require low-calorie diets. For this reason, the amount of treat calories they’re allowed according to the 10% rule is also lower. Likewise, the safe number of treats will also depend on the caloric value of the treat you are feeding.

Generally, it is inadvisable to give more than two dog biscuits to your pup daily. You will need to exercise similar caution if you’re going for high-value rewards, like liver and cheese. However, you can give larger quantities of training treats because most of them have under 5 calories per piece.

Training treats are often still effective if they are halved or quartered. Similarly, one dog biscuit can also be divided into 3 or 4 treats. Ordinary kibble can also work as a treat.

Some owners feed their dogs about 25 pieces as treats during the day; usually 2 to 3 at a time. You must realize that you could go without giving any treats at all. Sometimes, praise and scratching behind the ears are enough to teach your pooch.

How Many Treats Per Day for a Puppy?

This again boils down to the 10% rule. You should consult your vet about the optimal daily caloric intake of your puppy. Based on this estimation, you can calculate the safe quantity of treat calories. Ideally, you should avoid store-bought treats because the preservatives in them can upset a puppy’s stomach.

Alternatively, use bits of plain boiled chicken or vegetables for your young pups. You can also use a few puppy food kibbles at a time as the treat.

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.