Training your dog with treats is a great method. The positive reinforcement of treats gives your dog incentive to stay focused on obedience training and learn. However, treats are usually loaded with extra calories so if you use the wrong treats during training, your dog may gain extra weight. Luckily, there are some great dog treats on the market that are designed specifically for training and will ensure that you are making healthy choices for your dog’s diet.
How Should You Reward Treats
When training your dog you want to start with a method called “continuous reinforcement.” This means that every time your dog does the trick you are teaching them, you will give them a reward. The once your dog has learned the behavior, you want to switch to “intermittent reinforcement.” Intermittent reinforcement means you will continue to give your dog praise but slowly start reducing the treats. Start by rewarding the treat every four out of five times, then three out of five, then two out of five, and continue until you are only rewarding occasionally. This method not only teaches your dog to respond every time regardless of the presence of treats but helps ensure that they will not gain excess weight.
What Makes A Good Training Treat?
You can use any of your dog’s favorite treats during training, but it’s highly recommended that you only use treats designed specifically for training.
Dog training treats are small and they have a lower caloric value than other treats, so your dog will be less likely to gain excess weight. They are also designed to peak the interest of your dog. A good dog training treat will be:
- Delicious so it is irresistible to your dog
- Bite-sized, so that your dog will get just enough of a taste they want more.
- Soft, so it will not crumble or break so that your dog loses focus on training by searching the floor for more
- Healthy, so supports your dog’s nutrition
Picking A Great Training Treat
There are a couple of options for dog training treats. The first is you can use your dog’s kibble for training. This is especially great if you are feeding your dog the healthiest dog food because they have an illness or specific dietary requirements. You can just take this kibble from their normal meal serving and reward them during training. You can also use wet food the same way. The next option is people food. There are many types of human foods that dogs can eat and things like cheese, fresh meat, and chopped veggies can really peak the interest of your dog. You can also make your dog’s treats. There are some great recipes on Dog Food Insider for healthy homemade treats. Finally, you can purchase dog treats that are specifically designed for training. These treats are small, have a low caloric value, and are usually very nutritious, so they support positive reinforcement without excess weight gain.
Four Great Recommendations For Training Treats
There are several great treats for dog training on the market, but just like when you are picking the healthiest dog food, you want to read the label to make sure that the product is free of artificial ingredients, excess sugars and salts, and is a natural, healthy option. We also recommend that you buy treats in flavor bundles because the variety offers extra incentive for your dog to learn. Here are our four favorite dog training treat bundles:
Merrick is one of the healthiest dog food brands on the market. Their natural soft chews are made with deboned meat and are loaded with protein. They are rated as one of the best tasting treats but are bite-sized and grain-free so they are a perfect treat for owners worried about extra weight gain during training.
Newman’s Own is a leader in organic dog food and their snack sticks are a healthy, treat for any dog. They are made without artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and only use natural, organic ingredients. The sticks can be broken up for training purposes or kept whole for a healthy snack. They are a great option for dog owners looking for a treat to pull double duty.
Blue Buffalo is another trusted dog food manufacturer. Blue Bits are tiny dog training treats made with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, grains, or byproducts. They are also loaded with DHA which helps support healthy brain development and memory so they are a perfect treat to use when teaching your dog something new.
Zuke’s is the market leader in dog training treats. Their natural treats are under 3.5 calories per treat and are fortified with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Zuke’s comes in a wide variety of flavors, so not only do they support the health and nutrition of your dog, they will also keep them interested in the training process. These are a great options for dogs going through rigorous obedience training.
Picking the right treat for training can ensure that your dog learns quickly without gaining excess weight. If you choose a great treat and follow the basic steps of reinforcement, you can easily engage your dog in the learning process. So when you are ready to train your dog, make sure you pick a healthy, training-specific treat and they can learn any trick in no time.