Training a dog can be stressful, but choosing the best dog treats for training your pet doesn’t have to be. Finding the right kind of dog treats comes down to two simple factors: speed and appeal. It’s important to find a dog treat that can be eaten quickly (a “fast” eat) as well as a treat that they can’t resist. But to pick a treat that’s well-suited for training, it’s important to understand how treats are used in the process. When training an animal, treats are used to hasten the association of ‘action’ with ‘reward’. The more quickly that a command can be repeated in fast succession, the easier it is to establish with your dog.
Narrow your search by first considering speedy snacks. If the treat you have in mind can’t be eaten in less than a few seconds, it’s probably not ideal for training. If bully sticks for dogs are your go-to treat, you’ll need to consider something else. Rapid succession is the name of the game when it comes to teaching a new command so the smaller the snack, the better.
Small, fast eats are better for creating associations more quickly and ensuring that your dog stays focused on the task at hand. Another important benefit is that it’s much better for the dog’s health. Repeating a task (and thus, getting rewarded) several times in a row could be painful if using large treats. Doing so could cause an overload of protein or other nutrients that might upset their tummies. Not to mention the calorie overload that could cause incidental weight gain.
Next is finding a treat with the greatest appeal for your dog (which isn’t as easy as it sounds). This step in the process can be particularly frustrating for new pet owners who aren’t as familiar with their dog’s snacking preferences. While this may take several days or weeks of trial and error, this process will reveal invaluable information about your dog’s particular treat hierarchy. This hierarchy categorizes your dog’s treats into three main categories: low value, medium value, and high value. All treats offered to your dog will fall into one of these three categories, you can determine which ones based on their reaction in specific settings.
Low value treats have the lowest appeal and are things like vegetables or kibble. Dogs do not find these particularly enticing and will rarely pay them any mind in a setting where there are distractions like other people or dogs. Medium value treats are ones that your dog would never turn down but aren’t so exciting that your dog actively gets excited for them. High value treats (typically protein-based) never fail to capture a dog’s attention even in settings with plenty of distractions, like a bar or dog park. These kinds of treats are ideal since they can keep a dog’s attention to matter the environment.
While you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog that isn’t food-based, that doesn’t mean just any quick dog treat will do when it comes to training. Once you discover the treat that checks both of those boxes, you’ll be amazed at how cooperative and fast-learning your canine can be. Dogs are reward-driven and food is a powerful incentive that makes up for when motivation or discipline is in short supply. Having the best dog treats on hand can make training a pleasurable experience and a great time to bond with your furry best friend.