Updated - Feb 23rd, 2022
Puppy training treats are a necessity for any new puppy parent going through the motions of “sit”, “stay”, and “come” on repeat. But what makes a good training treat? And with so many on the market, how do you choose the best one?
We’re answering all of these questions and more to help you find the best treats to guide your precious pooch through dog training. Let’s dig in!
What makes a good puppy training treat?
Most puppies do best with positive reinforcement training, which is about focus, reward, and quick repetition. To help your dog repeat or move on to new tasks without skipping a beat, you want small training treats. If the treat is too big, your dog will have to put in more work chewing it up and they may lose focus. This is especially important for small dog breeds, who may need them cut up into tiny pea-sized pieces.
Training treats should be low-calorie, and made with healthy ingredients. You’re going to be giving your puppy a lot of them each day, so you want to make sure they’re made with high-quality ingredients. You should avoid fillers and additives your dog doesn’t need like dyes and preservatives, and by-products, and opt for real meats, fruits, and vegetables. The same rules apply when picking out the best dog food!
Smell and texture
When picking a training treat, keep in mind that dogs love stinky treats. Cheese, beef, chicken, lamb, salmon, and even tripe treats will motivate your pup. The texture of training treats also matters – dogs can swallow savory, chewy treats quickly making them ideal for quick repetition. Freeze-dried treats are a great single ingredient option, making them a superior choice for dogs on diet restrictions or those who need limited ingredient treat choices.
Most puppies are thrilled to get a reward of any kind, especially with lots of praise. But too much of any treat will become boring after a while. To keep things fresh, you’ll want to mix in different treats or high-value treats (more on this in a minute) into your training sessions when you see your dog getting bored.
What are high-value training treats?
When you complete a hard job, you want a bigger reward, right? Well, your dog isn’t much different! This is where high-value training treats come in. To ensure you use them effectively, let’s discuss the different levels of treat value when training your dog:
- Low-value treats: When training at home, or where your dog is most comfortable, low-value treats like blueberries, green beans, or chicken treats work well. They keep your dog focused on the reward and are low in cost.
- Moderate-value treats: If you’re out in the yard, or in an area with moderate distractions, stinky treats work well. Think: Beef, liver, or salmon flavored treats. These should be small, but tasty enough to keep your dog’s attention.
- High-value treats: Dog parks, the vet’s office, and walks on busy roads are all examples of high-distraction scenarios. The training treats you use in these scenarios should only be the creme de la creme. Give your pup a generous piece of that treat they just can’t get enough of. Tip: Recall training is another scenario where you can use high-value training rewards. Teaching your puppy to come when called is not only convenient for you, but also keeps them safe in emergency situations. Offering a high-value treat is also appropriate here.
- Long eat rewards: Puppy potty training, crate training, or teaching your dog to “go to bed” or sit quietly while you work, are situations where “long eat rewards” like dog chews work well. Bully sticks, larger treats, jerky, and dog biscuits will occupy your dog while they learn good behavior.
Now that you understand what makes a good training treat and how to effectively use it, let’s find the best one for your pup! We’ve compiled a list of our top picks for you to check out.
Best Puppy Training Treats
This brand has been around for a long time and is well known for its quality ingredients. Each treat is soft, small, and includes the essential vitamins and minerals your puppy needs.
Wellness offers them in both crunchy and soft varieties, with real chicken and carrot, or a real salmon and lamb option if you want them extra stinky. With only six calories per treat, they’re low-calorie and won’t break the bank when you need a lot of training treats.
Zuke’s Mini Naturals are small size chewy dog treats made in the USA. With less than three calories per soft treat, they are perfect for long training sessions with lots of repetition. Made with natural ingredients, these grain-free treats come in several varieties or the standard chicken flavor, to please even the most discerning pup’s palette.
Made with real meat as the first ingredient, these treats have less than three calories each. They include BotaniFitz, a proprietary blend of botanicals to support your pup’s health, and come in several affordable flavor options like their beef or chicken recipes.
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We love the flavors offered in these low-calorie treats. From Pumpkin-banana and Greek strawberry yogurt, to apple-bacon and PB & Joy, there’s an option for every dog.
These treats are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and dietary fiber, baked in a certified-organic facility in the USA with high-quality ingredients. Gluten and grain-free, these treats will entice even the pickiest of eaters.
The Buddy Biscuit training chews are made with quality ingredients while remaining very affordable. The chicken is farm-raised, without hormones, grain, wheat, or soy. The soft chews are oven baked and come in a variety of flavor choices, including chicken liver, which dogs go crazy for!
These treats are another option for dogs who have sensitive stomachs or are on a limited-ingredient diet. They’re chewy, low-calorie, and soft in texture, available in turkey, salmon, and chicken flavors. With five calories per treat and no preservatives, dyes, or artificial flavors, Natural Balance is a great option.
Cloud Star is another brand loved by many. Offered in a variety of meaty favorites, these are soft, chewy, and only three calories per treat. Plus, they’re made with no wheat, corn, artificial flavors, or preservatives.
This company produces high-quality, freeze-dried training treats. They’re a bit more expensive, but well worth it when you’re looking for a high-value training treat. They come in real beef, beef liver, tripe, duck, and minnow! If your dog loves fish, the tiny minnows make the perfect training treat while adding some DHAs for your dog’s brain development.
How many training treats per day are healthy?
Follow the 90-10 rule of treating. 90% of your puppy’s daily caloric intake should come from their daily meals of kibble. The remaining 10% can be reserved for training treats. Keeping count of just how many treats you’re feeding your dog can help them avoid tummy troubles or weight gain.
Which is the best puppy training treat for my puppy?
It may take a few trips to the pet store to find your tail-wagger’s favorite treats, but once you do, your training sessions will take off. After some trial and error, you’ll be able to parse out which treats are low, moderate, and high value, which will help solidify good behavior in different scenarios. Before you know it, you’ll find your secret weapon training treat
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