Guide to High Value Treats and Dog Training
As every dog owner will likely already be familiar with, training your dog is not an easy feat, but with a stash of high value dog treats to hand, you may be able to teach an old (or young!) dog new tricks. Although your dog may likely eat anything that is handed to them, dog treats sit on a similar spectrum of palatability as human food - just like us humans see a dessert as a special treat, dogs also have their version of high value treats that are the equivalent of a decadent chocolate cake.
Treats are one of the most powerful and easiest tools we can use to teach dogs obedience, basic training and positive behaviours. High value treats should be full of flavour and something your dog would not usually be given to eat, and as such, should be used sparingly to reward behaviours you wish to encourage. Read on to find out more about what types of high value dog treats are available and how they can be used to train your dog.
What are High Value treats?
A high value treat is any food that is something your dog loves but would not get very often. This could include anything from freshly cooked meats such as chicken, lamb or steak, pieces of cheese, jerky or even peanut butter. The easiest way to classify if a treat is high value or not is to assess whether they meet the following criteria:
Taste - One of the most important ways to determine if your dog sees a treat as high value is if they would never turn the treat down and always want more of the taste. This shows that your dog perceives this particular treat as extra tasty and will do anything to have it again. While all dogs have individual tastes, most dogs love meaty flavours, so any treat that includes a high quality meat taste will often be a high value no brainer treat.
Smell - As we know, dogs have a very heightened sense of smell, and when something around them smells meaty and satisfying, they will tend to sniff it out and beg for a taste. This is another way dog owners are able to tell if a treat is considered high value to your dog. It’s also important to note that even if the smell of this treat doesn’t appeal to you, your dog may love it.
Texture - Just as important as the taste and smell, the texture of a high value treat is another way to gauge the status level of a treat to your dog. Some dogs may like a dry, crunchy biscuit, some may prefer a soft, moist texture or a chewy, leathery treat such as jerky - every dog is different!
When should I use high value treats?
High value treats should be used as a training tool when teaching your dog new behaviours or tricks. They are perfect for positive reinforcement when rewarding good behaviour, to show your dog that they are doing a good job. There is no denying the fact that your dog will work harder, be more responsive and behave better if they know there is a high value reward on offer. In some instances, having high value treats to hand is critical to the success of training your dog. Below are some examples of instances where high value treats should be used:
- Introducing a new behaviour or command for the first time e.g. how to sit or fetch
- Rewarding your dog for a quick response to a cue
- Helping them overcome a phobia or behavioural issue e.g. rewarding nervous dogs for socialising with other dogs or humans
- To keep their attention in highly distracting environments e.g. during recall training outdoors when there are many distractions around
As a dog owner, it is not only important to figure out what your dog views as a high value treat, but also whether your dog is toy or treat driven. Some dogs may be less responsive than others to treats, but will do anything to play with a toy. Training your dog is all about finding out what motivates them and using that as their reward. If your dog is very playful and jumps at the chance to play with their favourite toy, then a high value treat in the form of play might be more valuable than food. Take a look at our full collection of dog toys to find a new and exciting toy to use as a high value reward for your next training session.
How can I use high value treats for recall training?
Recall training is arguably the most important behaviour you can teach your dog, in some cases, recall can save your dog's life. The key to teaching successful recall is to practise the behaviour over and over again, using high value treats to keep them focused and performing well. The goal in recall training is to condition your dog to automatically turn and run back to you when you say the recall common word - whichever word you choose, it should become an instant reflex for your dog to respond. Here are some simple step-by-step instructions on how to teach your dog recall training:
- Firstly, choose your recall word, some of the most common words are, ‘here’, ‘come’ and ‘quick’. The word needs to be short and snappy and used only when training, avoid using this command around the house.
- Ensure your dog is on a loose leash, about 4-6 foot long, hold the lead in one hand and your chosen high value treat in the other.
- Hold the treat within your dog's smelling range, as your dog approaches your hand, give your recall cue and slowly walk backwards as your dog moves towards you to get the treat. After five or six steps back, reward your dog with the treat.
- Practise this for as long as necessary, usually a couple times per day for at least 3 weeks. Continue with the same technique but now place the high value treats behind your back or in a treat pouch, out of sight of your dog. This teaches them to respond correctly to the recall word without the need for seeing the reward.
- As your dog starts to respond well when practising, it’s time to add in distractions, this will be a true test of how well they are responding. The goal is for your dog to come back to you as you say the recall command without getting distracted by the things around them. Make sure you always reward them with your high value treat when they demonstrate this behaviour correctly. If in some circumstances, there are too many distractions and your dog does not recall correctly, you can use a small squeaky toy that makes an exciting noise to get their attention and begin again.
- Over time this behaviour should become second nature and no matter the distractions around them your dog should be able to recall instantly.
What are some high value dog treats for training?
It’s important to note that for high value treats to work, they should not be given frequently, in order to make the reward of the treat that much stronger when it comes to training. Your dog needs to recognise these treats as high value otherwise their indifference will cause them to be less responsive to the training you are trying to implement.
Before using high value treats to train your dog, you must first determine what their favourite high value treats are, so that you can be prepared. Below we have outlined some of the dog treat options available here at Direct4Pet that can be considered high value to your pup.
Jerky is a great high value treat to keep to hand during training as it is easy to break up into bite sized pieces and keep in your pocket or treat pouch. Choose a jerky that has the highest meat content to entice your dog even more, such as the Pets Unlimited Steak Sticks and Bites. These jerky sticks are made of pure, high quality beef and dehydrated for a satisfying chewy texture that is protein-rich and also helps care for your dog’s dental hygiene.
An alternative to beef jerky, Pets Unlimited also offers these Salmon Fillet Strips that are made from 100% natural ingredients, 97% of this being fish. These dehydrated salmon strips are a great tasty yet healthy snack that your pup will love as a high value reward during training.
Another delicious, meaty high value treat your dog will definitely come running back for are the Good Boy Pigs In Blankets. These succulent treats are made from three different types of 100% natural meats, wheat free and come in bite sized pieces for quick rewards. Packaged in a handy re-sealable bag, these pigs and blankets make training with high value treats on-the-go simple.
If freshly cooked chicken is your dog’s favourite treat but you don’t always have it to hand, these Natural Eats Chicken & Calcium Drumsticks are perfect for you. Made from 100% natural chicken breast meat, these treats are gluten free, low in fat and packed with flavour. With an irresistible taste and chewy texture, these high value treats are also great at promoting healthy teeth and gums in your dog.