Dog Training Treats They Will Sit, Stay — You Name It — For
A behaviorist reveals the most mouth-watering treats for training your pup.
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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.
What makes a good treat for dog training?
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.
When working on a dog training skill that your dog knows pretty well, go for low-value treats. 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, medium-value treats are great for training when your dog needs a little extra encouragement or just to mix it up. You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that would turn one down; they just may not do backflips for it.
But when training your dog to perform a new skill, you need to pull out all the stops. Small, strong-smelling, easily-serveable high-value rewards are the best dog training treats. High-value treats are generally meaty…and stinky. They should make your dog drool. Dogs experience the world through their noses — 33% of a dog’s brain is dedicated to interpreting odors — so the smellier the treat, the better. 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.
So, what are the best dog training treats?
“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.” Below, you’ll find some of the best 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?)
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.