How to Train Your Puppy with Treats

One of the most significant responsibilities a new puppy parent has is to make sure their pup is trained correctly. The proper training is crucial to ensuring that, as an adult, your puppy will be well-behaved and get along well with everyone.

If this is your first time adopting a puppy, the task of training them might seem a little overwhelming. It takes time, perseverance and persistence, and a heaping pile of patience, too. Luckily, humans have been training dogs for thousands of years, so there are lots of methods already available. 

Indeed, many excellent training methods have been devised to train puppies to do all sorts of things, including police work and as companion animals. For most of us, though, the basics are needed, including sit, stay, heel, and so forth. These are the commands you’ll use every day when your little puppy is a full-fledged adult dog.

I was thinking about how many puppies I’ve trained the other day and all of the methods that I’ve used. That reminded me of a question I’m asked all the time by new puppy parents; how to train your puppy with treats?

The answer to this question isn’t simple, as dog training with treats isn’t a simple process. You need treats, of course, but you also need to know the best way to use them so that you get the desired results (and not just an overweight, treat-obsessed pooch).

You also need to use the proper treats, ensuring that they don’t stress your puppy’s health or cause long-term health problems. Just like with human snacks, some dog treats are healthier than others. Knowing which treats are better for your pup’s health is crucial.

If you want to know more about training your puppy with treats, please read below. I’ve got some real-world information coming up that can be very helpful and will empower you to raise a healthy, active, and socially-stable adult dog. So Sit. Read. Enjoy. Good dog!

Should You Train Your Puppy With Treats?

According to the AKC and various canine experts, training your puppy with treats is an excellent method that uses positive reinforcement through giving them a reward (the treat). The fact is, using treats that your puppy loves is a powerful training tool and one that has been used for centuries to train puppies and help them become well-behaved adult dogs. 

Training with treats is a form of positive reinforcement. You use treats to reward your dog for doing something that you want them to do, hopefully without a treat being needed in the future. The treat, in this situation, is the tool that will show your dog that the behavior they’re exhibiting is behavior that you want them to repeat. 

I mentioned earlier that the AKC (American Kennel Club) recommends training a puppy with treats. The Humane Society of the United States also recommends it as an excellent training tool for puppies of all breeds. Of course, every breed and puppy is different, and some will learn better with treat training than others. 

When Can You Start Training Your Puppy with Treats?

Dog experts agree that you can start training your puppy with treats at about eight weeks of age. That’s relatively young, of course, which means that your puppy probably won’t have a whole lot of patience with the process. That’s why it’s also recommended that you only train your puppy with treats between 5 and 10 minutes a day. That way, they won’t lose interest and get frustrated (and neither will you).

It’s also suggested that, no matter how the training session goes, you should always end it on a positive note. For example, if your precious puppy has trouble learning something new, go back and review something they already know. That way, they will be successful, and you can give them a treat and plenty of praise.

When training your puppy with treats, there are also a few things that you need to keep in mind, including some of the behaviors and responses that you’ll see from your puppy while training them. They include:

A Positive Response

The best reason to use treats for training your puppy is that it works. In fact, treat training is probably one of the best ways to get your puppy’s attention, keep it, and help them learn new tricks, behaviors, and responses.

Possible Dependence on Treats

One problem with using treats to train a puppy is that, in some cases, they might become dependent on the treat to perform a trick or listen to your commands. This dependence on treats can be problematic and is one of the reasons why some people are against training puppies with treats.

Affection and Praise

It’s essential that you provide a lot of affection and praise to your puppy (even while rewarding them with treats) for good behavior, learning a new trick, or responding positively to a command. That way, once you decide to start weaning them off treats and start using the commands alone, you will have something to fall back on.

How Many Treats Can you Give your Puppy a Day for Training?

One of the most significant drawbacks to training a puppy using treats is that, in time, they may become overweight or even obese. Also, if you give them too many treats, you could spoil their appetite for their regular kibble, which can cause other frustrating problems.

I recommend using the 10% rule for training puppies with treats. That means the treats you use when training your puppy should make up approximately 10% of their daily calories. So, for example, if your puppy needs 300 calories a day, 30 calories or less should come from treats while the other 270 should come from their regular, daily kibble.

Remember that treats, while an excellent tool for training, are more like dessert than actual dog food. If you give puppies too many treats you can create an imbalance in their nutrient and calorie intake and, as I mentioned earlier, also create uninterest in their regular kibble.

What Treats Are Best for Training Your Puppy?

There are, to be sure, a wide variety of treats that you can use when training your puppy with treats. You need to look for a treat that is nutritionally sound and doesn’t distract your puppy from the task at hand, which is to learn a new command, trick, or skill.

Treats that your puppy loves usually work the best, of course, but might not be very healthy for them. Using treats that your puppy doesn’t thoroughly enjoy, though, is mostly fruitless as they won’t want the treat and thus won’t have any interest in learning the new command or trick you’re trying to teach them.

Canine experts recommend using a combination of high, medium, and low-value dog treats. High-value treats are usually moist, aromatic, and something your puppy gets very infrequently. They should be used when you’re training your puppy something brand new that you really want them to concentrate on. 

Medium value treats can be given more frequently, leaving crunchy low-value treats when training low-value commands. One of the best ways to determine if a specific treat will work with your puppy is simply to purchase a few different treats and see which one they enjoy most.

Final Thoughts

How to train your puppy with treats varies from puppy to puppy and treat to treat. In short, it’s not a simple, one-size-fits-all answer. It’s also not a straightforward process with some puppies and can be a bit frustrating for both the puppy and you, their new puppy parent.

You need to use the right treats, make sure that they’re healthy for your puppy, and, of course, ensure that your puppy likes the treat enough to follow your commands and learn new skills to get it.

Hopefully, you enjoyed today’s blog and learned a lot about how to train your puppy with treats. If you have more questions or want to know about other foods that you can use as a snack for your precious puppy, please be sure to read my other blogs on the subject. All of them are filled with practical, real-world information that new puppy parents like yourself will find invaluable.