Obviously, you want to give your dog treats that they enjoy, but sometimes it can be a little tricky to figure out which treats they like best. In this guide, we’ll explain how to figure out which treats your dog prefers over others and how to use treats for training. We’ll also cover the pros and cons of various treats, including soft treats, hard treats, large treats, dog chews, and more. Here’s what you need to know about treating your dog to the treats they prefer:
Give your dog a treat sampler.
The best way to tell which treats your dog likes best is to present them with a wide selection of treats and see which ones they gravitate towards. It’s best to do this in the middle of the day or right before a meal. If you try to sample treats right after your dog has eaten, their belly might be too full for them to be very interested in the treats. Present them with one treat at a time and make a note of their reaction. If they gobble it down immediately, then they like the treat! If they hesitantly sniff it, or turn up their nose at it, then they don’t like it as much. If your dog doesn’t seem to like the treats you already have on hand, definitely get them a dog treat sample box so they can try out a bunch at once.
Know if your dog is food-motivated or not.
Sometimes, your dog might wolf down every single treat you give them, with no regard for what type it is. This generally happens in dogs who are very food-motivated and thus not picky eaters. If you have a very food-motivated dog, it honestly might not matter what type of treat you give them. They enjoy them all equally. If your dog is more of a picky eater, then they will definitely have preferences, and what treats you choose to give them will have more of an impact on their training.
Keep treats small.
Treats are one of the easiest ways to provide positive reinforcement during a training session, and, ideally, you want to reward your dog every time they do something right, which can quickly add up. To refrain from overfeeding your dog, look for tiny treats that are about the size of a piece of kibble. You can also cut up larger treats into smaller pieces if those are the kind that your dog prefers. Using smaller treats will allow you to keep rewarding your dog without upsetting their stomach or packing on too many pounds.
Choose treats that are fast to eat.
Speaking of training, you will also want to choose treats that are fast for your dog to eat so that you can continually reward them throughout a training session. You don’t want to lose your dog’s attention to chomping on a treat or licking up every last crumb. This will allow you to keep the length of your training sessions on the short side while still getting in a lot of repetitions in a short amount of time.
Opt for soft treats.
If you’re not sure what type of treats to get for a training session, soft treats are usually better than hard treats. Soft treats are easier and faster for your dog to eat, allowing you to keep the training session moving forward. They also tend to come in smaller portions, and they won’t crumble if you do need to cut them down, making them easier to handle. Soft treats also usually smell more than hard treats, and that smell will help motivate your dog and make the training session more effective — and the treat reward that much more enjoyable.
Change up the selection every so often.
Some dogs are perfectly content to eat the same treats for the rest of their lives, but many of them will also get bored by eating the same treats over and over. If you notice your dog’s excitement waning with a treat they previously adored, then it might be time to shake up your treat selection and try to introduce something new. You can even use different treats in the same session to keep things interesting and hold your dog’s attention.
Mix in some slow eating treats.
Fast eating treats are ideal for training, but it’s also a good idea to give your dog some slow eating treats, too. Not only will this give them some variety, it also allows them to get the benefits of slower treats, such as dental dog chews and bully sticks. These slow eating treats can help keep their teeth clean and also keep them entertained for longer periods of time, so don’t forget to mix some of these into their diet.
Remember that treats are only a small part of their diet.
Obviously, you want to treat your dog for being the best ever, but it’s important not to go overboard. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for treats to make up only about 10 percent of your dog’s overall caloric intake. Treats are denser in calories than your dog’s regular kibble, so you can’t just eyeball it. You need to read the nutritional facts and make sure that you’re not feeding them too much. Be especially careful with larger, high-value treats, which also tend to be higher in calories.
Don’t forget other types of ‘treats.’
When most people think of treats, they think of food-based rewards. However, it’s important to give your dog many different other kinds of rewards, such as a belly rub session, a romp in the backyard, and play time together.