Although you may know about international chocolate day (July 7th), or international pasta appreciation day (October 25th), you have probably never heard of international dog biscuit day! This is a fun holiday of unknown origin that seeks to celebrate the joy of the close bond between a dog and his or her owner – and both species penchant to celebrate love through food!
A brief history of the dog treat
Today there are literally thousands of different types and brands of dog treats. Yet, considering that our relationship with dogs has been going strong for over 10,000 years – long before we made treats specifically for our four-legged friends – its begs the question of when dog treats were first dreamt up.
The first reliable bit of historical evidence of humans purposely feeding dogs treats that were made specifically for them comes from the 1860s in England. An electrician known as James Spratt invented the first ever dog biscuit called “Spratt’s Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cake”, which was made of wheat, beetroot, vegetables, “the dried and unsalted gelatinous parts of prairie Beef”, and beef blood.
This cake was very popular amongst its original intended audience of English country gentleman. These men usually owned hunting hounds and sighthounds who were purebreds and were frequently entered into trials and dog shows. Since Spratt’s cakes were so wildly popular with dog owners, by 1895 Spratt was able to establish himself in the United States as well, where his cakes became known as “the principle food” of show dogs.
Eventually, in 1907, Spratt lost his monopoly on the dog treat market when F.H. Bennett came on the scene with the very first milk bone. Initially, Bennett’s dog treat mixture of minerals, ‘meat products’, and a high amount of cow’s milk failed to gain the consumer attention of Spratt’s dog cakes. This changed once Bennett talked to American inventor Carleton Ellis who had developed a similar recipe to Bennett’s – but in the now iconic shape of a bone. The bone-shaped biscuits were released by Bennett’s company in 1908 to great success. His sales skyrocketed, and his treats, the ‘milk bone’, remain one of the most popular dog treats in North America.
Dog treats today: choosing a good one
As you are well-aware, we have come a long way from milk-bones being the only dog treat available to pet owners and into an era where there are so many options for training, treating, and spoiling your dog that it has actually become somewhat bewildering!
Since we are surrounded by choice, being discerning with your dollar is more important than ever before. There are now many dog treats available that are free of artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives as well as being free of grains, meat-by-products, and other such unhealthy fillers. Although a raw or homecooked diet may not work for all owners, we can all agree that it is important to avoid overly processed foods - especially those whose ingredients list is a mile long! Although it does cost more to feed your pooch premium treats, it is money well spent as these treats actually offer your dog not only a superior taste, but also a lot more nutritional benefits and no harmful side effects from eating ‘franken-food’.
If your new to feeding your dog a more natural and unprocessed diet, here are a few basic pointers when shopping for store bought treats for your furry friend:
- Avoid wheat, corn, and soy above all else. These grains are almost always genetically modified and are really not very digestible for dogs. If you need to purchase treats with grain to save on costs, those with brown rice or oats are a better option as they are lower on the glycemic index (which is basically a measure of how quickly or slowly a food is digested and turned into sugar in the body). Low glycemic foods are best as they will cause less of a spike in your dog’s blood sugar when they are consumed which is important since consistent blood sugar spikes and dips over time can lead to diabetes.
- Choose treats with the shortest possible ingredients list. Nine times out of 10, the less things that are in a treat, the healthier and less processed that food is. To get an idea of what I mean, just picture the difference between eating an apple and an apple pie. Sure, the apple pie is more delicious and its fine to have a slice or two as a special treat occasionally, but its probably not something you should eat every day. This same basic principle applies to our dogs. Ideally, we should feed them unprocessed and simple foods more often and save yummy – but unhealthier – treats for special occasions.
- Focus on meat. Ideally, the healthiest treats for dogs contain high quality, digestible meat or meat alternatives such as cheese, eggs, peanut butter or (for some dogs) yogurt. Dogs not only enjoy protein rich treats, but they are also a healthier and more nutritious choice for animals that are natural carnivores.
If you really want to know exactly what’s in your dog’s treats you can either buy treats with only one or two ingredients or make them yourself at home. On this blog you’ll find recipes that will provide you with a fun and easy way to spend an afternoon baking for your very grateful pooch and “quality assurance advisor."
– Carly Piatocha, Pet Industry Writer