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How to Use Treats Effectively in Your Dog’s Training Routine

dog jumping for treat

Your dog probably loves treats because they smell and taste good, but on the owner’s side, these little goodies are an integral component of a successful training regimen. Treats can reinforce positive behavior and motivate your dog to have good manners and habits. However, they can also encourage bad conduct and tendencies if used incorrectly. Here are some tips for effectively training a dog with treats so that both human and hound are satisfied. 

The Importance of Dog Training

Before anything else, let’s talk about why training is important. Unfortunately, some owners have the erroneous notion that a dog can just “do its own thing” and everything will fall into place. This is simply not true. Dogs need structure and rules just like children, so it’s up to you to lead them down the right path. Here are the top reasons why proper training is a must.

To Teach the Fundamentals of Daily Life

Make no mistake: life, as you knew it before having a dog, will never be the same. Along with all the pleasures of having a furry friend come the pains, such as destructive chewing, jumping up on the furniture (or on people), and excessive barking or other behavioral issues. Training is helpful when teaching your dog basic manners, but the added bonus is mental and physical enrichment that can prevent your dog from developing anxiety and other stress-related conduct. In order to successfully teach the basics, you’ve got to have a good grasp on how your dog handles certain situations, making perpetual observance essential.

To Increase Sociability

From different people, places, and things, socialization is the key to giving your dog the confidence to deal with day-to-day occurrences while also protecting their safety. The best time to start the socialization process is when your dog is just a puppy as this decreases the chances of being fearful, aggressive, or ill-mannered as an adult.

To Form a Positive Bond

One of the best ways to have a healthy relationship with your dog is with a training method that is rewarding, fun, and stimulating. Positive training includes using treats as rewards to motivate a dog for positive behavior while allowing you to establish a solid bond based on shared respect and trust.

Benefits and Tips for Training a Dog with Treats

Reward-based training that incorporates treats is beneficial because it strengthens the bond between human and hound while encouraging your dog to develop good habits and behaviors — the use of treats also increases their focus. It’s interesting to note that if a dog is not rewarded for positive behavior, they are likely to stop doing the action, so what good is that? However, it is possible for your four-legged friend to have too much of a good thing, so here’s how to correctly incorporate treats into your training routine.

Use Dog Treats as Tasty Bait

The lure technique is used when you want to coerce your dog into performing a certain action or behavior. For example, if you want your dog to sit, hold a treat high above its nose —  but within sniffing range. As the snout goes up the tush goes down, so simultaneously speak the word “sit.” Luring works for several commands including heel, down, come, wait, off, rollover, and more.

Use Treats as an Effective Reward

Reinforce positive behavior by rewarding your dog with a treat — ideally, a type of behavior or action that you’d like them to repeat. This could be not jumping up on guests, staying off your bed or couch, obeying verbal commands, or not begging at the table during your dinnertime. If you use the lure technique, remember to give your dog the treat as soon it completes the behavior so that it understands it has done something correctly.

Best Dog Treats for Training

There are a lot of treats out there so it can be easy to become overwhelmed when you’re trying to figure out what to purchase for your furry little friend. Here are some general guidelines for choosing the best dog treats for training. Talk to the nutritionists in your KONG Club app to help pick the right treats for your specific pet.

Do: Keep the Dog Treats Small

When it comes to training treats, size matters. Opt for the smallest treats you can find — even kibble can work — and only give one bite per reward. If you notice that your pup isn’t responding to the treats after a while, switch over to something different to boost their interest level. After all, a treat should taste like a “treat,” not something they have all the time. The only time it’s acceptable to give a slightly larger treat (or a bit of human food like cooked chicken or liver) is if the reward is for something large like making it through a plane trip, adjusting to a new home environment, etc. 

Don’t: Overdo It

It’s definitely possible to overdo the treats — especially if you’re in the socialization phase when you want to nip any bad behavior in the bud. As a general rule of thumb, treats should not exceed 10 percent of your dog’s daily caloric needs, which will depend upon their size and age. Don’t hesitate to ask your vet if you’re unsure of what their calorie intake should be as you don’t want your four-legged friend to become overweight or obese. If there’s already a weight issue present, reduce the number of treats below the 10 percent limit and opt for low-calorie bites that support weight control. Make sure you keep all goodies out of sight so that they’re not begging by the treat jar.

Potential Issues to Look Out For

Even if you have the best intentions, there are some potential pitfalls that can occur when training your dog with treats. The good news is that they are avoidable as long as you stay strong and don’t give in to those cute puppy dog eyes.

Weight Gain

We can’t stress this enough as weight gain can cause a host of other problems, such as joint issues, difficulty breathing, and heart complications. Stay within the recommended calorie allotment per day.

Food Dependency

Too many tasty treats could prompt your dog to eat less — or none — of its core meals because it became too dependent on treats. Think of it like the person who lives off of junk food, such as chips, versus eating a healthy meal. This shouldn’t be an issue if you’re not overdoing the treats and your dog has a nutritious yet delicious meal waiting for them come feeding time.


You’re only going to be reinforcing bad behavior if you bribe your dog with treats for things like barking (just because you want them to be quiet) or getting into something they shouldn’t. In your dog’s mind, what they are doing is okay because you rewarded them for it. Instead, work on correcting the negative behavior and commending it when it’s corrected.

Lack of Respect

If your dog thinks they can pull you by the nose and get treats all of the time, they’re not showing you respect. Prevent this by tying in reward-based training with playtime so that you’re keeping the bond between you two strong.

Making Training Easier with KONG Club

Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Relax! the vet experts and trainers in your KONG Club app are here to help you keep your dog’s tail wagging during behavior modification and the training process!