Food Rewards - What should you use for training?

Food selection is a very important part of the reward-based training process. All food is not equal. You can train your dog in less time, with longer lasting results if you choose the right reward for a job well done.

The first concept each trainer needs to understand is that the food you are using needs to be rewarding TO THE DOG. It sounds so obvious, but I have seen countless new trainers use their dog’s kibble, or buy some super-fancy-dehydrated-omega-something-or-other, that their dogs just didn’t like. You are not incentivizing your dog to work with you if they don’t want what you have. With a huge variety of options at the pet stores, it’s easy to go for really expensive, thinking you’re getting ‘the best’ treats. Or, you might go cheap, thinking you’ll save a dime. But neither are necessarily true. Be sure that what ever you’re using is of high value to your dog.

Food should be soft and easy to swallow. Nothing halts a good training flow like the crunch, crunch, crunch of a big biscuit. Your goal is repetition of the right behavior. It’s hard to get reps in when the dog spends a lot of time chewing.

Food should be easy to handle to avoid dropping it on the ground. Dropping food on the ground encourages your dog to break their attention from you to search for hidden treats in the grass. That can be quite counterproductive. Tiny treats, or treats that shred and crumble are not good choices.

Maybe your dog isn’t very in to what you have that training session. What do you do? Don’t switch training rewards mid session. Instead, do your best to end on a successful repetition of the command or behavior you’re working on and end the session. Make a mental note, that next time, you will need to up the value of the reward for that particular circumstance or environment and try again later. If you switch, your dog can learn to ‘hold out’ on you, and wait to perform until you have just the right thing. 

Use a variety of rewards. Try to find five or six different rewards that your dog goes bananas for…..but not in the same training session. Diversity and interest is key, but each type of food has a value rating to your dog. They will like one type of food over another, if used in the same session, and feel disappointed (instead of rewarded) when they get the less desirable treat. Switching the food out each session can also reduce irritation to the digestive system.

Foods that are nutritionally balanced are ideal for dog training. Many of the products you find at the pet stores are full of sugar, artificial ingredients, dyes and chemicals. There are healthy, tasty options out there if you know what to look for. Our favorite food rewards are high in value and easy on the budget. Give these a try:

RedBarn meat rolls

Natural Balance meat rolls

Fresh Pet Select Vitals

Hotdogs (yes, good old fashioned hot dogs)

Cut up cheese

Happy Howies rolls

Looking for a budget option, or does your dog have dietary restrictions? Follow our Dog Dynamix Board on Pinterest for delicious home made dog treat recipes.