In this post, we list the characteristics that define the perfect dog training treat. While this seems pretty obvious (something the dog likes, duh!) most dogs will accept most treats offered, but that doesn’t mean that all treats are created equal!
– You are what you eat. The healthier the treat, the better. Treats with few ingredients, ones you don’t need a chemistry degree to decipher, are usually best.
– The nose knows. The treat should have a nice, strong scent. When luring a dog into a behaviour, it is imperative that he be able to follow a scent with his nose.
– Size matters. Treats should be small, so they are ingested quickly and don’t fill up the dog after only a few. As far as store-bought dog training treats are concerned, you may have to cut them if the dog in question is small. Don’t worry about feeling stingy: dogs appreciate frequency not quantity!
– Jackpot! The efficacy of a treat as reinforcement depends on what your dog finds valuable enough to work for. Just because your dog will eat his kibble at mealtimes or the carrots your children sneak under the table at dinner, doesn’t mean he’ll work for them. Treats should have a high value, and part of this means that he doesn’t get this treat freely, but only when training,
Examples of ideal treats: small cubes of cheese or meat, soft dog training treats (Zuke’s, Rollover…), licks of a frozen treat in a hollow toy, such as a Kong.
Examples of less-than-ideal treats: dog biscuits. They are large, crunchy, wheat-based and lacking a particularly appealing scent. Kibble is typically too low value for a dog. They’ll eat it at mealtimes, but likely not consider it “good enough” to work for.
The type of treat is just as important as how you treat your dog. For more on dog treats in training, check out Reinforcement and Punishment.
Good luck, and happy training!