Want to know what the best treats for your Golden Retriever are?
Most Goldens are total chowhounds and will happily eat just about anything…
But that doesn’t mean just any treat is good for your pup.
And with so many treat options out there, it can be hard to know which ones are good for your dog, and which ones are actually harmful.
So in this article, you’ll learn:
- The best treats for adult Golden Retrievers
- The best treats for Golden Retriever puppies
- The 2 main types of treats
- 4 tips to use treats for training your pup
- Which treats to AVOID with your Golden Retriever
Plus, at the end, we’ll share what the most popular treats for goldens are (this comes with a big warning for what not to do).
Best Treats For Golden Retrievers
Before we dive into why these treats are so good and how to use them…
Here are the 10 best treats for golden retrievers:
- Vital Essentials Mini Nibs
- Ziwi Peak Air-Dryed Treats
- Only Natural Pet MaxMeat Treats
- PureBites Mini Trainers
- Zuke’s Mini Naturals
- Zuke’s Puppy Naturals
- Wild Meadow Farms Minis
- Farm Hounds Treats
- Lamb Crunchys
- Honest Kitchen Ocean Chews
2 Types of Treats
While there are literally thousands of treats available, we can think of dog treats in two main categories:
- Training treats
- Snack treats
In the training context, treats are a tool to get more of the behavior you like, whether that’s being quiet as the mailman approaches the door, or performing a trick like rolling over.
Training treats are a reward.
Snack treats are exactly what they sound like — a snack for your dog to enjoy.
Just like you might enjoy a mid-morning snack, you might find it nice to give your Golden Retriever a little snack here and there.
And let’s be honest, it feels good to give your dog something they love.
That’s pretty much the whole point of snack treats.
It may seem a little odd to categorize dog treats this way, but because these types have very different purposes, there are different considerations to keep in mind when choosing the best treats for your golden.
Treats for Training
Golden Retrievers thrive with positive reinforcement training.
Using positive reinforcement means that you give the dog something they like after they do a behavior you like.
That results in the dog doing that behavior more and more.
So, if you give your pup a treat for sitting and you observe that she starts sitting more often, you have positively reinforced the sit!
Best Treats for Training Your Golden Retriever
Below are some of the best treats to use if you want to use food to train your dog through positive reinforcement.
Training treats should be fun and yummy, but also healthy, so these recommendations keep ingredients in mind.
Vital Essentials Mini Nibs
These freeze-dried treats are the perfect size for training and most dogs find them totally scrumptious.
They are made from healthy, high-quality ingredients and come in a variety of proteins: turkey, beef, chicken, duck, rabbit, and salmon.
(From one dog parent to another, just know that the salmon flavor is stinky, which is excellent for your dog, but not so excellent for your nose!)
The mini nibs are actually created to be a complete diet for dogs, so they are nutritionally balanced, which puts health-conscious dog parents at ease.
Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Treats
These air-dried treats come in nice, small bites that are convenient for training sessions.
They can also be easily broken in half if you want to stretch them even further.
They have a limited ingredient list, and are also formulated as a complete dog diet, so they’re very healthy while still being delicious.
Ziwi Peak Air-Dried comes in several flavors: beef, chicken, lamb, venison, tripe and lamb, and lamb and mackerel.
Additionally, these treats aren’t at all greasy so you can put a few in your pocket without worrying about treat residue.
Only Natural Pet MaxMeat
These treats are a jerky style treat that can easily be broken into smaller bits with your hands, or cut up with a knife to get more bang for your buck.
This is another food that can be fed as a complete diet, so again, it’s got a healthy ingredient list for your Golden Retriever to enjoy as treats.
With three different flavors, chicken, beef, and lamb and whitefish, you have options to see what your pup likes best.
PureBites Mini Trainers Beef Liver
These treats are made with only a single ingredient – beef liver.
Not only do dogs love this stuff, but it’s also healthy and packed with nutrition for your pup.
While there are many beef liver treats available for purchase, these specific treats come cut into perfect, small cubes — an ideal size for training.
These freeze-dried treats aren’t sticky or greasy at all, so they work well for times when you want to carry some treats in your pocket.
Zuke’s Mini Naturals
This is a classic!
In fact, many Golden Retriever owners shared that their dogs liked these treats in the golden retriever owner’s report.
They’re small, soft and yummy — all great qualities for a training treat.
Zuke’s come in a few different flavors: chicken, duck, pork, beef, rabbit, peanut butter, and salmon.
While this takes a little more effort on your part, cheese from the grocery store can be a great treat for training time.
It’s actually pretty cost-effective too.
You can purchase a block of cheese from your grocery store, cut it up into very small cubes, and put it in a tupperware for convenient usage throughout the week.
Dogs don’t seem to be too picky when it comes to what kind of cheese it is, but blocks of sharp cheddar are easiest to cut since they’re not so squishy under knife pressure.
Keep in mind that cheese isn’t a nutritionally complete food, so you don’t want to stuff your pup too full of cheese.
But it can be a really great, high-value treat for a lot of Golden Retrievers.
For Golden Retrievers, it’s hard to be real meat.
You can easily prepare some meat at home to use as treats.
Chicken is usually cheapest, but any meat will do!
Simply boil or roast the meat until it’s cooked through, chill it in the fridge until cold, and then cut it into small bits with a sharp knife.
Pro tip: Divide the cubed meat into several ziplock bags or tupperware and freeze.
This way none of the meat will go bad before you can use it all up, and you always have some high value treats on hand.
3 Best Treats for Training Your Golden Retriever Puppy
Below are some of the best treats for training your Golden Retriever puppy.
Keep in mind that your puppy’s preferences and palate are still developing; sometimes they may not be a fan of a certain treat one day, but a couple of days later it’s their new favorite.
Again, your puppy’s health is very important, so these recommendations keep treat ingredients in mind.
Zuke’s Puppy Naturals
These treats are specially made for young puppies.
They’re small and tender, so they’re easy for youngsters to chew and swallow.
Zuke’s Puppy Naturals come in salmon, lamb and pork flavors.
PureBites Mini Trainers Chicken
These treats are great for puppies because they come pre-cut in tiny cubes.
They are similar to the beef liver treats above, but are made of 100% freeze-dried chicken breast.
They tend to be easy on young puppy’s tummies, as the liver can be a bit rich for little guys.
It’s hard to beat such a simple, but tasty treat for training puppies.
Wild Meadow Farms Minis
The size and shape of these treats are super unique and perfect for puppy training.
They’re jerky-style treats with only three ingredients, but cut into small, thin pieces that are easy to deliver to your puppy’s mouth without filling them up too quickly.
High quality and delicious — your new Golden pup will love these!
They also come in a variety of flavors: beef, duck, lamb, pork, chicken, venison, turkey, wild boar and salmon.
Puppies love real meat just like adult dogs!
You can see more tips on using real meat as training treats in the adult dog treat section above.
P.S. Getting a golden retriever puppy? Check out the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook!
A Note on Puppy Training Treats
Often times, treats work well for both adult dogs and puppies.
But puppies can sometimes get loose stool if they have too many treats, or if the ingredients are too rich for their systems.
From the adult dog treat recommendations above, go easy on the cheese and liver treats, as those can sometimes be a bit much for little guys.
Use small amounts at first to see how your pup tolerates it.
4 Tips for Using Treats to Train a Golden Retriever
Training with treats might seem as simple as handing your dog a treat after they do the thing you want.
However, here are some things to keep in mind that can really super-charge your training when it comes to using treats:
Pea-sized treats typically work best for training your Golden.
You want them to be able to chew and swallow the treat quickly so they can get back to the training session.
While your pup might be overjoyed to be handed a large treat, it can really slow down the training process.
Soft treats are usually ideal for training time.
Again, you want your pup to be able to chew and swallow quickly.
A crunchy treat can take longer for your dog to eat, and sometimes eager Goldens can briefly choke on it as they scarf it down.
Some treats can be pretty crumbly, which can cause crumbs to fall on the ground that distract your dog from the task at hand.
Depending on what you’re training, you may be placing or tossing a treat on the ground.
If the treat is the same color as the ground, your dog may struggle to actually see the treat.
In these cases, choose a treat that contrasts in color to the surface from which your pup will be eating.
The key with using positive reinforcement is finding out what your dog really likes.
Your dog always determines what is reinforcing and what isn’t.
Every Golden Retriever is unique and will have their own preferences when it comes to treats, so take note of what they seem to like best.
Your dog might eat anything you hand her, but there are likely certain treats that really make her light up.
This is because different treats have different values to your Golden.
A Cheerio might be a 3 out of 10, a piece of cheese might be an 8 out of 10, and a tidbit of smoked sausage might be an 11 out of 10.
Matching the value of the treat with the training task at hand can really take your training up a few notches.
For example, if you want to work on your Golden Retriever’s ability to settle calmly on a mat while you drink coffee with a friend on a patio, you probably don’t want to use super high value treats, as your dog may be too excited about the food to relax.
At the same time, the environment poses some distractions that might make staying on the mat hard, so regular kibble might not make the training worth your dog’s while.
So perhaps, a mid-value treat is the way to go for this particular training scenario.
Best Snack Treats for Golden Retrievers
Dogs love snacks, just like us humans.
It just feels good to provide yummy food for our loved ones, dogs included.
Treats as snacks are great for when you simply want to say “I love you,” to your Golden or when you’d like to give them a little something to munch on while you’re busy.
Just like with training treats, health is always a priority when it comes to snacks for your Golden, so these recommendations keep that in mind.
Here are some of the best treats for snacking for your Golden Retriever:
Farm Hounds Treats
These treats have an impressively healthy ingredient list, and come from farms that use humane farming practices.
The company even tells you exactly which farm your treats came from, which is pretty unique!
Farm Hounds treats are a tasty, crunchy, snack that’s full of nutrition for your pup.
Made from 100% dehydrated raw ingredients, they come in several flavors: chicken, duck, turkey, beef and pheasant.
This single ingredient treat is a great snack for Golden Retrievers.
Lamb Crunchys are made from 100% dehydrated lamb lung, which may seem gross to humans, but dogs love this stuff.
Simple and nutritious — the perfect snack.
Honest Kitchen Ocean Chews
Another single ingredient treat — are you seeing a trend here?!
This one is made from pure dehydrated fish skin, which is an excellent source of protein and Omega-3s for your pup’s coat.
The smell can be a little off-putting for our noses, but your dog will thank you for this delicious treat.
These are larger treats that your Golden Retriever will love.
They offer a satisfying chew, with natural ingredients to support brain function.
Plato Thinkers come in chicken, duck, lamb and salmon flavors.
This is a classic, long-lasting treat for dogs!
Most dogs go totally nuts for bully sticks, and they give your pup something to gnaw on for a while.
For Goldens, the 12 inch length is better than the 6 inch length to keep them safe while chewing.
It’s recommended to supervise your dog when they’re chewing a bully stick to ensure they don’t choke.
Tips for Giving Your Golden Retrievers Snack Treats
There isn’t too much finesse involved with giving your dog a treat as a snack, but there is one main thing to keep in mind.
Even though you’re not necessarily training, your dog is always learning.
So be mindful about what your dog is doing when you go to get them a treat.
If he’s jumping all over your guest, and you grab a bully stick to distract him, you are likely reinforcing his jumping behavior.
In this instance, you’d want to wait for some calm behavior and then let your pup have the treat.
Catch your Golden being good and use those moments to give them a nice snack.
Treats to Avoid Giving Your Golden Retriever
As mentioned previously, your Golden Retriever’s health is of utmost priority.
It’s always a good idea to look at the ingredients in the treats you give them.
Treats and snacks that are full of fillers like flours and sugar are okay in very small amounts, but it’s best to look for proteins as the main ingredients.
Additionally, food coloring should be avoided.
Treats with a long ingredient list and that have been heavily processed are better passed by for treats with short ingredient lists and minimal processing.
Look for ingredients you can recognize.
If you notice that your dog has loose stool or becomes itchy after eating a certain treat or snack, it’s probably best to avoid giving it to your dog again in the future.
You can always consult your vet if you’re unsure about a particular treat for your specific dog.
The Most Popular Golden Retriever Treats
In the 2021 golden retriever survey, we asked people what their Golden’s favorite treats are.
Here’s what they said:
There’s a lot to unpack here…
Like I mentioned earlier, most Goldens will happily eat anything, so you can’t go wrong with the recommended treats in this article.
Chicken and cheese are listed here, which have both already been mentioned.
But what about peanut butter and Milk-Bones?
Peanut butter is fine in small amounts.
It’s high in calories, has lots of sugar, and many peanut butter-flavored treats have a lot of flour in them.
None of these things are terrible in small amounts, but compared to real meat, it’s much less nutritious.
I use the treats mentioned earlier in this article for the most part, but I’ll use peanut butter to cover the hole when I make frozen Kongs.
As for Milk-Bones…
Remember what you want to avoid in treats?
Treats with long ingredient lists that are full of fillers, food coloring, and are highly processed…
Here’s the ingredient list for Milk-Bones (from their website):
It’s long, the first two ingredients are fillers, and obviously all of these ingredients need to be highly processed to form a cute little bone.
So just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Be careful about what you give your pup and be sure to read the ingredients list.
Have any questions about treats to give your golden retriever?
Let us know down in the comments.
P.S. Getting a golden retriever puppy? Check out the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook!
- How To Train Your Golden Retriever Puppy (In Just 5 Minutes Per Day)
- Golden Retriever Puppy Supplies: 17 Essentials For Your New Puppy
- 5 Best Harnesses For Golden Retrievers In 2021 (For Safety & Pulling)
About the author:
Alisa Healy is a professional dog trainer in the Chicago suburbs, with a wide range of training experience from shelters to in-home training to dog sports. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and is passionate about helping people and dogs live fulfilling, harmonious lives together.