Training treats should be bite-sized, convenient and easy to carry and handle. They should also be healthy and nutritious and not contribute to weight gain.
Training your dog requires the use of treats. You reward desired behavior with something the dog really likes – usually a small, tasty treat – so he learns to associate that behavior with a positive outcome and performs it more often. This means that every time you teach your dog something, whether it’s “come on call” or “roll on command,” you should have the right training treats on hand.
“The function of a training treat requires repetitive and intensive use,” says Michael Rosenstock of Finest Fetch. “It’s not uncommon to reward 50 or more times in a 30-minute period when learning a new behavior, especially for puppies.” Since you’ll be giving your dog lots of treats during training, make sure they’re healthy, nutritious and tasty and won’t cause weight gain. Treats should be small and easy to carry and handle.
“The most important thing when choosing a training treat is its size,” confirms Allison Arcos of Red Barn Pet Products. “An ideal training treat is small (between a pea and a penny) and low in calories. You’ll need to give your pet several training treats per session, so choose a treat that won’t disrupt his diet and will help him maintain a healthy weight. Another thing to consider is your dog’s interest in the treat. Choosing a treat that is highly sought after will provide more motivation.”
You can easily make your own training treats at home. If you prefer to buy them, stay away from cheap commercial products that look and smell good but have virtually no nutritional value and are often full of additives, artificial colors and flavors, byproducts and other questionable and harmful ingredients, often from China. The fillers and bad carbohydrates in these treats also contribute to obesity, dental and other health problems.
Many companies specialize in premium treats that are safe, natural, healthy and very tasty. Many of them make small or bite-sized treats that are great for dressing up and come in small bags or boxes that are easy to pack and transport.
- Coconut flour is low in carbohydrates and fat, making it an ideal ingredient for workout treats. CocoTherapy’s Five Star Organic Coconut Training Treats are small star-shaped treats made with all-organic ingredients such as coconut flour, ground peas, mashed banana, coconut oil and eggs. Thanks to their small size and healthy ingredients, you can give them to your dog as often as you like during training sessions.
- Moisture content is an important factor in training treats, Michael explains. “Treats with moisture content between 13 and 30 percent almost always contain a humectant that keeps the moisture content high, releasing more flavor and reducing dry mouth during training. Finest Fetch uses organic vegetable glycerin as a humectant to keep moisture content between 15 and 19 percent and calories at just 1.8 to 2.8.” The company makes baked, wheat- and preservative-free training treats with natural flavors of bacon, liver, beef and other dog-friendly flavors. The treats are made in the U.S. from all-natural ingredients, including rolled oats, eggs, coconut oil, salmon and cheese. “. Our treats are small and fit nicely in pockets, so they’re quick to grab when needed,” Michael explains.
- Dogs love meaty treats. “Redbarn’s rolled food is a semi-wet bun that can be fed as a complete meal, but one of the most popular uses is to cut it into cubes and use it as a training treat,” Allison says. “The cubes are firm and don’t crumble easily in the hand. Another favorite is Redbarn Bully Nuggets, bite-sized pieces of lung coated in bully sauce. They are low in calories, high in protein and contain superfood ingredients that promote joint health in dogs.”
- Jerky is a popular dog treat, but many commercial jerky products come from China and can make your dog sick. The Real Meat Company is a good supplier of high-quality, locally produced jerky treats for training. Their natural dog jerky is made from grass-fed, free-range meats such as deer, lamb and beef, and contains no added hormones or antibiotics.
- The smaller, healthier and tastier the treat, the more often you can reward your dog. Zuke’s Mini Naturals are bite-sized wet treats made with all-natural ingredients like chicken, duck, peanut butter, wild rabbit and salmon. “Dog handlers and pet owners love them for their small size, healthy nutrition and ease of use,” says Chris Meiering, director of innovations. Tiny Naturals are new to the line and contain less than 1½ calories per treat, making them “perfect for frequent training rewards.” The treats are made in the U.S. and are free of common additives, preservatives and allergens such as wheat, corn and soy.
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