Arguably the most popular training reward is food based.
There are so many options out there, so what do you choose?
What you choose depends on the task at hand. If its just a general treat for being the best dog in the world, then the treat can be big, or little, crunchy or soft.
However if you are looking for treats suited to training then there are some things to look for.
The smaller the better. You want to aim for treats that are pea sized or smaller. Your dog will respond to food based rewards no matter the size of the treat.
The reward needs to be squishy and quick to chew. If your dog needs to stop to chew then your rate of reward will drop and the flow of your training will be impacted. Quick rapid rewarding is better at the start of your training journey to ensure you achieve maximum reinforcement.
Training sessions are the time to bring out the special food. You want your dog to anticipate their training sessions with excitement. While your dog may work for 1/2 a cup of their dry food they get for dinner, they will be more inclined to want to work hard if the food based reward is exciting. Think roast chicken, cheese or liver!
Examples of food based rewards
Dog rolls from the cold section of your supermarket or pet store are great for training treats. They tend to be full of flavour and the dogs love them. They are soft and easy for you to cut to size meaning you will get so many training treats out of one 2kg roll.
Look for rolls that are firm as it wont leave as much of a mess in your hands. Prime 100 is really good and for those dogs with food allergies it can be helpful.
Again found in the cold section of your supermarket, the food balls are already made into smaller sizes than your dog roll, this requires less preparation by the human. Your dog will hate me for this but they don't have to get the whole ball as a reward. The squishy nature of this treat means you can make them even smaller. I really like to use these when I am working on something that requires duration such as a stretch. I can smoosh it up in my hand meaning my dog needs to lick at it while stretching.
Other really good options are:
Cheese - get the block cheese and cut it up
Roast chicken - cut off however much you need and you can either cut it up further or shred it
Hot dogs - cut them up into quarters lengthwise and then into smaller pieces.
Wont my dog get fat?!
No your dog wont get fat as long as you do the following:
Keep training sessions short. You will find it more beneficial to train for 5 minutes at a time several times per day rather than in 1 bulk block. You will not be able to over treat in this time.
Reduce the size of your dogs main meal. If you have done a treat heavy training session, you can deduct food from your dogs main meal. Over the day they have not lost out calorie wise, however your dog may not agree.
Keep treat sizes small. Overall your dog wont have eaten too much in a raining session.
Regular exercise. This is good for your dogs mental and physical health.
Basic Liver Treat Recipe
Maybe you have a dog that has food intolerance and you want to control what is in their food, perhaps you like cooking and making treats from scratch or maybe you just want to try something different, below is a recipe for liver based dog treats. Please note liver can be quite rich so make sure our dog doesn't get too much per training session. The other bonus of this recipe is it freezes very well.
The amount you make depends on the volume of ingredients you use. You can add other things such as veggies, steamed sweet potato is fantastic, or pureed fruit. Note if you do add a lot of veggies, it may make the mixture extra watery, if that happens then just add more flour.
The flour can be substituted with other non gluten type flour like rice flour if you prefer. The amount of flour needed will depend on the consistency you want. Less flour makes it more fudge like where as more flour can make it more cake like.
Liver (or other organ meat)
1 tablespoon olive oil (or less if liver is small)
Flour (enough to thicken)
Any additional items such as steamed veggies (if you want it)
Preheat oven to 180
Blend up the liver until it is liquid
Add egg, oil and any steamed veggies and blend in a food processor or mix by hand
Add enough flour to achieve the constancy you want. If you add too much, add some water.
Pour into a greased and floured baking pan. I have found baking paper tends to stick to the liver cake.
Bake until a skewer or fork comes out clean. It will help if you poke it a few times with a fork to ensure it doesn't have bubbles trapped into it creating a flaky top layer -more likely to occur if its a very wet mix.
Cut up into small treats and freeze if you want to.
If you have never cooked with liver before, beware it smells when its cooking, but your dog will really appreciate the effort you made.
The size of the baking dish you use is up to you. I prefer flat baking sheets.