The 10 Best Dog Training Treats (2021 Reviews)

You made the leap and brought home a new dog to love! In between the walks, cuddles, and tummy rubs, you’ll want to start training your newest addition. But with all of the treat options, you may be wondering which is best to use for your pup

To help, we researched all of the treats on the market to find the 10 best dog training treats available now. We also paired our recommendations with a buying guide that takes a deep dive into the world of treats and training. Here’s our list:

Our Picks for the Best Dog Training Treats

1. Zuke’s Mini Naturals Training Dog Treats

zukes mini naturals dog training treats

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Zuke’s Mini Naturals are the perfect treat for dog training. While small at only 3 calories each, these bites are still tasty enough to be seen as a high value treat. They come in 7 different flavors including chicken, salmon, beef, peanut butter, and others.

Key Features:

  • All-natural dog training treat
  • Small and soft; perfect for training
  • 3 calories per treat
  • 7 different flavor options, including chicken, salmon, beef, duck, and peanut butter
  • Available in 6 oz or 1 pound bag sizes

Pros:

  • No corn, wheat, or soy
  • All natural, and made without artificial colors or flavors
  • Real meat/fish, rice, and barley are the first three ingredients
  • No meat byproducts or meals
  • Made and sourced in the USA

Cons:

  • Treats have a strong odor, which dogs love, but can stay on your hands after handling
  • As these bites are moist, they can spoil if not properly sealed after opening

2. Pupford Freeze Dried Beef Liver Training Treats for Dogs

pupford freeze dried liver dog treats

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If you’re looking for a simple, high value training treat, take a look at Pupford’s Freeze Dried Beef Liver Treats. These small bites are made of raw, freeze dried beef liver and beef heart, and are only 1 calorie per piece. There’s no added sugar, fillers, or flavors, and all treats are made in and sourced from the USA.

Key Features:

  • Freeze dried, raw beef liver training treats
  • Made of just beef liver, beef heart, and mixed tocopherols (vitamin E)
  • High value treats are great for extra motivation
  • Small; suitable for any dog or puppy

Pros:

  • No sugar, fillers, wheat, or soy
  • All natural ingredients
  • Less than 1 calorie per treat, perfect for longer training sessions
  • Made and sourced in the USA

Cons:

  • While there are 475 treats per bag, they are very small (you may need to give your dog 2-3 treats per reward). Keep this in mind when considering cost.

3. Full Moon Organic Chicken Dog Training Treats

full moon dog training treats

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Full Moon Organic Chicken Training Treats are another solid option for training your pup. These natural chews feature USDA organic chicken as the first ingredient, and include no artificial flavors, colors, or fillers of any kind. They’re also under 3 calories each, making them great for longer training sessions.

Key Features:

  • Soft and chewy dog training treats
  • USDA Organic, cage free chicken is the first ingredient
  • “Human Grade” high quality ingredients
  • Also available in Duck recipe

Pros:

  • No corn, wheat, soy, or grains
  • Just 2.5 calories per treat
  • Contains flaxseed for omega fatty acids
  • All natural with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Organic cane syrup is the second ingredient by volume

4. Natural Balance L.I.D. Salmon Mini Rewards

natural balance LID mini dog treats

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Natural Balance LID Salmon Mini Rewards are a hit with dogs, and for good reason. These small chews contain salmon as the first ingredient, and are made without grains, corn, or wheat. They’re also easily broken in half, making them perfect for training or as a regular treat.

Key Features:

  • Soft dog training chews
  • Salmon is the first ingredient
  • Suitable for all dogs, from puppies through adults
  • “Limited Ingredient Diet” recipe is made for dogs with food sensitivities
  • Also available in chicken or turkey flavor

Pros:

  • Grain free, and made without corn, wheat, or fillers
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Small size is perfect for training sessions; can also be broken in half
  • Can be added to regular kibble as a flavor enhancer
  • 5 calories per treat
  • Made in Canada

Cons:

  • Recipe includes cane molasses in small quantities, as well as potatoes

5. A Better Treat Freeze Dried Salmon Dog Treats

a better treat freeze dried salmon dog treats

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A Better Treat’s salmon treats are made of freeze dried, 100% wild Alaskan salmon — that’s it! As they’re made purely of fish, these bites are perfect for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities, and can also be used as a flavor enhancer for regular kibble. We recommend breaking these treats into pieces, as they’re tasty (and smelly enough) to be high value even in smaller bites.

Key Features:

  • High value salmon training treats
  • Made of freeze dried, wild Alaskan Salmon
  • Each treat is 5 calories, but can be broken into smaller pieces
  • Suitable for all dogs, from puppies through adults

Pros:

  • Good for dogs with allergies, sensitive stomachs, or other food related issues
  • High in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which aid in skin and coat health
  • Freeze dried raw fish retains more nutrients than cooking
  • Salmon is sustainably sourced
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Quality comes at a price; these treats are expensive at $15 for a 3 oz bag

6. Nulo Freestyle Trainers Dog Treats

nulo freestyle trainers dog treats

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Nulo Freestyle Trainers are tasty soft chews made from only quality sourced ingredients. While small at only 2 calories each, these treats pack a punch with meat or fish as the first ingredient, as well as flaxseed, blueberry, and other healthy additions. Freestyle trainers are available in three flavors: duck, turkey, and salmon.

Key Features:

  • High value, chewy training treats
  • Available in duck, turkey, salmon flavors, or in a variety pack
  • Meat, poultry, or fish is the first ingredient
  • Suitable for all ages, from puppies through adults
  • Small and only 2 calories per treat

Pros:

  • Grain free, with no corn, wheat, or soy
  • Includes salmon oil and flaxseed for omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
  • All natural, with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Ingredients are sourced from the USA, Canada, and France (duck)
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Strong smell can stay on hands after training session is over

7. Fruitables Skinny Minis Pumpkin & Berry Dog Treats

fruitables skinny minis dog treats

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Fruitables Skinny Minis are a top pick for healthy training treats. These small bites are gluten and grain free, and are made without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. They also include chickpeas, flaxseed, and blueberry in the recipe, which help provide natural antioxidants and fiber to your dog’s diet.

Key Features:

  • Chewy dog treats in pumpkin and berry flavor
  • 3 calories per treat
  • Gluten free and grain free
  • Also available in apple bacon, grilled bison, watermelon, rotisserie chicken, and pumpkin spice flavors

Pros:

  • Healthy recipe includes natural antioxidants and fiber
  • Flaxseed for omega fatty acids
  • No corn, wheat, soy or artificial ingredients
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Not made specifically for training.
  • While Skinny Minis are small and chewy, they aren’t as soft as others on our list.

8. Bocce’s Bakery Sunday Roast Chicken & Pumpkin Training Bites

bocce's bakery sunday roast dog treats

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Bocce’s Bakery Training Bites are healthy dog treats with just 9 total ingredients. There’s no artificial ingredients, corn, wheat, or soy, and all are made in the USA in small batches.

Key Features:

  • Baked dog training bites in chicken & pumpkin flavor
  • 4 calories per treat
  • Made with only simple, high quality ingredients
  • Oat flour, chicken, and pumpkin are the first three ingredients
  • Also available in beef & cheddar, duck & blueberry, mud pie, or PB & bacon flavors

Pros:

  • All natural, with no artificial ingredients, colors, or flavors
  • No corn, wheat, soy or fillers
  • Flaxseed for omega fatty acids
  • Baked in small batches
  • Perfect size for training
  • Made in the USA from locally sourced ingredients

Cons:

  • Treats have a tendency to dry out once opened. We recommend using these treats within a reasonable time period to keep them moist.

9. Cloud Star Tricky Trainers Liver Dog Treats

cloud star tricky trainers dog treats

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Cloud Star Tricky Trainers are a perfect high value treat for your training pup. These chicken liver chews have an extra motivating strong smell, and are only 3 calories per bite. They’re also all-natural and include no corn, wheat, or soy in the ingredients.

Key Features:

  • Chewy, high value dog training treats
  • Chicken liver is the first ingredient
  • 3 calories per treat
  • Also available in cheddar and salmon options

Pros:

  • Small and soft, perfect for dog training
  • Affordably priced for quality
  • No corn, wheat, or soy
  • All natural, with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Smelly (dogs love it), which can stay on hands after a training session

10. Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Duck Nibs

vital essentials freeze dried duck nibs

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If your dog has food allergies, take a look at the Vital Essentials Freeze Dried Duck Nibs. These raw, freeze dried bits are made of American sourced duck, with no other ingredients or additives.

Key Features:

  • Dog treats made of freeze dried raw duck
  • Gluten free and grain free
  • Suitable for all ages, from puppies through adults
  • Treats contain 100% duck, no other ingredients
  • Also available in rabbit and beef varieties

Pros:

  • Small pieces for easy portioning
  • All natural, with no artificial ingredients or flavors
  • Suitable for dogs with food allergies, or those on limited ingredient diets
  • Made in the USA with domestically sourced duck

Cons:

  • More expensive than other training treats
  • Includes ground duck bone in addition to duck meat

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Dog Training Treats Buying Guide

Finding the Right Training Treats

Just like humans, dogs can grow tired of the same food over time. We recommend using several different types to keep your puppy curious, motivated, and interested as you train.

puppy training with owner

High-Value Treats

High-value treats are special treats that your dog loves but doesn’t get every day—pieces of chicken, freeze-dried meat, hot dogs, treats with strong aromas, etc. Think of the dog equivalent to how you see a special dessert compared to the same sandwich you eat most days. When teaching a new skill, consider throwing in some high-value treats to ensure your puppy maintains interest and motivation.

When to use high-value treats:

  • When your dog is learning a new behavior
  • Every now and then, to reinforce a learned behavior
  • If your puppy needs extra motivation
  • When training in a distracting environment outside of your home

Low-Value Treats

Low-value treats are less enticing, everyday foods like kibble or other dry treats. Your dog will likely still perform for these goodies, but perhaps with less enthusiasm.

When to use low-value treats:

  • When your dog is at the maintenance stage of a behavior/skill
  • As the bulk of the treats during a training session
  • Training at home

What to Look for When Buying Puppy Training Treats

Keep it Small

Your dog training treats should be small. This is important for two reasons: it keeps your dog attentive/wanting more, and prevents them from getting too full during a training session. When selecting a treat, look for something that you can easily break into small pieces.

nulo freestyle treats close up

Soft Texture

Training can move fast, so look for soft treats that can be eaten easily by your dog. Make sure to avoid dry, crumbly, or treats that take time to consume and cause distraction with pieces falling on the ground.

Healthy Ingredients

Consider a treat with one protein source and as many naturally occurring ingredients as possible. Remember that while treats are a small part of your pup’s diet, even tiny amounts of the wrong food can cause problems.

It’s also smart to only look for treats made in the USA or countries with reputable manufacturing practices.

Dietary Restrictions

Always consider allergies or other dietary restrictions your puppy may have — and keep an eye out for anything that seems to be upsetting your dog’s tummy. Stay away from overly rich treats and most human foods.

In the puppy stage, it’s also best to take a cautious approach. Rely on foods unlikely to cause stomach trouble and slowly introduce others into your dog’s diet over time.

No Artificial Ingredients or Byproducts

Avoid artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and fillers. It’s also best to ensure you’re feeding your puppy real meat, which means avoiding byproducts. If you can’t understand what’s on the food label, it’s best to try something else!

Low Calorie Per Treat

While growing puppies require more calories than adults, it’s essential to provide these calories in moderation. Look for treats that are 5 calories or less per bite. Experts from the ASPCA say that treats should make up 5% (or less) of a dog’s daily calorie intake, while other trainers recommend 10% or less. If your pup participates in a training session filled with delicious rewards, you can even slightly decrease their next meal size.

Other Considerations

Consider limiting gluten and soy, which are often the culprits behind canine digestive issues. Also go easy on high fat treats, as they can lead to weight gain and additional health problems.

Homemade Dog Training Treats

You can find plenty of recipes for healthy homemade dog treats online. This is an especially great option if your puppy has any dietary restrictions or a sensitive stomach. The good news is that making dog treats doesn’t need to be a big production — most recipes call for just five ingredients or less. If you do make your own, be sure to bake small treats or those that can easily be broken into pieces.

One of our favorite homemade recipes is from ThreeLittleFerns. These treats contain just two ingredients: oatmeal and chicken/turkey/sweet potato baby food. All you need to do is stir the food together, roll the mixture into small balls, and bake for 20 mins at 350 degrees.

Human Food That Can Be Used As Treats

Real Meat

Chicken and other high-quality lean meats are irresistible to dogs. But don’t just use your leftovers. Dogs shouldn’t eat spiced or very salty meat, so next time you’re meal prepping, consider cooking a portion without any seasonings to save for your pup. Stay away from deli meat for the same reason; only feed your puppy fully-cooked meat, and be sure to follow the same food safety rules you use to protect your human family members.

Cheese

Cheese is a great high-value treat to use, but only in moderation. There’s no denying that dogs love it, however that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. Just like us, some dogs are lactose intolerant, so watch out for signs of an upset tummy.

Small cubes of mild cheeses like cheddar are helpful if you’re trying to make a new behavior stick. But be sure to stay away from cheeses that contain chives, onions, or garlic, and never feed your dog blue cheese as the mold can be toxic.

Peanut Butter

Like cheese, most dogs adore peanut butter. And in moderation, natural peanut butter without added sugar and oils is a healthy treat. However you should always check the label before letting your dog lick the spoon; a number of brands include xylitol (a sugar-free sweetener), which can be deadly to dogs even in small amounts. We recommend sticking with all-natural, unsalted peanut butter made with only peanuts.

Some Fruits and Vegetables

Dogs love certain fruits and vegetables, such as apples, carrots, and green beans. Preferences vary, so it’s worth trying out a few different options to see what your pup prefers. Whatever you choose, remember to cut it into small pieces and go easy on high-sugar fruits. Also be sure to stay away from items such as onions, grapes, and raisins, which are toxic to dogs.

Remember to practice caution when it comes to introducing new ingredients and foods to your dog. Always consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions. Try out new foods by integrating small amounts into their diet in order to gauge interest.

We also suggest avoiding table scraps as a treat, as they can lead to digestive problems and promote unwanted begging behavior.

How to Use Dog Training Treats

While there are many training approaches available, most professionals use “positive reinforcement training.” With this type of training, a dog is rewarded for following a command or direction. The goal is for your puppy to associate obeying commands with an immediate positive outcome, such as receiving a treat.

spotted dog training in park

Research shows that training using positive reinforcement yields the most favorable and long-lasting results. Like how humans tend to repeat actions that lead to positive outcomes, your puppy will learn to repeat a behavior when you reward them with a high-value treat. And this type of training is good for everyone — research suggests that positive reinforcement training also promotes stronger bonds between you and your pup.

Training Schedule

Your reward schedule will depend on where you are in the training process. When introducing your dog to a new behavior or skill, reward their behavior consistently with a 1:1 ratio. For example, when teaching the “sit” command, reward your dog with a treat as soon as they sit.

Once your pup starts to learn the skill, you’ll want to wean off the 1:1 reinforcement ratio, and gradually move to a “variable-ratio schedule”. This schedule simply means that your puppy knows a reward will come, but doesn’t know exactly when.

Research suggests a variable-ratio reward schedule produces long-lasting results. It also keeps your puppy interested and motivated to perform commands since they won’t know when the next tasty morsel might come their way. For example, you might provide a treat after the third successful “sit,” then after two, then five, etc — constantly varying the reward ratio.

Be careful to only give your puppy one small treat at a time. And by small, we really mean small! Even the tiniest of store-purchased soft treats can be divided into two pieces, if not more.

How Often to Practice

You don’t want to overwhelm or frustrate your new puppy. Trainers typically recommend 15 minutes per day of training, or several 5-10 minute periods throughout a day. Think of a time when you learned a new skill — it likely took practice and repetition over days, weeks, and months. To learn, your puppy needs to experience success over time. Also try to make an effort to end any training session on a positive note.

Conclusion

Training a puppy takes a lot of patience, but can also be fun for you and your pup! Remember that no two dogs are alike, and just like us, each has different motivators. Experiment with a variety of treats until you find the right combination to keep your dog engaged and healthy.

Sources

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/training-rewards/
https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-nutrition-tips
https://k9ti.org/blog/dogtrainingtreats/
https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/positive-reinforcement-training

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