Dog treats are a growing industry. It's estimated that over 6 billion dollars are spent on pet treats alone. More and more Americans are spending their money buying fancy and expensive treats for their pets:
Americans are spending a lot of money on these fancy dog treats, and while we all love to spoil our pets, it may be better to save your time and money for other dog activities instead.
Dogs have barely any tastebuds - fewer than 20% compared to a human. It's why they can eat almost anything - and we really mean anything, including some things we cannot mention here. They taste, in the sense that they know something is entering their mouth that is good, but they do not have the ability nor desire to figure out if what they're eating is any more or less tasty than other things they eat - like foods they find on the ground.
In fact, there's no evidence dogs think treats are any tastier than any other types of food. Dogs cannot tell us that they love a taste. Most scientific experiments show that dogs respond to treats even if the treat is smaller than a finger nail, and it's unlikely a treat that size tastes any better than any other treat that they may receive.
So why do dogs rush to treats, and why do they seem to wag their tails excitedly every time a treat is placed in front of their nose?
The answer is a lot less complicated than you think: Dogs pretty much love all food.
Now, there are features of treats that may be more exciting to dogs. Some dog treats have a stronger and more delicious smell, which certainly can attract dogs. Some dog treats may have more fat in a way that dogs find interesting. Dogs also love foods that are different, just like people, since eating the same thing every day can be boring.
And it's possible some dog treats do have tastes that are incrementally more pleasurable. Dogs seem to love peanut butter and chicken, for example.
But overall, dogs just love food - any food - and they especially love when that food is given to the dog in an excited way from an owner they love.
"Well, can I just give the treat anyway?" you may ask. The answer is, "sure." We use dog treats with our pets all the time at FurBabies. Dogs do seem happy to get them, and we love to give them! Some dog treats are easier to hand out and chew than other types of dog food, they taste "different" which makes them more exciting, and they may have a slightly better taste to dogs even if that taste overall is only marginally better.
But dog treats are also one of the leading causes of pet obesity. They're not as nutritionally healthy as dog food, and some - especially larger treats - have ingredients that aren't necessarily designed for a dog's belly. Even smaller, "healthier" treats can eventually be harmful to a dog's nutrition, especially if they're handed out often.
Plus, there is no proof that dogs find large, fancy, or expensive dog treats any tastier than an inexpensive and tiny treat. They don't have the tastebuds to tell the difference.
So you can certainly give your dog some treats, especially if you do so sparingly. But your dog doesn't "need" treats any more than food, and they certainly do not need you to spend lots of money on the bigger or more expensive treats. Smaller dog treats are both less expensive and have the same effect on your dog, and they also take up less space in their stomach.
You can also consider just giving them other nutritionally healthy food bites (kibble from other food brands) to mix things up and you'll likely get the same effect. It will be tasty to your dog, different, and special because it's coming from you.
And if you do use treats, you can limit how much you give out and how often, and your dog will still be just as happy without the harmful issues related to pet obesity or poor nutrition. You certainly do not need to splurge on rare, expensive, or fancy treats. A different brand of dog kibble, or small inexpensive treats you got from a discount store, are usually more than enough for your happy and loving dog.