What can be used for rewards? You can use ANYTHING your pet enjoys! This might include:
- Being let off leash
- Getting to sniff stuff, like that really exciting tree or another dog’s butt
Not all rewards are created equally! Your pet probably has preferences for certain rewards over others. We use the terms “low-value” and “high-value”. You’ll have to Ask Your Dog what their preferences are. Then, you can choose low/medium/high value treats as needed for their training.
Low to medium value treats are great for easy stuff that doesn’t take a lot of effort, as well as activities where you want your dog to feel calm. (Relaxation training, cooperative vet care, stay work.)
High value treats are great for when you want extra motivation and/or excitement for your dog. Think training come when called, tricks, and working in distractions.
Training Treat Suggestions
The best training treats are bite-sized, low calorie, easy to eat, and easy on your pet’s stomach! Here are some example treat suggestions to get you started.
Often Low Value
- Your dog’s regular kibble
- Kibble that is new or different to your dog
- Tricky Trainers Crunchy
Often Medium Value
- Buddy Trainers Training Chews (Great for small dogs and puppies!)
- Train-Me Training Treats (Mini size available, great for smalls!)
- Tricky Trainers Chewy
- Pet Botanics Training Rewards
- Real Meat brand dog food (comes in a jerky form, the Venison and Turkey is easiest to break apart)
- Squeeze cheese
- Low-sodium, nitrate-free deli meats
- Freeze dried chicken, beef liver, and/or cheese
- Freeze dried or dried shrimp, salmon, or tiny fish (Stinky, but great for cats and dogs who can’t have chicken or beef) You can also check out Asian markets like H-Mart for these, often at a much lower cost than what’s sold for pets.
- Pet Fresh Select Roasted Meals (Need refrigeration, but economical and most dogs LOVE them! Look for the ones that look like little nuggets, not the shreds.
- Diced chicken (unseasoned)
- Small pieces of cheese (Dicing up a low-fat string cheese is a popular option)
- Canned food (ground, not chunky) in a silicone travel squeeze tube
- Meat and veggie baby food pouches (avoid the fruity ones, too much sugar)
Keeping Trim While Eating Treats
Training actually burns a lot of calories! But treats can be a lot of calories, too. We still want a balanced diet for our dogs. Staying lean is important for short and long term doggy health! Here are a couple ways to prevent over-treating:
- Choose low-cal and/or small treats. If your treats are bigger, you can also break or cut them up into smaller ones.
- Reduce how much kibble your dog gets per meal on training days. (Just estimate how many calories of treats you’re using and subtract the appropriate amount of kibble. If you’re training with kibble, even easier!)
Set up Treat Stations!
- Rewards work best if they’re quick and convenient to use for you! If you’re often finding yourself treatless in the house, it’s time to set up Treat Stations!
- Find some small, easy-to-open containers with lids. Airtight containers are best if you’re using semi-moist treats. (I like the Oxo POP containers!)
- Fill the containers with treats and place them where you most often spend your time or where you need to train. (Your office? Near the front door? In the living room?)
- Set a reminder on your phone to refill them once a week .
We highly recommend wearing a treat pouch! This is a handy little bag that gives you easy access to your treats. (Plus, no more washing treats in your pockets!)
One brand we love is Doggone Good! They have a large pouch (Rapid Rewards model) and a smaller pouch (Trek N Train), both of which are super durable and come in lots of colors. (Including black, if you’re as exciting as I am :p )
When Can I Stop Rewarding?
When you want your pet to stop working! (How long would you go to work without a paycheck?) But that doesn’t mean you have to reward every single repetition with food forever. There are tons of rewards besides food. (Read about Life Rewards!)
Have fun experimenting and being creative with what rewards work best for your pet!!!