I talk a lot about using high value treats in training your puppy, but what is a high value treat?
I want to go through this with you, suggest some awesome treats, I’ll even throw in a recipe or two! I want to tell you why you should use them and when you should use them. I’ll even answer a few common questions that you might have about training treats for your puppy.
So, let’s not hold off much longer, and we’ll start with the basics!
What Are High Value Puppy Treats?
Well, a treat is something we use as a reward for your puppy to encourage good behaviour. Typically, the higher the perceived value of the treat, the more likely your puppy is to repeat the good behaviour or work for that reward.
Does that make sense?
As a human equivalent, it’s like asking would you prefer to work for $10/hr? Or $10,000/hr? Whilst our dogs and puppies don’t understand money – they do understand worth and thats going to be an individual thing. Your puppy won’t be the same as your friends, and in fact, it may change day to day! This is why I advise going out with a variety of treats!
Contrary to the terms? This has no relation to the actual cost of the treat.
Why Do We Use High Value Treats
I touched on it above, but we ask our dogs to listen, to give them a reason to listen. Which is no different to a gold star on a chore chart for a child. High value treats are the gold star, or their favourite sticker.
We use treats to ask them to do something, we use high value treats to ensure what we’re offering is more rewarding than what they want to do.
Things like this? Are wonderful for practicing recall, or massively important activities.
The technical side of this is about reinforcement.
Positive Reinforcement is based around the idea that the reward increases their desire to repeat the activity again, and again, and again.
I love this diagram as it really gives the picture of how reinforcement works and why it works.
I’m a massively advocating to you to use positive reinforcement based techniques, treat training, or ‘fear free’ or ‘force free’ – they’re pretty much synonymous to the normal person, though you will get some militants in the training arena that get fussy about me saying that! But the fine line that exists between them is negligible.
When To Use High Value Treats
When training a new behaviour is the best time. When proofing (making it stick!) a behaviour also. They’re the best times, but don’t feel like that should limit you either.
It does mean, however, that you’re probably going to be using a lot of high value treats for the first year, and maybe longer!
What Do I Do When My Dog Stops Responding To Even High Value Treats?
Well, this could be for a few reasons.
It could be that your puppy is too distracted, check out more about the 3D’s of Dog Training.
It could be that your puppy is overtired. In which case I’d recommend reading Is Your Puppy Overtired?
Or it could be that your dog isn’t treat motivated… we’ll get to that bit! And remember, if you need help training your puppy? Go sign up for our weekly puppy update emails to help you and puppy rock that first year.!
Treats Vs Chews
This is a discussion of nomenclature? So, to me? A treat is quick to eat, barely a wonderful taste to reward, something that will be eaten entirely within seconds so that you can move onto the next cue or capture a behaviour.
Chews, on the other hand are something your puppy will need to take, lay down with and chomp and chew and take time with. That’s certainly how I refer to it! And hopefully when you’re looking at treats in the store, you have a good idea of what to look for!
What Puppy Treats Should I Avoid?
Aim for as natural as possible? Avoid complicated ingredients names, generally? If you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not great for your dog.
It’s good to note that dog treats are not regulated by the FDA, so do be cautious with what you’re buying.
What Are Healthy Or Low Calorie Puppy Treats?
Anything that is pure protein is usually a good bet, leaner meats work nicely too, so cooked chicken (not store bought!), turkey or if you’re feeling super exotic, ostrich! Jerky is great for this too because it can be a bit of a chew, but it’s really rewarding as it’s pure, dehydrated meat. For some dogs? Carrots, green beans and other veggies are wonderful.
Just please remember that not all foods are suitable for your puppy, and if you worry that your puppy has ingested something they shouldn’t, the ASPCA Toxicology & Poison Hotline on 888-426-4435.
Some Examples of High Value Puppy Treats
Remember that each dog will rate these differently! So try lots, compare, and test! To see which ones are high value to your puppy and which ones are not that interesting, or even how they compare to one another! (It’s really useful to know which are even preferred when you try and decrease the treat volume and value!)
- Peanut Butter
- Dried Sprats
- Pouches (soft baby food in a pouch that can be re-sealed)
Test lots of things! Anything that’s meat based? Will normally be great – but to make you aware? My boy Indie will choose a biscuit – a regular dog biscuit or piece of kibble – over a piece of chicken.
You can dehydrate all sorts of meat at home pretty easily if you want to do things yourself to guarantee quality too.
And for some dogs? You may need to focus on smelly food. So cheese? Make it stinky cheese, pick liver over chicken, or even sprats! Make your high value treat work for your dog, okay? Good!
How To Decrease Value Of Treats Over Time
So we’ve discussed why we use high value treats, and when we use them, but how do you come down from that? That’s a huge question! And it’s one that’s not often answered by trainers. Essentially? You start slowly decreasing the value of the treats (which is another reason that knowing how your dog rates treats is really important!). Let’s use an example.
Rex loves chicken. His next favourite is cheese, hotdogs, then kibble is just kind of meh, thanks…
So, your treat bag will be a high proportion of chicken, less of cheese cheese, even less of hotdogs and even less of kibble. Pick them randomly as you reward throughout your exercises.
If you don’t see a decrease in desirable behaviour, then you can progress further! If you do see a decrease? Maybe just strip it back to chicken and cheese and go a little slower.
When you do see progress? Decrease the chicken, increase the cheese, hotdogs and kibble.
You’ll start adding in the odd cue that only gets a verbal marker (or click).
Keep skewing the proportions in favour of the lower value treats.
Then slowly, you’ll phase out the chicken, then the cheese, then the hotdogs.
Lastly? You’ll start increasing the number of times pup doesn’t get a reward.
And then? You’ve got a dog who listens, responds and needs very little treating to ensure fantastic behaviour!
Generally? Indie and I are pretty much there. #dogtraininggoals right?
What Treats Should I Use If My Dog Has Allergies?
So long as you know what your dogs allergies are, you can work around it. It may become that chicken is the most valuable thing for a dog with a chicken allergy – but you’re still not going to go there. Pick something else!! Beef Jerky, cheese, hotdogs, whatever! You can find find find other options!
What Treats Should I Use If My Dog Has A Sensitive Tummy?
Similar to above, you need to know what makes them sensitive? And you may find that they build up a tolerance with small exposures – but you also may not! For example, Indie, my shepherd cross, cannot eat a meal of kibble – yet – I can give him a certain amount as a treat.
What If My Puppy Is A Picky Eater?
You may have to make it either more exciting by making the treat a game, or by finding things your puppy actually enjoys. It may take trial and error, but there will be something, and don’t forget that you can totally use toys as rewards too! It’s not all about food! It’s just about making sure your dog creates a positive response.
You can find something that works, and again do not forget the power of toys!!
Try Find It!
Drop a treat on the floor right in front of your pup and ask them to find it! Start easy and build up. Ask them to find the treat in other spots and you can even try behind and all sorts when your pup starts getting really into it! This way you’re turning the treat, into a game and making it even extra extra rewarding!
You can throw it in the air too and ask them to catch it!
Can You Make High Value Treats At Home?
YES! Yes you can if you have the time because god only knows, I don’t have time to do much for my pups! But yes you can! Want one of my favourite recipes? Here’s my liver cake recipe!
I’ll turn this into a blog post one day when I get a video together for it!
- 1lb liver
- 2 Eggs
- 7oz All-Purpose Flour
- 1Tbsp milk
Notes: if your dog is allergic to chicken, you can avoid chicken livers and pick another kind!
If your dog is allergic to grain? Then use grain free flour!
First, pre-heat your oven to about 320F (160°C), and prepare your cake tin (a 9inch tin will be perfect), grease and line it with parchment paper to stop it sticking. (if you want to use a different tin, feel free! I love this guide for my baking!)
Next, I want you to take your livers, your eggs, that splash of milk but not the flour, throw them into a blitzer (normal people call these a blender or food processor, but you can totally use a stick blender in a bowl).
It’ll take a couple of minutes, but it should come down to a slightly chunky, meaty smelling smoothie?
Add in the flour and mix for a few seconds, and decant into your prepared tin and into the oven!
Now, you’re going to be baking for 45-60 mins, depending on your oven, check it how you would a normal cake.
When baked? Turn it out onto a cooling rack, allow to cool to a comfortable temperature and proceed to cut into small taster sized bits.
You can let these cool and separate into a bunch of smaller bags and freeze these too!
I would suggest refrigerating these treats, especially in those summer months!
Let me know what you think!
Can You Use Liver For Treats With Puppies?
Yes! Just make sure you keep it to a taste of liver? As it can cause puppies (and dogs!) to get a little bit of the runs? So do monitor and use liver sparingly.
Can Puppy Treats Make Them Constipated?
Yes, certain treats they can if their stomachs are not necessarily happy with the ingredients, but please be aware that one or two treats are probably not the cause and there can be lots of reasons for constipation, and straining isn’t fun. Sometimes a vet consult can be the best.
Can Puppy Treats Give Them Diarrhea?
Similarly to the constipation above, and the liver treats mention above that? Yes! Treats can give your puppy diarrhea, but treats in moderation likely won’t. It would likely be something that takes a larger proportion of their puppy’s diet, or even something like stress, heat, or over playing.
So, if you’re confused? Go check with your vet.
Remember! A Reward Does Not Always Have To Be Treats!
I’ve said it up there, but I want to encourage you to consider using toys! Especially if your dog is not that interested in treats. There’s a tip above that might help too – but there’s no reason you can’t use a tuggy, or a ball! The only thing I will ask you to consider? Is that squeaky toys? No matter how attention grabbing and rewarding for your dog? They’re probably going to snag the attention of the other dogs in your park or area, so use those with caution, okay?
And that, is the Rebarkable Complete Guide To High Value Treats!
Boom! How was that for you? Not so bad, right?
I’m glad you get it, because High Value Treats? Are really powerful tools in training! And they can work really well if used properly, consistently, with patience and love!
I hope I’ve managed to clear up some questions, and if I’ve not? Send them to me either by email? Or drop them in the comments and I’ll include them so that we can make this as comprehensive as possible!
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