Dog treats are essential to helping your dog learn new skills. “During training, a high-value treat makes a huge difference in your dog’s attention span and motivation,” says Sarah-Anne Reed, a consulting holistic dog trainer at Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. But you have to choose dog training treats wisely. The best dog treats for training will be small, like The Honest Kitchen’s Bone Broth Bites ($11) and high in protein, like our overall favorite, A Better Treat Freeze Dried Beef Liver Treats ($16). Of course, we can’t predict what your dog will love most, so try a few to find the sweet spot (but no sweets, please).
The 9 Best Dog Treats for Training, According to Real Trainers
Sit! Stay! Paw! Enjoy!
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The 9 Best Dog Treats for Training At-A-Glance
Meet the Experts
● Sarah-Anne Reed is a consulting holistic dog trainer at Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. She also owns Pack Dynamics, a holistic dog training practice in Bend, Oregon, that focuses on understanding dogs as individuals to better resolve behavior issues.
● Nicole Ellis is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Pet Lifestyle Expert with Rover. She’s been training all sorts of animals for 15 years and detailed these experiences in her book, “Working Like A Dog.”
● Kait Hembree is the Head of Training at GoodPup, a positive reinforcement training company. Hembree worked with a team of professionals to build GoodPup’s program. Her dog behavior consults are based on science and her many experiences training canines.
We updated this article in July 2023 to ensure everything was in stock.
What Makes a Dog Treat Good for Training?
When determining whether a dog treat is good for training, consider these six factors from our expert dog trainers:
- Small size: Think small, “about the size of a pea,” as Kait Hembree, the Head of Training at GoodPup, put it. These are low in calories and easy to swallow. If your dog responds better to larger treats, Certified Professional Dog Trainer Nicole Ellis says something you can break up easily also works. “Smaller pieces [also] lead to longer training sessions, no matter the size [of the] dog,” Ellis says.
- Swallow-ability: Training treats should be super easy to swallow and shouldn’t need lots of chewing (aka, nothing too crunchy). Crunching or chewing can make a mess. “I avoid treats that look like a biscuit as they are harder to break and often create lots of crumbs which can be distracting during our training,” Ellis says. They’re also often higher in calories.
- Tastes good: Your dog’s gotta love a treat for it to convince them to learn new skills. It’s okay to mix things up with a variety of treats to keep things interesting.
- Smells good: This helps your dog recognize you’ve got the goods and are ready to share. Ellis adds that “stinky” treats, as she calls them, help to get and keep your dog’s attention. Reed says, “Many jerky-type treats are extra smelly and therefore more motivating for your dog.”
- Feels good: If possible, find a treat without added grains, sugars or chemicals. Ellis likes treats that are made up of mostly meat. “This way we are giving our dogs something delicious without the added calories or sugar that they don't need.” If your dog suffers from allergies, of course make sure training treats meet their dietary needs.
- Travels well: Reed reminds dog parents to choose treats that travel well. Meaning they won’t melt, crumble or otherwise be difficult to hand to your pup throughout the training session or walk.
Remember, training treats are rewards for a job well done and should encourage your pup to keep learning. It also may take some time to figure out what your dog responds to best.
“Ask for samples at your local pet store,” Reed says. “You’ll want to try many options to know which your dog prefers.”
Avoid oven-baked biscuits or large, cookie-style treats. Reed calls these dry and not very flavorful. They can also be too filling.
How We Chose the Best Dog Treats for Training
We asked our experts what treats they love and included each of their recommendations. We also reached out to dog parents well-versed in training, like Meredith and Brian in Chicago who worked with several trainers to help their dog Luna overcome her reactivity. So every single treat on this list is vetted by a professional trainer or a dog parent who’s been through the ringer.
Each treat on our list meets most - if not all - of the criteria listed above. Three are single-ingredient treats made up entirely of animal protein. While we can’t test your dog’s taste buds, we did choose treats that were small in size and easy to swallow (there’s a couple that you may need to break it up into pieces).
What’s the Best Way to Use Treats During Dog Training?
First, figure out what treats your dog likes best. This can be a fun game! Reed suggests following your dog’s nose by doing the following:
- Gather a few plastic cups, a permanent marker and some treat samples.
- Label each cup with the name of the treat.
- Take one treat and put it under a plastic cup.
- Repeat until all treat options are hidden.
- Watch your dog find the treats and notice the order they found them in. Dogs will usually hunt for the most appetizing treats first.
Next, Ellis’ big piece of advice is keeping training sessions short, from five to 15 minutes. “We want our dogs to have fun and want to work,” she says. You can definitely do a few sessions each day.
Treats should be used to reinforce good behaviors. “You’ll want to give your dog the treat right away to ensure we are reinforcing the correct behavior,” Ellis advises.
- Pros: Low calorie, small size, high protein, soft
- Cons: May not be ideal for big dogs
- Calories: < 1 kcal/treat
- Top Four Ingredients: Chicken, mixed tocopherols (these are natural antioxidants containing Vitamin E that are made of fat-soluble alcohols)
- Flavors: Chicken
Every bag of Pupford’s Freeze Dried Training Treats comes with about 475 treats. That’s a ton of training rewards for just $16. The only drawback we can see is these treats are pretty small and big dogs may need more motivation, but that depends on the dog! Perhaps the coolest part about Pupford’s treats is that with your purchase and their app download, you get a free 30-day trial of their training videos led by Zak George, an excellent option for pet parents just getting started.
Best for Dogs and Cats
- Pros: Single ingredient, high protein
- Cons: Need to be broken up, requires some crunching and chewing
- Calories: 376 kcals/cup
- Top Four Ingredients: Beef liver (only ingredient)
- Flavors: Beef
Though these treats have a crunchier consistency and must be broken up for training sessions, they are healthier than other treats with many ingredients. Choose between beef, lamb, pork or turkey. We also love that these work for both cats and dogs, so multi-pet households can please both sides if kitty wants to observe training time. At $18 per bag, they’re not the cheapest option on our list. But, with that price comes peace of mind knowing Raised Right has tested each batch for pathogens like E. coli and salmonella.
The Honest Kitchen
- Pros: Small size, low calorie, budget-friendly, lots of flavors
- Cons: Only 14% crude protein
- Calories: 7 kcal/treat
- Top Four Ingredients: Beef bone broth, chickpeas, tapioca, carrots
- Flavors: Beef
Beyond the beef bone broth and chickpeas, these treats contain sweet potato and pumpkin, which are both nutritious and high in fiber. The manufacturer says they slow cook each small batch to ensure nutrients are preserved. There are also chicken and turkey options if you’d like to try something new with your dog. At just $11, these are also easy on your wallet.
- Pros: High fiber, soft for swallowing, antibiotic-free chicken
- Cons: Have to break into smaller pieces, high in calories, not ideal for small dogs
- Calories: 28 kcal/treat
- Top Four Ingredients: Chicken, apples, honey, ground brown rice
- Flavors: Chicken
These are larger treats, which naturally means they have more calories. Breaking them up, which should be easy given their soft texture, is recommended for training time. Manufactured by family-owned Spot Farms, the ingredients are free of antibiotics and are human-grade. Spot Farms says small dogs should only have up to two treats per day to maintain a healthy weight, so these may not be great for long training sessions with dogs up to 15 pounds. Finally, we love that we can pronounce all of the ingredients. For $12 per bag, it’s a steal.
- Pros: High protein, high nutritional value, low calorie
- Cons: May be trickier to swallow than soft treats due to shape, expensive
- Calories: 4.7 kcal/treat
- Top Four Ingredients: Venison, venison tripe, venison heart, venison lung
- Flavors: Venison
These jerky-style treats are air-dried using Ziwi’s “gentle twin-stage air-drying process that naturally preserves all the ingredients while eliminating pathogenic bacteria.” This means worry-free training. The shape isn’t ideal for quick swallowing, but if broken into two pieces this could help (reviewers say it’s easy to split them in two). Our favorite part is that the formula contains green-lipped mussels which are great for doggy joints. Senior pups with mobility issues may benefit from these treats. Since these ingredients are sourced ethically and sustainably in New Zealand, a single bag will cost a full $21.
Best for Peanut Butter Lovers
- Pros: Small size, easy to swallow, low in calories, soft
- Cons: Only 10% crude protein
- Calories: 2 kcal/treat
- Top Four Ingredients: Peanut butter, rice, water (for processing), oats
- Flavors: Peanut butter
These are kind of the ideal treat for dogs who love peanut butter. (If you want a meat forward version, Zuke’s makes training treats with salmon, beef, duck, pork and rabbit, too.) These are small enough and low enough in calories that tossing a bunch during a training session won’t be too filling. They’re only a half inch in length but provide plenty of flavor. A one-pound bag is $17—a great deal if you’ve got lots of training to do!
Best for Big Dogs
A Better Treat
- Pros: Small size, high protein, high nutritional value, raw diet-friendly
- Cons: Freeze-dried treats may have weaker scents
- Calories: N/A
- Top Four Ingredients: Grass fed beef liver (only ingredient)
- Flavors: Beef liver
Big dogs love protein and need lots of it. We love these Better Treats because they are single-ingredient treats (made up entirely of grass fed beef liver), which means more Omega 3s than grain-fed beef. This is important for large breeds who can develop joint issues more easily. Plus, freeze dried treats don’t leave greasy residue on your hands, which makes handling them more fun for you. These bite-sized cubes offer tons of nutrition in a tiny piece. For $16 we think it’s a great deal, too.
Best Seafood Treat
- Pros: Small size, high protein, high nutritional value, raw diet-friendly
- Cons: Freeze-dried treats may have a weaker scent, expensive
- Calories: 190 kcal/cup
- Top Four Ingredients: Freeze-dried wild-caught salmon (only ingredient)
- Flavors: Salmon
Another delicious and nutritious (though expensive at $20 per bag) option is Badlands Ranch Superfood Salmon Bites. Salmon provides Omega-3s that keep joints nimble and coats shiny. Plus, the brand was founded by actress and animal activist Katherine Heigl whose family farm in Utah takes in animals who need homes. If your dog hates these, Badlands Ranch has a 90-day money back guarantee (but we don’t think you’ll need it).
Best for Sensitive Stomachs
- Pros: High in protein, eco-friendly, contain pre- and probiotics
- Cons: Higher in calories,
- Calories: 35 kcal/treat
- Top Four Ingredients: Cricket, cane molasses, sweet potato, glycerin
- Flavors: Smokey
Meredith and Brian’s dog Luna loves these treats. Surprisingly, they are made with crickets! Insects are excellent sources of protein, so we’re on board. Though some of the first four ingredients aren’t super exciting, these treats have more crude protein (23%) than several other treats on our list. Plus, for doggos with digestive issues, these contain prebiotics and probiotics to make digestion easier. These are only $15 and also contain pea protein, apples, pumpkin and rolled oats.
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