The Best High-Value Treats For Puppy Training
Puppies are not just little balls of fluffiness, they are also learning machines. At the time a puppy comes into your home (usually about 8 weeks of age), they are intensely learning about the world around them and the rules that should be followed. In other words, the perfect time to start training your puppy is right away.
To start teaching your puppy the basic cues, you’ll need some treats. Today, we talk about the best treats for puppy training and the importance of having high-value treats for a bit of extra positive reinforcement.
To help you find the best for your fur baby, we joined forces with veterinarians, canine nutritionists and dog parents to form an independent team of experts. We then spent months researching the most popular high-value treats for puppy training, as well as took a deep dive into how the right treats can help you train your puppy. Ahead, we share everything you need to know.
What Are High-Value Treats?
Simply put, high-value treats are those that your puppy likes more than anything else. There are many options to choose from when it comes to puppy treats, but you should always be ready with at least two kinds: a regular treat for everyday occasions, and an extra special high-value treat that your puppy does not get all the time.
Why introduce treats of different values? Well, because the special treats will help your puppy focus when you need it the most.
“As a general rule, the more hectic the environment, the better the value of the treat has to be. You need a treat that will hold the dog’s attention and keep him focused on the training exercise.” - Dr. Carlo Siracusa for PetMD (1)
So, high-value treats will come in handy in those difficult situations where your pup gets distracted, such as a group training class or when out in public. With high-value treats, you’ll be able to train new behaviours faster and accentuate positive behaviour by giving extra special rewards when your puppy succeeds at something they have been struggling with, for example.
Related: What To Feed Puppies In Their First 6 Weeks?
Related: What To Feed A Puppy At 8 Weeks Old?
Some Easy Training Treats for Puppies
So what exactly can be a high-value treat? Your first instinct might be to head out to the pet store. While this is completely fine and can work, we encourage you to also try some simple, regular foods. Various things you might already have in your pantry can work wonders as treats for dogs.
Here are some examples that our team of independent experts recommend:
#1 Any Kind of Meat
It surely will not surprise you if we say dogs love meat. Any kind of meat should work - be it chicken, beef, kangaroo, chunks of liver or whatnot, so you can get creative.
While raw meat is perfectly fine for puppies to eat, it does not work well as a treat as you can’t carry it around in your pocket. However, small chunks of cooked meat stored in a little box can work great. You can simply boil any kind of meat and cut it up into little pieces.
Related: Are Dog Treats Healthy?
You can even use leftovers from your dinner, just make sure the meat is not heavily seasoned. No seasoning at all is best, but a small amount of salt won’t do any harm, for example.
Canned meat can also work, and so can various lunch meats and hot dogs. Just be aware that those often come with a variety of additives and seasonings, so use them sparingly and check the ingredient list for anything that’s not dog-safe.
Not all dogs love cheese, but many go crazy for it. If that’s the case for your dog, definitely include some cheese as a high-value treat. Any kind of cheese works, but try to stick to plain cheese without any additives. The smellier the better. Just cut it into tiny cubes and offer it as treats.
The one exception to this rule is blue cheese. Ripe cheeses that contain moulds also contain mycotoxins which can be quite dangerous for dogs, so stay away from anything mouldy, be it noble mould or otherwise (2).
Also, our experts ask you to keep in mind that while cheese is generally safe for dogs, it should always be fed in moderation. Some dogs can also be sensitive to lactose, so always introduce cheese slowly and watch for signs of tummy upset in your dog (in which case, you should stop feeding the cheese).
Fish is another great option for puppies, provided you can handle it. Let’s face it, fish can be quite stinky and so will your hands after feeding it as a treat. But I know firsthand that your pup will love it!
As with meat, any kind of unseasoned cooked or dried fish will work. Canned fish of any kind can also work great.
Eggs are another easy homemade treat that is completely safe for dogs, and many of them love it. The easiest way to use eggs as training treats is to cook some hard-boiled eggs and chop them up into little pieces. These will last in the fridge for up to a week, too, so you can prepare a larger batch in advance which is quite convenient.
#5 Fruits & Veggies
Now, this one will not work for every dog, but some pups do go crazy for certain types of fruit or veg. My dog is a little monster when it comes to fresh blueberries!
So, if you notice your pup has a love for a certain fruit, don’t be afraid to offer it as a treat, as long as you’ve checked it’s safe for dogs to eat. But don’t overdo it, as fruits are full of sugar and your puppy should not have too much of that.
#6 Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is another pantry item that’s safe for dogs in moderation, and also delicious. Of course, it’s not always very practical to feed peanut butter straight from a jar as a treat, although it can work sometimes.
A simple biscuit dipped into peanut butter can also work great for some puppies, and so can a simple homemade baked treat that’s made with lots of peanut butter.
If you do choose to give your dog peanut butter be sure to check the ingredients for Xylitol (also called birch sugar) as it is highly toxic to dogs.
Related: How To Make 3 Ingredient Dog Treats.
What About Treats from the Pet Store?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with ready-made dog treats either. However, if you are searching for a high-value dog treat, you’ll want something that your pup really loves. A regular dog biscuit won’t do it most of the time (but, of course, there are all kinds of dogs and some love biscuits more than anything).
What we learned during our research phase is that treats that your dog will attribute high value to will be soft and smelly. Freeze-dried chunks of meat and similar treats tend to work best and are very convenient to use.
Just keep in mind that dogs can sometimes be crazy about treats that smell good because of artificial flavourings and scents added to them. While this can work as a high-value treat, it’s certainly not the healthiest option for your pup.
How Do I Figure Out What My Puppy Values the Most?
Which treats are the highest value for puppies? Well, as you might guess, there is no straightforward answer to that. Each dog is unique and they love different things.
So, if you want to find out what they love, you have to be ready to experiment a little bit. It might be a bit tedious, but it can also be fun!
Related: The Best Dog Subscription Box Australia.
To help you with the process, let’s think about what attracts dogs to treats. Here's what our panel of experts have to say on the subject:
Characteristics of High-Value Dog Treats
- Smell - Smell is the #1 thing that attracts dogs. As you might know, a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times stronger and more precise than ours. So, it makes sense that high-value treats should be smelly. They don’t have to be stinky, but the stronger the smell, the more likely your dog is to be attracted to the treat.
- Texture - Dogs respond differently to different textures. Something ‘meaty’ is very likely to attract them, but some puppies also like crunchy stuff.
- Fat - Too much fat is not good for your dog, but dogs love fatty foods. For a high-value treat that you don’t feed all the time, high-fat content should be fine if that’s what your pup likes. Unless, of course, they have specific medical problems that require you to watch their fat intake.
- Salty & sweet - Salt and sugar are not the healthiest things for dogs, but yes, they can be attracted to sweet treats as well as moderately salty ones. Just make sure to feed anything overly seasoned or overly sweet in moderation.
- Novelty - Sometimes, it’s not about the treat you are feeding at all. Many dogs will always go for a new treat because they are curious. Sometimes all it takes to get a dog more focused on treats is switching things up.
My Final Thoughts
No two dogs are the same, and you’ll have to figure out what holds the highest value for your pup by yourself.
Every member of our team of independent experts suggest you configure what your dog likes better by doing simple experiments. For example, place two different treats in each of your hands. With your hands closed, let your puppy sniff each hand. Then, open both hands and see which option your pup goes for. You’ll learn a lot about your furry friend in the process!
- Hughes, K. November 26, 2018. “Tips for Finding Your Pup's Million-Dollar Dog Training Treats”. PetMD. Retrieved October 10, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/training/tips-finding-your-pups-million-dollar-dog-training-treats
- Gagne, M. November 8, 2021. “Can Dogs Eat Cheese? Here’s What You Need To Know”. Dogs Naturally. Retrieved October 10, 2022. https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/can-dogs-eat-cheese/#h-6-beware-of-mycotoxins
- Kerns, N. May 25, 2021. “Dog Training Treats”. Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved October 10, 2022. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/food/dog-training-treats/