Dog holding a treat in its mouth

Photo by James Lacy on Unsplash

NEW YORK — Half of America’s dogs come running just from the sound of a treat bag. Wait – only half? According to a recent poll of 2,000 dog owners, 47 percent say that their dog reacts instinctively to the noise made when a treat container is opened.

Survey results show that the average dog knows an average of five spoken commands. That said, 20 percent of the vocabulary dogs understand is treat-based, owners say. Fifty-two percent are likely to run over when they hear words like “treat” or “cookie.” Conversely, only 37 percent consistently respond to the sound of their own name. Conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by CLIF PET, the results further confirm that 67 percent of dogs are “very food motivated.”

Four in 10 respondents give their dogs treats as a way to reward them, making it the most popular reason among those polled. Three in four even believe they wouldn’t have been able to teach their dog any commands without using treats. Roughly 21 percent of respondents give treats to their dog at least once a day, while 18 percent admit to handing out multiple treats in a day.

Maybe that’s why respondents mistakenly estimate that treats should represent, on average, 27 percent of a dog’s overall caloric intake. According to experts, however, the real recommended amount is no more than 10 percent.

“It’s easy to get carried away when treating your dog, but it’s important to remember to treat in moderation,” says Greg Lok, Head of Incubator at Clif Bar & Company, in a statement. “One way to do this is to look for treats made with wholesome ingredients so you can ensure your pup is getting a quality treat, and to opt for easy-to-tear treat options that help you treat more responsibly.”

Treating our dogs is a treat for ourselves too

Overall, 64 percent say they look to their dogs to make them feel better on bad days. More than a third (39%) are much more likely to use treats as a way to cheer their dog up, while 32 percent use treat-giving – as a way to cheer themselves up. In fact, 62 percent agree that giving their dog a treat is more of a reward for them than for the dog itself.

When asked what factors they consider most when reviewing dog treats, 41 percent look for ingredients that they know rank among their dogs’ favorite foods. They also place value on the nutritional value (34%), brand trustworthiness (33%) and sustainability of ingredients (33%) when selecting a treat for their dog. 

Thirty-nine percent would even prefer to buy treats from brands that make food for both dogs and people.

“It’s no secret that people love their pets and want to make the best choices for them. Treats are an incredibly important part of the dog and pet parent bonding experience,” Lok says. “When considering what treats to buy their pets, pet parents should consult their vet for their dog’s dietary needs and look for treats that provide wholesome nutrition to fuel their adventures.”

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