Your dog didn’t even finish their meal…
And yet, they’re standing in front of you. Looking you in the eye. Awaiting the moment they will get that oh-so-desired treat you’re holding in your hand.
So you can’t help but wonder:
“Why do dogs love treats so much?”
“What’s so special about them compared to normal dog food?”
The answers to your questions are one read away.
In this article I’ll reveal:
- 7 reasons that make treats more appealing to dogs than regular dog food.
- How your dog perceives treats based on how they get them (backed up by science).
- 5 dangers of giving dog treats to your dog that you must know.
- And a lot more…
Table of contents
- Why do dogs like treats so much?
- People also ask:
- 7 reasons why dogs like treats so much
- #1: Your dog is conditioned to love treats
- #2: The dog food you give doesn’t contain enough nutrition
- #3: The treats you give have nothing in common with kibble
- #4: Dogs like eating food high in sugar and fat
- #5: Your dog loves working for treats
- #6: Scarcity
- #7: Treats are mindblowing for dogs
- #BONUS: It’s the smell (and taste)
- 5 dangers of dog treats
Why do dogs like treats so much?
Dogs like treats so much because you have conditioned them to do so, or they lack nutrition in their food. Another possibility is that the treats you give are very different from kibble and limited. Plus, dogs like treats they have to work for, as it’s mentally stimulating and rewarding for them.
People also ask:
7 reasons why dogs like treats so much
#1: Your dog is conditioned to love treats
If your dog eats the same food every day, it’s no surprise they’d jump out of joy when they see you with a treat. Pretty much anything could serve as a treat in that case. Even ice cubes (no joke).
A lot of dog parents use the method of conditioning their dogs to love ice treats. This doesn’t work for all dogs, though. After all, as individuals, they have their own preferences too.
Another example of conditioning is using the kibble you usually give. But in a different context. Not as breakfast or dinner. But as a reward for following commands.
You can try and see whether it would with your dog. And if they’d like to get the “prize” you have for them. Maybe they’ll go crazy for kibble in such a situation.
#2: The dog food you give doesn’t contain enough nutrition
Some dog foods consist of byproducts and a lot of filler. Examples of byproducts and fillers are:
That’s why dogs who eat such food, can get easily excited at the sight of a treat.
Foods like that are also the reason why some dog parents opt for home-made dog food. They give their beloved dog children food such as:
- Boiled egg.
- Some cheese.
- Different types of meat they themselves would eat.
Dog parents who do this report that their dogs aren’t keen on treats. Simple because they get all the nourishment they need from the variety of food they receive regularly.
#3: The treats you give have nothing in common with kibble
Now, every dog would beg for the treats you have in your hand. Some pooches would avoid anything that reminds them of kibble. Or, in other words, anything that’s hard.
If you experience this, don’t give up hope just yet. Instead, try a different approach with a different type of treat. For example, jerky. Or meat you would eat, only bland. No spices or anything else.
#4: Dogs like eating food high in sugar and fat
And some treats are high in sugar and fat. Giving a lot of treats like that to your dog is bad for them.
This applies to humans as well. It’s no secret many of us like eating cake, chocolate, and ice-cream. It’s because these have a much stronger taste than a regular meal.
This makes them delicious. But unhealthy.
#5: Your dog loves working for treats
Another reason why your dog goes crazy over treats is that they enjoy the process of working for them. And how could they not?
Imagine that you get a prize for every time you do a task at work right. And on time. Wouldn’t that be cool? Especially if the prize is something tasty. Or useful.
Seen from that perspective, your dog considers the process fun. Exciting.
This is even backed up by science.
Researches from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala have found out dogs don’t care that much for free treats.
The researchers used 12 Beagles for this experiment. The Beagles were trained to do different tasks. These included pushing objects, pressing levers. And even playing a key on a toy piano.
One week after training the Beagles, the researchers let each of them in a test room. Each dog was presented with one of the tasks they already knew how to do this time.
When a Beagle performed the task in less than 5 minutes, they were rewarded. Either by getting human or canine contact or food.
In contrast, the researchers would let an untrained dog enter the test room. Then after a certain time, the dog was rewarded. The rewards were given regardless of what the dog did.
The results proved that the dogs who did a particular action to get their reward were more active and excited than the dogs who had to do nothing.
According to the researchers, the dogs who performed tasks were feeling more in control of whether they’d get trets or not.
The untrained dogs engaged in chewing on something whenever they were in the test room. The researchers attributed this behavior to feelings of frustration.
Now you know. But let’s not forget something else that your dog gets out working for treats. They understand that you’re pleased with them.
I mean, whenever you ask them to perform a command, they do, and you give them a treat, they know. Treats and praises are the feedback you give them for a job well done.
Yep – it’s a thing with dogs too.
Say you love going to amusement parks (regardless of what age you are). But you only get to do it once or twice a year. Be it because of financial reasons, distance, a full schedule, or anything else.
Then, once you enter the amusement park would you be like, “Oh, yeah, I’m here, whatever. I don’t care if I’m here or at home on my PC.”?
Of course not! You’ll go bananas. Your eyes will turn wide as pancakes as you look around to explore the (almost) endless opportunities. You won’t be able to withhold your enthusiasm.
Because doing it every now and then turns it into a special occasion. Not just something that’s part of your routine. Not a mindless habit you go through during the day. Such as switching on and off the lamp key.
That’s why your dog is showing you their full-body shake when you’re about to give them a treat. They open their mouth with an enthusiastic smile and start drooling.
After all, they don’t know when the next time they receive treats will be. So they might as well enjoy the moment. And since they’re good at focusing on the present, they have no trouble doing so.
#7: Treats are mindblowing for dogs
Dog trainers explain that in the wild, dogs would work hard for their food. They’d hunt and scavenge. And they’d survive on what they find.
But after domesticating dogs, we eliminated the hunting part out of the equation. And we added something special, even mindblowing to the way we raise dogs.
Yes-I mean treats.
Treats are something that doesn’t exist in the wild. It’s a concept we, humans, introduced.
So the only way your dog could get some is if they are obedient to you. Or if you’re in a good mood and decide just to hand them a few.
This communicates to the dog that’s what happening is special. It’s also why some dogs prefer treats over their usual dog food.
#BONUS: It’s the smell (and taste)
Dogs are famous for their sense of smell. In fact, dogs have 220 million scent receptors while humans only have 5.
So if you can sense how their dog treat smells, imagine how much stronger the scent is for them.
That explains why your dog is focused on you even before you have opened the bag of treats.
And then it’s the taste-explosion your dog gets in their mouth. Dogs love flavors such as chicken, duck, lamb, and beef. As these speak to dogs’ omnivorous instincts.
You might also like: 5 Reasons Why Dogs Roll In Their Food And Treats + 5 Tips
5 dangers of dog treats
#1: The Fanconi Syndrome (FLS)
The Fanconi Syndrome is a rare kidney disease. It can lead to fatal kidney failure.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this condition is linked to jerky treats made in China.
Note: The FDA reports that manufacturers are not obliged to provide information in which country each ingredient of the product was made. This is something we as dog parents should be aware of.
Since December 2015, many pet parents have complained to the FDA. The complaints were connected with the consumption of chicken, sweet potato, or duck jerky treats. As these have lead to an illness.
Symptoms of FLS include:
- Frequent urination.
- No interest in eating.
- Frequent water-drinking.
Bear in mind that these symptoms may not always appear altogether. They can also range from mild to severe.
The good news is that this condition can be treated with timely interference from a vet. Especially after you’ve excluded the jerky treats from your dog’s diet.
Even though you’ve eliminated the jerky from the diet, traces of FLS can still be found in the urine a few weeks later.
Rawhides, also called rawhides chews, are made by pig or cattle skin. The skin is first removed from the animal. Then dried and prepared for dogs to eat.
Sometimes there’s added flavor in rawhides. The makers also use glue to craft the chews in a particular shape.
Besides that, rawhides aren’t nutritious. They’re also very cheap as the material they’re made of.
That’s what makes them affordable to a variety of dog lovers. Plus, a rawhide could last a long time. Depending on the size and chewing determination of the dog, that is.
There are several dangers when giving rawhides to your dog:
- Intestinal blockage.
- Toxic chemicals used in the making: glue, bleach, formaldehyde, sodium sulfide, and more.
#3: Treats high in sugar
Manufacturers use sugar to make their treats more appealing to dogs.
The main problem with sugar is that it’s addictive. Other problems include weight gain, dental issues, and the possibility of diabetes.
Then there also artificial sweeteners. They pose a greater danger to dogs.
Be on the lookout for sorbitol and xylitol. Sorbitol can lead to stomach problems in dogs. Xylitol is poisonous and can also lead to clotting issues, seizures, and death.
#4: Intoxication by human food
Even vets can confirm that dogs love chocolate. And that they shouldn’t eat it.
Chocolate contains theobromine. This is toxic to dogs. Their metabolism cannot process it as quickly as ours.
The symptoms of a dog who ate chocolate start showing 6 to 12 hours after.
Scientists reported the 3 most common symptoms:
- Vomiting (64 cases).
- Increased heart rate (28 cases).
- Agitation/Tremors (12 cases).
According to a Scientific American study, chocolate poisonings in dogs increase during holidays.
That’s why it’s a good idea to check for chocolate pieces around the table. And, in general, keep food scraps out of reach.
But chocolate is not the only human food you should avoid giving to your dog.
Here are a few others:
#5: Dog treats that cause cancer
A chemical named Red#40 used for coloring treats has cancer-causing substances. It has been banned in several European countries:
- The UK.
According to research, the food dyes should be removed and replaced by a safer alternative.
Two more cancer-causing compounds, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), are:
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
- Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Despite this finding, these preservatives can still be seen in commercial dog food.