The Best Dog Training Treats in 2021
Training treats are an essential part of reinforcing desired behaviors in our dog. These tidbits are not just a nice treat, they can help reduce stress in the dog and, at the same time, reinforce the behavior you desire.
If you are like me, finding a treat that is also good for your dog is important. A dog’s tastes differ from pet to pet. You may have to try a couple of products to find your dog’s favorite. I often train pets for other people, and I can verify that often, what works for one animal won’t work for another. It’s also important that the treat be healthy. I recommend picking up two or three to start with and pay attention to which one your pet shows the most excitement.
Our Top 6 List
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1. Bil-Jac Original Recipe Liver Treats
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Every dog I have trained has all loved these treats! Even in stressful situations, waving one of these in front of their noses gets their attention back on me. Most dogs will get excited about the taste of chicken liver. My dog, Mia, gets excited every time the treat bag rattles. I like that I can give them whole or break them into smaller pieces. I will not hide the fact that I find them a bit smelly, but that is probably why Mia loves them so much, and I am not the one eating them.
- Chicken is the #1 ingredient.
- Contains no soy products.
- It contains no gluten.
- Stays moist in its resealable double-zipper pouch
- Bil-Jac has been made in the USA since 1947
2. Bil-Jac VetDogs Skin & Coat Soft Treats
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I like the idea that this supports our Veterans in obtaining assistance dogs as I have two sons who served in Iraq. This concept appeals to me, especially since my dog loves them as well. I have used these with a dog in the past, my current dog is shiny and fluffy.clasps.
- These star shaped treats are made from real chicken and specially formulated to help keep your dog’s skin and coat soft and shiny.
- Has linoleic acid which helps support healthy skin and a smooth, shiny coat.
- Nice price point.
3. Bil-Jac Little-Jacs Treats
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These treats are great for small or petite dogs. They often do great in small dog toys to combat boredom or to slow down the overeager eaters.
- Made from real chicken liver.
- Gluten free.
- Value for the price
- 450+ treats. (Don’t put them in separate Ziplock bags as they tend to dry out. They stay moist in the original bag.)
4. Bil Jac Yapple Nanas
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These treats are slightly larger, so are great for hiding medicine inside. They maintain the same freshness making them a hit for those dogs that love fruit products. I give this product when my dog comes in from being outside and doing her business. She absolutely loves bananas.
- Made from real chicken liver.
- Use them for a reward.
- Use them for training.
- Use them to show your dog affection.
- Satisfies dogs that like fruits
5. Zuke’s Natural Training Treats
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These treats continue the trend of natural ingredients. They are also great if you have a dog that needs to reduce weight but also needs additional training. With three calories each, it is suggested only to use 3 per pound. Regardless of the treat used, I do not recommend more than 10% of a dog’s daily intake be from rewards.
- Soft and chewy dog treats with real chicken as the #1 ingredient.
- These natural dog treats feature cherries and turmeric to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- No corn, no wheat, no soy. No artificial colors or flavors.
- Crafted in the USA using the Earth’s best ingredients.
6. Blue Dog Bakery Treats
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I have found that this product helps keep my dog’s teeth cleaner than always having soft treats. Though if you are interested in that besides training treats, you can also check out our dental treats top list.
- All-natural, non-GMO treats for small and large dogs.
- Variety of flavors.
- Made in the USA.
- Has the desired hardness many pets like.
Remember when you look for two or three for your dog to try, meat should be the number one ingredient, I have found these six products are the ones that have value for the price, have been the most effective and they are made in the USA. Most importantly, dogs love them and will learn quickly for the reward. They are easy to get and have a great price point. I recommend them wholeheartedly.
I have been asked if treats are honestly a vital part of dog training. It is in the beginning, along with consistency and patience. As you can see, Bil-Jac is a brand I have come to trust. I also like that it has products for both large and small dogs. Their training treats can be broken down for petite pets, but most important, Mia loves them.
When starting on treats, do not hold them above your dog. Numerous dogs will add jumping up to take the treat, this especially true of rescue dogs that have been denied access to food. It can also begin to happen with puppies. It would be best if you offered the treat to your dog in front of their nose. If they are still too aggressive, offer the threat with your open palm like you would for a horse or goat.
Many trainers believe that you should have one treat for training and a different one if you just want to spoil your pet. Harder chews are good for teeth; also, the harder treat creates two distinct rewards.
Once they understand that the training treats are for good behavior, you can go on to use them in other situations where you are expecting certain actions. An example of this is when your dog demonstrates a behavior they just learned. A good example is taking your dog for a walk, and it doesn’t bark at a passing person or animal. Be sure to offer the treat immediately. If you don’t, the dog will lose the association between behavior and treat.
I’ve been asked, “Won’t your pet start only doing a behavior when you have the treat?” This is a good question. The goal is to start with a treat every time the behavior is successfully performed. Once your pet is consistently responding, start weaning your pet off the treat by replacing it randomly with just praise and excitement. It will not take long before your dog does what you want without the need for constant treats. If your puppy starts misbehaving again, increase treats temporarily. Sporadically reinforcing also helps to ensure that your dog does not gain unwanted weight.
I find that most dogs are food driven. This is not a surprise; dogs repeat behaviors that give them access to food. It is a built-in survival tool! You may find that a dog prefers toys as rewards. These are also good occasionally but difficult to train with in the beginning. If they get to play every time they take action, they will often not connect the play to the behavior.
With dogs that are primarily motivated by play, I will use treats and then give the toy when we are done. It is an alternative to a final chew treat. It can also help reduce the increased calories that treats provide.
Dogs are very smart. It differs from research project to research project, but the average word count dogs can learn is around one hundred. So it should be no surprise that dogs will manipulate a treat for reinforcement. It is basically switched to a bribe. They will not perform the behavior unless you show them the treat. Keep your treats hidden to help prevent this from happening.
If you are training a brand new behavior. Be sure to start by rewarding each baby step. Then slowly start combining steps for a more complicated action. You have to work this way because this communication between you and your dog is different than a dog’s natural way of understanding.
I have been told that I shouldn’t use treats because dogs should perform for you just because they are bonded to you. This is a myth. Despite the fact that dogs and men have been working side by side for centuries, this view of the relationship is one-sided. Just like us, dogs will see no use in a behavior if it brings them no reward. It is true that you can wean off treats and use praise instead. However, it is a step by step process and is not automatic.
One of the myth’s I find interesting is the idea that treats should only be used for tricks. It just isn’t true. Training with treats is the most basic reward for behavior out there. Even some of us find food reinforcing for a multitude of behaviors. It is a basic need.
Another myth is the concept that the trainer should remain in an alpha position. Dogs are not like wolves. Man bred out the characteristics that were dangerous over 15,000 years ago. Today, your dog is not like a wolf. Besides, even in wolf packs, the alpha is usually the one who has lived long, bred well, and produced healthy pups. It is true that in confinement, a wolf will become the alpha. This is not the true nature as natural wolves are never confined in a way that makes fighting for survival against the other wolves in the pack. Treats remain far more effective.
Let’s be honest, communication with each other always produces better outcomes than domination. It is no different with dogs. A good trainer creates a safe and loving environment where your dog is happy to focus on you. It appalls me that so many people use beatings to train. I cannot stress enough that violence is a horrible way to train and often ends in tragedy.
Regardless of how you use treats, the bottom line is this list above includes high-quality products where meat is the #1 ingredient. They are made in the USA. Most importantly, dogs love them.
You can find my preferred products in local pet stores and online. You can purchase locally and still receive healthy treats where meat is the primary ingredient. Remember, pick the treat that makes your dog bounce with excitement!
We are the Pet Dog Pals, a group of avid pet owners, bloggers, product testers, and writers for all your canine needs! We own a collective 16 dogs and 21 cats to help us test and review pet products. Our top lists and tips come from experience to help you be the best dog owner you can be!