High Value Food Treats Promote Dogs’ Learning

April 22, 2012 by megan

Don't be afraid to use food to teach your dog, especially if your dog, like mine, loves food.  Lexie is not spoiled and she's not fat, even though we use treats almost every day to learn and review tricks. If we are doing review of really basic tricks that we learned 6 years ago in our first obedience class (sit, stay, down, shake), low-value treats work just fine.  Low-value treats in our house include dog kibble (maybe just a few pieces from her regular meal), or--even lower--just some praise and a little rub on her neck. If your dog is not a chow hound, there are other options--don't worry!  But all live dogs need to eat, so it's possible you just haven't found the food that will make your dog sit up and learn.  Here is one example of treats that are high value to Lexie, and might be for your dog, too:
Vienna Chicken Sausages

Vienna Chicken Sausages

Yes, Libby's Vienna Chicken Sausages.  There are three main reasons for this: 1) most importantly, they are available in the bodega downstairs for me, so I can grab some any time; 2) they come in small cans, so we can use them up in a couple days and not have to throw any away, and 3) they are meaty-delicious treats that Lexie just loves, better than any treat they sell "for dogs" at the pet food store.
First cut into strips, then cut cross-wise

First cut into strips, then cut cross-wise

The trick to getting 300 treats out of one small can of sausages, it cutting the little wieners into 4 strips, then cutting those strips cross-wise.  These treats are the right size for my 61-pound Rottie mix.
Even tinier treats

Small treats on the left, even tinier treats off to the right

If you have a little dog, like a Maltese, or a puppy who weighs a lot less than Lexie, you might want to cut each little piece in half again.  I get 40 small treats per sausage, or 80 tinier treats per sausage. With 8 2-inch sausages per can, that's 320 treats per one 99-cent can. Dogs only need a little taste, and they will work hard for these tiny, tasty morsels.
Lexie watching me make the treats

Lexie eagerly awaits her training session!