The best type of treats to use when training your puppy or adult dog can be a sweet or savory snack it loves.
Choose one that is appropriate to your dog’s breed, size, and activity level. But make sure it’s not too fatty or high in calories.
Choosing the suitable treats to use can make or break your dog’s obedience training process. The best treats will motivate your dog to learn and remember simple commands. After all, positive reinforcement is the most effective method for training.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the top dog training treats, how they work, and their pros and cons.
We’ll also give you some helpful tips on using them effectively to get the results you want. These include common mistakes dog owners make when using training treats during sessions.
But first things first. Let’s be clear about differentiating treats specifically used for training from everyday or occasional ones.
Dog training treats are small portions of food you reward your pet with during training sessions. Most can be eaten quickly so that they don’t interrupt training time too much. They come in many shapes and sizes, each with distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Dogs will enjoy and look forward to their daily sessions when they are regularly awarded for good behavior during training.
If you want an obedient dog that listens well, consistency in handing out treats is crucial. It’s also important to shower your dog with love and praise on every occasion.
While most pups are relatively easy to train, some may have smaller stomachs or require a little extra motivation.
To ensure your pup stays happy and healthy (and doesn’t try any naughty tricks!) as it trains, consider these puppy treats:
Make sure your puppy gets daily exercise. It is a great motivator and mood booster during training sessions. If you don’t already walk or run with your pup once or twice every day, now is an excellent time to start!
The best adult dog training treats suit their specific dietary needs, don’t contain empty calories, and are not too fatty, sugary, or starchy.
We know what you’re thinking: animal bones aren’t safe. Actually, they are, if you choose right. Look for brands made in America that use only non-meaty extras like turkey legs or chicken necks. If you have a high-energy hound, there’s no reason not to give it a chew that takes some effort. These types of bones will boost its overall health by keeping it lean and stimulating its teeth and gums. Choose treats that contain at least 15% fat, with no additives or preservatives.
You don’t need to worry about carbohydrates and protein levels in your dog’s food choices other than ensuring it ingests enough. However, all treats should contain less than 50 calories per ounce. This ensures you don’t accidentally overload your dog with extra carbs or fat as it munches away.
Bully sticks have gotten a bad rap because of their high fat content. Some dog owners mistakenly attribute it to bad quality even though they are made from real meat. The truth is, healthy chews make for great low-calorie alternatives to rawhide and other unhealthy treats.
Yes, pig ears may seem similar to bony treats like chicken necks in terms of calorie count and benefits for canine dental hygiene. But one key difference is taste—pig ears tend to have much more flavor.
It’s true: homemade treats are better for your dog than store-bought because:
You can prepare snacks that contain flavors that your pet prefers. Depending on the ingredients, they could even evolve as a part of your dog’s regular diet.
You control the amount of each ingredient that goes into your homemade treats. That means you can provide fewer calories than commercially produced ones.
Additionally, many commercial treats are high in sugar, some even more than ice cream! In contrast, preparing the treats yourself will allow you to reward your pup without indulging it too much.
If your dog’s training regimen involves lots of repetition or long sessions, regular store-bought food won’t be enough to sustain its energy level throughout.
On the other hand, homemade treats offer enough protein and other nutrients to help dogs make it through extended training sessions. You can even up the ante when preparing for competitions like agility trials.
Your DIY goodies keep your pup happy, energized, and full until the next meal.
Dog-specific treats typically fall into one of three major categories:
Your pup will likely enjoy any type of treat it tries. However, some types may require more dental upkeep in the long run due to their ingredients.
If you are concerned about your dog’s dental health, you can try to use chew toys. They also make for excellent training treats, as long as your dog actually likes chewing on them!
With that said, making sure your puppy gets regular exercise before doling out treats is also highly recommended.
Pet-safe training treats—which are also used for training other animals—are another alternative. Some examples are hotdogs and string cheese. You can give these goodies without the risk of your dog getting sick, and they taste just as good.
Treats are a valuable training tool for every dog owner, but that doesn’t mean you can use them indiscriminately. You must understand exactly what you’re getting yourself (and your pet) into before adding them to your training regimen.
This is essential for building healthy relationships between owners and dogs. It signals our pets that following our lead will benefit them somehow. So, they’ll be much more likely to listen when we tell them what to do or where to go.
Giving out small amounts of treats during training keeps pups interested throughout the session—because they love food! No matter how boring or repetitive we think our commands might be, most dogs won’t hesitate to do what they can to earn a tasty treat.
As a dog owner, you must exercise restraint during your training sessions. Just because your dog wants something badly doesn’t mean it deserves to get it.
By using treats sparingly, you can avoid spoiling your pooch or rewarding unwanted behaviors. This alone makes using training treats worthwhile.
Read labels carefully. Make sure to choose treats that contain no additives or chemical preservatives. The most common preservatives used in dog treats are BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). Research has shown that even small amounts of BHA can cause cancer.
Ingredients such as turkey necks and chicken heads tend to be hit or miss with some breeds. They might seem tasty to a German shepherd or pit bull terrier, but it’s hard to say whether a labradoodle would feel quite as enthusiastic about gobbling them down.
If you’re not sure how to deploy training treats correctly, here are some mistakes dog owners make that you can learn from:
Many owners train using positive reinforcement because dogs respond better when rewarded for good behavior. This isn’t necessarily bad.
Positive reinforcement produces a well-behaved pet that listens and respects its owners. Unfortunately, using only treats can create distracted pets that aren’t very attentive to what they’re being asked. Some may respond only in hopes of getting more food.
Experts recommend using a combination of treats with petting, playtime, and praise. There will be times when it’s best to avoid treating your pet like it just won the lottery. This way, it doesn’t expect a reward every time it does something right.
Dog treats have come a long way. They smell and taste better than ever before, and many companies now offer natural, grain-free varieties. But if you overdo it with these yummy morsels, they could mess up your dog’s appetite.
More often than not, store-bought treats contain a lot of sugar and artificial flavors. When dogs get used to eating them regularly, nutritious meals become less enticing. This leads to weight gain or nutritional deficiencies.
No matter how much their favorite sweets make your dog’s mouths water, thousands of calories a day won’t motivate it. Treats should never replace healthy dog food. Save those delicious bits for snack time and stick with basic kibble for daily meals. Along with single protein sources such as chicken breast or ground beef, your dog is sure to remain healthy for years to come.
Dogs will always accept treats even when they are already full. Thus, it’s not uncommon for dog parents to dispense snacks between meals.
If you do this regularly, this is a habit you must break. Feeding your pet snacks too near their mealtimes is a recipe for disaster when it comes to weight gain.
Schedule training sessions at least two hours before or after a meal. Closely track your dog’s daily food intake according to its activity level and metabolism, as well as body size and breed.
It’s tempting to give your dog a treat every time it does something right. After all, what could be wrong with rewarding a well-behaved pup? It turns out, quite a lot.
Rewards have to be given sparingly for training to retain its effectiveness. If you reward your pet each time it performs a trick, it will quickly lose interest in learning new ones.
The same goes for regular treats during training sessions. You don’t want to overfeed your dog and make it feel like it doesn’t have to work hard to earn its snacks.
On top of that, it might start exhibiting behavioral issues as it becomes more interested in food than playtime or other activities. If your pet eats too many yummy nibbles, a weight and obesity problem may develop. This can lead to serious health conditions down the road.
Absolutely! Most dogs associate a sound with a reward for good behavior when they hear it only during training. This means that it’s the timing and not the clicker that makes it happen. So, you may use other sounds as well, such as a whistle or a word like “good.”
Like treats, clickers offer an extra reward for listening to their trainer’s cues. In time, you can increase its use and decrease handing over treats.
Yes. Negative reinforcement involves taking away a dog’s favorite toy when it exhibits bad behavior. Withdrawing a treat is essentially the same thing.
No, for two reasons: 1) human food typically lacks the nutritional value that dogs require, and 2) most humans don’t need nearly as many calories as their canine counterparts do.
Yes. While the US FDA allows BHA as a food ingredient, the European Union member countries have banned its use in food products, including pet food and training treats.
Giving treats to puppies and adult dogs as a reward for good behavior is a proven method for training them to behave and respect you. This positive reinforcement is recommended by veterinarians, animal experts, and dog owners alike.
Compared to the positive punishment method, it doesn’t cause stress on your pet, and the lessons it will learn are permanent.
A digital marketing expert by profession, Andrews is a gifted writer and animal lover at heart. A self-confessed "pawrent", Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents. He believes in spreading the joy that comes with being a dog dad and advocates more families to adopt pets.