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Dog Training Treats They Will Sit, Stay — You Name It — For

A behaviorist reveals the most mouth-watering treats for food-motivated dogs.

by Colleen Stinchcombe
May 20, 2021
Beagle dog catching a small dog treat

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The things you do for the perfect cup of coffee — say, walk entirely out of your way on your morning commute to the one barista who has mastered your latte. So just think what tricks you can inspire your puppy to learn with just the right reward. There’s a reason why ‘food motivated’ is a term you’ve probably heard vets and trainers use. Praise and belly rubs are great, to be sure, but nothing beats treats. That said, it’s not as simple as dangling a carrot. Lauren Novack, dog behavior consultant at Behavior Vets in NYC, breaks down how to pick the perfect dog training treat. Then shop our top picks below.

The point of a training treat is to motivate your puppy to give you their undivided attention, so it makes sense that the treat should be more desirable to your dog than any other stimuli (squirrels, shoes, other puppies). If your pup is very food motivated, then this is an easy one. But some can be picky eaters, in which case you’ll need to up the ante. Novack suggests categorizing treats into three categories: low, medium, and high value. 

Low-value treats can be your dog’s kibble. “They eat it a lot already, and while it tastes good, it’s only going to be motivating in reinforcing behaviors they’ve already got down pretty well,” says Novack. Since treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily calories, this option is best for dogs that will eat anything and dogs that are watching their weight as kibble is lower in calories than most treats. Medium-value treats are a step up, from classic crunchy dog biscuits to healthy snacks like apple slices and baby carrots. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that would turn one down; they just may not do backflips for it.

High-value treats are generally meaty…and stinky. In short, they should make your dog drool. Flavors like bacon and venison are particularly pungent and covetable. As a rule, dog training treats should be pea-sized and easily portable, so they don’t take your dog ages to chew (or crumble up in your pocket). However, if your dog is prone to distraction, you’ll have better luck with human snacks like hot dogs or cheese.

“If you have a dog that’s overly excited, wants to greet everyone, and you’re fighting to get their attention, then yeah, you should try hotdogs — break them up before a training session so you’ve got small pieces on hand,” says Novack. “And remember, just like us, dogs tire of the same treats if they’re given often enough. The more variety you can provide your pup, the more interested they will be in learning new things.” So be sure to switch it up. Below, dog training treats with proven results.

Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)

01-zukes-PuppyNaturals lambChickpea

These bite-sized treats are chewy and low in calories, so they especially come in handy when you’re teaching your dog a trick that requires near-constant treating, such as heel. Real meat (lamb, salmon, or pork) is the first ingredient, plus DHA and EPA are added to support your pup’s brain development so they retain what you teach them. They’re also not just for puppies — they’re perfect for training adult dogs too without worrying that they’ll pack on the pounds in a single training session.

$6 at Amazon
Wellness Natural Grain Free Puppy Training Treats

These grain-free treats are very meaty (stinky) which is perfect for training a puppy that is easily distracted — they won’t be able to resist them and will have your undivided attention. They also boast superfoods like blueberries and sweet potato. They’re pretty small, but can be broken into even smaller pieces for tiny pups. They also have 30,000 5-star reviews on Amazon.

$5 at Walmart
Buddy Biscuits, Soft & Chewy Treats

These treats look like little gingerbread men which are pretty cute even if your dog couldn’t care less. They come in a variety of flavors, all of which are free of artificial flavors, fillers, and colors. They’ve been baked in the US for over 20 years and are Amazon’s Choice for soft dog treats, favored by puppies and senior dogs (who may have sensitive teeth) alike.

$4 at Walmart
Bocce's Bakery: Training Bites Treats

This brand started in a tiny West Village kitchen with, you guessed it, a pup named Bocce’s whose mom baked him homemade treats when her vet said he needed to lose weight. Rude! Turns out she was onto something and the brand quickly gained popularity for its limited ingredient recipes like Beef Bourguignon, Burgers and Fries, and Pumpk’n Spice. No, it’s not weird that your mouth is watering. Imagine how well it will motivate your pup!

$7 at Amazon

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Colleen Stinchcombe

Colleen Stinchcombe lives near Seattle, WA, where she works as a writer, editor, and content strategist. Her two rescue pups wish she were a professional ball-thrower.