I'll start this with a disclaimer that I'm not a nutritionist of any kind but a person that's been working with dogs for years now and doing her own research on both - human and canine nutrition - long enough to have a basic knowledge of what I want to spend my hard earned money on and what might be just a marketing trick.
Let's talk about treats since it's usually a high value "payment" we use in training our dogs or when we want to spoil them a little. Christmas is also round the corner and we'll all be buying stocking fillers and mini presents to our pooches. Tell me if I'm wrong, but you're already buying the first bags, aren't you?
Nowadays, when the choice is so vast, we have an amazing opportunity to select what we pay for, however, it's equally easy to get lost in the brand, taste, marketing AND price variety. I don't even know all the brands that are available there myself - that's why a visit to a pet shop is always so amusing to me.
I decided to take you to a few pet shops with me and show you the things I'd select for my dogs' stockings, so if you decide to go bananas with this year's presents, at least you're not wasting your money on wheat and oat clumps that not only lack any nutritional value but can result in bloated tummies and two poo bags worth number twos (IYKYK).
First, we went to visit one of the probably biggest pet shop chains in the UK. Let's see what they've got! AU NATUREL
Okay, so the rule of thumb for treats is the fewer ingredients, the better. Then you look at the first 3-4 and they tell the story.
You can't not love the 1-2 ingredient lists or, as I jokingly call them, au naturel treats. I love most JR products as they're normally just 100% dried animal protein (say, chicken in this picture). The only thing is that if you want to use these for training, I found them to be too hard to split, so depending on the size of your dog it might be a little too big as a quick reward.
They normally do a pate which I love but couldn't find on this visit, so have a look for that.
Not going to lie, I've never seen these but I'm in. Two ingredients: animal protein and pumpkin/sweet potato. Noice. These a freeze dried and that tells me they should be airy and very light, so quick to consume - good for training.
The only slight issue I've noticed with freeze dried treats is that not all dogs understand and love them. It's like dog popcorn and some of my puppers don't even want to touch them as they definitely lose some smell in the process and, I think, the texture is a little bit alienating. Not for all but something to keep in mind if we're being honest here.
THE GRAIN FREE GANG
I feel like if there's a term we've all learned in the past 10 years it's grain free. I mean, it's miles better than that primark dog cookie made from wheat and water but don't forget that marketers have also learned that this is what sells, so a product might not have grains like oats or wheat, yet still be packed with cheap fillers and sugar. Anyways, let's see.
My bank account might not but I do love Crave treats. I'm not sure of the quality of the proteins they use but it has more organ meats that you won't find in a lot of similar products. One thing, again, can be quite tough, so you kind of need to give a reward in the size it comes and you can see here it's quite big.
We're entering the 50/50 zone here. There's some protein (even though a lot of it is derivatives), some herbs, some potatoes. I know some breeds/dogs might have sensitivities to white potatoes (say, Akitas - you don't want to sit next to them if they had too much of those haha) but generally, if no bloating is noticed, I don't worry about potatoes too much. It makes it a little bit more affordable and small amounts should be fine.
These are also soft, so you can split them in half too (don't tell your pooch I said that).
Similar situation but, truth to be told, I like these and used them with dogs quite a lot! The ingredients are quite similar to the one above and, if no sensitivities or allergies, they work quite nicely when I need to pay dogs a little more and at the shop a little less...
I do like Lily's Kitchen and those, who have ever worked with me know these are one of two types of treats I use in classes. So far, every dog treated this as a high value reward, they are big, so don't fall through your fingers and are easy to break when you need to reward. A nutritionist might probably find something to say no to in the ingredient list but it's only 5 ingredients and with all the pros - works for me.
Just one more that couldn't fit into any of the previous categories but I've tried and like them. They are not grain free and have more than two ingredients but as far as the actual baked treats go, they are decent and work well as high value snacks if your dog doesn't have any allergies or sensitivities.
I mostly like Butcher's for how easy it is to deliver the reward when using them and how high the dogs rate them haha Applies to all flavours.
WHAT TO AVOID
When it comes to treats like in the next picture, I honestly just don't see the point in them. Apart from a nice packaging, look at the first few ingredients AND the size of that paragraph and ask yourself if your dog won't just be happier with boiled chicken breast wrapped in a red bunting (that's only for our eyes anyways).