Dog treats come in handy for training your pooch, but he'll take one any time, training or not. Because they count toward your pup’s daily caloric intake and affect his nutrition, you want your pup's treats to be as nutritious as possible. If you're budget-conscious, you'll like making homemade training treats at home.
Treats for Tricks
You can usually begin training your puppy around 7 or 8 weeks of age. Treats serve motivate and reward your pooch as he learns new commands. Use a treat to lure your pooch into the proper positions for sit, stay and down, VCA suggests, working daily on the skills for best results, but only for brief sessions, as pups have short attention spans. Wean your dog off the motivational treats once he learns to follow a command, advises East Bay SPCA, but reinforce the positive behavior by occasionally rewarding him for it with a treat.
Size and texture matter when you're DIYing training treats. They should be small and soft, particularly for puppies in training. Craft your pup's training treats into small, soft bits that are easily chewed and quickly swallowed to seamlessly reward him without interrupting the flow of training. Vary the flavors of the treats you make, and note which flavors your pooch prefers, as those will be assigned a higher value for training purposes. Treats he likes but doesn't go crazy for, called low-value treats in training circles, are fine for most training situations. But when you really want to make a point, high value treats -- think smelly, meaty, cheesy -- will get his attention.
The Right Stuff
Many of ingredients you'll need to make canine training treats are already in the home. An assortment of the fruits and vegetables you eat, including bananas, pumpkin, carrots and green beans, and items from the pantry -- peanut butter, oatmeal, yogurt, honey, molasses, cheese and baby food -- are fine for Fido, too. If you plan to punch up a treat's value with bits of meat, poultry or fish, the ASPCA recommends cooking the meat first to guard against illnesses caused by bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. Avoid chocolate, raisins and grapes, which can be toxic to your pooch, even in small amounts.
Recipe for Success
An adaption of a popular recipe for small, soft treats starts with 7 ounces of a soft, cooked beef, fish or poultry; an egg; a cup of soft or grated cheese; and a cup each of rice-flour and oats. Blend the ingredients into a sticky dough that you will smooth into a thin, single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes at 175 degrees Fahrenheit and remove to cool, then cut thin strips that you will tear into bite-size bits. Freeze to preserve the treats, moving small amounts to the refrigerator or cooler as needed to soften for quick and easy consumption; stow them in a training pouch for crumble-free use during 20- to 30-minute training sessions; return leftovers to the cooler. Vary the meats and cheeses for different value blends. Partner with your vet to ensure that the treats you make for your dog include only safe ingredients, and that you are feeding them in a way that contributes to your pet's nutritionally balanced diet.