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Dog training without treats is possible but treats certainly help motivate many dogs. As a canine behaviorist, my job is to train dogs with a variety of presenting behaviors from shy to aggressive. Picking the right treat is key!
High-quality ingredients are important to me, and a treat’s ingredients’ list should definitely be part of your decision process. Also, if you’re treating a lot every day, you should take the calorie count into consideration and reduce your dog’s regular meal portions to compensate for the treats.
For initial and intensive training sessions, or for high-stress situations, you can use any “high-value” treats your dog responds to. These might include people foods like string cheese or sausage bites. For ongoing use, however, I mostly prefer to use dog treats, and these eight are my favorite dog training treats for daily use.
8 Dog Treats for Training
Wilderness Blue Buffalo Dog Treats are an excellent choice for dogs in training. They utilize high-quality chicken as the protein source, and are also supplemented with DHA, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for optimal health. DHA assists with cognitive development in puppies whereas the fatty acids assist in maintaining healthy skin and coat. These treats are grain-free; so if your dog is sensitive to grain, these are an excellent choice.
These treats work best with dogs who prefer a ‘crunch’ in every bite. If your dog likes softer treats, check out some of the others on the list.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dog Treats are made with high-quality ingredients and do not contain any ‘filler’ by-products. They’re also soy, corn and wheat-free, and contain DHA, Omega-3 and Omega-6 supplementation.
I’ve found that puppies absolutely love this treat. Blue Bits are soft, easy to chew, and novel because their texture is so different from kibble.
Soft Puppy Bites by Wellness are an excellent dog training treat choice. Soft and chewy, they contain high-quality lamb and salmon along with DHA for cognitive development.
These treats come recommended by many of my clients in the lamb and salmon recipe. If your dog has allergies to grain, this is not the treat for you, however.
Fruitables ‘skinny’ treats are low in calories, making them an excellent choice for training. Just about every dog absolutely loves bacon, so this flavor is a good bet for appealing to the senses. The first ingredient is always a wholesome fruit or veggie.
Fruitables come in different varieties including crunchy, chewy and jerky to suit your dog’s preferences. Also, even though these treats are low in calories, they’ve been shown to reduce hunger between meals to prevent your dog from overeating at meal-time.
Natural Balance Mini Rewards are less than five calories per treat. The main ingredient is high-quality duck, chicken, or lamb, and they’re an excellent choice for all ages, whether puppy, adolescent or senior.
This is one of my favorites for adult dogs, and especially for dogs who tend to overeat. For instance, shelter dogs or an adult dog who has previously been neglected/abused hasn’t always learned to limit his food intake. You can give them plenty of the Mini Rewards, however, without worrying about calorie intake.
Nutro Crunchy Dog Treats are made with whole brown rice and oatmeal, but no wheat or gluten. They can be used when training puppies, young adults or even senior dogs. They don’t contain artificial colors or preservatives.
As a former employee of Nutro, I’m a big supporter of the brand. I’ve noticed a major difference in dogs being fed Nutro versus the average commercial dog food or training treat. I now recommend them to many of my clients and hear wonderful testimonials. This particular treat improves health, satisfies hunger, and reduces waste.
Eggs? Yes, eggs! Eggs are an excellent source of protein and can be utilized as a homemade dog training treat. What do eggs include exactly (other than protein)?
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
When used as a training treat, the egg can be hard-boiled, scrambled, or poached. Avoid raw eggs to be safe.
I have one particular client who comes to mind for her love of eggs. Eggs are her absolute favorite treat, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get a bite. If I happen to cook eggs while she’s with me, she patiently waits at the end of the kitchen for her ‘piece of the pie.’
8. Daily Kibble
In some situations, kibble can work perfectly well as a dog training treat, particularly if the dog is overweight, and already food-motivated.
Again, consider training part of your dog’s mealtimes. For example, if you’re working with your dog near breakfast, take a handful out of her portion for breakfast to be used throughout training at that time.
If you’re worried about providing too many treats, you can also switch to kibble or primarily use kibble as the training treat. You might also graduate to training without treats, as your dog learns to respond to your verbal cues, hand signals, and praise.
The Bottom Line
Training treats should be of high-quality, but not pack too many calories if they’re being used daily. When choosing a treat, be certain to review the ingredients list. The first ingredient should be meat or fish, rather than a by-product or ‘filler’ like grain, corn, or rice.