Pet store aisles are filled with tiny packages of treats priced outrageously – yesterday I saw several priced at over ten dollars for just a few morsels that would last about five minutes. In addition, many of these are preservative or dye laden, or high in junk calories with little nutritional value.
Training with treats as a reward does not need to break the bank or pack on puppy pounds, so here are just a couple of the preferred items that we use – the hidden secrets of treat training!
Pictured above is our everyday go-to: Doggy Sausage. You can get a four-pound, high quality, healthy dog food roll from a local pet store for about $12 or from an online merchant for $8. See the ONE chopped up 1/4 inch slice? That is 50 training treats. Remember, even a large dog will work happily for a treat the size of a pea. This is a GREAT value!
Another perk with this choice is that if you are worried about your dog’s weight, you can just calculate how much he should eat every day, chop it up, and use that as his training rewards. It is more motivating than kibble for most dogs, and your dog won’t be eating junk.
There are two downsides. First, after being opened, these treats need to be refrigerated. Second, combined with a little dog slobber, these can get a bit sticky and messy. However, these are still my favorite training treats since they are a complete balanced diet as well as being extremely motivating.
I don’t have a picture for my next favorite, but you shouldn’t need one. Deli meat! Grab a package of turkey, chicken, or roast beef, and just tear off pieces for training. A pound of chicken costs less than 10 ounces of Pupperoni, and it’s healthier. Again, these do need to be refrigerated, so they are better for short training sessions than long outings.
Next Is my favorite for treat stations – the Charlee Bear.
There are a ton of these puppies in the bag for your puppy, they are healthy and low calorie, and they are shelf stable! A one pound bag is 5 bucks or less. I like these for around the house because they are rewarding, but not SO exciting that Ranger barks and does flips just because he sees them come out. Charlee Bears are a solid daily workhorse.
Freeze Dried Liver
What else is there? I use freeze dried liver for longer outings as a great shelf-stable option that is more highly motivating than biscuit type treats.
These are more expensive at $22 for about 350 treats, but you can break them into smaller pieces to defray the cost per treat a bit. Ranger loves these, and they are not as crumbly or messy as Doggy Sausage, but they are still easy to chew.
Last, I’ll point out another healthy option that needs no refrigeration.
These liver bites are roasted instead of freeze dried, and they are very hard and crunchy, but still extremely motivating to most dogs. I like to use these as rewards for stays because they do take a bit of chewing. These are not something you can rapid-fire into your dog’s mouth when you need a high rate of reinforcement. At $20 for 1.5 pounds they are a little pricey, but can be a good option to mix in with some lower value treats to keep your dog working happily for that extra special payout.
These are just a few examples of our favorite training treats that are healthy, easy on the tummy, motivating, (mostly) quick to eat, and won’t break the bank. Every dog will have his own preference, but rest assured that you don’t need to spend $12 on one ounce of treats just to be able to teach your dog!