Reaching for the treat jar can be a great way to reward your dog, but it’s not always easy knowing whether or not your dog's snacks are the healthiest and tastiest choice for your furry friend.
According to Barbara Hodges, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and program director of advocacy and outreach for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, ingredients are the single most important factor when choosing dog treats.
“You can use small pieces of cooked meats, fish, eggs, cheese, fruits, and vegetables as treats,” Hodges says. “If you use store-bought treats, aim for those with healthy, whole-food ingredients.”
In addition to whole-food ingredients, the best dog treats for your dog will also come in a snacking size appropriate to their breed and age, with a flavor that’s enticing enough to excite your dog—it should be a treat after all—or be used as a training incentive.
Zuke's Mini Naturals
Protein is main ingredient
No fillers, byproducts, artificial ingredients
Lots of flavors
Made in the United States
Important to keep bagged seal, as soft treats can harden quickly when exposed to air
Our top pick has great ingredients and is popular with dogs. These soft training treats come in a variety of flavors including chicken, beef, and salmon, plus more elaborate combos like peanut butter and oats. Each flavor has its protein as the main ingredient, so your dog is getting, for example, real chicken, supplemented with ground rice, barley, and other ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables. Plus, Zuke's Mini Naturals contain no corn, wheat, soy, fillers, byproducts, or artificial ingredients.
Each Zuke's treat is bite-sized and has fewer than 3 calories, but they are soft enough to tear in half, should you want to give them to tiny pets or use them for training. That also makes them easy to eat for senior pets with dental issues.
They’re noticeably smelly (in a good way!), so they're sure to grab your dog's attention. They’re made in the U.S. and come in an easily resealable pouch to keep them fresh.
Price at time of publish: $17
Calories per Treat: Fewer than 3 | Flavors: Chicken, peanut butter & oats, salmon, beef, rabbit, duck, pork, turkey and cranberry, turkey and pumpkin | Texture: Soft | Key Ingredients: Meat protein, rice, vegetables, fruit
Jiminy's Chewy Cricket Treat
More nutritious than many treats
Easy to break apart
When you care about the environment and you care about your pet, Jiminy’s Chewy Cricket Treats are an eco-friendly (and tasty) treat option. Crickets are the main protein in these soft and chewy treats. These insects offer higher nutrition—more protein, fiber, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids—than chicken or beef. Crickets are also more sustainable and better for the environment because they rely on fewer natural resources than other meat, but pack a powerful nutritious punch.
There are several flavors that feature crickets and a variety of fruits and vegetables, including sweet potato, pumpkin, and blueberries. They contain no wheat, corn, soy, or other fillers, and can be a healthy choice for pets with beef or chicken sensitivities. They are easy to break into small pieces for training. The smell can be quite attractive to dogs, but sometimes quite smelly for people.
Price at time of publish: $10
Calories per Treat: 2.9 calories (pumpkin and carrot, sweet potato and peas), 9 calories (peanut butter and blueberry) | Flavors: Pumpkin and carrot, sweet potato and peas, peanut butter and blueberry | Texture: Soft and chewy | Key Ingredients: Crickets, oats, vegetables, fruits
Best Low Calorie
Fruitables Skinny Minis Chewy Dog Treats
No artificial ingredients, colors, or preservatives
Sourced and made in the United States
Less costly than many
Some dogs don’t like fruity flavors
These soft and chewy treats are a bit larger than other training treats, but they still have only 3 calories. That makes your pet feel like they're getting something of substance without all the extra calories. There are so many flavors of Fruitables Skinny Minis ranging from meats to fruits. If you don’t particularly like the meaty pungency of some other treats, these fruity options smell better and are much more pleasant to keep in your pocket.
Fruitables are made in the United States with no artificial ingredients, colors, or preservatives. There are other crunchy Fruitables that are about the same size, but have about 8 calories each. Because these treats are semi-soft, they’re easy to tear into small pieces for training or for puppies and very small dogs.
Price at time of publish: $6
Calories per Treat: 3 calories | Flavors: Pumpkin and berry, apple bacon, watermelon, rotisserie chicken, grilled bison, pumpkin and mango | Texture: Soft and chewy | Key Ingredients: Fruits, vegetables, meat proteins
Best for Training
Pet Botanics Training Rewards Flavor Dog Treats
500 treats in each bag
Recognizable ingredients, with real meat protein
Some dogs aren’t motivated by them
These soft training treats are bite-sized, containing just 3 calories each. Plus, they're available in several flavors, including bacon, beef, chicken, and salmon, though the primary protein in each comes from pork liver.
Pet Botanics dog treats are made in the United States, without corn, artificial flavoring, soy, or preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. In addition to identifiable ingredients like dried eggs and potatoes, Pet Botanics' Training Reward treats also include a variety of botanicals, including antioxidant fruits, dandelion, rosemary, green tea, chamomile, and other herbs rich in vitamins and digestive aids.
Their small size is ideal for training. With approximately 500 treats per bag, they’re also a great value. There’s also a mini version where the smaller-sized treats only have 1.5 calories each. The smaller treats are available in several flavors including grain-free salmon and duck.
Price at time of publish: $10
Calories per Treat: 3 calories | Flavors: Bacon, beef, chicken, salmon | Texture: Soft | Key Ingredients: Pork liver, pea flour, potatoes, eggs
Best for Small Dogs
Old Mother Hubbard Classic Mini Oven-Baked Dog Biscuits
Lots of flavors
More calories than most
These cute bone-shaped biscuits are the perfect size for wee pets. They come in several flavors, as well as a couple of assortments, so you can surprise your dog while offering a satisfying crunch. The treats are made with a short list of natural ingredients, including peanut butter, chicken liver, fruits and vegetables. There are no artificial preservatives or byproducts.
Old Mother Hubbard treats are oven baked, with a recipe that dates back to 1926. The minis are tiny enough for small dogs or for use in training. They are also available in small and large sizes for bigger dogs or more occasional snacking.
Price at time of publish: $6
Calories per Treat: 10 calories | Flavors: Peanut butter, chicken and apples, liver, bacon and cheese, original assortment, extra tasty assortment | Texture: Crunchy | Key Ingredients: Whole wheat flour, oatmeal, wheat bran, proteins, and fruits
Best for Large Dogs
Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Soft-Moist Training Treats
No artificial preservatives or flavors
Available in several flavors
Added nutrients for skin and coat
Not as soft as some chewy treats
Just because your dog is big doesn’t mean he needs huge treats. Trainers and vets recommend training-size treats for dogs of every size. But these heart-shaped soft bits are a middle ground for larger dogs, with a size that's a little larger than most treats.
Blue Bits are a little larger than most treats and contain real meat protein as the first ingredient (usually paired with brown rice or oatmeal, depending on flavor). The Blue Buffalo treats also contain omega fatty acids like DHA to help your dog’s skin and coat. They are made in the United States and contain no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.
Price at time of publish: $5
Calories per Treat: 4 calories | Flavors: Chicken, turkey, salmon, beef | Texture: Soft and chewy | Key Ingredients: Meat protein, brown rice, oatmeal
Best for Puppies
Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Grain Free Lamb & Salmon
Easy to tear into tiny pieces
No artificial colors or flavors or meat byproducts
Salmon and lamb are the first ingredients
Can be smelly
These soft squares are great for puppies because they are tempting and easy to chew. They are about the size of a nickel and can easily be torn into tinier pieces for training. There are no artificial colors or flavors, no meat byproducts, and no corn or soy. The main ingredients are lamb and salmon, which is rich in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that helps with brain health.
Other wholesome ingredients include carrots, blueberries, apples, and sweet potatoes. The treats are made in the U.S. (but ingredients are sourced globally).
Price at time of publish: $5
Calories per Treat: 6 calories | Flavor: Lamb and salmon | Texture: Soft | Key Ingredients: Lamb, salmon, chickpeas, potatoes
Virbac C.E.T. VeggieDent Fr3sh Tartar Control Dog Chews
Includes prebiotic for digestion
Significantly more calories than other treats
Few people like brushing their dog’s teeth. The dogs typically don’t love it either. These dental chews aren’t a total shortcut, but they might help with your dog's dental health. They are a sticky, unusual Z-shape, designed to scrape away tartar and plaque as your dog gnaws. They can even help freshen your dog's breath.
VeggieDent Fr3sh Dog Chews are plant-based, with no animal ingredients, and are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. The treats are available in four different sizes and are formulated with a prebiotic to help with digestion.
Price at time of publish: $28 (Medium, 30-count)
Calories per Treat: 75 calories per medium chew | Flavor: Pomegranate | Texture: Hard | Key Ingredients: Corn starch, glycerin
Wet Noses Organic Crunchy Dog Treats
USDA-certified organic and non-GMO verified
13 flavor combinations
More calories than most
Wet Noses treats come in flavors far beyond your standard chicken, beef, or salmon, with 13 flavor combinations like Peanut Butter & Banana, Apple & Ginger, or Pumpkin & Quinoa. The USDA-certified organic crunchy dog treats are made without corn, soy, wheat, or dairy. They also contain no preservatives or fillers, instead opting for organic ingredients like pea flour and peanut butter.
The Wet Noses treats are a little larger than a quarter, which makes them a good pick for large dogs, though they're also easy to break into smaller pieces for smaller pets. Unlike some meatier treats, the Wet Noses Organic Crunchy Dog Treats have a smell that's not unpleasant for humans. Plus, with so many flavors you're sure to find one your dog will like.
Price at time of publish: $12
Calories per Treat: 18 | Flavors: Peanut butter and molasses, pumpkin, apple pie, sweet potato pie, apple and ginger, berry blast, carrot and sweet potato, hemp seed and banana, peanut butter and banana, peanut butter and banana, pumpkin and quinoa, peanut butter, sweet potato | Texture: Crunchy | Key Ingredients: Fruits and vegetables
Bocce’s Bakery Crunchy Biscuits
So many flavors
Limited and locally sourced ingredients
Lots of seasonal ideas
More calories than some
These crunchy cookies come in dozens of flavors—some that they have all year, as well as loads of seasonal mixes. All treats are made in small batches and have limited ingredients. The popular Bac ‘N Nutty, for example, only contains oat flour, peanut butter, and bacon. Ingredients are locally sourced and are often organic.
Flavors range from chicken or mudpie to bone broth or birthday cake. You can sort by main ingredient or special diet, such as low-calorie, grain-free, or vegetarian. There are tiny training bites for puppies and soft and chewy versions for seniors. They’re also packaged in bundles by ingredient, or theme.
Price at time of publish: $7
Calories per Treat: 14 calories on average | Flavors: Dozens | Texture: Hard and crunchy | Key Ingredients: From chicken and bacon to peanut butter and oat flour
Best Cake Mix
Pooch Cake Cake Mix (Peanut Butter)
Multiple flavors available
Includes frosting mix
Easy to make in oven or microwave
All-natural, dog-safe ingredients
Wheat-free flavors available
Contains sugar as one of the main ingredients
Smaller cake than you might expect
Whether you’re celebrating your pup’s birthday or their gotcha day, it’s fun to offer your pal a dog-friendly cake. Pooch Cake Cake Mix makes a single 6-inch cake or eight cupcakes. Just add 2/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons of oil, and one egg. You can bake it in the oven for just about half an hour or use the microwave and have the treat in only five minutes.
There are just a handful of ingredients—the wheat-free peanut butter version includes white rice flour, sugar, peanuts, baking powder, and salt, with a frosting made of tapioca starch, yogurt, and olive oil. Sugar is one of the main ingredients, FYI, but the cake is relatively high in protein.
The directions recommend mixing by hand and there are serving suggestions based on your dog’s weight. The cake mix comes in three flavors—banana, peanut butter, and pumpkin-spice—with two also available in wheat-free versions.
Price at time of publish: $7
Calories per Treat: N/A | Flavors: Banana, peanut butter, pumpkin spice | Texture: Cake | Key Ingredients: White rice flour, sugar, peanuts
Open Farm Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
Responsibly sourced and organic ingredients
No artificial additives or preservatives
Six different proteins
More expensive than many
This premium freeze-dried dog food is meant to be used as a meal, or it can be sprinkled on food as a topper to add extra nutrition and encourage a pup to eat. However, these soft and crumbly pieces can also make very motivating treats. They’re made of responsibly sourced and organic ingredients like humanely raised meats and wild caught salmon combined with organic fruits and vegetables such as carrots, blueberries, and squash. There are no artificial flavors, preservatives, or additives.
The nuggets are available in six different proteins which makes it easy to find something a dog loves and offers alternatives if your pet has a food allergy. They come in a sturdy pouch that is very easy to re-seal and store.
Raw food diets and treats are becoming increasingly popular for pets. However, pet owners should be aware that there may be a greater risk for bacterial contamination in raw foods. These diets may pose a risk for owners and pets who are young, old, pregnant or immunocompromised.
Price at time of publish: $33-36 (13.5-ounce bag)
Calories per Treat: N/A | Flavors: Beef, chicken, lamb, pork, turkey, surf and turf | Texture: Soft and crumbly | Key Ingredients: Meat protein, organic fruits and vegetables
Pooch Creamery Ice Cream Mix
Easy to store until ready to make
Just add water and freeze
High in protein
Higher in calories than many
If your pup eyes you longingly when you’re having an ice cream cone, you can whip up a frozen canine treat that is a little more canine-friendly. Pooch Creamery Ice Cream Mix comes in six flavors and features lactose-free milk and cane sugar as the main ingredients. You can keep it in your pantry until you’re ready to make it. Then, just add warm water, mix thoroughly, and freeze for eight hours.
It’s high in protein—as well as calories. This container makes about 2.5 1-ounce servings. Some owners suggest just feeding a tablespoon or less. Expect to leave it out a few minutes to soften before serving. If the expiration date is getting close, you can make the ice cream and freeze it for as long as six weeks.
Price at time of publish: $7
Calories per Treat: 15-16 calories per 1 ounce scoop | Flavors: Birthday cake, carob, maple bacon, peanut butter, vanilla, watermelon | Texture: Frozen | Key Ingredients: Lactose-free whole milk, cane sugar
Rocco & Roxie Supply Co. Gourmet Jerky Sticks for Dogs
Can easily be broken into small pieces
No artificial flavors or fillers
Made in the U.S. by small, family-run business
Soft treats can seem to spoil more quickly
These soft and chewy jerky sticks are easy to break into little pieces as training treats. Made with beef, chicken, or turkey as the main ingredient, they are pretty irresistible to dogs, but not so stinky for humans. There are no artificial flavoring or fillers like corn or soy. The treats are made in the United States by a small, family-run business with American-raised beef, chicken, and turkey.
The sticks have a meaty texture and a smoky taste, having been smoked over hickory wood for 10 hours. They’re made in small batches and come with a satisfaction guarantee. Each bag contains a whopping 1 pound of treats.
Price at time of publish: $20
Calories per Treat: 20 calories per stick | Flavors: Beef, chicken, turkey | Texture: Soft and chewy | Key Ingredients: Meat proteins, rice protein, spices
Solid Gold Bone Broth
Can be served as-is or warmed up
Lasts 7 days refrigerated after opening
Might spill when opened
For a treat at mealtime, pour a little bit of bone broth directly from the resealable pouch or warm it up a little bit before serving. The fragrant savory liquids are made with just a few human-grade ingredients including meat proteins and vegetables. Bone broth is high in collagen, which may help lower inflammation. It also includes turmeric, which could offer similar benefits.
With or without health benefits, bone broth can certainly make dry kibble much more interesting for picky eaters. You can keep a pouch refrigerated for about a week after opening. If it takes you longer than that to use it, then pop it in the freezer. Keep the containers upright because they may leak once opened if they flop over in the fridge.
Price at time of publish: $5
Calories per Treat: 85 calories/pouch | Flavors: Beef, chicken, turkey | Texture: Liquid | Key Ingredients: Broth, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples
PetPlate Fresh Cooked Dog Food
Can buy alone or with subscription food
Three formulas, including digestive and mobility treats
Mostly organic ingredients
There are all kinds of subscription boxes that offer a mix of treats and toys and other subscriptions that deliver fresh dog food. PetPlate has flash-frozen fresh food made from quality ingredients including chicken, beef, lamb, and turkey. But the company also offers three types of treats that you can add to your order or buy alone.
Chicken Apple Sausage Bites are made only with six ingredients, and are easy to break apart for training or for small dogs. Tummy Ticklin’ Digestive Cookies have live and active cultures for digestive support. Joint Jumpin’ Mobility Cookies contain glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health. (Mobility cookies are for adult dogs only.) The treats are made with mostly organic ingredients and can be purchased in mix or match packs of four.
Price at time of publish: $45-68 (4-pack)
Calories per Treat: 20 calories (chicken), 36 (digestive and mobility) | Flavors: Chicken, apple, and sausage; banana and pumpkin (digestive formula); blueberry and strawberry (mobility formula) | Texture: Firm and chewy (like an oatmeal cookie) | Key Ingredients: Chicken, organic fruits and oats
A great overall choice is Zuke’s Mini Naturals, soft training treats that come in lots of flavors with no added fillers or byproducts. If you're willing to try something a little more unusual, Jiminy’s Chewy Cricket Treats are a great alternative protein option. By using crickets instead of meat or meat byproducts, Jiminy's treats are just as nutritious, but more sustainably produced than most traditional selections.
What to Look for in Dog Treats
“The ingredient list should be short and understandable—treats should not be laden with low-quality ingredients like by-products and fillers,” Barbara Hodges, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and program director of advocacy and outreach for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association told The Spruce Pets.
The veterinarian further recommended checking the label for recognizable and whole-food ingredients, including real meats, fruits, and vegetables. This can also make it easier to spot foods your pet may have a negative reaction to, allowing you to better understand your dog's health.
“If your dog has allergies or sensitivities, be careful to select treats that exclude those foods. If your dog is prone to or has already had pancreatitis, make sure to choose low-fat treats,” Hodges said. “If your dog has kidney challenges, emphasize treats that are lower in protein and contain fruits and/or vegetables.”
You don’t have to choose the size of the treat based on the size of your dog. In general, every dog can use small treats, says Hodges. (She notes that this doesn’t include real raw or cooked bones or manufactured bone-like treats.) While often labeled for training, since multiple treats can be used in developing response behaviors, smaller treats are useful in most circumstances.
“Small dogs need small treats—they can choke on treats that are inappropriately large for their size,” she says. “Large dogs do not need large treats—cut or break large treats into smaller pieces. I suggest using training-sized treats for all dogs.”
If your dog is overweight, Hodges suggests choosing treats with fewer calories. You can even use your dog’s own kibble as treats. Just be sure to count all treat calories into your dog’s overall intake and compensate with smaller meals on days when you’re doing a lot of training and giving out lots of treats.
You can choose from crunchy, hard treats or much softer bites. Your dog might like one type over another.
“Dogs typically have personal preferences for certain textures. Some dogs like crunchy treats, some like soft treats. And some dogs—like mine—like ALL treats!” Hodges says. “I make batches of a ‘party mix’ of treats with varying ingredients and textures—and I rotate the ingredients in my batches to satisfy even the most novelty-seeking dogs.”
How many treats per day is too many for a dog?
There is no optimal number of treats per day for a dog, and it’s not necessary to give your dog treats every day, says Hodges.
“Take into account your dog’s current weight and lifestyle. A younger, leaner, more active dog can be given more treats than an older, heavier, more sedentary dog,” she says. “Monitor your dog’s activity level and weight regularly and you will, over time, develop a good sense of how to help them maintain a healthy weight.”
If you’re unsure and would like help with your dog’s diet, check with your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist for guidance.
Can dogs eat cat treats?
In general, dogs shouldn’t be given cat treats because feline treats are usually higher in fat and might not be tolerated well by some dogs, Hodges says. But some treats are labeled for both cats and dogs. “Make sure to check labels and only give your pet treats that include a picture of a member of their species on the packaging,” Hodges says.
Can you freeze dog treats?
If you buy large boxes of treats, it can be tempting to stash some in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. But that may negatively affect a treat's quality.
According to Pedigree, dry dog food that is frozen then thawed can cause mold to develop. It’s possible the same thing could happen with dry treats.
Hodges says she doesn’t suggest freezing dog treats unless they are meant to be, such as frozen cup-style treats from Yoghund YoPups or Purina Frosty Paws.
“Most dog treats will have an expiration date on the package; don’t feed them after that date, and discard any treats that smell ‘off’ to you—even if they are still within the labeled date range,” Hodges says. “Use common food safety practices with treats—after dispensing treats, reseal the package or transfer the treats to an airtight container to avoid the possibility of oxidation causing rancidity of oils and the growth of toxic molds.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
For this story, we consulted with veterinarian Barbara Hodges, DVM, MBA, program director of advocacy and outreach for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. We also talked to many dog owners, trainers, fosters, and rescue workers to see what they consider when buying treats.
Mary Jo DiLonardo has been writing about pets and animals for several decades. She has a rescue dog and has fostered dozens of dogs and puppies so she’s given a lot of treats. Pet health and safety are very important to DiLonardo and she’s always researching the latest products to keep the dogs in her care healthy and safe.