How to Use Dog Training Treats Effectively

dog behind a pile of dog treats
Which dog treats should you use to train me effectively?

How to Use
Dog Training Treats Effectively

I’ve been training a long time – practically since dirt was new centuries ago – and have used various methods of training. I’ve learned (yes, I learn all the time!) that dogs seem to learn quicker with reward-based training.

A reward is anything your dog likes – treats, petting, going for a walk, playing fetch.

I tend to use treats more often than other rewards because I can get a lot of repetitions in a short amount of time. The neurons in your dog’s brain are making connections when he learns a new behavior and form a lasting association with getting a yummy food reward and the behavior he is doing at the time he receives it. The more repetitions, the stronger the association.

Types of Dog Training

When clients call me, their dogs need different kinds of training, and those fall into roughly four categories:

  • Obedience training (Sit, Down, Come, etc.)
  • Behavior training (anxiety, fear, aggression, etc.)
  • Confinement training (crate or pen training)
  • Association training (where he learns that a particular place is a good place to be because he gets treats for being there)

Since the things I teach are not the same, all the treats are not the same – treats for obedience exercises are different than those for behavior training. What follows is why I use a certain category of treats for training certain behaviors or exercises.

Dog Treats for Obedience Training

These dog treats are smelly, soft, and small for obedience or trick training where there are several repetitions in a short time. The training treats should be

  • Smelly to pique and keep his interest
  • Soft so he doesn’t have to chew time and you can get more reps in the practice session
  • Small so he doesn’t become “Pork-u-dog,” i.e., a really fat dog.

Dog Treats for Behavior Training

These dog treats are larger than training treats, hard, and meat based.  When he chews these, he engages the thinking part of his brain instead of the reacting part of the brain. The behavior treats should be

  • Large so he cannot swallow them
  • Hard so he has to chew them and focus on chewing the treat rather on the behavior we’re working with
  • Meat-based because those seem to hold his attention the best.  If your dog absolutely positively goes wild for baked peanut butter treats, then use those.

Dog Treats that are
Long-lasting for Confinement Training

These are – surprise! –  dog treats that take him awhile to chew on.  These can be either the treats themselves such as bully sticks or getting them out of a puzzle toy or Kong. We want him to concentrate on chewing these treats for extended periods of time, both because chewing gives him something to think about other than confinement and also because chewing is a stress release.

Dog Treats for Association Training

These are dog treats that your dog associates with a specific place or activity and also serve to keep him interested in that place for a long period of time.


What Kind of Dog Treats to Use

Your dog’s treats should be natural and not contain any dyes, chemical preservatives, or additives – my rule of thumb is if I can’t pronounce it, it’s usually something I don’t want!  Treats preserved with Tocopherols are fine because it is basically Vitamin E, which comes from vegetable oil, so it is natural.

I personally like the treats that look like a salami or sausage roll because it’s versatile since you can cut it in chunks, slice it like silver dollars, or grate or crumble it – and it’s less expensive when you cut it yourself.  After you break the plastic seal, it needs to be refrigerated. However, I prefer to cut the entire roll at one time because it can mold (yuck!) if it’s left refrigerated too long. I put the chunks in a ziplock bag in the freezer and another bag for the crumbles/sprinkles. I let the silver dollar slices air dry so they are hard because I want the dog take a longer time in chewing it than inhaling a softer treat.

I don’t suggest using sausage for all your training. Your dog can become very picky and refuse to eat anything except the sausage.  You can also grate the sausage rolls and put the gratings in a ziplock bag with kibble so the kibble smells like the sausage.  Then don’t feed him his regular meals.  The only food he gets is the smelly kibble during training.

Recommended Dog Treats for Obedience Training

Recommended Dog Treats for Behavior Training

Recommended Dog Treats for Confinement Training

Recommended Dog Treats for Association Training

This is an Amazon-affiliated website, and I receive a small commission for any items purchased through this site and for the items mentioned here.

Thanks for visiting How to Use Dog Treats Effectively


Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.

If you need help with dog training or puppy training in Los Angeles, please contact us. We would love to work with you!


Leave a Reply