Wednesday, February 16, 2011


  By a narrow margin treats have beaten out wubbas as the next topic you would like my opinion on...That's great, I love treats (talking about them...not eating them).  I also have a plan for wubbas, since they received some votes, as well.

   Treats are perhaps our greatest tool in dog training...a clicker can be replaced by the verbal cue, a piece of rope will work as an impromptu leash, but the treats (or motivators) you select will determine so many things about how your training session will go.  If the dog becomes full to quickly then it will loose interest in training.  If the smell of the treat is not appealing to the dog she won't work for it.  If it's so messy that it gets all over your hands you will fumble with it or drop it or worse confuse the dog.  If you have to spend three seconds breaking a treat into pieces you have missed your window to treat following a click and your training has just become useless.  So in the theme of High are my Top 5 All Time Greatest Treats:

   1) Zukes Mini Naturals (Salmon):
         Zukes are great all natural/high protein treats.  The minis are the perfect size for training sessions with any sized dog, because they pack a big taste into a small low-calorie bite sized treat.  Unlike many small treats they are moist and chewy.  The chewiness amps up the flavor, though when Cassie was a puppy I found that she would spend a little too much time chewing them.  Unlike other moist treats, I have never had the problem of them disintegrating in my pockets or covering my fingers in residue.    
   Though Salmon is Cassie's favorite (and the most smelly) they also come in Chicken and Peanut Butter flavors.  The Zukes brand offers a wide variety of treats, from crunchy bites to bigger jerky pieces and all are made with the best ingredients.  That said, they are a little expensive.  I alternate between buying from my local organic dog food shop (yes there is one on my doorstep, even in WV) and buying from a friend who gets them wholesale.  They can be picked up on Amazon for what I consider a very fair price (a $2 savings over my local shop and only $1 more than my wholesaler).  If you are training with your dog, I think you will see the benefits.

   One word of warning:  The bag must always be sealed tightly and the treats should never be left out to the air or they turn into little rocks.  I have even taken to putting them in a ziploc for class, because I have noticed they are less moist by the end of a training session.

   2) PureBites Beef Liver:
       Ok, another expensive choice...but well worth it, if you can afford it.  PureBites treats do exactly what they say on the they are made of 100% freeze dried beef liver.  They are high protein (obviously) and only 10 calories per treat.   Unlike the Zukes, they are more like a crunchy treat, though not exactly a biscuit.  They have a wonderful earthy smell that you have to become accustomed to, but I actually really like it now.  Also unlike the moist Zuke Minis, the PureBites Liver treats don't go off in your pocket.  I've found some in old coats and they are just the same as new.  I tend to go through several in a session, but I break them up turning each treat into about 5 mini-bites.  They also work for training obedience, because one big piece can be nibbled at very easily when walking at heel.
   PureBites come in many flavors other than beef liver, including chicken breast, cheddar cheese and various fish combos.  I've tried all the others and though they're wonderfully healthy, I find the liver works best for training, because it doesn't disintegrate easily.  You will have some liver dust in your pocket, but the freeze dried chicken and fish are just plain messy and difficult to work with.  I've also found Cassie prefers the taste of the liver to the other flavors.
    The only thing that might put some people off (besides the smell, which I promise you will come to love) is that because these treats are literally just freeze dried pieces of liver, they are not always of a consistent size or shape.  Some of the 'edge' pieces can be large and difficult to break up...I use these for "jackpot" treats!
   The price on Amazon is a good one...only a few dollars more than my wholesaler and whole lot cheaper than my local store.

   3) Dogswell Vitality (Chicken Breast):
    My last budget breaker is the Dogswell Vitality line.  Like the PureBites, these are just dehydrated pieces of chicken breast, but unlike the PureBites chicken version they're more of an infused crispy jerky than a crumbly piece of flaky chicken.  Dogswell also infuses their chicken treats with omega 3's from flaxseed, which I think has added a sheen to Cassie's already pretty coat.  They also claim that the chickens are all cage free, non-antibiotic, no hormones or fillers...etc...though I'm a little more practically driven (ie how well does the dog work for it), these are all good things.  What I really like is the smell, which is just that of cooked chicken it should be.  I'll admit, I've popped them into my own mouth and they do taste nice (though I did spit it back out).
   I like to take these on walks, because I can pop two or three in my pockets and then break it up into about 20 little treats per slice.  If you break them up in your pockets like I do, you will start to notice some chicken dust in your lining, however not nearly as much as with the PureBites version.  Otherwise, they are not messy and are very convenient.  They last a long time, so a big bag can go a long way, but it is important to keep the bag well sealed!
   Dogswell makes similar treats in duck and sweet potato, some of which are focused on older dogs and dogs with hip problems.  I have only tried the Chicken breast so far, because it's been such a success.

   4) Nutro Natural Choice Crunchy Fruit Treats (Apple):
    I haven't actually used these in awhile, though when we did Cassie really liked them.  Nutro is a good brand and these treats were recommended by a clerk at our local Petsmart, so I gave them a try.   Cassie isn't normally into dry crunchy biscuit treats, so I was a little worried she wouldn't take to them.  I also try to keep her away from as much grain as possible, but what got me again was the smell.  They really smell like apples (the favorite fruit of the Cassie dog) and have a very light texture making them easy to carry and break up into smaller bites.
    When we use them now it tends to be for 'good night' get in your kennel and have a treat! They also work well as treats to hide under a finger when you are doing things like training a 'nose bridge.'   If you've ever seen Celeste Meade on youtube, then you will know why it's often difficult to find treats of an appropriate size and texture for what she does.
   Going back to the smell, they are also good for playing games like Kyra Sundance's 'Shell Game,' where the dog has to find a hidden treat under a cup.  The apple smell is very distinctive and I've found much easier for the dog to isolate than meatier treats.
   They are very delicate though, even for a crunchy treat.  I've pulverized several trying to break them up, so you will probably have to empty your pockets of dust more than once in awhile.  They're a good healthy alternative to meat based treats and offer the dog a little something different.

   5) String Cheese:
    For everyone out there who, like me, is always spending a fortune on dog treats I have to say we're really wasting our time and money.  Nothing will ever top the simple string cheese!!!  Not a lot needs to be said here.  As long as you buy the low fat, low sodium (this is very important) version you can buy as cheaply as you want.  It all seems to taste the same to the dog.   It works well in just about every training situation, whether you chop it up into little bits for tricks class and agility or you simply twist off large pieces to teach heel work in obedience, string cheese is a winner and what all my trainers use.  I've hid it in Nina Ottosson toys, chopped it up and put it in food release toys and even stuck a whole stick down the middle of a kong full of wet dog food and frozen it.  As long as I have cheese, Cassie will never stop working.  I normally go through about three or four sticks per hour long class if I'm not using any other treats.  Though for digestion, it is often best to intersperse other treats between cheese sticks.   They are cheap and easy to find and probably the best thing on the market.  The only draw back is that you will sometimes get messy fingers and they don't keep outside the fridge for too long before turning into a gooey mush.

 I'll keep trying treats and update you off and on about you have a favorite that I've missed???


  1. I agree with the string cheese, definitely!! Riley goes nuts for it, plus it's cheap enough. I've used the first two treats as well and have liked them. Riley likes Pet Botanics Training Reward Treats that you can get at Petsmart. She also likes Crazy Dog Train Me! Treats that they sell at another local pet store here, Care-A-Lot Pets.

    Also, not for training, Riley likes Old Mother Hubbard dog biscuits.

    Okay, enough blabbering about treats...

    Elyse and Riley

  2. Rudy would be jumping with joy (if he were here), as he thinks this may convince me to buy him some more treats...
    I've never used string cheese before, I'll have to try it!
    Rudy's favorite treat is carrots, (large/small/ends) those are very cheap too :)

    Rudy's Raiser

  3. Sure, I'll do a guest post about our Wubba experience! Just let me know when you want it.