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Some dogs are head-over-paws for treats—such as biscuits—with a nice, crunchy texture. Other dogs love the hard-to-chew, tough texture of a jerky. Yet for a variety of reasons (from training to dental issues), some dogs either prefer or could benefit from easy-to-chew, soft dog treats.
But what, exactly, are soft dog treats? Which dogs will benefit most from them? And what are the best, healthiest options on the market?
Here, we take a deep dive into the subject—including our picks for the best for 2020.
What Are Soft Dog Treats?
First things first—before we jump into all things soft treats, let’s first define what, exactly, makes up this variety of dog treat.
As you might have guessed, soft dog chews are a broad category of any treat that’s softer in texture than a crunchy biscuit or Milk Bone-type treat. Generally, that’s “chewy treats or freeze-dried treats,” says Clinical Pet Nutritionist, Johnna Devereaux, who recently answered some of our questions over email.
What Dogs Will Benefit Most From Soft Dog Treats?
Soft dog treats can be used for a variety of reasons—and for a variety of dogs.
“Soft, chewy treats are commonly used for puppies as a reward during training sessions,” says Devereaux. Soft treats are faster and easier for your dog to eat than crunchy treats, and they typically have a stronger smell, which can help keep your dog’s attention during training.
Soft treats are helpful for senior dogs or those with dental issues who can’t chew hard, crunchy treats.
Sometimes, this special variety of dog treat contains higher-quality or minimal ingredients that make them an all-around healthier option for most dogs. “Soft, single-ingredient freeze-dried treats can be beneficial for dogs of all ages, depending on the ingredients and sourcing of the ingredients,” says Devereaux.
Are There Any Dogs Who Should Avoid Soft Dog Treats?
While soft dog chews are a healthy option for many dogs, they may not be healthy for all dogs—especially if they’re high in sugar.
According to Devereaux, many soft treats also contain vegetable glycerin (a kind of preservative that keeps treats moist but is packed with sugar) and/or other sugary ingredients (such as molasses, honey, or sugar) for taste. This can be problematic for dogs with diabetes or blood glucose issues.
“It would be best to discuss feeding [your dog] these types of treats with your veterinarian,” Devereaux says. “If your dog has yeast sensitivities, it would [also] be best to choose an alternative that has no sugar source.”
In general, it’s best to read the label carefully and cross-reference the ingredient list of the soft dog treats you are considering with the advice of your veterinarian.
What Should Pet Parents Look for When Shopping For Soft Dog Treats?
Not all dog treats are created equal. There are plenty of soft dog treats out there that are made from high-quality ingredients, but there are others that are chock full of chemicals, fillers, and other hard-to-digest ingredients. So, “when shopping for treats, ingredients are always the first place to start,” says Devereaux. She recommends looking for treats free of soy, corn, and wheat with a shortlist of real, nutrient-dense ingredients (“The less the better,” says Devereaux).
If vegetable glycerin is on the ingredient list, “look to see if the label identifies whether it is derived from coconut, palm, or soybean,” says Devereaux, who explains that soy is a hormone disruptor that can cause adverse health effects. She recommends avoiding any soft dog treats with soybean-derived vegetable glycerin.
The Best Soft Dog Treats for 2020
Which treats to choose? Here are our picks for the best you can buy this year. (Note: These suggestions are all free of soybean-derived vegetable glycerin.)
These soft treats are packed with nutritious ingredients (like flaxseed and pumpkin); free of wheat, corn, and soy; and aren’t made with any artificial flavors or colors. And at less than 3 calories per treat, they’re a great low-calorie option for training—even if your dog is on the smaller side.Shop Now
These soft chews are the perfect, miniature size for training your pup (and at only 3 calories per treat, you won’t feel bad giving your dog multiple treats per training session). With six different varieties—including salmon, rabbit, pork, duck, chicken, and peanut butter and oats—you can find a flavor for every pet.Shop Now
Grain-free, made with real meat and whole fruits and veggies (including nutrient powerhouses like sweet potato, blueberry, and flaxseed), and free from corn, soy, and artificial colors and flavors, the Soft WellBites from Wellness Natural Pet Foods pack a nutrient-dense punch into these soft chews.Shop Now
Not only are the Chicken Heart Treats from Stella & Chewy’s soft in texture, but they’re also grain-free, gluten-free, and made from a single, high-quality ingredient—100% pure freeze-dried raw chicken hearts.Shop Now
Is your dog more into savory than sweet? No worries! The Fruitables Skinny Minis also come in a Rotisserie Chicken flavor—perfect for your pet’s savory palate.Shop Now
As Devereaux mentioned earlier, the fewer ingredients, the better. And you can’t get a shorter ingredient list than the PureBites Pure Liver for Dogs. These treats are made from 100% pure freeze-dried, USA sourced beef liver—and that’s it.Shop Now
Made from a mix of high-quality, raw animal ingredients (including meat, organs, cartilage, and bone), the Freeze-Dried Dog Treats from Orijen are a great option for pet parents looking for soft dog chews that pack a high protein punch.Shop Now
Consult With Your Veterinarian Before Choosing Any Treats For Your Pet
We’ve reviewed a variety of soft dog chews. But before you introduce anything new into your dog’s diet—including any of the treats featured on this list—it’s important to talk to your vet. Your veterinarian can give you deeper insights on the best diet for your dog’s specific needs—and which treats are going to be the best fit for your pet.
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