As much as we love our dogs, some of us have a tendency to spoil them a little bit, giving them treats containing ingredients that might not be that great for them. A treat is not only a sign of love, but it’s also something that’s a reward for good behavior. This is especially the case if you’re training your pooch and using a reward-based system of learning: He does something right, he gets a treat.

Whether you’re in serious training with your dog or you just want to give him something a little different every once in awhile, you want to make sure it’s as nutritious as possible. Here are 10 great healthy dog treats:

1. Dental Chews

The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) provides a list of dental chews that can go a long way toward knocking off the tartar and plaque that can build up in your dog’s mouth over time. 1 This can lead to a wide range of problems, such as gum disease and oral infections. Unless you have a regimen of brushing your dog’s teeth every night, or go to your vet for regular cleanings, dental chews are the best way to help ensure your canine’s oral health is as good as it can be.

2. Dog Biscuits

A lot of pets simply can’t get enough of dog biscuits, because they love to chew and crunch – and they obviously love the taste, as well. There are a lot of different brands out there, but you need to look closely before choosing one. Make sure they have all-natural ingredients, such as apples, sweet potatoes, chicken, and others. Try to stay away from products that contain preservatives or artificial coloring or flavors. You can also find plenty of recipes online to make your own biscuits at home.

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3. Baked Salmon

If you want to mix in a little seafood to your dog’s diet as an occasional treat, baked salmon makes a great healthy snack. You have to make sure it’s baked, however, and never give your canine raw fish of any kind. That could not only make your dog extremely sick, it could even be fatal. Salmon is an excellent source of not only protein but also omega-3 fatty acids. These help make sure your dog’s immune system works as it should, and also promotes a shiny, healthy coat.

4. Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potato is another human food that dogs love. It’s not only full of nutrients such as vitamins C and A that are great for skin and the immune system, it’s also a great source of fiber, which can make sure your dog’s digestive tract works properly. You can find sweet potato treats at your local pet store or make them at home. Simply boil and puree some potatoes and put a spoonful or two in your dog’s bowl.

5. Baked Chicken

A little baked chicken once in awhile is another great option for a healthy snack. It’s rich in essential amino acids, which promote overall health. And provides protein for proper immune system functioning as well as a boost of energy. Just make sure you don’t overdo it, don’t put any seasonings on it, and never feed your dog chicken that contains bones.

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6. Pumpkin

Put a tablespoon of canned pumpkin in your dog’s bowl and you’ll be amazed at how fast it disappears. Pumpkin — since it contains A LOT of fiber — is a great way to fight both diarrhea and constipation. So if your pup is having bathroom troubles, try a little pumpkin. Plus, it has other healthy ingredients like vitamin A (great for eyesight), potassium (which promotes healthy nerves and muscles), and many other important ingredients. But remember: Since too much vitamin A can be toxic to dogs, don’t make pumpkin a regular part of your pup’s diet.

7. Bananas

Bananas are healthy for people as well as dogs. They provide long-lasting energy through fructose, sucrose, and glucose, and they also promote healthy digestive functioning because they’re high in fiber. The magnesium in bananas also helps to keep bones strong. Simply slice a banana and give your dog a few small pieces. If your dog is teething, he’ll love chewing on some small slices of frozen banana.

8. Peanut Butter

As long as your dog doesn’t have a peanut allergy, your canine will enjoy some substantial benefits from having peanut butter treats. They contain a lot of healthy ingredients, such as protein and “good” fats that promote heart health. Plus, they’re rich in vitamin E and vitamin B. Just don’t make it an everyday treat, because its fat content could lead to some extra pounds for your pup. You’ve probably noticed a lot of peanut butter-flavored treats at your local pet food store. Those are fine, too. Just make sure the one you choose doesn’t have any added sugar or salt.

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9. Dried Apricots

As with many dog treats, apricots are healthy as long as your dog eats them in moderation. They’re filled with fiber as well as many other nutrients that help your dog’s immune system. These include beta-carotene, which is good for vision, and potassium, which helps improve muscle and bone health. Never give a dog the pit of an apricot, however, because it could be poisonous.

10. Carrots

You know how good carrots are for human health? The same holds true for your pooch. Carrots help keep a dog’s teeth clean and are also low in both calories and fats. If your dog is a little on the chubby side, carrots can help suppress the appetite so he doesn’t crave as much at dinnertime. Carrots also promote healthy bowel movements because they increase the amount of hydration in your dog’s tummy. You can serve them raw or cook them. If you choose the latter option, just make sure you don’t add any ingredients such as sugar, spices, or salt.

Treats to Help Keep Your Dog Slim and Trim

We already touched on carrots as a treat that can help your dog shed some unwanted pounds, but there are other ways you can give your canine a healthy reward… that’ll taste delicious, too. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Fruits and vegetables – Green beans not only provide the crunch that your dog loves, they’re also low in calories. Apples and raspberries are also low in calories and high in fiber. This will not only promote good digestion, but will also give him a feeling of fullness.2 As a result, your dog might not attack the dinner bowl quite as hard as usual.
  • Popcorn – If you’ve ever snuck your pup a few bites of popcorn, now you don’t need to feel guilty. Plain popcorn tastes great and has very few calories. Just make sure it doesn’t contain any salt, butter, or other potentially fattening ingredients.
  • Dog food – Yep, plain old dog food also works great as a treat. If you typically feed him dry food, a couple of pieces of kibble will help satisfy those cravings your canine might be experiencing between meals. Dogs usually don’t care a whole lot about what kind of treat they get, just as long as they get something. You’ll be surprised just how effective dog food can be.

How Do You Know the Ingredients in Your Dog’s Treats Are Healthy?

Most dog owners would never just grab the first thing off the shelf when buying treats, but you need to make sure you read the labels carefully. All manufacturers are required to list all of their ingredients on the label – with the ones that are more prevalent at the top of the list. So look for products that have meats at the top of the list – especially ones that are advertised as meat-flavored. For example, if you see a treat that says it’s beef-flavored, but beef is far down the list, look for something else.

The label should also include the number of calories that are found in each serving. This is extremely important, especially if you plan on giving your dog a few treats each day. If they’re high in calories, over time, that could lead to significant weight gain.

How to Give Your Dog Treats

Studies show that treat time is much more exciting for a dog when he has to do something to earn it.3 For example, you can use treats as an incentive to exercise more, solve a puzzle (such as figuring out how to get a treat that’s inside a toy), or simply behave better. Most experts recommend that you give your dog a treat for actually accomplishing something, rather than just hand it out randomly.

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What NOT to Give Your Dog

While our dogs love a lot of the same foods as we do, their digestive systems aren’t the same as ours. As a result, there are a lot of human foods that could cause your pooch major problems. Here are just a few you should always avoid:

  • Corn on the cob – While a dog can digest corn, he CAN’T digest the cob. A corncob can cause a blockage in the small intestine that will need to be surgically removed – if it isn’t, that could potentially be fatal.
  • Dairy – While a little bit of milk may just make your dog a little gassy… if he gets too much, that could lead to major problems. If you have to give your canine any sort of dairy product, make sure it’s lactose-free.
  • Chocolate – Hopefully, you already know that dogs can’t digest chocolate, and too much of it can be deadly. But even a small amount can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and possibly even heart damage. Call your vet immediately if your dog ingests chocolate.
  • Sugar – Never give your dog any sort of sugar-filled treat, such as a cookie. He may love it, but over time — just like in humans — it could lead to diabetes, dental problems, and obesity.4 He’ll be much better off if you avoid giving him any sugar whatsoever.

As with all new dog treats, always check with your vet first to make sure your pet won’t suffer harm from any of the ingredients contained in the treats you’re considering. He may have an allergy you don’t know about, and that could lead to major problems. Always err on the safe side to help make sure your dog stays as healthy as possible for many years to come.

Read More:

15 Harmful Foods For Dogs To Avoid (and other toxic no-no’s)

1 (n.d.). Veterinary Oral Health Council Accepted Products for Cats and Dogs. [online] [Accessed 21 Jul. 2017].
2 ASPCA. (2017). Healthy, Safe Snacks to Help Your Pet Slim Down. [online] [Accessed 21 Jul. 2017].
3 Okamoto Y, e. (2009). The feeding behavior of dogs correlates with their responses to commands. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] [Accessed 21 Jul. 2017].
4 Schenker, M. (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] [Accessed 21 Jul. 2017].