Ask 10 dogs what their favorite rewards are, and you’ll get 10 different answers. Ask a dog and his human what the best reward is, and you may get very different answers!
The Taste Test
Actually, it is probably better called the Sniff Test.
Take two different treats, and put some in each of your hands. One treat in one hand, the other in the other hand. Keep your hands closed, and let the dog sniff each hand. He will probably choose one over the other, once he’s had a chance to sniff both.
What Do I Look For In Treats?
**First, I want it to be good for the dog. I like food/treats/chewies to be sourced and produced in the US. I think they have proven to be safer.
I try to stay away from additives–the fewer the better! I read labels! Some treats have tons of additives, and just aren’t what I want for my dog.
If I’m working with a dog with allergies, I’m careful not to use treats that the dog could be allergic to.
**Second, I want the dog to really like it. For training or working on a behavior, your success will only be as good as the reward! Check out Good Rewards=Good Results.
I do use lesser value treats, that my dogs still likes, for some things. For instance, if they are getting a treat just because they are so cute, or for their “good-bye” treats when I leave them home and I leave.
But for training, I want extremely high value treats because I want high success!
**Third, for training, I want it to be able to be eaten easily. So I choose treats that break up easily, and are easy to swallow.
What Do I Use?
I use a lot of people food for treats. No, feeding people food does not teach your dog to beg! Feeding at the table, or when you are eating, will teach a dog to beg.
Cheese, meat (I use a lot of chicken breast, microwaved and cut in small pieces), Armour frozen meatballs. The meatballs, which are in the frozen food section, probably have the most additives of all the treats I use (but are very convenient, most dogs love them and they are relatively inexpensive). I like the Armour brand because they are less greasy than some of the other brands (that’s for me, the dogs don’t care).
High quality commercial treats. My favorite are the Real Meat Company jerky treats (be careful, they also have jerky–which does not break up for training treats). My dogs particularly like the Fish and Venison variety. They break up easily to whatever size you want, and are 95% fish and venison, with very few additives, and no icky ones. Yes, they are fairly expensive, but if you break them into small pieces, a bag lasts pretty long.
Another favorite of mine is Pure Bites. They have dehydrated liver (my favorite), chicken (falls apart, so a bit messy) and salmon. Again, not cheap, but they break up easily so therefore a bag lasts quite awhile.
What Do I Look For In Toys?
Mostly, just what the dog likes. Some like to fetch, some like to tug, some like to run around with a squeaky toy. Oops, and some like to pull all the stuffing out!
Be sure your dog’s toys aren’t going to cause tummy upsets! Hard chewers need toys they won’t break pieces off and swallow. Many dogs pull the stuffing out of toys, and it’s nothing more than a clean up project. But many dogs actually eat it, and may end up in surgery getting it removed!
They make stuffing free toys for dogs that eat the stuffing (careful, they may eat the toy), and for owners that don’t want the clean up project. I don’t mind cleaning up the stuffing, because my dog has so much fun pulling it out. I watch him play, and check his poop for stuffing remains, and am confident he doesn’t eat any.
When he was younger, one of his favorite toys was a cardboard box. When I was going to be away for a while, I’d give him a new box. When I got home, I would have a major clean-up project, but a content dog. Again, make sure your dog isn’t eating the cardboard!
Chews aren’t exactly toys, but they occupy your dog and satisfy the need to chew that many dogs have (especially pretty much all puppies, but many older dogs also). Bully sticks are one of my favorites–they last longer than many and don’t break into pieces very easily. You can get them at most pet stores or online.
Bully sticks have become really popular, and there are now many products called bully sticks that are actually compressed rawhide or other ingredients. Bully sticks are bull pizzle. Check and be sure you know what you are buying.
Bully sticks can also be a choking hazard if the dog swallows the end piece after chewing it down. They make various holders to prevent this, such as the Bully Buddy.
If your dog is a big ball enthusiast, you may want to avoid tennis balls (most people’s favorite). The covering can be very wearing to a dog’s teeth, and they may end up worn down before he’s even a year old!
Be very sure never to play with a ball small enough to wedge in his throat and choke him. The dog doesn’t need to be trying to swallow the ball, just catching it and having it slip back. It’s a pretty rare mishap, but one that can be fatal and is easily preventable by only using balls that are big enough for your dog.
Some dogs prefer Frisbees, and there are many made for dogs as well as the standard ones made for humans.
My dogs’ favorite toy is a Chuck-it Flying Squirrel. It can be thrown for an awesome game of fetch, or act as a tug toy.
Given a choice between a ball (which they love) and the flying squirrel, they choose the squirrel every time. I like that it seems to be easy on their teeth, and is large enough to see easily when in the woods or fields. The little “feet” even glow in the dark (until the toy is too dirty–which happens pretty quickly with mine).
On the downside, it isn’t very durable. Many dogs will dismantle it if left alone with it. And tugging takes it’s toll. Luckily, it isn’t a big investment, as I average about one a month.
There are many toys and balls and tugs out there. You just need to experiment a little to find what your dog really likes.
There are several subscription dog toy and treat monthly delivery systems. Bark Box was one of the originals and is a pretty good deal. Bark Box delivers a variety of toys and treats right to your door each month. Each box contains 2 toys, 2 all-natural bags of treats, and a chew. 1, 6, and 12 month plans are available. What a great way to provide some interesting choices and variety for your dog! For more information or to buy, click here.
There is a subscription box just for puppies–Pupbox.
Each box has age appropriate toys and treats, as well an information for each developmental stage–things like bringing your puppy home, housetraining, teething, socialization, etc. What a great idea!
The subscription boxes are a great way to try out new toys or treats for your dog. Sometimes you find your dog’s favorite, and it is something you otherwise never would have tried or perhaps even known about.
What Are Your Favorites?
Let us know what your favorite toys or treats are. Does your dog have a strong favorite?
Leave a comment and let us know. If you want to contact me directly, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.