How to Use Dog Treats Effectively in Training


How to Use Dog Treats
Effectively in Training


Dog with Treats
How to Use Dog Treats Effectively in Training

How to Use
Dog Treats Effectively in Training

When most trainers talk about using treats in training, they generally glom on to one type of treat and use it throughout the training process.  I think it is counterproductive because their dogs always know what they’re going to get, so it’s boring to them.  There is not a lot to keep them interested if they always know the outcome.    If “the butler did it” in every mystery novel you read, how many novels would you read before you became disinterested?

We’re going to talk about how to use treats effectively in training by using several categories of treats in a specific manner.  Each category has a specific purpose, and there can and should be an array of different types of treats in each category.

There are four basic categories of treats:

1-Training treats

These treats are smelly, soft, and small for obedience or trick training where there are several repetitions.

  • 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 “Porkudog,” i.e., a really fat dog.

My favorite is Happy Howie’s because you can cut them to any size you want. Dogs love them. I call them “doggie dope”….

If you’re not sure what size treat to use, read this post Choose the Right Size Treat when Training your Dog or Puppy

Recommended treats for training

2-Behavior treats

These 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.

  • 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.

Recommended treats for behavior issues

3-Long-lasting or confinement treats

These are – surprise! –  treats that take him awhile to consume.   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.

Frozen stuffed Kongs are always a good choice. If you use peanut butter so the treats won’t fall out, make sure it’s unsalted and has no sugar or preservatives. Here’s a link on how to stuff a Kong.

Recommended treats for confinement

4-Association treats

These are dog treats that your dog associates with a specific place or activity and also to keep him interested in that place for a long period of time.  For example, I give my dogs a special treat when they are crated, and that’s the only time they get that treat.  They can’t wait to be crated!  Since there is no problem with them once they are in the crate, they don’t need a confinement treat.

Recommended treats for association training


How to Use Dog Treats Effectively in Training
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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.


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