A common rule of thumb from board certified veterinarians is to limit your treats to no more than 10% of your pet’s daily caloric needs. Finding exactly what your dog’s caloric needs are (or maintenance energy requirements) can be difficult and not an exact science. It may depend on your pet’s health, dietary needs and activity levels - no two pets are the same. But there are some fairly easy guidelines to work from. If your dog weighs 45 pounds or 20 kilograms, you raise that 20 by the exponent 0.75 and multiply the result by 70. This is called the Resting Energy Requirement (RER). The next step is to multiply the RER by a multiplier appropriate for you dog to get the caloric needs per day or the Maintenance Energy Requirements (MER). That multiple can range from 1.6 to 2 depending on your pet’s activity, growth and weight targets (1.6 being on the low end and 2 on the high end). The result should be confirmed with your veterinarian as the MER is most often a range, depending again on your dog.
If your dog is an average healthy adult dog and weighs 40 pounds, the daily caloric needs are between 700-1000. So, how may treats are appropriate per day? Using the 10% rule of thumb, your 40 pound dog should have no more than (10% x 1000) or 100 calories from treats per day.
Now that you have this number in your head, something to think about when purchasing treats is how many calories are in each treat? That data must be on the label of the treat bag you purchased. In my opinion, the best treats are those that are low in calories (3-4 calories per treat) and small in size/weight. That way you can train/treat you pet fairly often throughout the day without worrying about the health of your dog. For example, if each pet treat is 3 calories and your dog is 40 pounds with a maximum of 100 calories from treats per day, you can train and treat your pet 20-30 times per day, assuming 1 treat each time.
Again, this is not an exact science but if you remember the 10% rule of thumb, know your dog’s body weight, and choose a treat with low caloric content you are on your way to understanding how many treats are too many treats. And its always a good idea to check with your veterinarian.