How to Choose Top-Quality Dog Treats for Your Dog

Consider making your dog's treats yourself.


There are nearly as many types of dog treats on the market as treats for humans: sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy, meaty, fruity, fatty, savory, and so on. Despite the variety, top-quality dog treats should share the following two traits: They should pose zero risk of killing your dog. And they should be appealing to dogs by virtue of the quality of their food ingredients – not as a result of chemistry experiments with 20 or 30 different food by-products and a host of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

Domestic Sources, Domestic Manufacture
As to that first trait: Currently, the only dog treats that have been implicated in dog deaths and dog illnesses have been either made in China, or made primarily with ingredients that were imported from China (see news article here). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and many other parties are searching for an explanation – an agent that could cause the illnesses that have been reported in thousands of dogs who were fed treats containing ingredients from China. We think it’s only prudent, then, to avoid buying any product that is either made in China or contains ingredients from China, until the specific causative agent is identified and can be avoided. In our opinion, there simply is no point in risking the life of your canine family member for a cheap treat.

Quality Defined
As to the second trait of a good dog treat: What is a quality food ingredient? In our opinion, foods that you feed your canine family member should contain only ingredients that are:

-Unadulterated, unprocessed or lightly processed, wholesome foods that are . . .
. . . procured from local, traceable, reputable, inspected/audited sources

These latter two criteria eliminate almost every commercial dog treat you will find in chain grocery stores or big-box megastores. That’s one of the reasons we strongly recommend that you shop for treats in independent pet supply stores with educated staffers – stores that refuse to carry low-quality products. Just as in the human food industry, the titans of the pet food industry (who make the products found in grocery and big-box stores) put a lot of “junk” into their junk foods.

And while a very occasional Cheeto or Pop-Tart (or Snausage or Pup-Peroni) is unlikely to cause immediate harm, no one can say they could actually be good for you (or your dog). Whereas a handful of dried organic fruit or fresh oatmeal-raisin cookies are the kind of snacks that are delicious and contain nutritional benefits for you; and dried meat treats or fresh oatmeal-chicken cookies can genuinely nourish your dog.

As always, you have to scrutinize those ingredients lists – and be discriminating! Remember that your dog depends on you to make healthy choices for him. Don’t be the “pet parent” who gives his kid the canine equivalent of sodas and Fritos every day. If you want a fit, long-lived canine companion, then everything you feed him should support his health, not undermine it. There’s no reason that treats can’t be good for your dog – in moderation, of course. (If you find yourself cutting back on your dog’s nutritionally “complete and balanced” food in order to maintain his healthy weight, rather than cutting back his daily ration of nutritionally incomplete, unbalanced treats, your dog could end up fat and nutritionally deficient.)

Unsure that you can identify healthy ingredients? See the chart on the facing page for tips. If you’re still in doubt after that, consider making your dog’s treats yourself! We’’ve included directions and recipes in the accompanying article “How to Make Your Own Top-Quality Dog Treats!


  1. We adopted a dog that needed to have many of her teeth removed. I recently bought soft, chewy treats made by Blue Buffalo for her, but I see they are not on your approved list. Can you suggest a healthy soft treat?
    Thanks so much!

  2. Although WDJ’s articles are always well-written and meticulously edited, this particular one falls short with typos and one statement. “We think it’s [sic] only prudent…” and “That’s [sic] one of the reasons we strongly recommend…” and “There’s [sic] no reason that treats can’t [sic] be good for your dog” can easily be overlooked by the writer and more easily ignored by the reader.

    But when an error contradicts WDJ’s premise of “zero risk of killing your dog” it begs for correction. The article states: “…oatmeal-raisin cookies are the kind of snacks that are delicious and contain nutritional benefits … fresh oatmeal-chicken cookies can genuinely nourish your dog.”

    Oatmeal-chicken, yes; Oatmeal-raisin? Raisin? That’s worse than [sic]; it’s downright [lethal]. Does that same sentence correct itself with “oatmeal-chicken cookies”? This raisin error is more than a typo. Written in 2012 and re-published in 2020 is time enough for editors to correct such errors. Feeding one raisin to a dog may be safe, but it’s against WDJ’s philosophy. The following WDJ article says No to “13 Household Items Toxic to Dogs” – *Whole Dog Journal*, “Dog Food Information,” Feb 9, 2018. Guess what’s on the list?

    I enjoy Nancy Kerns and WDJ’s top-shelf information. Every issue provides essential information. One slip could be corrected and requires no forgiveness. I’m just one lowly reader searching for excellence I’ve come to take for granted – a result of trusting WDJ 100 percent for many years. That’s never going to change. Keep up the good work. V/r, JohnE

    V/r, JohnE