Rewarding your dog or puppy with treats for good behavior is a fun and effective way to train. Feeding a variety of dog treats during training, will help to keep your dog from getting bored. It’s also helpful to have some lower value treats (like kibble) along with some really valuable treats (like fresh meat) available so that you can reward so-so responses with the so-so treat and great responses with the great treats.
The best dog training treats are irresistibly yummy, easy to break (or small: pea-sized), easy to carry (not greasy or crumbly) and healthy. For puppies and for dogs with sensitive stomachs it is best to stick to treats with simple ingredients that are easy to digest such as low fat meats (chicken, etc).
Don’t forget to feed your dog less of his or her regular food when you feed treats and check out our other tips on healthy.
Use Both Low-Value and High-Value Treats
In general, owners should aim for a good mix of low-value and high-value treats: low-value treats to use often for average responses and high-value treats for when you need a stronger lure or when your dog responds particularly well and you want to give a BIG reward!
A good variety of treats will also make sure your dog stays interested in their training.
An example of a low-value treat would be your dog’s kibble while a higher value treat would be a little something from your fridge – perhaps some boiled chicken or a little cheese – or a healthy and tasty commercially made treat.
Some owners may prefer to opt for homemade treats such as biscuits and patties. While this is all well and good if you have the time and are prepared to put in the effort, commercially made treats will work just as well as a training tool and, if you buy with a little prior knowledge, can be super healthy and really excite your pup’s taste buds.
Features Of The Perfect Treat
The main features you should look for in the best dog treats for training are:
- Size – The treats should be as small as possible so your dog can eat them super-quickly and doesn’t become too distracted from his training, and so they don’t end up eating too many calories.
- Convenience – The treat should be easy to carry in your pocket or bait bag and definitely not greasy or crumbly. A ‘clean’ treat that holds it’s shape well is best.
- Healthy – It’s a truth often forgotten that dog treats should be healthy and perhaps even able to supplement your dog’s normal diet with added health benefits.
- Delicious – Obviously, this is more subjective but your treats must excite your dog otherwise they will not work as a training tool. Whether you pick a treat with crunch, sweetness or a meaty texture is completely up to you – just make sure that your dog loves it!
Points To Remember When Rewarding With Treats
- Don’t forget to feed your dog a little less of his regular food. You don’t want to end up with an overweight pup by treating while training!
- With the above point in mind, treats should never constitute more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet.
- Treats are healthier for your dog than table scraps due to the herbs, spices, salt and so on that we add to our food. So if you’re tempted to save ‘leftovers’ to use during training, please don’t.
» Top 5 Wellness Core Dog Food Reviews
Five Of The Best Dog Treats For Training Recommended By Us
Using Your Dog’s Regular Food as Treats. This is great for puppies, for dogs on a diet and really for all dogs!
◊ Kibble: If your dog likes his dry food enough to do tricks for it you are all set although you may want to toss in a more exciting treat every once in awhile to keep your dog’s interest high. One way to make dry food more exciting is to put it in a paper bag with some small pieces of bacon or hotdog for a few hours to let it soak up some of the odor.
Zuke’s Mini Naturals Dog Treats
Zuke’s Mini Naturals are a great all-round training treat that your pup is sure to love. They’re healthy, a great size and won’t break the bank at just a few dollars per bag.
These are the no.1 best selling training treats on the whole of Amazon and have over 2,000 5-star reviews!
Made with real chicken with no added wheat, corn or soy fillers like many treats on the market, Zuke’s are bound to excite your dog with their meaty, wholesome flavor.
Salmon and peanut butter flavors are also available if you think they might pique your dog’s interest. They’re certainly worth experimenting with.
These treats are also on point nutritionally so you don’t need to worry about your dog packing on the pounds if you’re rewarding them little and often (although it’s always a good idea to keep tabs on how much they’re eating!). Made of natural whole food ingredients sourced from right here in the US and even supplemented with added antioxidants, these small-sized treats are just 3.5 calories each.
In terms of their suitability for use during training, their pea-size shape and quick-to-digest texture and flavor means that they are a quick reward that won’t distract your dog from his responses.
The treats promise to hold their shape well in your pocket or bait bag so you won’t get any horrible grease or residue over your fingers or possessions. They also come in a resealable ziplock bag to guarantee their continued freshness.
Wellness WellBites Soft Natural Dog Treats
Just like Zuke’s, the Wellness WellBites are a great all-round training treat – healthy, reasonably priced and irresistibly tasty.
The flavor and taste of these wholesome treats are sure to catch your dog’s eye: Each of the product lines are made with grains, fruits, vegetables and two types of fresh American meat.
Flavors available include beef and turkey; chicken and lamb; chicken and venison; turkey and duck; and lamb and salmon.
Boasting credentials of 100 percent wheat free with no added corn, soy or artificial colors and flavors, these treats would be ideal for dogs suffering from allergies.
The Wellness WellBites would certainly be an easy addition to your training arsenal as they are soft and chewy. Although they’re not as perfectly sized as Zuke’s above, they are easily divided into the smaller portions required for effective training.
Pet Botanics Training Reward
The bacony flavor of these small yet nutritious treats are guaranteed to make any dog want to work for them. I mean, have you ever seen a dog turn their nose up to bacon?
Made in the USA with pork liver as the number 1 ingredient, with real bacon added for irresistible flavor, these soft aromatic treats your dog is sure to love.
They are a perfectly small size and low calorie for frequent and repetitive rewards during training.
There are no artificial preservatives, no BHT, BHA or soy but instead the treats are full of vegetables and include flax-seed and salmon oil. They really are tasty and nutritious.
Rocco & Roxie Gourmet Jerky Dog Treats
These Gourmet Jerky Treats are really hitting the ball out of the park when it comes to great taste and flavor. With premium treats does come a premium price tag, however, so these aren’t the cheapest!
So what are you paying for? The treats promise to be ‘delicious, tender and healthy’ and they certainly deliver on this front. All-American made with no wheat, corn, soy or gluten, these jerky treats are smoked for 15 hours before they make it into their packaging.
With the look, feel and smell of beef jerky, I guarantee it won’t only be your dog who’s desperate to try one! These treats can certainly be categorized as ‘high-quality’ so you should reserve them for extra special dog responses.
Although the treats themselves are 7 inches long, they are soft in texture so are easy to divide into smaller, treat-sized portions. Much like Zuke’s, they’re low calorie and high protein ensuring that your dog is filling up on wholesome and healthy treats.
Purebites Beef Liver Dog Treats
Purebites have nailed it with these all natural liver dog treats. As always with their products, quality, taste and flavor are paramount, hence the slightly higher price tag.
These are ‘high-quality’ rewards, made with a single ingredient: 100% natural, USDA inspected beef liver. Being such quality and so tasty, you should use these sparingly during training as a high value reward.
Made in the USA from a single ingredient, these are guaranteed to be gluten and grain free with no fillers. Quite simply healthy and delicious.
These are only 10 calories per treat, but if you want to treat less each time they’re super easy to break into smaller, more quickly eaten chunks which won’t distract your pup for too long during training.
As you can expect with such high-quality treats as these, they are delivered to you freeze dried in an air tight bag to guarantee their freshness and flavor. Your dog will love them!
◊ Wet/canned food: This works great when fed with a food tube or in a baby food jar (one lick per trick!).
People Foods” Make Great Dog Treats: People food makes some of the best dog treats! Dogs love it, it’s convenient and healthy.
Meat baby food out of a jar: Give your dog one lick per trick and then refill the jar with yogurt, cream cheese or peanut butter. This works great for rewarding your dog at the vet.
Chopped fresh meat: You can dry it out a bit in the microwave by cooking it uncovered for 30 seconds at a time. Any meat works well but if you are using a high fat meat like sausage, only use a small amount.
Chopped fresh cheese: Mozzarella works well as it is not sticky or crumbly.
Chopped veggies like carrots: Although dogs can’t generally digest these too well so they may come out pretty much the way they went in. Great for dogs on a diet.
Store Bought Treats: When purchasing manufactured treats look for treats that are made of high quality ingredients (human-grade/organic) and made in small batches if possible. Look for healthy ingredients like meat, cheese, eggs, nuts, etc and avoid ingredients that you can’t pronounce as well as corn and wheat.
Don’t Forget The All Important Treat Pouch!
Treat pouches are indispensable if using treats during training with your pooch. Without one, you’ll have to keep the treats in a plastic bag as the 2nd best option, or your pocket…if you like stinking of meat and having crumbs in your pockets. No, I don’t either, a treat pouch is far better!
PetSafe Treat Pouch Sport
The ‘Petsafe Treat Sport Pouch’ is our number one choice of treat pouch.
Small and convenient, it’s designed to carry and keep separate 2 different treats in the divided inner pocket. Excellent for carrying the recommended duo of low-value and high-value treats.
It features a removable and adjustable belt, or can simply clip on to your existing belt with the caribiner clip provided (my preferred way of using.) It also has elastic loops for securing other items and you can attach your keys, or training whistle, with the caribiner.
It’s very convenient with the front storage pocket included to house a few more of your belongings; perhaps a mobile phone, a poop bag or two, whatever it is you carry on walks. And don’t worry, the treat and front pocket pockets are separated by a water-proof lining so will not contaminate each other.
It can be hand washed or placed into a machine washer on cool, so keeping it clean and hygienic is no problem at all.
Available in red, black or blue.
Canine Equipment Carry-all Treat Bags, Black
This treat bag is made from nylon, with a drawstring to close the bag and secure the treats when not in use.
Like the Petsafe above, it does have a second compartment for you to carry other items you need while on your training adventures, as well a nylon mesh poop bag dispenser (or ball carrier) on the side.
It comes supplied with a caribiner to attach the bag to your belt, but unlike the PetSafe above, no belt supplied. Not a problem as I always prefer my own belts 🙂
All in all, this a good-sized, versatile bag that does what you need from a treat pouch: Keeps the treats secure, your pockets clean and your hands free so you can concentrate on the task in hand.
Homemade Dog Training Treats: A great way to save money on treats and keep your dog happy to perform.
- 2 6-oz. cans tuna in water, do not drain
- 2 eggs
- 1 to 1 ½ c. rice or oat flour
- Parmesan cheese
Mash tuna and water in a bowl with a fork to get clumps out, then liquefy in blender or food processor. Add extra drops of water if needed to liquefy completely. Pour into bowl and add flour and mix. The consistency should be like cake mix. Spread into greased or sprayed pan; I find that a round pizza pan or square cake pan is perfect. Sprinkle with LOTS of parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes; edges will pull away and texture will be like putty. Use a pizza cutter and slice into teeny squares. These freeze beautifully, and the dogs love them…and, no liver to mess with!
- 1 lb. ground turkey (pure turkey, NOT turkey sausage)
- 1 cup oatmeal
- 1 egg
- Parmesan (I used 1/2 cup)
Mix all ingredients together using hands and pat into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cool *thoroughly*, then cut into thick strips (these do not hold together when slicing into small squares); freeze unused portions and keep the portions you’re using refrigerated. Has the consistency of meatloaf.
How To Use Dog Treats Correctly During Training
As a follow up to this article, we’ve written another detailing how to use dog treats correctly when training.
It’s easy to give out too many treats, at the wrong times, potentially leading to a dog who will only follow your commands when they can see the treats in your hand.
Hopefully this article has given you some useful information and options for the best dog treats for training your dog or puppy.
Just keep in mind that not all dogs will respond to the same treats in the same way. It might take a little experimentation before you find the ones your dog will work hard to earn.
But in our experience, the ones listed above tend to work with all ‘food driven dogs’. Which as well all know is the majority of Labradors.