Downeast Dog News

Confession: I am a treat snob

You should be, too!
By | Feb 16, 2018
Photo by: Homemade chicken treats are simple, healthy and easy to make! You can make a huge batch and freeze them so they are ready in a jiffy for a training session with your lucky pooch!

Confession: I am a treat snob

You should be, too!

I am a lazy trainer. I want a happy, enthusiastic learner, quick results, efficient repetitions, and a fit, healthy, and engaged student. I want the dog to be clear about why she is being rewarded. I know that if I want to see progress, there have to be numerous repetitions. I am aware that my own mechanics (observation, timing, reaching for the treat, handling and delivering the treat, etc.) has to be excellent so that the process is fun, rewarding, and clear for both the dog and human.

To get results, I need to pay well. Treats are “canine cash;" we get what we pay for! Humans get paid in money, but we then trade that money in for food (and other things). For dogs, we can skip the money part and pay them directly with delicious calories. Of course, there are other rewards, but for the purpose of this article, the focus is on food which we all need in order to survive.

Due to my many needs described in the first paragraph, I am a serious treat snob, and I have a list of criteria that treats must meet.

Treats must be:

1. Heartily coveted by my student. I want the dog to think, “WOW! I need some of THAT!”

2. Meaty (pieces of, or containing, real meat): feed the carnivore in your dog!

3. Tiny (1/4” to 3/8”) to allow for many repetitions before the dog gets full. At my puppy day school, each puppy gets about 200 treats per day or the equivalent of ½ cup.

4. Easy to break into smaller pieces.

5. Soft (more quickly consumed in their entirety; hard, biscuit-like treats take longer to eat, can crumble and leave a distracting mess on the floor).

6. Smelly if possible.

7. Easy to handle (timing is important; we lose training moments when we have to fumble).

8. Tossable (we sometimes toss treats away to reset the dog, so he can start another repetition).

9. Healthy (few ingredients beyond meat).

10. Not too pricey.

That’s quite a list of requirements, isn’t it? I will now share with you some tips on how your treats can meet all of those criteria. Between PupStart, my puppy day school, and all the other training I do, I spend about 20-30 hours per week actively training 20-30 individual dogs. Each dog has her own “currency hierarchy,” so we have to tune into that and adjust our rewards appropriately so that we can maintain the “wow!” factor. If your dog isn’t showing enthusiasm for the game, it’s time to try a higher value reward.

Our Favorites


1. “Marinated Kibble” (4 cups high quality, grain-free kibble soaked in ¾ cup real meat broth; see my website for the full recipe). This is a super economical way to make treats. Great for training at home, but may not maintain "wow" for long.

2. “Chicken treats” (2.5 cups/1.25# ground chicken mixed with one raw egg, spread evenly on parchment paper covered jellyroll pan; bake at 425 for 35 minutes, cut with pizza cutter). Yum!

3. Beef or chicken pieces. Freeze the meat first, then thaw just to the point when it’s easy to cut into tiny pieces. Boil the pieces and drain. Beef tends to light up a dog’s face! Oh, don’t forget to use the broth to marinate some more kibble.

Store-bought Treats

1. Coachies

2. Plato Small Bites

3. Ziwi Peak (very pricey but can turn on even the pickiest of eaters)

This is not at all an exhaustive list. I’m always on the look-out for other treats/snacks that fit my criteria, and I welcome ideas on what you’ve found that your dogs go gaga over!

Baklava. That would be my reward of choice at this moment. How about you?


Here are some video examples of training for specific behaviors where the dog exhibits enthusiasm and understanding for the behavior being trained:

Reverse Front: Diana and Astro

Teaching Izzy to step on the Easy Button:

Teaching Nika to back up at heel: