Spaniel focusing on it’s owner during a dog training session

Natural Dog Treats for Training Success

Training your dog relies on rewarding correct behaviours, often using treats as a lip-smackingly delicious way to capture your furry friend’s attention, keep them motivated, and reinforce their learning.

But not all treats are created equal, and using the right treat at the right time can significantly impact your training success. But what treats are best for dog training, and when should you use them?

The Role of Treats in Dog Training

Positive Reinforcement

In the past, negative reinforcement (punishing unwanted behaviour) was the go-to dog training technique. Thankfully, things have moved on. These days, positive reinforcement is key, rewarding dogs with verbal praise, affection, or play when they do something right.

Owner giving her labrador a treat during a dog training session

Giving your pooch treats during their training is a form of positive reinforcement on its own, but also enhances other forms of praise and helps foster a strong bond between you and your dog.

You have something yummy, and you're willing to give it to them? You must be worth hanging around with!

When Should You Use Treats in Dog Training?

Initial training relies heavily on the use of treats, gradually reducing as behaviours become more ingrained. But when should you use dog treats in your training?

Quickly!

To reinforce the link between their action and your reward, give your dog a treat as soon as they demonstrate the desired behaviour – Ideally within three seconds.

When They’re Distracted

Keeping your dog’s attention during their training sessions can be difficult, particularly in young dogs or those with a high social drive. Having a yummy snack on hand can make all the difference when you're surrounded by distractions.

To Shape Behaviours

Giving your dog the right training treats will motivate them when you’re shaping new behaviours step by step. For example, if you want to teach a dog to shake paws, you first reward them for a paw lift, then for stretching it towards you, then for touching your hand, and finally for holding their paw in your hand for the shake.

Yorkshire Terrier being trained to give a paw to their owner

How to Choose the Right Training Treats for Your Dog

High and Low-Value Dog Training Treats

It’s time for a taste test! Try a selection of treats and see which ones your dog goes mad for.

High-value treats (the ones they want most) are best used during really focused tasks or initial training. Low-value treats, while still delicious, aren’t as exciting and are best used to reinforce general good behaviour.

Age and Breed-Appropriate Dog Treats

Not all treats are appropriate for all dogs, in particular puppies and dogs with medical conditions, so check they’ll suit your dog before you use them. Short-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs may struggle with some treats due to the shape of their mouth and nose.

Brachycephalic Pug eating a dog treat from the ground

Ingredients

Always check the ingredients of any treat you choose if your dog has allergies, food sensitivities, or a medical condition. And don’t forget treats contain calories, so to stop your dog from piling on the pounds you’ll need to adjust their meals if you increase their treats.

Give Them a Variety

Your dog might have a favourite treat, but studies have shown that when repeating tasks, dogs are more motivated by a variety of treats than by having the same one over and over. Find a few options that they love and switch them up to keep them switched on.

What Type of Dog Treats Should I Use in Training?

Of course, you can pick up a bag of highly processed treats anywhere, even in the cheap middle aisle of the supermarket. But are these good for your dog, or should you choose something more natural?

Processed treats are often full of additives and preservatives. It is not a legal requirement to state on the label the types of meat used in the product, or identify possible allergens. So, if you have a pet who may have a reaction to an ingredient, moving to natural treats means you know what you’re getting.

Natural dog treats aren’t highly processed with lots of additives, and they offer superior nutritional value with ingredients that support your dog’s health, such as minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. You know exactly what they contain and can choose treats that suit your dog and their situation.

When it comes to getting super-focused on their training, natural dog treats are tail-waggingly enticing and tend to be right up there in the “high-value” category. They’ll do anything to snaffle that snack!

And if that wagging tail wasn’t enough to persuade you, then natural treats also have a ton of health benefits. They support naturally healthy skin, a shiny coat, good oral hygiene, and even support a healthy digestive system. What more could you ask for?

Check out our more detailed article on the benefits of natural treats here.

Beyond Training – Natural Treats to Pamper Your Pooch

While treats are a crucial part of your dog’s training, natural treats can also be built into your daily routine.

Keeping your dog’s mind busy when you can’t give them your full attention is vital to their mental health.

🐕Add natural dog treats to your day-to-day enrichment to keep their brain active, by hiding them in puzzle toys and snuffle balls.

🐶Treating them to a pig ear or a cow hoof mimics their natural gnawing behaviours while avoiding the dangers of more old-fashioned treats like rawhide. And who doesn’t love to pamper their pooch with a delightfully indulgent treat from time to time?!

Spaniel sat next to their Treat Treehouse natural dog treat box

Taste-testing treats to find your dog’s “high value” favourite means you need to try several options, and here at Treat Treehouse, we deliver some of our irresistibly tasty natural treats in a pre-cut form, perfect for training!

And if you want to add natural treats into your dog’s routine, why not build your own dog pick‘n’mix box and keep that treat cupboard fully stocked?!

Luce Rawlings