Getting your puppy to sit, meet other dogs and even take walks can be challenging and frustrating aspects of new dog ownership. The best solution? Short, positive training sessions with lots of yummy treats. From finding the right reward to using those treats in a variety of situations, we’ve gathered the best treats for puppy training.
Finding the Right Puppy Treat
When searching for the perfect training treat, look no further than your veterinarian’s office, says lead canine behavior and training specialist for the KONG Company Mark Hines. If your puppy loves the treats he’s getting when he goes in for his boosters, ask your vet what it is and pick some up for training at home. Age-appropriate treats that won’t disrupt your dog’s diet or sensitive puppy tummy are also important factors to consider, Hines says, as are their calorie count.
Wheat, corn, and soy can be allergens to your puppy, so its also important to stick with treats that have as few of these ingredients as possible, especially if your dog has food allergies. Use limited ingredient treat rolls you can cut into small pieces for a high value, soft treat or pieces of your dog’s dry food for a lower value, low calorie treat.
High Value Dog Treats for Puppy Training
You’ll want to work with different value treats for different disciplines, Hines said. Use a low value treat, like a piece of kibble, every time your puppy turns his head when you call his name. Reserve the high value, or “jackpot,” dog treats, like broiled chicken, freeze dried salmon or liver or pieces of hot dog, for more difficult behaviors like learning “come,” Hines says. While it may take some experimenting to find out which treat works best for your dog, finding treats to keep your dog interested and engaged in training will pay off.
Enhance your training sessions by mixing up your treats, like high value salmon, chicken or hot dog pieces with lower value treats like kibble or dry dog treats. Doing this will help you get more out of those lesser value treats and keep your dog entertained and focused on the incentive, Hines says.
Dog Treats for Socializing Your Puppy
The most important training you’ll do is to socialize your puppy to new people, places, things and animals. A well-socialized puppy will be happier, safer, more enjoyable and more receptive to training, Hines says, so be sure to keep treats handy any time you’re heading out on a walk or entering a new environment. If your puppy is nervous around new people, Hines recommends letting them lick a bit of peanut butter paste or another soft, high value treat off that person’s fingers to help reward their behavior in a fun, positive way. Socializing your puppy gradually, combined with powerful rewards and working with a trainer or behaviorist, will help set you up for training success, Hines says.
Tips for Puppy Training
Keep in mind the following tips when it comes to treats for your puppy and those initial training sessions on your own or with a trainer:
- Before you begin training, do some research about why positive reinforcement is so important, Hines says. You’ll want to have many short training sessions that end on a positive note with high value or “jackpot” dog treats and steer clear of using any kind of force.
- Don’t feed your puppy a big meal right before you work on training, Hines said. You want hunger to be your friend, as treats will have more value to puppies that are hungry.
- In addition to food-based rewards, Hines recommends using toys to help keep your puppy focused and driven. This can be their favorite ball or tug toy.
- For mental and physical stimulation, try puzzle toys or toys that dispense your dog's favorite treats or pieces of kibble. Just be sure to keep these treat toys out of sight until after you’ve done your training for the day, as they’ll take all of your puppy’s focus.
- Don’t forget to treat your puppy for calm, good behavior. “Treat that good behavior often to help them be well balanced, well behaved and well mannered,” Hines says. “Quietly reward them with a treat to say thank you and show them that they’re doing well.”
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