Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
Motivation is ultimately the internal engine that gets your dog going, but you cannot have motivation without having a strong reward. If you want to make this equation work for you during your dog's training session, you'll want to do some homework to find out what makes your dog eager to work for you. After all, as humans, we should understand the concept very well; don't you feel more motivated to work for a well-paying job versus one that pays you minimum wage? The same applies to dogs.
Best Rewards to Use During Dog Training: 4 High-Value Dog Treats
One of the most common scenarios in dog training is dog owners that claim ''my dog is really not food-oriented.'' As you attempt to investigate the motives behind a dog being so skittish, you quickly find out why when the owner starts working the dog and grabs some kibble out of the pocket to reward the dog. Dogs do not want kibble as a reward (at least most of them). They are used to seeing kibble every day, and if they are trained in a new place with distractions around, they will most likely turn their nose away almost in disgust.
What you need in this case are high-value rewards, foods that your dog craves and that are worth more than anything that may be distracting him—squirrels and the neighbor's cat included. Once introduced to these high-value foods, dogs with a reputation of being ''finicky'' start sniffing as if life came back to being wonderful, and they start drooling buckets of saliva. But what are exactly high-value treats? Dogs may know this too well, but owners must too.
- Freeze-dried liver: Most dogs cannot resist the smell of freeze-dried liver, and this is why most trainers ensure they have a pack of it on hand. Liver, in a dog's eyes, is something irresistible that will change a dog's attitude over training almost overnight. Finicky dogs come back to life and start drooling as soon as they acknowledge a piece, and they start looking forward to their next training session with new enthusiasm.
- Green beef tripe: Some dog owners claim that their dogs completely change at the sight and smell of green beef tripe treats. Not many have heard about these treats, but they are certainly worth a try. If you are fortunate enough to find a store that stocks these and you want a motivated dog, these treats will certainly gain lots of attention. Owner beware—tripe treats are one of the stinkiest foods you may ever deal with.
- Hot dogs: Hot dogs make good training treats since they can be cut up into small pieces, and they are soft to eat without making a mess. Most dogs like hot dogs and look forward to training when they discover their existence. Hot dogs are also on the cheap side and convenient since you can get many pieces out of a pack of four that cost less than one dollar.
- Leftover chicken or steak: You may have noticed how your dog sniffs the air when you are cooking roasted chicken or steak. Well, try offering them to him during your next training session and see if it makes a difference. Most likely, your dog will be drooling, eager to eat some of that juicy meat. The main issue, though, is that they may be messy to carry.
- Cheese: Most dogs find the taste of cheese irresistible and therefore would do anything for it. One of the favorites is string cheese since strings can be peeled off easily, and the dog will ''heel'' just to grab on one side. Dogs may develop different tastes for different cheeses; some may like cheddar, some may prefer mozzarella, others may like brie. It's best not to indulge too much, though, to prevent flatulence and an upset stomach.
Of course, just like people, dogs may develop different tastes. There are some dogs that would do backflips for a piece of carrot or frozen peas. Some dogs love Cheerios, while others may like a specific brand of dog treats. Often, mixing a variety of tasty treats will create great interest in a dog since he will not know what may come next. Experiment and see what works best for your dog.
Chances are, if you notice his ears are pricked up high, his eyes are wide open, and he is ready to listen to your command shivering in anticipation, you got the right type of treat!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2011 Adrienne Farricelli
Brittanie Anne from Seattle WA on April 05, 2019:
Thanks for sharing Adrienne! I recently adopted a rescue pup. She is a rat terrier that came from a puppy mill situation. I bought five different types of store-bought treats (the small bags thankfully) and she showed no interest in any of them. I tried the cheese trick and she finally took a piece out of my hand. Now I can use cheese as a reward and incentive to socialize a little more! I will try the liver next.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 03, 2011:
You are right, they are not made for dog consumption, but can be used occasionally for the once a week training session in class. Each training instructor may offer alternative healthier choices. If you are concerned, look for low-sodium hot dogs or treats specifically made for dogs with claims of low sodium on the bag.
Jean on September 28, 2011:
I'm concerned about the content in some of the food mentioned, will the salt level be too high for my dog to handle and such? Do I prepare them different? Because food such as hotdogs, roast chicken and beef steak are usually not prepared for dog consumption.
GetSmart on February 16, 2011:
Really good information and it makes sense that dogs will do just about anything for better pay! Thanks
Eiddwen from Wales on February 10, 2011:
Handy hints for all dog lovers here.
Thanks for sharing.
SUSIE DUZY from Delray Beach, Florida on February 08, 2011:
Thanks for the tips.
Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on February 07, 2011:
I'll keep these in mind.