Personally, I’m a lazy chef. I barely cook for myself. But I have some tricks up my sleeve from years of training dogs on what kinds of treats work best for different training methods.
If you’re tired of spending money buying fancy dog treats and you’re wondering how to make dog training treats, I’ve got you covered.
Making dog treats at home is easy. To help you out, I asked my creative dog trainer friends who pitched in on this article and gave me their favorite recipes.
How do you make good dog training treats?
The best dog training treat for YOUR dog is a treat that:
- Your dog loves
- Is bite-sized or easy to break into little pieces
- Is not too messy
Small or breakable treats are usually the best fit for training treats because you don’t want to wait around while your dog chews a gigantic remote control sized biscuit. Sometimes you want something that is already in tiny units and other times you may prefer a larger treat that is easy to break up.
In my opinion, how messy a dog treat is negotiable. Personally, I don’t like my dog treats to ooze all over my hands. Or end up slobbered all over my pant leg. And if a treat is going in my pocket, it better be bone dry!
But the most important thing about a training treat is that your dog thinks it is absolutely delicious.
What do professional dog trainers use for treats?
As you’ll see by the range of different treats below, the exact treats that professional trainers use vary widely. It all depends on the preferences of the trainer and their dog(s).
Many trainers have a favorite brand of dog treats or use high-value food items such as hotdogs, cheese sticks, chicken, or even cheese balls. As long as the treat is something the dog thinks is a worthy reward, is safe for dogs to eat, and is easy to give, you’re good to go!
My current dogs are pretty easy to please and will work for almost anything, but go absolutely crazy for meats. Chicken and beef are go-to’s for shows, and sometimes some cooked liver.
What treats to use when training dogs?
The most important thing is finding a treat your dog LOVES. After all, you want it to be a reward to motivate him to learn something new!
Depending on what kind of dog training method you’re teaching, a different treat might be a better fit.
In the moment treats
For treats that I keep on hand to reward “in the moment,” not during a planned training session, I like something dry that can stay in my pocket for a while. Then when my dog obeys my “leave it” cue as he starts to sniff a dead squirrel on our walk, I can reward him for a great choice!
I often have some of those mini Milkbones in my pocket, and also like the Zuke’s training treats (soft but dry) and Orijen freeze-dried treats (these can sometimes be crumbly though).
Clicker training treats
For clicker training, where I need to give rewards quickly, I like something that is already in tiny pieces or that I can quickly break up ahead of time. That minimizes the delay between each click and my dog getting his reward.
Zuke’s training treats, or the tuna training treats in the recipes listed below are perfect for clicker training.
Agility training treats
For other things, like heeling or agility training, I like having a single large treat that I can break pieces off of as I go. The big chunk fits easily in my hand and I don’t have to worry about dropping tiny treats.
Cooked meats, such as beef or chicken, or cheese sticks are my favorites for agility training. Also, a slice of Natural Balance dog food rolls which are are soft and easy to break but not too mushy work very well.
10 homemade dog training treat recipes
Here are some tasty treats that you can try with your dog! Many of these sound good enough to be people snacks too!
1. Lexie’s Biscuits
2 cups flour
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk
- Mix ingredients together
- Roll out to desired thickness and use a cookie cutter for cutouts
- Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes (small cutouts) or 15 minutes (large cutouts)
2. Tuna Treats by McCannDogs
This one has several nominations and sounds pretty tasty! You will need a silicone baking sheet that has little pyramid divots in the bottom (or a silicone baking mold of your choice) for perfectly sized little training treats, or can just cook the whole mixture flat in a pan and then cut to the desired size.
1 can tuna with water
1 cup flour
Optional: ¼ cup grated cheese
- Mix well by hand or in a food processor
- Flip a silicone baking sheet upside down and spread the tuna mixture with a spatula
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15min
- Flip, gather, and enjoy!
3. River, Surfer Dude, Lucy, and Twizy’s Favorite Beef Treats
Top or bottom round roast
Optional: garlic powder or parsley flakes for seasoning
- Cut into 1” thick slabs
- Season with garlic powder and/or parsley flakes if desired
- Roast in oven
- Air dry slabs in fridge
- Cut into cubes or thin strips
- Freeze in snack bags to store
4. Deb’s Stew Meat
Is stew meat on sale at your grocery store? Time for some really delicious training treats.
- Cut into chunks or strips
- Boil thoroughly
- Dry on paper towels
- Store wrapped in paper towels (will stay good up to 2 weeks if stored this way)
5. Tuna/Salmon Brownies
These are recommended for beginner nose work and scent work dogs who haven’t started working with actual odors yet, but can be used for anything!
2 cans tuna or salmon in water
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 and 1/2 cup unbleached flour, can add more if needed to make a stiff batter
- Mix ingredients together well
- Press onto cookie sheet to about 1/4” thickness
- Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes to golden brown
- Cool and cut into treats sized for your dog.
6. Meat Brownies
Freeze extra and thaw as needed over a couple of months!
3 to 3 and 1/2 pounds liver, beef, or chicken
1 cup whole wheat flour
4.25 ounces minced garlic
2 cups white flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 medium shaker can of grated parmesan cheese
- Cover cookie sheet with foil, coat with cooking spray, and sprinkle with cornmeal, then set aside
- Process meat and garlic in a food processor or blender until it looks like milk chocolate
- Pour into a large mixing bowl and blend in the rest of the ingredients
- Spread evenly onto a cookie sheet (the mixture will be thick) and sprinkle with cornmeal
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min or until pink is gone
- Turn off oven and let cool inside
- Cut into treats sized for your dog
7. Sardine Brownies
1 can sardines packed in olive oil
1 sleeve graham crackers
- Mix ingredients in a blender until liquid
- Pour onto cookie sheet
- Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 min or until it looks rubbery and is brown on top
- Let cool and cut into treats sized for your dog
8. Wiley’s Roadrunner Bites
These dehydrated chicken hearts are sure to melt your dog’s heart! As a plus, they are non-greasy and can go in your pockets.
A small amount of garlic
- Simmer hearts with garlic
- Cut hearts into halves or quarters, depending on size
- Dry in the microwave until firm but not crunchy hard
9. The CoKo Tervs’ Freeze-Dried Liver
Beef or chicken liver
- Boil 30 minutes or so
- Drain (can save cooking water to put over dogs’ food)
- Cut up in small pieces
- Place on cookie sheets with parchment paper and freeze for a minimum of two weeks UNCOVERED
- Take one out after that time and let “defrost” on the counter – if no moisture, you are good to go!
10. Dehydrated Goodies
If you have a dehydrator at home, you are only limited by your imagination. Just slice thin and let the dehydrator work its magic!
Here are some things you can dehydrate for your dog:
- Sweet potatoes
No time to cook?
Need some training treats NOW but don’t have time to cook your own? Here are a couple of go-to’s that might fit the bill (and some are even healthy):
- Sliced up hotdogs (can microwave the slices to dry them out)
- Baby carrots
- Cheese sticks
- Deli meat (not ideal in large quantities due to how salty these meats can be)
- Frozen mini meatballs
- Snap peas
As you can see, it can be really easy to make your own homemade dog training treats! You can choose ingredients that your dog likes and have a little fun making them too.
Got a recipe you think other dog owners would enjoy? Feel free to share it with us!