By Beth Jeffery, Dog Trainer
There are so many dog treats on the market it can sometimes be difficult to decide what are the best dog treats for training. As with food we put into our own bodies, over the last few decades people have become increasingly aware of the health and nutritional contents of what we give our dogs. There are still many dog treats on the market that are full of salt and additives that are bad for your dog. Below is a list of important factors to consider when selecting a dog training treat.
One of the important factors in choosing a training treat is the size of the treat itself. During any given training session your dog could easily consume in excess of twenty treats. As many breeds have a tendency to put on excess weight, you should be wary of the size treat you are giving your dog each time. Remember the size of the treat itself is not what matters to your dog, it is simply the reward of getting a treat at all. As a dog trainer, I recommend that the treat be no bigger than the size pea, and possibly even smaller for small breed dogs. You can either choose a treat that is small enough as is, or you can break a larger treat into smaller pieces.
There are two main choices in a dog training treat; moist/soft treats vs. hard biscuit type treats. Moist treats are easier to break into pieces. In addition, some small breed dogs and puppies find it easier to chew a soft treat. It is important that the consistency of the treat does not cause your dog to need to do excessive chewing, which then takes time out of your training sessions. Moist treats also tend to be the most flavorful.
It is important to check the nutritional information listed on the back of any dog training treat you choose. Treats that are made with no additives, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors are always the best choice. These added ingredients are not good for your dog’s health, and can cause stomach upset. You also want to be mindful of the salt content. Salt is not good for dogs, and many commercial treats you find in the grocery store have a lot of salt added. You should also avoid treats that contain corn. This is typically used as “filler” in dog foods, and it is not particularly healthy for your dog.
Most training treats come in a variety of flavors. Which you choose makes little difference, as long as your dog really likes them.
5. High Value Treats
When a dog trainer refers to something as a “high value treat”, they mean something that is very special that your dog does not usually get. Regular training treats do not normally fall into this category as these are things you might frequently give your dog. If there is a training or behavioral issue that you are really struggling with, it is a good idea to use a “high value treat” to really motivate your dog. I would typically recommend, small pieces of chicken, meat or sausage, cheese or peanut butter. It is important to choose good quality food. If you would not put a particular brand in your own body, you should also not give it to your dog!
6. Treats for Dogs with Skin or Stomach issues
Even if your dog suffers from skin or stomach problems, there are good quality training treats on the market. Choose a treat that is grain free, and is made from pumpkin or sweet potato. These ingredients are very gentle on the stomach, and have nothing in them that should irritate the skin. You could also choose a salmon based dog treat for dogs with skin issues.
Another important factor to keep in mind when choosing a training treat is how easy it will be for you to carry around. Owners are often taking treats with them on walks, outings, or to the park, and so the treats should be an appropriate size and shape so you can put that treat in a treat pouch or simply in your pocket. Timing is everything when rewarding your, and if you are struggling to get the treat out and break it into an appropriate size, you may very well miss the moment and your dog will think they are being rewarded for something else.
Although you can always store open treats in a zip lock bag or airtight container, choosing a treat that comes in a bag with its own zip close top is always easiest! Moist treats tend to get hard very quickly when exposed to the air.
There are many good quality treats available on the Market. If you make sure to check the ingredients, the size and texture, and use the above as a general guide, it should be simple to find a treat that is healthy, flavorful and within you budget.
Beth Jeffery is a Dog Trainer and Animal Behaviorist based in San Diego, CA. She has worked with both Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Assistance Dogs for the Disabled, in addition to having run her own private training business, The Top Dog Trainer, for many years. From puppy training to aggression, Beth has dealt with all breeds, all ages, and all problems. She believes in giving owners all the tools to help them build a strong bond with their dog, which involves both love and respect. Beth is pictured here with her Labrador, Dill.