Humans enjoy their snacks: a bag of chips in the car, a granola bar at work, a handful of popcorn while watching TV in the evening. Some people maintain that grazing throughout the day is a healthier way of consuming calories. "Snackification" is even a growing trend among Millennials, who often don't have time to sit down for a proper meal.
But does that mean snacking is the best choice for your dog?
In this article, we'll go over the trend of "free-feeding" (allowing your dog to graze on food throughout the day) as well as the best types of dog snacks to offer your pet.
The Dangers of "Free-Feeding"
So how many times a day should a dog eat?
Most experts agree on a "twice a day" schedule—once in the morning and once in the evening. Feeding your dog on a regular, predictable schedule creates the expectation of mealtime and helps to whet their appetites.
Your dog might not be able to read the hands on a clock, but they can sense what time it is. The closer it gets to mealtime, the more they will anticipate eating.
Free-feeding, on the other hand, can lead to picky eating. Humans and dogs alike don't get as excited by something that's always available. Rather than looking forward to mealtime, your dog may get bored with the same old food that's always lying around and start to sniff around the kitchen floor.
You might even find that your dog won't eat his food but will eat treats, like a toddler who refuses his dinner but asks for ice cream as soon as the plates are cleared.
Alternatively, your dog might graze just fine during the day, free-feeding as she sees fit, but end up consuming more calories than if she were fed on a schedule.
Dogs don't always listen to their hunger/satiety cues; sometimes, they'll eat as long as something yummy is available.
Guidelines For Dog Snacks
Your dog's regular meals and calories should be calculated based on their weight, but no more than 10% of their daily calories should come from treats.
Just as humans can reach their optimum level of wellness on almonds and fruit (rather than Cheetos and Chips Ahoy), dogs need hearty, nutritious meals to fuel their bodies.
When giving your dog snacks, it's most important to provide high-quality treats. Snacks with allergens, too much fat, and other unhealthy options will only contribute to health issues.
Most people are surprised to find out that their dog loves raw fruits and vegetables, but dogs are omnivores (just like us).
A steady diet of meat and carbs is no healthier for them than it is for humans.
Another good rule is to not give your dog treats too close to meal time. They'll fill up on the treats and might not eat their meal.
Healthy Dog Treats
Commercial dog treats are no more healthy than commercial dog food.
They're often loaded with preservatives, sodium, fat, and made from less-than-wholesome ingredients.
Use your judgment when looking for healthy dog treats. If you can't read the ingredients list, that's a good sign you should steer clear.
Jerky or meat bark is a great option for dogs to get a bit more protein in their diet. Just be sure to look for single ingredient versions with no additives and no products that originate from China.
Rice is another readily available food that's great for dogs with a little tummy trouble. Just don't add any salt or oil.
Your dog's diet shouldn't just consist of meat and carbs. Fruits and vegetables are the healthiest treats your dog could get. Also, they'll enjoy them!
When serving produce to your dog, serve it the same way you would eat it. If you don't eat the seeds, rinds, or stem, neither should your dog.
Some healthy things that dogs enjoy are:
- Bananas (in moderation; they're high in sugar)
- Green Beans
- Pumpkin (cooked or canned, not raw)
- Red Peppers
- Rice (cook up a batch of rice the next time your dog has a stomach upset)
- Strawberries (watch the sugar content!)
- Sweet Potatoes (cooked, to make it easier on their digestion)
This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but a good place to start when testing new treats for your pet to nosh on.
Foods Not Safe For Dogs
It's a good idea to experiment in the kitchen and see which fruits and vegetables your dog will enjoy, but there are some foods that, while great for humans, are harmful to dogs.
Keep your dogs away from:
- Macadamia Nuts
- Yeast dough
Giving a dog snacks can be a sweet way of expressing your love and appreciation for them, but don't replace love with treats.
Feed your dog healthy portions on a predictable schedule and supplement with the occasional healthy treat and you should see a happier, healthier dog.
At Rick's Dog Deli, our meals and treats are specially formulated to provide the maximum amount of nutrition for any dog, despite their size, breed, or health condition.
Our meals are cooked with human-grade, USDA-inspected ingredients and flash frozen to lock in the nutrients. Simply thaw and serve.
And what's more, dogs love real food!