I’m a Professional Dog Trainer and These Are My 8 Favorite Healthy Training Treats

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The most effective dog training works on the principle that if a dog behaves in a way that pleases us, it will be rewarded for its efforts. Rewards can be anything that motivates a dog, like playing with a toy or a deep scratch behind the ears. But for many types of training, food is the best reward. That’s why it’s important to choose a healthy treat for dog training.

As a professional dog trainer, my job is to train dogs with a variety of behaviors ranging from fearful to aggressive. Choosing the right treat to motivate and encourage my dogs is key. Quality ingredients are important because I don’t want a treat with more grains than healthy meat, vegetables or fruit. And since I often treat the same dogs every day, I also keep track of the calorie count. In some cases, I recommend reducing a dog’s normal food portions to offset the extra calories he’s consuming when rewarded with treats.

Delicious dog training treats come in many shapes and sizes. Packaged, store-bought, or online dog treats can be ideal for training, but some situations call for “premium” or smellier treats, like meat and cheese, which are best found in dog aisles.

If you’re a savvy cook, Rover’s jerky or salmon treat recipes will help you make your own healthy treats for your workout. You can even use your own dog’s dry food as a treat in low-pressure environments.

My favorite healthy dog ​​training treats

Considering all the options above, these are my eight favorite healthy dog ​​training treats for everyday use.

Pro tip: A dog training treat pouch or pouch can go a long way in ensuring you have easy access to your treat of choice. I personally love the Ruffwear Treat Trader which can be worn around the waist.

For more information on treat bags, see our article 14 Dog Treat Bags to Optimize Your Walks and Training Sessions.

Technically sold as dog food, these soft buns are easy to cut into small pieces for training. At the kennel where I was taught dog behavior, these dense rolls were popular with dog trainers and staff for their near-universal appeal to dogs of all types. The buns come in beef, lamb or chicken flavors and 50% of each bun is fresh meat. Redbarn Naturals does not contain soy, corn or carrageenan.

Redbarn Naturals Premium Dog Food Roll

These soft buns are easy to cut into small pieces for working out and come in beef, lamb, or chicken flavors.

Zuke’s Mini Naturals are great treats that are just the right size for training, whether you have a 10 pound terrier or a 90 pound retriever. These treats are soft and chewy yet sturdy and won’t fall into your pocket or goodie bag. Each treat contains fewer than three calories and is sold in six (often smelly) flavors. Best of all, Zuke’s treats are free of soy, corn, wheat, and artificial colors and flavors.

Zuke’s Mini Naturals

These cute mini workout treats are free from fillers like soy, corn and wheat and contain no artificial colors or flavors.

Wellness Soft Puppy Bites are a great treat for dog training. They’re soft and chewy, and contain high-quality lamb and salmon, plus DHA for cognitive development. Many of my customers particularly like the grain-free lamb and salmon recipe.

soft bites for puppies

Shown here in Lamb and Salmon flavors, these soft and chewy treats contain quality ingredients.

Fruitables “Skinny” Treats are low in calories, making them a great option for working out. Almost all dogs love bacon, so this flavor is a great choice for engaging the senses. The first ingredient is always a healthy fruit or vegetable. The fruit comes in a variety of flavors including crunchy, chewy, and jerky to suit your dog’s preferences. Although these treats are low in calories, they can help curb hunger pangs between meals.

Skinny Fruitables minis

These low-calorie treats come in a variety of textures and are a great workout option.

Natural Balance mini treats contain less than five calories per treat. The main ingredient is high-quality duck, chicken, or lamb, and it’s a great option for all ages. This is one of my favorite training treats for adult dogs and especially for dogs that tend to overeat. You can give many of these mini rewards without worrying about calorie intake.

Natural Balance Mini Rewards

You can feed your dog plenty of these little training treats, they contain less than five calories per treat.

I’ve never seen a dog that isn’t crazy about baby food. Take off the top and they’ll come running – that’s just one of the reasons I love wearing it as a gift for rappelling practice or when working in highly distracting environments. What’s not to like? Containing no salt, artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors, these purees have been trusted by parents for their human babies for decades. The smelly smell and new texture also make it a favorite with fur babies. I prefer to use meat flavors whenever possible, but mashed vegetables made from sweet potatoes or butternut squash also work well.

Gerber baby food

Because this chicken and gravy flavored puree contains no salt, sweeteners, or artificial colors or flavors, it’s a healthy workout treat.

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7. Fresh meat or cheese

Fresh meat or cheese is always my favorite when working with new dogs or training in the classroom or outdoors. Cut into fingernail-sized pieces, fresh meats and cheeses are easy to swallow and digest. Although I usually buy organic chicken breasts or natural hot dogs that don’t have onions or garlic, you can use any type of food from your grocery store’s meat section. However, it should be noted that some dogs, often smaller ones, can get stomach problems if they eat a lot of cheese or fatty meat such as beef.

In some situations, usually quiet environments where your dog won’t be too distracted, kibble can work perfectly as a dog training treat, especially if the dog is overweight and already motivated by food. Think of exercise as part of your dog’s meals. For example, if you work your dog around breakfast, grab a handful of his breakfast portion to use during morning training exercises.

If games or puzzles are part of his training regimen, you might also consider a dog feeder or toy to add to the fun factor.

The essential

Training treats should be of high quality without adding too many calories to your dog’s daily diet. When choosing a treat, pay attention to the label of the ingredients. The first ingredient should be meat or fish, and not a by-product or “filler” like grain, corn, or rice.

Good training!

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