If you were in a class and the teacher offered you one hundred dollars for every correct answer, you would certainly be more eager to learn and offer the right response. Similarly, treats are a way for us to reward our dogs which helps us to develop a learning-language quickly and effectively. When you reward your dog for doing something, you reinforce that behavior.
Reinforcing a Behavior
Your dog likely will offer that behavior again in the future if you use somepositive reinforcement. By working in this way, your dog learns which behaviors result in rewards and which behaviors do not. This encourages the dog to offer the actions you want such as “sit” and “down” versus the things you don’t want like barking and jumping. Treats are also extremely useful when teaching your dog cues because they give you a hands-free way of guiding them.
High Value Treats = Excitement and Engagement
The scale starts with kibble, something that the dog is used to and that they get routinely. The top of the scale are very high value treats such as freeze-dried treats or cooked meat.
How to implement the low to high-value scale when training
When you are first teaching your dog new behaviors (or when working around distractions), it is important to use higher value treats that you can easily break apart. If you can give your dog treats the size of a grain of rice for each repetition, you will be able to get in a lot of practice without having to worry about filling them up too quickly. You can also use treats to make “magic kibble” by mashing some treats up and then rubbing the kibble in the treats. Novelty and variety are incredibly helpful when training so be sure to switch up your treats often (you can also try some of our homemade treat recipes!)
My favorite (and my dog’s favorite) treats to use for dog training are beef, chicken, or cheese flavored. They are easy to break apart and keep the dogs focused and motivated. After working with hundreds of dogs, I can tell you that “cookie” style treats are not that exciting for most dogs. Cookies are often used by handlers because they aren’t messy and they don’t have a strong scent. In reality, most dogs prefer meat, poultry or fish-flavored treats. Play around with a variety of flavors.
Orijen treats are made of 100% quality animal ingredients, making them incredibly appealing to your four-legged friend. Orijen treats are easy to break apart into the tiniest crumbs which makes one treat last for a while. These treats also make great food toy stuffings.
If your pup prefers a good crunch in their treat, this treat is the one to get. These all-natural crisps break apart into little pieces making them perfect for training. These treats do not crumble at all making them one of the most floor-friendly on this list.
These ultra-stinky treats are long-lasting and highly effective. Each bag is filled with jerky links that rip apart cleanly and easily. You can let your pup nibble on this treat to tear off a piece to give to them. They fit well into food toys. My puppy students rate these highly.
When in doubt, go for chicken! Freeze-dried chicken breast breaks apart into tiny flakes which allows you to get a lot out of one treat. The only ingredient in the treat is chicken making it a good choice for dogs with sensitive tummies.
Another favorite for dogs who love a crunch is the Crunchy O’s by Fromm. These cheerio-shaped treats have a very light scent to them making them a good choice for times when you want to treat when you are out and about. You can use the Os whole or break them apart into little pieces.
Stella and Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Beef Hearts are my dog Rupert’s favorite treat. The treats are a bit greasy to use but will win the heart (pun intended) of any pup. This one ingredient treat is great for pups with sensitive stomachs