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There are many good reasons to give your dog a treat—for one thing, just think how adorable your pet is! And that’s particularly true for puppies, since treats encourage them to practice good behavior (and curb bad habits). But selecting the right treat for your pup matters. “There are lots of choices when it comes to choosing puppy treats,” says Dr. Jamie Richardson, the medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary, a NYC-based practice. Take a look at some of the best treats for pups, whether you’re giving a reward, helping with teething, or doing a training session.
Best Overall: Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Grain-Free Lamb & Salmon Recipe Dog Treats
These treats are designed for puppies: They’re free from grain, and contain only meat-based protein and fruits and veggies. “The best type of treats for your dog are those that have short ingredient lists and recognizable ingredients in them, as opposed to long lists of ingredients you can’t pronounce,” says Dr. Richardson—these treats deliver on that promise. The manufacturer notes that ingredients are all natural and the treats are free from meat byproducts, as well as artificial colors and flavors.
Pups seem to love the taste, getting excited by just a glimpse of the bag. The treats are on the large size, so consider breaking them into pieces to keep calories under control, especially during training sessions. Since they’re soft, breaking them into pieces is easy (and, the softness makes them easy for your pup to chew and digest).
Best Budget: Old Mother Hubbard Classic Crunchy Natural Dog Treats
Even if you dole them out sparingly, treats can go fast—and that can add up. This big bag of Old Mother Hubbard Biscuits takes it easy on your budget. Biscuits are available for all kinds of dogs; the option for puppies has added vitamins and minerals to cater to young dogs, per the manufacturer.
Note that since these are biscuits, the first two ingredients are whole wheat flour and oatmeal, so if your dog is on a grain-free diet, these will not be a good fit. However, even puppies with sensitive stomachs can tolerate these treats (as long as they can tolerate grains in general).
Best for Training: Purina Puppy Chow Healthy Start Salmon Flavor Training Dog Treats
Treats and training go together well. “You should give treats to reinforce positive behavior, including during obedience training; as a reward for doing their business in the correct place while potty training; and displaying other behaviors you want to reinforce,” says Dr. Richardson. If you’re looking for something to reward your dog, these salmon-flavored treats are a good option. Each treat has just three calories, so you can give them out often without concerns about weight gain. Plus, they break into pieces easily—that means you can split them up if you need to make the package last a bit longer.
These treats are small enough to hold in the palm of your hand, out of eye line of your puppy, which lets them focus on you and your commands, not the reward. Because they are small and low in calories, they're also a good pick for bringing to obedience training classes.
Best for Teething Puppies: N-Bone Puppy Teething Treats
It may seem tempting to give your puppy a rawhide stick to gnaw on, but these are best avoided, says Dr. Richardson, who notes that’s true for older dogs, too, and not just puppies. Bully sticks and pigs’ ears are associated with recalls due to salmonella contamination, she points out. “Also, there is a danger of pieces breaking off and being swallowed by your pet, posing a choking hazard or a blockage in the digestive tract—a serious health concern,” Dr. Richardson says.
But during teething, puppies want to chew. In those moments, to get them away from your slippers, you can turn to these teething treats from N-Bone, which are chewy and soft enough that they won’t damage a puppy’s teeth. Each one is just 14 calories. While avid chewers can gobble them up in just a few minutes, other puppies will take ten to 15 minutes to chew them—that's a win, considering puppies' short attention spans.
To make the treats even more soothing for puppy’s sore teeth and gums, you can place them in the freezer before giving them to your dog. Just remember: it’s always a good idea to supervise your puppy while they eat these treats.
Best for Sensitive Stomachs: Buddy Biscuits Grain-Free Soft & Chewy with Rotisserie Chicken Dog Treats
Dogs can have a sensitive stomach for all sorts of reasons. Grains can be an irritant for pups with tummy troubles. Enter these treats, which are free from grain, and do not contain wheat, corn, or soy. They’re low in both calories and fat, too.
Owners who have dogs with food allergies or sensitive stomachs report that these treats are one of the only options that don’t lead to an upset stomach. They're soft and easy to chew, so puppies can easily enjoy them.
Best Low Calorie: Crazy Dog Train-Me! Training Reward Mini Dog Treats
While it can be tempting to give your food human food (like cheese or cubes of cooked meat), that should be done sparingly since they’re so high in calories, cautions Dr. Richardson. Save it for times when you want to give a “high value” treat, she says.
Overdoing it with treats is easy—after all, to our eyes, they look so small. If you want to curb how many calories your pup is taking in through treats, turn to these treats from Crazy Dog. Each one has about 1.5 calories, and the ingredient list is topped with meat (pork liver, to be specific). The smell is meaty, which is certain to grab your pup's attention when it's time to practice new skills.
Best All Natural: Zuke's Mini Naturals Chicken Recipe Training Dog Treats
Looking to incentive your pup? These Zuke’s treats are delicious—but also healthy. The ingredient list starts with chicken, and meets Dr. Richardson’s requirement of having all recognizable ingredients. No sketchy additives here! These USA-made treats are adored by dogs thanks to their big smell, which puppies find appealing. Plus, the small size and low calories make these ideal for use during training (no need to pause and break them up).
Best Nutritional Benefits: Blue Buffalo BLUE Bits Natural Soft-Moist Training Dog Treats
Sure, it’s a treat. But that’s no reason to supply your pet with junk food. These Blue Buffalo treats list chicken as their first ingredient and are free from byproducts and fillers like corn, wheat, and soy. Plus, they contain DHA, which the manufacturer notes supports your puppy’s cognitive development.
These treats are soft and moist (that means your pup will find them easy to chew)—and adorably heart-shaped. They're even gentle enough for dogs who have sensitive stomachs.