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How to Choose Dog Treats for Small Breed Dogs

Melody has been an online writer for over five years. She is a genealogist who often writes about cultural ancestry and pet care.

Learn how to choose the best dog food for your small dog.

Learn how to choose the best dog food for your small dog.

Small Dog Treats

When I got my Jack Russell Terrier, there were so many things I had to adapt to. Besides having five times as much energy as my previous dog, a Lab/Golden mix, she was 60 lbs lighter. This meant rethinking dog treats.

When it comes to food, small dogs have different needs than big dogs. They also have some limitations that need to be considered. It's important to find treats that are satisfying for your dog but are good for them as well. It can be confusing with the sheer variety of treats on the market. Stand in any dog treat aisle at the pet store and it's enough to cause a panic attack. If you keep a couple of things in mind, you'll be able to make the best selection.

If you buy treats that fit those guidelines, you'll be able to reward your dog without worrying about choking hazards or weight gain—and you'll have one very happy dog.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Buying Dog Treats

  1. Is It Too Big for My Dog's Mouth?
  2. Can My Dog Chew Through It?
  3. Will It Upset My Dog's Diet?
Small breed dogs have different nutritional  and chewing capabilities that large breed dogs.

Small breed dogs have different nutritional and chewing capabilities that large breed dogs.

1. How Big Is That Treat?

Many dog treats are heralded as hearty, chewy, and long-lasting. However, they are meant for big dogs like German Shepherds, not Chihuahuas. While my dog would love to eat a huge biscuit, it can be dangerous for her. Not only is it too much food at once, but it can also break off into big chunks that can choke her.

Yes, I'm speaking from experience. Misha is terrified of our gardener. She barks the whole time he is working. To get past this, he decided to befriend her with bribes. The problem was that his dog bones were too big for Misha to chew. One week she swallowed too large a chunk and promptly threw it up. The next week she took too big a piece which got it stuck in the back of her mouth. I had to reach in and pry it out. After that, we keep a supply of appropriately sized bribes and hand them to the gardener when he arrives.

Select small treats that are made specifically for small dogs. Many companies make treats specially designed for toy breeds. These are perfect for smaller non-toy breeds as well.

Misha tells me the peanut butter flavor of these biscuits is the best, but she's open to all varieties. She loves these because they are small enough that sometimes she gets two at the same time. They are the perfect reward for my Jack Russell Terrier.

Misha's dog food in comparison with her favorite treats.  You can see that they are much more appropriate for a small dog's mouth.

Misha's dog food in comparison with her favorite treats. You can see that they are much more appropriate for a small dog's mouth.

2. Can Your Dog Chew It?

Even if the treats are small, they may be too hard for your Yorkie to chew through. Tiny teeth take tiny bites. You have to consider whether those teeth can break up food that is hard and thick.

This doesn't mean you have to buy soft chews, though I'm sure your pup would love them. There are hard biscuit-type treats that are thin enough that smaller jaws can get through them. There are some advantages to hard treats. They can help keep tartar at bay and add to overall oral health.

Select hard treats that are crunchy but not too thick. The thickness is really the kicker. If it's too difficult to break with your hands, your pup won't be able to break it up either.

Old Mother Hubbard makes dog bones in a mini size that are perfect for my 10 lb. dog. They break up in small enough sizes that I don't have to worry about choking. Also, I like the fact that they are easy to break by hand. I can make one treat seem like several. Old Mother Hubbard biscuit treats also come in just the right size for dogs under 10 lbs. They're also hard but easy to break up, and they come in a variety of flavors.

Choosey Owners Have a Heck of a Time Choosing Treats

Old Mother Hubbard Crunchy Biscuits come in mini size

Old Mother Hubbard Crunchy Biscuits come in mini size

3. How Fattening Is It?

We all love to give our pups little snacks and rewards during the day no matter what their size. However, it can be very easy to treat a small dog too much. The difference between 7 lbs and 10 lbs doesn't seem like much, but it can be for a small breed. Two regular-sized dog bones might be more than a 10 lb dog gets in an entire meal. Nobody wants to hear the words "your dog needs to lose weight" from the veterinarian. Trust me on that.

In 2015, dog food manufacturers will have to include calorie counts on dog food bags, but they don't have to supply the information on dog treats. Without that basic information, how do you know what a serving size is or how many calories are in a bone? You don't.

In this case, the smaller the better. For this reason, I like Buddy Biscuits, the Itty Bitty Size. They are only about an inch long and they're very thin. You can break them in half easily. I do this so my dog thinks she's getting more. Plus, they fit right in her treat ball.

Cloud Star makes Itty Bitty Buddy Biscuits.  They are not much bigger than Misha's dog food.

Cloud Star makes Itty Bitty Buddy Biscuits. They are not much bigger than Misha's dog food.

Who Regulates Dog Food?

I wasn't sure myself, so I did some snooping. It turns out that the FDA regulates dog food and treats just as it does people's food.

The FDA regulates what each manufacturer puts on its labels. Prior to 2007, this information was fairly basic. They had to identify the name of the business making or distributing the product and list the ingredients in each product. According to the FDA Amendments Act of 2007, the regulations extended to defining standards for the ingredients used in dog food that are listed on the label and setting standards for processing. They also check into health claims much like they do our food. If a product says that it protects teeth against tartar, they have to follow specific guidelines that allow that type of labeling.

As humans treat their pets more like family members, I suspect you will see dog food regulation coming more in line with people's food. We spend a lot of money protecting our dogs' health. We want to make sure the food we buy serves that need.

As a side note, not all regulation falls on the FDA. Some states have their own regulations. For more information on this topic, see the FDA's article titled “Pet Food”.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: My young small pup has no teeth. What kind of treats do you recommend?

Answer: Though my dog doesn't have this issue, I believe the best treats would be soft treats. Hard dog treats need to be chewed to be broken up. Soft, chewy treats can be swallowed without problem.

Buddy Biscuits makes a line of soft & chewy treats. They can be broken into smaller pieces easily. They come in several varieties. My dog loves the peanut butter.

© 2014 Melody Lassalle


Krista on April 11, 2017:

So I buy Fromm food and I've always bought their treats but the first couple of bags I bought the treats were so hard that I couldn't even break them in half. My dog didn't seem to have a problem chewing them though, but I'm wondering if she could break a tooth on these? The most recent bag I bought I could easily break them in half. I'm wondering if they reformulated them because seem much better. The only other thing I could think of is the way I was storing them, they could have gotten stale. (In a sealed glass jar) I store them in the original bag now. The reason I stuck with these treats is because they are so healthy and only contain meat and veggies along with some flour to hold the biscuit together. I love that they include a ton of fresh produce! I have tried mother Hubbard biscuits and they were actually the prefect size and texture! And I loved that they were only 8 calories! Not quite as healthy as fromms though. But if the fromms doesn't work out, mother Hubbard is my back up. Thanks for the heart article!

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on May 24, 2015:

Ladyguitarpicker, thanks for your comments! It isn't easy finding the right treats for small dogs. They gain weight so easily! I'm glad you found a dietary solution and your beagle has lost 4 pounds.

stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on May 19, 2015:

A lot of good information, I was guilty of too big treats for Trixie my beagle, I stopped giving her milk bones and gave her diet kibbles made of carrots and cranberries and she lost 4 pounds. My vet let me know how fattening the bones had been. Great Hub, Stella

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on November 04, 2014:

Smine77, thanks for your comment. I'm glad that your dog is okay. Treat time can be dangerous for small dogs, especially if you have one like mine who hasn't mastered the art of chewing.

Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on November 04, 2014:

Thank you. This was very useful for me and I do relate. My dog threw up one of his treats that my friend gave him on a friendly visit. After that, I make sure to watch him while he eats his treat.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

It sure is! That's why I think we tend to overindulge them a little too much. We just love them too much.

Andrew Smith from Richmond, VA on September 12, 2014:

It's so awesome to spoil our dogs, especially seniors! : )

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

revolutionbjj, I haven't tried green beans. However, I've given Misha cooked baby carrots, broccoli, peas, and other veggies. She just loves them! They are a great option for healthy treats that are easy for small dogs to chew.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Thanks, mySuccess8! You're right, sometimes it is the obvious things we miss.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Thank you so much, Heidi!

Andrew Smith from Richmond, VA on September 12, 2014:

Very good stuff. Have you ever tried frozen (cooked) green beans? These work great for diabetic dogs, or for dogs with low calorie needs!

mySuccess8 on September 12, 2014:

Very useful guides, which can sometimes be overlooked because some may seem obvious. Congrats on HotD!

Heidi Vincent from GRENADA on September 12, 2014:

CONGRATULATIONS on winning Hub of the Day, MelRootsNWrites!

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Thanks Jim! What is about dogs and peanut butter? My Jack Russell will do anything for peanut butter. It's our secret go to when she won't take medication.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Thank you Thelma!

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Thanks Heidi! I had a Lab/Golden mix before this dog. I remember the day I took her to the Vets and was told she was 10 lbs. overweight. That was a terrible month bringing her weight down. We went to smaller, healthier treats because she was a chow hound and would steal food if you didn't give her any. She was healthier for it,

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Marlene, thank you! I can tell you that it's pretty scary when they start choking on a big chunk. Never knew I could react so quickly! My dog's problem is she doesn't chew them so it's even more of a danger.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Susan, thank you! Yes, those big sad eyes can work out a treat or two, can't they? That's why the Buddy Biscuits are so good. I treat Misha with vegetables too. She really loves steamed baby carrots.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Katya, thanks! I'm glad you liked the photos. I'm surprised there aren't more options on the market since there are so many small dogs in homes. Even with some of the stuff out there, it's just not good quality.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Corrinna-Johnson, Thank you! Homemade is an excellent way to make sure your little dog is getting the best snacks.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Thank you Pawpawwrites and BarbaraCasey! Hopefully, the information will come in handy.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Thanks aka-rms! I would stick with what works especially with a picky dog. Misha will eat anything as long as it looks kind of like food.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 12, 2014:

Phyllis, 6 pounds is so small! The Itty Bitty Buddy treats would be perfect for your Pom. They are really small and thin.

JimHofman on September 12, 2014:

Some very good advice here! We supplement store bought treats (U.S. made only) with homemade dog cookies. Our pooch friends love the cheese and peanut butter varieties especially, plus they are fun to make and cut out with dog-related cookie cutters (bone shape, fire hydrant, mailman...etc.) Congrats on HOTD!

Thelma Alberts from Germany on September 12, 2014:

Congrats on the HOTD! Thanks for sharing the information. I have a dog, too. Happy weekend!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 12, 2014:

Good tips! I've got big ol' 70+ pound golden retrievers which will try to eat anything... and I mean anything. But I even have to watch it with them, especially when giving treats while on a walk. They get bitty cookies and cookie crumbs as a motivational treat to keep walking politely. Voted up and useful!

Kari on September 12, 2014:

@gottaloveit - I would recommend making your own dog treats so you know what's in them and don't have to worry.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on September 12, 2014:

I had two little terriers who loved to eat pig ears. When one would finish eating her pig ear, she would attack the other dog to get a piece of the other dog's pig ear. They really liked their pig ears, but they became so violent over the pig ears that I had to stop "treating" them with pig ears. Now after reading your hub, I see I was lucky they didn't choke on them because the pig ears were quite large for those little dogs. Moving forward, I'm going to look for treats that are more appropriate for the size of the dog. Thank you for such valuable information. And, by the way, congratulations on receiving Hub of the Day!

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on September 12, 2014:

It really is difficult to choose treats for dogs. Our Daisy is big (80 pounds) and loves to get treats. I'm a softie, so I tend to buy small to medium-sized treats so she thinks she's getting more than she is through the day when I give in to her pleading and big, golden eyes. Congrats on your HOTD honors today!

Katya Drake from Wisconsin on September 12, 2014:

Great article. It is more difficult to find treats for a smaller dog. This hub has great advice for finding the right kind. Thank you for your insight.

The pictures were great too! The treats look like cookies! Yum! Congratulations on being rewarded for this hub!

Corrinna Johnson from BC, Canada on September 12, 2014:

I have a little 8 pound Chihuahua and most of the store bought treats are not suitable for her so I make mine own. I am control of both the quality and the size :) Congrats on HotD!

BarbaraCasey on September 12, 2014:

Very clear, well written info. Congrats on HotD!

Jim from Kansas on September 12, 2014:

This is great information for any dog owner.

Robin S from USA on September 12, 2014:

My picky little dog only likes certain treats so we stick with those. Congratulations on HotD!

Julia M S Pearce from Melbourne, Australia on September 12, 2014:

Good to know.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on September 12, 2014:

Melody, thank you so much for writing this hub. I have a heck of a time finding treats for my tiny Pom, 6 pounds. I am going to try to find the itty bitty buddy treats. Thanks again.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 11, 2014:

Thanks Sandy! I really had to learn a lot going from a 70+ lb Lab to a very small Jack Russell.

Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on September 11, 2014:

Small dogs need smaller treats. This is very useful

Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on September 04, 2014:

A very useful hub indeed as I have a small dog.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 03, 2014:

Thank you, June! These treats are about the same size as cat treats. ;)

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 03, 2014:

Can't go wrong with peanut butter treats. Misha swears by them.

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on September 03, 2014:

I know, aren't they? My sister and I laughed about them because she has a 60 lb. dog. The Buddy Biscuits she buys are about 4 times the size.

Tori Canonge from North Carolina on August 26, 2014:

Great information for all small dog owners!

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on August 20, 2014:

mighthub, I used to give my Lab/Golden these special treats with minimal ingredients. Poor Misha couldn't even chew through them. It was like giving her rocks.

mightyhub on August 20, 2014:

Thanks for sharing this. I too had trouble figuring out which treats were best for my little pug.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on August 19, 2014:

Useful information. Thank you for sharing!! ;-)

Melody Lassalle (author) from California on August 19, 2014:

GottaLoveit2, I share your concern. While the Old Mother Hubbard treats are made in Canada, Buddy Biscuits are made in the USA.

gottaloveit2 on August 19, 2014:

I'm having a hard time finding dog treats made in the US - I refuse to buy foreign made treats.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on August 18, 2014:

Those itty bitty buddy treats are so cute. I bet dog love eating them!

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on August 18, 2014:

Can't comment on dog treats. This is cat country here. But I do know you have a nice, clean looking lens. Well done.

Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on August 18, 2014:

The photos look so tasty that I feel tempted to try these treats myself

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on August 18, 2014:

nicely done!