Let’s Talk TREATS!
I often remind my clients to bring dog treats to class, but sometimes I forget to tell them which treats to bring. I know there are thousands of treats to choose from! Your choice of treats will depend on your dog’s taste buds or allergies, but I’ll let you know what is in my treat pouch on a daily basis.Kibble: Many dogs will eat their regular kibble as a treat. If it’s coming from your hand, it must be special! I buy grain free, baked kibble to use as treats because it’s not greasy or crumbly. My current favorite brand is Lotus. Using kibble is also a great way to cut back on empty calories. If your dog normally gets one cup of kibble for breakfast, try giving them half of a cup for breakfast and putting the remaining half cup in your treat pouch to use as rewards throughout the day.
Small, Stinky Treats: Usually I carry Zukes Mini Naturals. They are small and most dogs really like them. Depending on what I have on hand, I may also use Blue Buffalo Bits or Triumph Salmon Jerky (which is easily broken into pieces).
Special “High Value” Treats: There are two situations when I will break out the super-special treats: dogs who aren’t highly food motivated and dogs who need extra reward because I’m asking them to do a behavior that is super challenging. My favorite treat to keep on hand for this purpose is pre-cooked chicken (from the human grocery store). I will also use cut up hot dogs or cheese depending on what the dog likes.
Entertainment Value Treats: These don’t get carried in my treat pouch, but are a great treat for rewarding a dog on place. This category contains treats that take longer to eat. My dogs love Whimzees, chicken feet, and bully sticks. I don’t feed my dogs rawhides, because skin is not easily digestible. Some people may also include elk antlers in this category (although they’re more of a “bone” and less of a treat).
From a training standpoint, I like to carry a lower value treat and a higher value treat in my treat pouch at the same time. This makes it easier to randomize the dog’s reward (be a slot machine, not a vending machine) and allows me to have easy access to a “jackpot” reward if my dog does something extra-great (such as come back to me instead of chase a bunny). Depending on your dog, the high value may be Zukes Mini Naturals or the high value may be chicken. I have even had clients bring cooked bacon to class as a jackpot! Now that you know what I keep in my treat pouch, have fun finding out what motivates your dog.