Healthy Treats for Dog Training

by | May 11 2021

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but what if you have no other choice?

Perhaps you have recently adopted a more mature rescue dog or you may even have a brand-new puppy on your hands, and the time has come to see what they’re made of in the training ring.

The way to a dog’s heart is most certainly through their tummy, so with that in mind, it’s time to make the training process a lot easier with a few helpful tips on how to incorporate healthy and delicious treats for sure fire success!

What types of treats should you feed your dog?

First of all, take the time to consider how you can treat your pup’s senses. Much of the enjoyment we get from eating stems from the different experiences it offers, from taste to smell to texture. The same can be said for our canine friends.

High Value Treats

Moist foods with a particular smell, such as cheese, hotdogs or peanut butter, will be a particular draw for your dog; all the more because it is unlikely they get food like this too often.

Formulated by animal nutritionists, each treat combines real fruit with yogurt within an irresistible cereal shell. With Omega 3 in every treat, it’s not just fun, it’s a healthy choice too! The very best choice of treat for your dog.

These foods are referred to as “high value treats” in training terms and should be offered when your dog displays a fast and strong response to the new skill or behaviour you are teaching them, and when they remain focused in particularly distracting situations. While hugely important in the training process, be wary of overusing high value treats as they are often high in fat.

Healthy Treats for Dog Training - Mark + Chappell 2

Medium & Low Value Treats

Medium and low value treats are equally as important when training your pet. Choices for medium level will be drier in texture and usually something your dog won’t regularly eat. They can be given to reward good behaviour and the maintenance of a pre-learned skill. Low value treats are also dry, usually crunchy and act as a great tool for the fading out of treats as the training process comes to an end. For these treats, you can dip into your dog’s regular supply, perhaps keeping aside a portion from their daily food intake to use for rewards throughout the day.

How often should you give your dog treats?

Give your dog little treats often. Save the bigger treats, such as chew sticks or food-filled toys for periods when your dog is spending some downtime. Choose pea-sized morsels or cut larger treats up into smaller particles.

This allows for plenty of reinforcement during a particularly successful training session, without you having to worry about the amount of calories your dog is consuming. It also speeds up training – and as a result, the development of new behaviours – as dogs can eat smaller treats quickly.

Healthy Treats for Dog Training - Mark + Chappell 1

Speaking of pea-sized treats, it might surprise you to learn that actual peas are also a great treat for dogs in training! Most dogs really enjoy them and they are super convenient to have to hand, as they can be offered either frozen or fresh. There are also numerous other potential treats that can be found in the kitchen.

Fruits like bananas, strawberries, blueberries, apples and even pumpkins are a popular choice among pups. These healthy options are not only delicious, but are also loaded with vitamins, nutrients and fibre.

However, given the high sugar content in fruit, be sure to dish these treats out in moderation. Other “homemade” treat options come in the form of veggies such as broccoli, carrots and sweet potatoes, which are usually best served cooked, as they will be easier for your dog to swallow and digest.

The beauty of choosing such natural, healthy treats from your own fridge or store cupboard is that you can be assured they are packed with nutrients and are low in calories. Being mindful of the nutritional value of the food you choose when selecting treats for your dog is hugely important, but it is also vital to choose foods your dog will enjoy, to make those training sessions more successful and enjoyable for all involved.


How do you find a balance between healthy and ‘fun’ treats?

Firstly, make sure to incorporate a mix of vegetarian and meat-based proteins, such as chicken, fish and even peanut butter.

Secondly, keep it interesting for your pet by playing with texture, opting for a combination of wet, dry or even freeze-dried treats. These can be alternated to keep your pet motivated and engaged throughout the training process. You can also pick up nutritious treats in your local pet shop that will have a built-in combination of textures and flavours, and that have been formulated with effective training in mind.

Treat Taste Tests

A great way to figure out what treats your dog will consider as high value, is to carry out a treat taste test. Gather a selection of treats in a variety of textures – treats that your dog doesn’t get to enjoy too often – and narrow down your list by process of elimination.

Simply conceal two different treats by placing one in the palm of each hand and make two fists for your dog to sniff at. Whichever hand your dog is most drawn to will contain the treat they are most interested in!

Repeat this process and continue to compare the foods your dog has already identified as a favourite with other treats. This will enable you to narrow down the high value treat list, while helping you to identify medium and low value treats in the process. It will also ensure your dog is rewarded for a job well done with a treat they’ll really appreciate.



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