The Best Training Treats for Your Dog

Treats play a huge role in dog training, but too many of the wrong kind can lead to weight gain and other issues. Let’s look at some healthy, tasty treat training options that your dog will be happy to work for!

When training a dog, it’s vital to use positive reinforcement methods. In a nutshell, when she does something right, you add something desirable or pleasant. This most often involves giving her treats. The problem is, most commercial treats are high in carbs and calories, and made with synthetic flavors, colors and preservatives that are bad for your dog, especially in large quantities. So since you’re going to use a lot of treats during the training process, it’s crucial to pick something that’s nutritious as well as palatable. This article looks at healthy training treat choices that your dog will look forward to receiving.


In order for your dog to want to repeat a behavior, he has to view the reward as something valuable and worth working for.

HINT: The value of a treat is up to your dog, not you.

You may think a certain treat is super valuable, but your dog turns his nose up at it. Or maybe he gobbles it up inside the house, but not outdoors or around distractions. To be successful, you need to ensure your dog thinks the reward he’ll receive is top-notch, wherever he happens to be.


The other important thing to keep in mind when training your dog is that you want to reward him often and frequently. Don’t be stingy. The more you practice and reward your dog, the better and more reliable his behavior will become. Again, this means your training treats should be nutritious; think of them not as extra calories, but as calories that can be used for his daily nutritional needs.


  1. When buying treats, flip over the package and read the ingredient panel. The actual list of ingredients is key – not what the manufacturer puts on the front of the bag. Remember, the latter is a form of advertising. Take a deep dive and investigate all those ingredients. Are they healthy? Are there any unnecessary fillers?

HINT: If the treats have fillers, you will be adding calories but not good nutrition.

  1. Go for treats made from real meat, veggies, and fruit, which are all foods your dog can eat as part of a healthy diet. If the treats contain only these ingredients, you can easily swap out some of his regular food for these healthy treats. Foods that are good for most dogs include rabbit, beef, pork, chicken, fish, lobster, lamb and venison; vegetables like squash, pumpkin, and carrots; and fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears and cantaloupe.

HINT: If your dog has allergies to certain meat proteins, look for treats made from alternatives such as venison or rabbit.

  1. Real meat is not only a nutritious training treat, but also one most dogs consider highly valuable! Freeze-dried or dehydrated treats made from single meats are readily available in pet stores and online. Look for natural, limited-ingredient products with no unpronounceable additives.

HINT: Don’t give your dog too many liver treats. While liver is a healthy organ meat, too much can lead to a vitamin A overdose. For training treats, it’s best to stick to muscle meat, and save the organ meats as part of your dog’s regular diet.

  1. You can also easily provide your own dog training treats. Determine which healthy foods in your fridge or pantry your dog most enjoys — small pieces of lean chicken are a good option, along with tiny balls of ground beef or turkey, or small pieces of cut-up vegetables such as carrots, broccoli or green beans. Blueberries or bits of melon also make tasty and nutritious treats. Try and go for organic meats and produce if you can.

HINT: Cheese may seem like an obvious choice for training treats, but too much isn’t good for your dog.

As you can see, there are all kinds of choices when it comes to dog training treats. It all boils down to providing something healthy and nutritious, but also tasty enough that your dog will regard it as a reward worthy of his efforts!


Tonya Wilhelm

Tonya Wilhelm is a dog training and cat care specialist who has traveled the US promoting positive ways of preventing and managing behavior issues with a holistic approach. Named one of the top ten dog trainers in the US, she has helped thousands build happy relationships with their dogs with humane, positive training methods. She wrote Proactive Puppy Care, and other books. Tonya offers group and private dog training classes, provides training and behavior services via phone and online, and does workshops at pet expos (

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