How to Train Your Dog with Kibble (or Canned Food) & Skip the Store Bought Treats!

09/28/2018
by Jess Rollins

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Are you doing a lot of training these days? It's fun and effective to use treats to train your dog to do things like "sit" or to learn how to walk on a leash without pulling and more (we've got lots of training articles for you to browse and get ideas). So, you've got your plan for how to train the behavior you want, what treats and rewards are you going to use? My rules for training treats are that a treat should be:

  • Pea-sized
  • Quick and easy to eat
  • Tasty enough to keep the dog excited about training
  • Healthy
  • Subtracted from your dog's regular food

It's ideal to use a variety of rewards so that your dog never knows what magic might happen next, including favorite games like tug or chase or maybe a nice scratch under the chin. Make a list of 5 things you are sure your dog enjoys and try to use those for rewards at least a few times during a five minute training session. You can also use privileges your dog enjoys, like getting up on your bed or being let out of the door or crate to reinforce a trick you are working on, like "sit" or "stay".

But let's talk a little more about food treat for training your dog. And first off, maybe you are not comfortable using food treats because you feel that your dog should do it out of loyalty to you or love or because you are the pack leader? If so, I would ask you to consider it this way, if you weren't being paid with money would you do your job? Maybe you would, but maybe not quite as well or as early in the morning!? Food treats serve to help to make sure your dog is motivated to do what you ask of him or her even if it means stopping doing something fun like saying "hi" to another dog. I also figure that since I have to feed my dog anyway, I might as well "use" that food to reinforce behaviors I like and that make my life with my dog more enjoyable.

If your dog will work for his regular diet, that's a great benefit because then you don't have to worry about unbalancing your dog's diet or adding too many calories using other treats. For example, if your dog eats 1 cup of kibble per day, you can take 1/2 cup and reserve that for your training lessons and know that you are not feeding your dog too many calories in treats. Many dog's will be excited for training sessions with their kibble if you can amp it up a bit as I describe below.

What I recommend when using your dog's food for training is to make it more exciting than the usual food, (unless you have a dog that is gaga for it's food just the way it is - in that case consider yourself lucky!). To make the food more exciting you can mix it up with a few pieces of stinky cheese or hot dog and let it sit and marinate for awhile. You could also dust it with some fine Parmesan cheese or liver powder or maybe a little fish oil. Be creative!

Your dog also might find a new brand of kibble (or even CAT food) to be special enough to do his tricks for. Keep experimenting so that your dog is excited about what you might offer next. I find Ziwi Peak food can be a good training treat as most dogs find it very unique.

What if your dog is on a special wet diet? All is not lost! You can spread the food on a cookie sheet and bake it at 200 until it gets dried out enough to chop up for use as treats. Voila!

What works for you? Comment below and let us know and Happy Training!


If you liked this article, you might also want to check out this one: "Training with Treats & Your Dog's Health"

Also, I would also please ask if you find our website helpful that you reward us with your business! Thanks!


Jess Rollins, Owner of Pet Expertise

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