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  • Writer's pictureCaryl Wolff

How to Use Dog Treats Effectively in Training

Updated: Feb 4, 2022

dog on top of a pile of treats
Use treats wisely in training.

How to Use Dog Treats Effectively in Training

We’re going to talk about how to use treats effectively in training by using several categories of treats in a specific manner. Each category has a specific purpose, and there can and should be an array of different types of treats in each category.

When most trainers talk about using treats in training, they generally glom on to one type of treat and use it throughout the training process. I think it is counterproductive because their dogs always know what they’re going to get, so it’s boring to them. There is not a lot to keep them interested if they always know the outcome. If “the butler did it” in every mystery novel you read, how many novels would you read before you became disinterested?

There are four basic categories of treats:

1- Obedience Training treats

These treats are smelly, soft, and small for obedience (Sit, Stay, Down, etc.) or trick training (Roll over, Wave, etc.) where there are several repetitions.

  • Smelly to pique and keep his interest

  • Soft so he doesn’t have to chew time and you can get more reps in the practice session

  • Small so he doesn’t become “Porkudog,” i.e., a really fat dog.

My favorite is Happy Howie’s because you can cut them to any size you want. Dogs love them. I call them “doggie dope”….

If you’re not sure what size treat to use, read this post Choose the Right Size Treat when Training your Dog or Puppy

Recommended treats for obedience training

Happy Howie's meat roll

Red Barn meat rolls

Zuke's puppy treats

Zukes adult treats

2-Behavior treats

These treats are larger than training treats, hard, and meat based. When he chews these, he engages the thinking part of his brain instead of the reacting part of the brain.

  • Large so he cannot swallow them

  • Hard so he has to chew them and focus on chewing the treat rather on the behavior we’re working with

  • Meat-based because those seem to hold his attention the best. If your dog absolutely positively goes wild for baked peanut butter treats, then use those.

Recommended treats for behavior issues

Gigabite lamb lung

Beg & Barker variety pack jerky

Downtown pet supply lamb lung

Dog Chits lamb lung

3-Long-lasting or confinement treats

These are – surprise! – treats that take him awhile to consume. We want him to concentrate on chewing these treats for extended periods of time, both because chewing gives him something to think about other than confinement and also because chewing is a stress release.

Frozen stuffed Kongs are always a good choice. If you use peanut butter so the treats won’t fall out, make sure it’s unsalted and has no sugar or preservatives. Here’s a link on how to stuff a Kong.

Recommended treats for confinement training

Bully stick – take it away when it gets small enough to swallow

Jack&Pup 12 inch

Jack&Pup bully sticks 6 inch

4-Association treats

These are dog treats that your dog associates with a specific place or activity and also to keep him interested in that place for a long period of time. For example, I give my dogs a special treat when they are crated or in an Xpen and hide the treats in the folds of a blanket or use a puzzle toy, and that’s the only time they get that treat. They can’t wait to be crated!

Recommended treats for association training


Smart Bones peanut butter

Three Dog Bakery peanut butter

Recommended puzzles for association training

Puzzles Make sure the puzzles do not have small parts that can be chewed or swallowed.

Thanks for visiting How to Use Dog Treats Effectively in Training.

I make a small commission on any products or books I recommend.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog trainer, dog behavior consultant, or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.

If you need help with puppy or dog training, we do both private in-person and virtual lessons via Zoom. Please contact us by calling or texting (310) 804-2392 or sending an email to . We look forward to working with you.


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