5 best treats for training your dog

Words By Elise James

June 03, 2020

There’s nothing quite like being rewarded for a job well done. You’ve worked hard and you’ve likely played hard. Now, imagine if you didn’t get that reward. You’d feel pretty ruff, wouldn’t you?

The same goes for your dog. Positive reinforcement is a great way to train your dog, and what better reinforcement than treats? Finding the best dog training treats for your buddy to sink their teeth into is the reward all dogs want.

Why use treats for training?

Treats are a great way to motivate your dog and encourage them to perform a certain action. While some people think that using a treat can be seen as a form of bribery, when used properly a treat can actually encourage positive and good behaviour.

There are many reasons why you should use treats for training your dog, but at their core, treats are important for training because:

  1. We all love being rewarded for good behaviour — and so do dogs!
  2. Dogs are operant learners — essentially, this means that they learn by the consequences that come from their actions. If that consequence is a yummy treat, they’re more likely to exhibit that behaviour again to earn that reward.

How to find the right treat for your dog

Find a high value treat

The best dog training treats are any reward that your dog sees as high-value. A high-value treat is something that they don’t necessarily get every day. That means staying away from the same old kibble that your dog eats day-in and day-out. Instead, treat your pup to a new flavour, a stronger smell or even something with a new texture. Your doggo will be more motivated knowing that they’re going to get a higher-value reward for their efforts.

Pay attention to the tastes of your dog and what they do or don’t like. Just like us, every dog has a different palate and sometimes they just might not be in the mood for what you serve up. Your dog could absolutely love a soft texture while others prefer something crunchy. Or they could be a huge sweet tooth while your neighbour’s dog prefers something more savoury. Your dog is going to enjoy the process of finding their favourite snack (probably far more than you will).

Break treats into smaller pieces

It’s important to make sure that you’re treating your dog in moderation during training.

When it comes to training, we recommend breaking it down into bite-sized pieces, extending its usability for longer. Giving your dog smaller pieces of treats at a time helps keep the calorie count low and reduces the chance of super-sizing your dog while you’re training them.

Find a treat that is small in size or can be broken down into several pieces. This will mean you can treat your dog for a certain behaviour without them getting distracted by the size of the treat. A little can go a long way.

The best treats dog training your dog

1. Liver

Liver is a great choice as a training treats, ticking all boxes. It won’t just get your doggo sitting pretty in no time — it’s good for them as well.

Liver – whether beef, kangaroo or fish – is one of the best dog training treats you can use, and it’s a favourite among dog owners. High in protein and full of nutrients, liver can help you keep your dog’s energy level high while you’re training them up with tricks.

If you’re not a fan of keeping a pile of raw liver in your pocket, look to dehydrated liver treats. These are perfect for breaking up during training and add that crunch. We recommend pure, single-ingredient liver that is all-natural with no added colours, flavours or preservatives.

2. Jerky

Jerky is another treat that can be pulled into smaller sizes and is available in a range of flavours including chicken, beef and duck.

The health benefits are also enormous. Jerky is typically made of lean meat so it will help keep your doggo’s calories in check. It can also be used to improve your dog’s dental health and reduce tartar build-up.

If you have a pup who likes a good chew then the natural, chewy texture of jerky could be a great addition to your next training session.

3. Yoghurt drops

Who says your dog can’t have a sweet tooth? Yoghurt drops are a great option for dogs who are motivated by the sweeter things in life.

Soft and small, they’re the perfect reward for smaller training sessions and come in a range of different flavours. Just make sure you’re treating your pooch in moderation. Because of the higher sugar content, we recommend no more than 10 yoghurt drops per day. But that doesn’t mean that yoghurt is bad for your dog. It’s actually packed with good bacteria and nutritious probiotics to foster a healthy gut.

4. Kangaroo

Kangaroo meat has become hugely popular for pets over the last few years for its sustainability, health benefits and hypoallergenic nature. Roo meat contains less than 2% fat, is full of iron and is also high in B vitamins, Omega 3 and Zinc.

It’s also a great alternative for dogs with sensitive stomachs or those with dietary requirements. Kangaroo is often described as a novel protein, meaning your dog is less likely to develop an allergy to roo meat than it is to beef or chicken.

Kangaroo cubes, jerky and liver are all great options for treating your dog with a unique flavour that might not be in their everyday diet.

5. Fish

Fish is a great training treat because of that unique and strong scent that drives your dog wild with motivation. Dogs absolutely love that stinky fishy smell that we tend to turn our noses up at.

Dehydrated fish products for dogs have also increased in popularity in recent years. Forage fish treats or even snacks like green lipped mussels (though pricey!) will be a great addition to your training regime. We recommend single-ingredient, natural fish products that have been sourced sustainably.

The best training treats for puppies

Puppies and training go hand-in-hand so it’s important to make sure you have the right treat for your new family member. Liver, jerky, yoghurt drops and soft kangaroo and fish products are all suitable for use during a training session with a young pup. Make sure you size your treats appropriately and avoid anything that is making your new bestie work too hard.

What treats should you avoid when training puppies?

Those tiny puppy teeth might be razor-sharp, but they’re also delicate and prone to breakage as their adult canines are coming in. As your puppy is teething they’re going to want to chew on everything they can find and it can be tempting to give them something really firm to sink their teeth in.

Avoid hard treats like bones or bits of adult bully sticks or dental sticks while your puppy is teething to avoid potentially breaking those puppy teeth that haven’t fallen out yet. It’s also important to avoid harsh treats like the chemically-processed rawhide, other highly processed treats or anything with artificial sweeteners for your puppy now, and at any age.

Training treats might be bite-sized but it’s also good to keep an eye on any dangerous treats that could pose a choking hazard if they are too large or small for your pup.

How to fade treats out of training

Treats can be an incredibly useful tool when training your dog. But they can pose a risk of your pup becoming overly reliant on that delicious reward. Once your dog is consistently responding to your commands in different environments and with different distractions, it’s time to phase the treats out and remove their reliance on that reward. An over-reliance on treats during training means that your pup may not listen to you without that treat lure, which could pose a danger during emergency situations.

There are a few ways to remove treats from training, but one of the most common is variable reinforcement. This involves moving your treat reward from every command to giving it randomly. This way, your dog doesn’t know when they are going to get a reward but they still know that there is a chance. This can keep motivation in your dog because even if they didn’t get a treat for sitting pretty this time around, they might be rewarded for their next sit.

After all, we all still love being rewarded for a job well done! And no matter how often you’re giving them, with these training treats you and your pup will love training for years to come.

Hungry for a training session? Find the best dog training treats for your pooch at WAG.

Author

Elise James

Elise is a communications and marketing professional with a background in journalism and TV production. She loves writing about topics she is passionate about - especially dogs! Elise grew up with dogs from a young age and now likes to spend her time with her own two furbabies; a chocolate labrador named Zeus and a golden retriever named Odin. Bush hikes, beach walks, playing fetch and snuggles on the couch are some of their favourite family activities.