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The Best Dog Treats


 A committee of nine dogs taste-tested nine carefully selected treats to help us choose which ones are the best. Our dog judges overwhelmingly preferred Stewart – Pro-Treats to the others. These compact cubes of freeze-dried raw liver can be easily broken into bits for training your dog or puppy. Blue Buffalo – BLUE Wilderness Trail Treats is our choice for the best dog biscuit. These wholesome biscuits brought our dogs running to us again and again.

Our Top Choices

Best for Training


Stewart

Pro-Treat

Best Dog Biscuit


Blue Buffalo

BLUE Wilderness Trail Treats

Best for Puppies


Blue Buffalo

BLUE Bits

 A committee of nine dogs taste-tested nine carefully selected treats to help us choose which ones are the best. Our dog judges overwhelmingly preferred Stewart – Pro-Treats to the others. These compact cubes of freeze-dried raw liver can be easily broken into bits for training your dog or puppy. Blue Buffalo – BLUE Wilderness Trail Treats is our choice for the best dog biscuit. These wholesome biscuits brought our dogs running to us again and again.

Table of contents

How we selected products to test

In determining products to test we always seek out expert advice, and as we dug into our research, we discovered that pretty much anyone who owns a dog considers themselves an expert. A plethora of publications, websites and pet-food suppliers offer a wide range of opinions about dog treats that are often unreliable, since they’re actually just selling products.

Missing from all online resources is actual testing. Many dog trainers and veterinarians provide recommendations for dog treats based on years of working with hundreds of dogs. Yet none — at least that we could find — back up their opinions with test results. Surprisingly, we were covering new territory.

We focused our research on the best treats for puppy and dog training that were also healthy. This led us down another rabbit hole: the labeling of ingredients. What one expert calls healthy and natural, another expert calls harmful to your dog’s health, and indeed, many dog treats are loaded with chemicals and preservatives.

Since we would be having dogs sample a variety of treats, we needed to assure their owners that the the ingredients of the treats were safe and wouldn’t cause their dog any intestinal distress. We chose treats that had easily digestible meats (such as rabbit and turkey), vegetables and whole grains and were of a size and texture that a puppy or elderly dog could eat. We also spoke with veterinarians and trainers about which type of treat that was the most effective for puppy and dog training.

Compare the best dog treats

dog treats lineup

ProductPriceTypeTrainingPuppiesSenior Dogs
1. Stewart - Pro-Treat$$$Freeze-dried meatYesYesNo
2. Blue Buffalo - BLUE Wilderness$$BiscuitNoNoNo
3. Blue Buffalo - BLUE Bits$$Soft-moist biteYesYesYes
4. Old Mother Hubbard - Classic Crunchy Treats$BiscuitNoYesYes
5. Zuke's - Mini Naturals$$Soft-moist biteYesYesYes
6. Merrick - Power Bites$Soft-moist biteYesYesYes
7. Wet Noses - Organic Dog Treats$$$BiscuitNoNoNo
8. Vital Essentials - Freeze-Dried Vital Treats$$Freeze-dried meatYesYesNo
9. Hill's Science Diet - Jerky Strips$Jerky-styleYesYesYes

Types of treats

If you’re a dog parent, then it’s likely that you reward your fur baby with some kind of treat, such as a biscuit, a jerky stick or simply a piece of chicken or cheese. Treats, of course, are also excellent for training a puppy or dog.

Dog trainer and behaviorist Theresa Botello told us that the most effective way to motivate a dog to perform basic commands is to reward him/her with food. If the treat is meat or contains meat, your dog might leap through hoops. Every dog should know the basic commands, and the potent combination of a treat and encouragement will ensure that your dog learns the basics.

Treats are, of course, not only for rewarding your dog, but are often given as a snack in between meals. Treats should never be used as a meal replacement, because your dog won’t get his/her necessary daily nutrients.

There are four types of dog treats:

Soft and chewy pellets, which dog trainers recommend because they’re a quick reward that won’t distract the dog from progressing to his/her next task. This type of treat is perfect for giving to puppies and senior dogs with chewing problems.

Baked biscuits are the most common treat. They’re not ideal as a training reward, because they can be too large for a pup or smaller dog to chew quickly. Biscuits are better for occasional snacks.

Freeze-dried meat is another great motivator, but it’s not ideal for puppies, whose teeth haven’t fully developed, or senior dogs with dental issues.

Meat jerky can be difficult and time-consuming for dogs to chew, so these also fall into the snacking category.

Ingredients to consider

testing dog treats

Dogs, like humans, get bored with their food, and as a dog owner, you probably have found yourself walking up and down the aisles of your local pet-food supplier and wondering what treat you should buy. Dog treats aren’t manufactured to appeal to a dog’s sight and sensibilities but to the owner’s. So although the brightly colored packaging that claims the product is “wild” or “heritage” might leap off the shelf and into your cart, you should read its ingredient label first.

Labeling

The Association of American Feed Officials (AAFCO) works with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that the labeling of all pet food follows industry-wide rules. Before offering our “test subjects”  any treats, we believed it would be responsible to research what’s actually in them first.

Ingredients for dog treats (and all dog food) are listed by weight. Proportions and ratios, however, are not notated, so although the first ingredient may be beef, you won’t actually know how much of the treat is actually composed of beef. If there are two or more ingredients of the same weight, the manufacturer can list them in any order.

Primary ingredients

Ingredients are listed by weight before processing. For example, you might see chicken listed as the first ingredient. But 70 percent of any meat is water, and once it’s been dehydrated for dry food, the meat loses substantial weight and could account for less than 20 percent of total ingredients.

However, you still want an identifiable whole meat as the first ingredient.

De-boned beef: The first ingredient in Blue Buffalo – BLUE Bits means that the beef’s bones have been removed before processing. Beef bones are generally not processed, but chicken and turkey bones often make their way into the mixture.

By-products: As defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), by-products contain carcasses of the slaughtered animal and can include heads, neck, feet and cleaned intestines.

Meal or by-product meal: Used for kibble and treats, meal is the dry, hard material from dehydrated meat or by-products.

As a general rule, fewer processed ingredients listed as primary ingredients correlates to a higher-quality treat.

Organic vs natural

As with food for human consumption, the organic versus natural debate is confusing with dog treats. Manufacturers don’t make it any easier for us to understand the difference when they advertise their dog treat is made with “all-natural ingredients.” So what exactly differentiates an organic dog treat from a natural dog treat?

Organic: Restrictions are identical to organic food for human consumption. The ingredients in organic dog treats (and all organic dog food) must not have been genetically engineered or irradiated and produced without antibiotics, pesticides, hormones or conventional fertilizers.

Natural:  Ingredients for natural dog treats must be made of identified animal meat without by-products, chemical preservatives or artificial coloring or flavors.

Most treats are made with “natural” ingredients, so of the nine treats we tested, only one was labeled “organic:” Wet Noses – Organic Dog Treats is made of five organic ingredients. To our surprise, it was our dog testers’ least-favorite treat.

Calories

Calories are listed on the labeling for pet food as kilocalories or kcals. They’re actually the same calories for humans and are interchangeable.

Many manufacturers of dog treats add sugar or other sweeteners to their product as a flavor enhancer. Just like us, dogs can get pudgy around the middle, so if you really want to dote on your dog, you need to watch how many treats you give him/her every day.

Veterinarians advise that as a general rule treats should not make up more than 10 percent of a dog’s daily caloric intake. It’s actually very easy to calculate what that is.

Step 1: Divide your dog’s weight in pounds by 2.2.
Step 2: Multiply that number by 30.
Step 3: Add 70, and this will give you your dog’s daily calorie requirement.
Step 4: Multiply the total by 10%.

For example, from the above calculation, a 30-pound dog’s daily calorie requirement is 479, and 10-percent of that would be 48. So the 30-pound dog should only be fed 48 calories’ worth of treats per day.

Fortunately most manufacturers list calories per treat. Once you’ve calculated your dog’s 10 percent calorie allowance for treats, it’s easy to figure out how many your dog can eat per day. Our dog testers loved the Blue Buffalo – BLUE Wilderness Trail Treats, but at 41 calories each, a 30-pound dog could only eat one per day without putting on the pounds.

Mystery ingredients

There are a number of ingredients on dog treat labels that are not immediately recognizable. In most cases, these “mystery ingredients” are not harmful to dogs.

Mixed tocopherols: Almost all of the dog treats we tested had this additive. It’s another name for Vitamin E and is used as a natural preservative.

Potassium chloride: A chemical compound similar to table salt. In combination with potassium, it helps regulate blood flow through the dog’s heart and cells

Zinc proteinate: An antioxidant that promotes healing.

Calcium carbonate: An essential mineral for a dog’s bone and teeth development and strength.

Soy or sunflower lecithin: A naturally occurring emulsifier and an antioxidant. Lecithin is safe for dogs, unless it’s artificially derived. It’s required to state the type of lecithin that was added.

Sweet lupin meal: Lupin is a legume that’s used as an alternative to soy.

Maltodexterin: A sugar derived from starch, it’s commonly added as a sweetener.

Sorbic acid: A chemically produced preservative.

Dextrose: A sweetener derived from corn.

Ingredients to avoid

Xylitol: Used as a sugar substitute in many foods, including chewing gum and some brands of peanut butter (a favorite dog snack), xylitol is highly toxic for dogs. Even a tiny amount can cause seizures, liver failure and even death.

Sugar and corn syrup: Dogs process glucose similarly to humans and can result in the same problems we have from eating too much sugar, such as weight gain, tooth decay and diabetes.

BHA and BHT: These commonly used preservatives have been proven to increase the risk of cancer in animals. Unfortunately, many popular dog treats, such as Milk-Bone, contain BHA.

Jerky treats warning

Since 2007, more than 6,200 cases of canine illness and 1,100 deaths have been reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a result of dogs eating chicken, duck and sweet potato jerky treats manufactured in China. The FDA continually publishes annual updates to its ongoing investigation.

The illnesses and deaths spiked in 2013, and thanks to the FDA’s efforts to inform the public, reported cases of dogs sickened by jerky treats have decreased substantially. However, the FDA advises that pet owners should only feed dogs jerky treats that are made in the U.S. from locally sourced animals and plants.

How dog treats are made

Biscuits

Today the most common method for mass-producing dog biscuits is a completely automated system of mixing, shaping, baking  and packaging. Water is added to dry ingredients, and the paste-like substance is heated. Animal meal or byproducts are then incorporated, and the mixture is piped into molds of different shapes.

The biscuits are transferred by conveyor belt to ovens and baked at high heat until dehydrated to about 10 percent moisture. Fats, flavorings and vitamins are sprayed onto the cooled biscuits, which are then packaged.

Soft-moist treats

These are made in a similar way to biscuits. However, a softening agent, such as vegetable glycerin, gives the treat its slightly chewy texture. Once the mixture has been extruded into shapes, the treats are baked at a lower temperature than biscuits are to retain moisture of approximately 30 percent. A good example of a soft-moist treat is our runner-up, Blue Buffalo – BLUE Bits.

Freeze-dried meats

Raw meat is cut into bite-size pieces and flash frozen inside a vacuum chamber. Once the meat is frozen, the vacuum removes virtually all moisture. Since bacteria and other microorganisms require water to survive, the freeze-dried meats are naturally preserved without needing any chemical preservatives.

DIY dog treats

If you want to avoid any risk of feeding something that could be harmful to your dog, there are many recipes for making your own treats. Many veterinarians and professional organizations suggest foregoing baked or dried treats altogether and reward your dog with certain vegetables, fruit or cubes of cooked chicken. There is also an abundance of resources online for baking your own dog biscuits and drying out meat in a food dehydrator for jerky treats.

Dental chews

Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth or having his/her teeth professionally cleaned by a vet is the best way for eliminating plaque buildup. However, not all dogs allow owners to brush their teeth, and teeth-cleaning at a vet’s office is expensive. Many pet owners resort to giving a dental chew to their dog.

Some dental chews are meant for occasional use while others — like the popular Greenies — are intended for daily use. But what’s in a dental chew, and does it actually clean a dog’s teeth and freshen his/her breath as advertised?

Ingredients in dental chews

We examined the labels of several dental chews, and these are a few examples of their primary ingredients:

  • Wheat flour
  • Wheat gluten
  • Gelatin
  • Glycerin
  • Potato starch
  • Tapioca starch
  • Rice starch
  • Natural poultry or chicken liver flavor

During the manufacture — similar to how biscuits are made — a range of chemicals, minerals, sweeteners and preservatives is added to the mixture or sprayed over the chew. “Natural poultry flavor” just means chicken fat.

Other chews are made of beefhide that are chemically treated to purportedly prevent plaque buildup. One particularly egregious example is Virbac’s C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews that lists “poultry digest” — a flavor enhancer made from boiled-down liquid chicken concentrate — and dextrose, a corn-derived sugar.

Do dental chews work?

Despite the many “veterinarian-recommended” dental chews on the market, the reality is that a dental chew should not replace dental hygiene.  Dental chews may help retard the buildup of plaque and tartar. But the Veterinary Oral Health Council states that the key to strong teeth is keeping your dog’s gums healthy with regular brushing.

The risks of dental chews

Dogs certainly love to chew, but not all dogs chew everything to bits before swallowing. The most common risk with dental chews is that the dog will chew it only long enough to break it down so it can be swallowed. These larger pieces are often indigestible and can cause vomiting, diarrhea or intestinal blockage.

This risk is most prevalent with rawhide treats. Rawhide softens as the dog continues to gnaw on it. The softened rawhide stops any teeth-cleaning propensity it might have had and breaks down into pieces that many dogs swallow whole.

The popular Greenies has been subject to a couple of lawsuits — both settled — for dog deaths and false advertising. Greenies and the one dental chew we tested Whimzees – Natural Daily Dental Treats are made of wheat flour and potato starch, respectively, which a dog can easily break down and swallow — sometimes nearly whole — in about 10 minutes.

As a result of the lawsuit, most dog chews are now labeled with an advisory that the owner is solely responsible for choosing the size of chew that’s proportional to their dog’s weight and ability to chew. Veterinarians and dog experts warn that a dog should not be left unattended while he/she consumes a dental chew.

Whimzees – Natural Dental Treats

Taking all of the risks and warnings under consideration, we decided to test only one dental chew, Whimzees – Natural Daily Dental Treats. Whimzees is highly rated on Amazon, and although they are manufactured in Holland and not the U.S., people seem to trust the company’s claim of all-natural ingredients.

Whimzees primary ingredients are potato starch, glycerin and cellulose. The most popular variety are shaped like alligators and are colored orange, green and yellow-gold by paprika, alfalfa and sweet lupin meal. (The other variety is shaped like a toothbrush.)

The feeding guidelines posted at the top of the bag gave us pause:

“Recommended for dogs nine months and a minimum of 15 pounds in weight. As with any edible chew, monitor your dog while chewing. Ensure that your dog adequately chews the product. Swallowing any item without adequately chewing may be harmful or fatal to a dog.”

This seems less like a “guideline” and more like a legal disclaimer. Reluctantly, our tester and his friend gave a Whimzee to each of their dogs — Archie, a 32-pound terrier mix and Max, a 15-pound Pomeranian mix. Both dogs chowed down the Whimzee in less than seven minutes. Max had no reaction, but Archie vomited up undigested pieces later in the night.

Based on that experience, we chose to not test Whimzees on any other dogs.

How we tested

Nine dogs participated in our study. They were predominantly mixed-breed dogs, between one and seven years old and weighing between 10 and 70 pounds. Each dog participated with no other dogs nearby.

We separated the dog treats into three categories — biscuits, soft-moist and freeze-dried — and performed the same test in the same conditions for each category. For example, each of the three biscuits we tested were put into a separate bowl. The owner held the dog as we placed the three bowls on the floor in no particular order. Once we set the bowls down, the owner released the dog.

We recorded how the dog sniffed, tasted and ate each treat and in what order. We then repeated the test two more times, mixing up the bowls, and noting if the dog had a preference. Throughout the tests we instructed the dog’s owner to offer no encouragement, reaction or other vocal or visual response.

feeding dog treats

Finally, because we wouldn’t give our dogs something we wouldn’t eat ourselves, we sniffed and taste-tested all of the dog treats.

Best for training: Stewart – Pro-Treat

best treat for training dogs

Pretty much across the board, the dogs’ favorite treat was Stewart – Pro-Treat. It’s a single ingredient — freeze-dried beef liver — with no preservatives or flavor enhancers added.

Stewart has been in business for 40 years, and they manufacture their freeze-dried products in a USDA-monitored plant. Their impressive range of products includes freeze-dried livers of chicken, duck, turkey, bison, lamb and pork, powdered liver as flavor enhancers for canine medical diets and freeze-dried cubes of skin-on wild salmon. (If you happen to own a ferret, Stewart also has freeze-dried chicken or turkey liver for your critter.)

Ninety-percent of our dogs charged for the Pro-Treat first and gobbled it down before sampling the other two treats. They would also return to the bowl and lick it several times. We switched out bowls and positioned them differently, and each time, the dogs ate the Pro-Treat first.

Best for Getting Your Dog to Sit: Stewart - Pro-Treat

High-quality and economical freeze-dried cubes of liver can be broken up or given whole as a reward for your dog performing a training task.

The treats are solid cubes, so they won’t crumble in your pocket during a training session. We recommend breaking them into smaller bits for training, especially if you’re training a puppy, because a whole cube — about ½ inch in diameter — takes a bit of gnawing for smaller dogs.

You’ll only need a little piece for each training task, because they’re obviously so flavorful and delicious-smelling for a dog that he/she will respond to any command. (If you enjoy the smell and taste of liver, they’re not too bad for humans as well.)

Stewart – Pro-Treats are available in various sizes and range in price from about $20 to $27, depending on which product you buy. It may seem expensive for a dog treat, but the large size, which has the equivalent of three pounds fresh liver, will last a long while.

Key takeaways:

  • Stewart – Pro-Treat is 100-percent freeze-dried meat, which dog trainers recommend as the best treat for training dogs and puppies.
  • It’s a high-quality one-ingredient treat manufactured in a human-grade USDA-monitored plant.
  • It has no preservatives or additives, and 90-percent of our test dogs preferred it over the other treats we tested.

Best dog biscuit: Blue Buffalo – BLUE Wilderness

best dog biscuit

Another winner with our dog taste-testers was the Blue Buffalo – BLUE Wilderness Trail Treats. Blue Buffalo markets their Wilderness line of products as “inspired by the diet of wolves,” and the meats in their grain-free, high-protein kibble and treats include venison, duck, game birds and, in the “Bayou Blend,” alligator.

In 2013, a class-action suit was filed against Blue Buffalo for willingly advertising chicken and turkey wet dog food as healthy when the food had significant levels of lead, resulting in canine illness and death. However, nothing could be proven, and the lawsuit was thrown out in 2018. The class-action suit was only aimed at Blue Buffalo wet dog food and not the treats. We still believe the Blue Buffalo products are high quality and safe for your dogs.

The salmon biscuits that we tested are loaded with salmon and a few other ingredients as binding agents, like potato, flaxseed and chicken meal. They’re high in protein (33 percent), low in fat (16 percent) and contain Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

The biscuit is a dense one-inch square, and because of the high protein, they are 41 calories per piece. In fact, the BLUE biscuits are so high in calories they should only be given to your dog sparingly.

Best Reward for a Good Dog: Blue Buffalo - BLUE Wilderness Trail Treats

Crispy and aromatic, these high-quality biscuits with limited ingredients are great for your dog’s daily snack or as a reward for being such a good boy/girl.

They’re not a hard biscuit, but have a crispy texture like a whole-wheat cracker. Their fragrant salmon aroma was apparently intoxicating for our dog panel, most of whom ran straight for the bowl in our tests. A couple of our dogs licked the biscuit a few times before devouring it, and only one dog spat it out altogether.

As to the taste, if truth be told, you could put some cream cheese on these biscuits and serve them as an hors d’oeuvre at a cocktail party. Yes, these dog treats are delicious.

The BLUE biscuits are a bit too crumbly to use for dog training and are really best for a snack or reward. The 10-ounce bag has about 50 biscuits, and at around $5.99 it’s reasonably priced for such a high-quality product.

Key takeaways:

  • The Blue Buffalo – BLUE Wilderness Trail Treats salmon biscuits are grain-free, packed with aromatic salmon and little else.
  • They’re too crumbly for dog training, but they’re great for a snack or reward.
  • With the highest calories of the biscuits we tested, the BLUE salmon biscuits should be given to your dog sparingly.

Best for puppies & seniors: Blue Buffalo – BLUE bits

best treat for puppies

Blue Buffalo – BLUE Bits are heart-shaped soft-moist tidbits that are great for house training a puppy or training for basic commands. If you have a senior dog with teeth and gum issues, the soft texture will be easy for him/her to chew.

The soft-moist treat testing had to be conducted several times, because the dogs literally vacuumed up all the different treats in a single snort. However, with repeated testings, two-thirds of the dogs went to the BLUE Bits before the Zuke’s – Mini Naturals and Merrick – Power Bites.

We tested the “tender beef” recipe, and upon opening the bag, the Bits smell strongly of the natural smoke flavor that’s been added. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, but the heady scent didn’t turn off our dog testers. They couldn’t get enough of the BLUE Bits.

Most Tender for Senior Dogs and Pups: Blue Buffalo - BLUE Bits

Rich in aroma and flavor, the soft texture of BLUE Bits makes them easy to chew for senior dogs with teeth issues and teething pups who can’t handle a hard biscuit.

The primary ingredients are de-boned beef, brown rice, oatmeal, maple syrup and glycerin (which provides the 30% moisture). Potatoes, gelatin and flaxseed give the Bits their texture, and the remaining ingredients — salmon oil, mixed tocopherols, rosemary and citric acid serve as natural preservatives.

With only 3.5 kcalories per piece, you can reward your senior, low-activity dog or puppy several times a day without worrying about him/her getting chubby. BLUE Bits come in three flavors — beef, chicken and turkey — and in various sizes. We tested with the 16-ounce bag, which had about 300 treats, so the Blue Buffalo – BLUE Bits are also a good value.

Key takeaways:

  • Blue Buffalo – BLUE Bits are flavorful mini-bites for training dogs and puppies. They’re low in calories so you can give your dog or pup several during a training session.
  • The soft-moist texture makes these easy to chew for senior dogs or dogs with teeth or gum issues.
  • Although the BLUE Bits have a strong smoky aroma, they’re made of high-quality ingredients that dogs seem to love.

Other products we tested

Old Mother Hubbard – Classic Crunchy Treats

old mother hubbard treats

The Old Mother Hubbard Baking Company has been around for 90 years, originally making hardtack for fisherman. When a fisherman tossed his dog a bit of hardtack, the dog gobbled it up, and the company began making dog biscuits.

Today, Old Mother Hubbard – Classic Crunchy Treats are made primarily of whole wheat flour, oatmeal, wheat bran, chicken fat and cane molasses. The biscuits come in a variety of tasty flavors like bacon and cheese, liver, peanut butter and in different sizes for petite dogs and large dogs. They’re naturally sweetened with carrot and apple, so the addition of molasses and maltodextrin seem unnecessary.

Of course, it comes down to the taste test, and although two dogs loved Old Mother Hubbard biscuits, the other dogs weren’t as interested and went to the Blue Buffalo – BLUE Wilderness Trail Treats first.

Zuke’s – Mini Naturals

zukes moist treats

There’s a lot to love about Zuke’s. The company manufactures their wide variety of treats in the U.S. and New Zealand, and they have strict quality control and safety standards that exceed the AAFCO standards for pet food. They always test all ingredients for any toxins and bacteria in both the manufacturing and distribution centers.

It was disappointing that only one of our dogs liked Zuke’s – Mini Naturals over the two other soft-moist treats. He was so enthusiastic that his owner asked if they were packed with sugar. We checked the ingredients, and the only sweetener is cherries, which is surprising since cherry pits are poisonous for dogs, and the American Kennel Club recommends that cherry fruit should not be fed to them.

Although the Mini Naturals’ main ingredient is meat (rabbit in our test sample), despite the company’s claims that there are no fillers, the other ingredients — ground rice, malted barley, tapico — seem bulky. In fact, they have a fruity-vegetal aroma rather than a meaty aroma, which may be why our dogs didn’t care for them as much as Blue Buffalo – BLUE Bits.

Merrick – Power Bites

merrick soft dog treats

Merrick is another dog food company that puts heart and soul into its product. Based in Texas, Merrick claims that their foods are prepared in the founder’s home kitchen, which has been converted into a commercial kitchen. All of their ingredients are sourced from local farmers, and they refuse to use preservatives, additives or fillers. Merrick also donates to several charities and animal shelters.

We tried out Merrick – Power Bites Turducken recipe on our dog test-tasters, and some of our dogs loved it while others chose the BLUE Bits or Zuke’s Mini Naturals instead. The Power Bites have nutritious meats, vegetables and fruit, but also listed as primary ingredients are cane molasses and brown sugar.

Wet Noses – Organic Dog Treats

wet noses organic biscuit

With all of the rave reviews online, we expected our dogs would gobble up the peanut butter and banana Wet Noses – Organic Dog Treats. This is the only treat we tested that was completely made of USDA-certified organic ingredients. Wet Noses specializes in vegetable and fruit treats, foods and jerky for dogs and cats.

They’re clearly targeting customers who want their pets to eat vegetarian diets. But perhaps a little meat added to their treats might make them more appealing to dogs. As much as we wanted our taste-testers to enjoy the Wet Noses treats, it was always the last one they sampled, and a couple dogs even spat the half-eaten treat out.

Vita Essentials – Freeze-Dried Vital Treats

freeze dried rabbit treat

Vita Essentials is a family-owned company, located in Green Bay, Wisconsin that produces raw frozen and freeze-dried food, snacks and treats for dogs and cats. Their employees are trained and certified in food safety programs, which is required for handling raw meats. Although Vita Essentials uses only USDA-certified meats, their products are not certified organic.

Vita Essentials – Freeze-Dried Vital Treats come in many shapes in sizes. Two of their most popular treats are freeze-dried minnows and freeze-dried rabbit ears. (According to online reviewers, their dogs love to chomp on cartilage and fur.) The rabbit bites — made of rabbit meat and rabbit organs — were not popular with our dogs. Only one dog preferred the rabbit bites over the Stewart – Pro-Treats.

Hill’s Science Diet – Jerky Strips

jerky dog treats

Hill’s founder, Dr. Mark Morris, Sr., was a pioneer in managing canine and feline illnesses through diet, and his research serves as the nutritional standards for pet foods used today by the AAFCO. Hill’s has several lines of pet foods, one of which requires a veterinarian’s prescription. Hill’s Science Diet, however, can be bought just about anywhere. This brand relies heavily on appealing to dog owners with photographs of luscious roasted chicken or turkey drumsticks on pet food packaging.

The Hill’s Science Diet – Jerky Strips lists chicken as its primary ingredient, but besides that there’s little difference between these “jerky” strips and a dog biscuit. They have a slightly chemical odor that our dog testers didn’t seem to mind.

We’ve listed this treat as our least favorite, because despite the packaging’s claim that the strips are made with “real chicken,” other ingredients listed are “chicken liver flavor,” “chicken flavor” and the mysterious “natural flavors.”

The bottom line

Nothing makes a dog owner happier than seeing a beloved pet’s wagging tail and toothy grin. If you’re training your new puppy or dog, you’ll need to reward him/her with more than hugs and belly rubs. Nothing motivates a dog more than food, and according to dog trainers, the best motivator of all is something meaty.

Stewart – Pro-Treats are freeze-dried cubes of raw liver that can be fed whole or broken into small bits. Our panel of nine dogs was unanimous: no matter their age or size, they couldn’t get enough of the Pro-Treats.

For an everyday treat or snack, we recommend Blue Buffalo – BLUE Wilderness Trail Treats. These crunchy biscuits are packed with salmon and wholesome all-natural ingredients that our dog taste-testers went nuts over.

If you have a senior dog with teeth issues or a puppy that’s teething and can’t quite chomp down on a biscuit yet, Blue Buffalo – BLUE Bits are tender and moist tidbits that any dog young or old can chew.

Best Dog Treat for Training: Stewart - Pro-Treats

Single-ingredient freeze-dried liver cubes with no preservatives will motivate your dog to perform training commands. They’re available in various sizes and are very economical for such a high-quality treat.

Gene Gerrard, Writer

Gene Gerrard was recently voted as one of the top five personal chefs in Los Angeles. He created About.com's Meat and Wild Game Cooking website and published hundreds of recipes, interviews, cookbook reviews and blog posts about food trends. Gene is also a professional magician, and when he's not writing for Your Best Digs, he's performing at the World Famous Magic Castle in Hollywood.