Are you ready to try treat training, or are you looking for a way to spruce up your treat training routine? We already talked about the best training treats for puppies, but what if your dog isn't so young?
Selecting high-value training treats can help you keep your dog focused on their lessons by associating a reward to an action. Treat training your dog isn't the only method, but it is highly effective and is the most common method for beginners and easily distracted dogs.
From the second we bring them home until the day we say goodbye, our dogs are learning from us. They crave structure and direction as they find their place in your family. Whether you are training a new addition to your pack, or trying to reinforce behaviours in your older dog, consistent positive training will help teach your dog manners and quell anxiety and destructive behaviours.
Why Treat Training?
There are many training methods, and it's up to you to decide which method works best for you and your dog. Treat training is the most straightforward method of training and usually, yields the quickest and most consistent results.
Whether your training a new puppy or a full-grown pooch, treat training helps your dog quickly connect your commands with the actions that you are teaching, by rewarding the positive behaviour. We make it sound simpler than it is, but there is some psychology behind it.
Repetitively rewarding for correct behaviours and actions helps condition your dog to respond to verbal and physical signals as well as anticipate commands.
Canine psychology is vast, but the basics of positive reinforcement stem a branch of conditioning called operant conditioning. Operant conditioning, which involves a voluntary action as a response to an incentive works by associating a desired behaviour with a reward to encourage your dog to choose to carry out the desired behavior again.
To learn more about the benefits of reward-based training and positive reinforcement, check out 7 Reasons to Use Reward-Based Dog Training.
Treat Training Tips
When you are treat training, you need to make sure that your dog is engaged in the activity. For more food motivated dogs, treat training is always exciting, but over time or for dog's with more discerning taste buds, it is important to create excitement by using treats that keep your dogs attention.
Variety is important, but finding the right texture, aroma and flavour will make all the difference for some dogs. Finding treats that satisfy these criteria and are still healthy can be challenging.
For easily distracted dogs, try starting with something that is really high value, like cut up hot dogs, and slowly work in healthier treats. Hot dogs are definitely not the healthiest option, but for the short term, they will absolutely get their attention and help you build a consistent training routine.
Treat training requires consistency and patience, so be prepared to practice often. When treat training you should always start will smaller commands, typically one-word basics, before moving onto multi-step commands. Simple commands like touch, sit and paw are great starter tricks that you will likely see quick results from.
The first rule of treat training is, the smaller the better. The repetitive nature of treat training means you will be feeding a lot of treats, so the smaller the morsels, the more you can responsibly reward without upsetting your dog's digestion or eating routine.
The 10 Best and Healthiest Training Treats for Dogs
Primal Organic Chicken Nibs
Primal Chicken Nibs are soft and chewy mouth-watering bites of organic chicken, sweetened with organic honey and a pinch of salt to naturally preserve them. Their chickens are certified USDA organic and raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones.
These tiny slices of chicken jerky are ideal training treats and hold their shape in a treat pouch or pocket, making them perfect for on-the-go training or the dog park.
Off-Leash Mini Trainers
This Canadian-made brand offers a little piece of adventure in every bite. Mini Trainers are grain-free and limited ingredient, so they are great for pets with food sensitivities. They are available in three palatable flavours, wild venison smokey beef and grilled chicken.
These treats are a little softer and should be stored in a sealed or Ziploc bag to retain texture, but the aroma is bold enough to keep your dog drooling and ready for training.
Bixbi Pocket Trainers
These little B-shaped treats are packed with flavour and the chewy texture makes them a more desirable treat for fussy dogs. They are grain-free and are only four calories per treat! Sweetened with maple syrup, these little snacks are great for treat pouches, walks or just every day at home training.
Try them in peanut butter, chicken, or our favourite, bacon!
Sojos Simply Freeze-Dried Treats
These one-ingredient chunks of freeze-dried meat are loaded with flavour, so they are the go-to treat for picky pets. Simply treats come in turkey, beef, lamb or goat.
Freeze-dried treats retain higher nutrients, that would normally be diminished if the product was cooked. These treats are not only great for training, but they are also super healthy. Freeze-drying can produce a more crumbly texture, so try using the crumbs to season other training treats or as a meal topper.
Zukes Mini Naturals
The mini naturals line has been a well-known training treat for years, and they keep adding to the line. These treats have a robust scent to keep your dog engaged, and the extensive list of flavour options makes this brand versatile enough for even the pickiest of dogs.
There are seven flavours to choose from, but we recommend trying the duck or salmon first. The stronger scent will help catch your dog's focus.
La Mer Sardine Training Treats
La Mer believes in simple healthy ingredients, so their sardine treats are simply that. All of their fish products are sourced from the clean waters of the Baltic and North Atlantic Seas and are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat.
These dried sardine chews have a delightful crunchy and that strong fishy aroma that dogs can't resist. These treats are a bit larger than many of the others on this list, so they may not be the ideal training treat for small and toys breeds or young puppies, unless you are willing to cut them into bite sized pieces.
Fruitable Skinny Minis
At only three calories per treat, these soft baked treats are great for training. For true carnivores, try the grilled bison, or for a meat-free alternative, the pumpkin mango flavour is tropical and delicious. Fruitables are wheat, corn and soy free so they are great for sensitive tummy and pets that are watching their figure.
Cloud Star Tricky Trainers
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Cloud Star offers two options for training, chewy or crunchy. Each three calorie treat is formulated without wheat, corn, soy or artificial colours or flavours.
Available in 3 flavours in each format, and two grain-free option in the chewy line, tricky trainers are the ideal bite-sized training treat.
Zoe Tender Bites
These perfectly sized, soft and chewy training treats are made in Canada using only North American sourced ingredients. Tender Bites are available in four flavours, pumpkin & ginger, peanut & butter banana, vanilla mint and apple & cinnamon.
The pumpkin & ginger formula uses chicken to satisfy meat lovers, while the rest are meat-free to work for dogs with food sensitivities.
Crumps' Naturals Mini Trainers Beef Liver
Crumps' want you to get the most out of your dog's training experience, so they've come up with the smallest training treat on the market. These super small beef liver cubes allow you to engage in longer training sessions without the fear or overfeeding.
When we say small, we mean it. They are less than half the size of any of the other training treats on this list. These single-ingredient training snacks are less than 1 calorie per treat, full of flavour and great for dogs of all sizes, from teacups and up.
Get your treat pouch ready!
Opportunity for training is everywhere. When your walking, at the dog park, at home, or in the backyard, take every chance you can to keep training. For convenience and to keep your pockets from smelling too delicious, we recommend a treat pouch. Your dog will recognize the pouch and be at attention and ready to work for his goodies.
We like to mix a variety of treats together in our pouch to keep our dogs from getting bored, but you can use sandwich bags to separate different treats in the pouch too. That way you can treat for more difficult tricks or distractions with varying levels of reward.
Regardless of which treats you choose, be consistent and positive while you train. Training takes patience, so don't give up. For more ideas, tips and training methods, check out this blog about the 10 Best Dog Training Books. They are particularly useful for new dog owners and beginners.
What's your dog's favourite training treats? Share with us in the comments!