If you're using clicker training to train your pit bull--and we highly recommend that you do--you're going to need treats. But not just any treats. In order to be suitable for training, treats must meet certain criteria.
What Makes a Great Training Reward?
We have high standards for our training treats. If you do a lot of training with your pit bull, treats will constitute a significant part of your dog's diet on some days. That's why you don't want to use treats loaded with sugar and artifical additives.
Here are our criteria for the ultimate training treats:
- Made from 100% human-grade ingredients. We don't want ingredients rejected for human consumption in our dogs' treats any more than we want them in our dogs' food.
- Small in size. Dogs should be able to consume the treat in a split second and be ready to work for more, so rewards that are no bigger than a salad crouton are ideal.
- Won't make a mess. We don't want treats that will melt, crumble, turn to mush, or otherwise make a mess in our hand or pocket.
- Not too smelly. I don't know about you, but I don't relish the thought of smelling like fish or tripe for hours after a quickie 10 minute training session.
- Great taste. No, we haven't actually tasted these treats, but our dogs love them. In order to be effective for reward-based training, treats must be absolutely delicious. No ho-hum treats need apply.
- Low in calories. If you do a lot of reward-based training, those calories can really add up. That's why we prefer treats that deliver only around 2-3 calories a pop.
- Safe to feed in large amounts. Some treats--freeze-dried pure liver treats are a good example--are so high in certain nutrients that you can't feed more than half a dozen or so a day. That obviously makes them unsuitable for training.
- Not made in China. Given the history of recalls and the reports we've heard about manufacturing practices in China, we just prefer to stick to products made in North America, New Zealand, Australia, or Western Europe.
- No questionable ingredients. We stay away from treats that contain artificial additives including flavors and colors, chemical preservatives, sugars including fructose, sucrose, and corn syrup, or propylene glycol.
Our Favorite Training Treats
The following are some of our favorite training treats. We have included inexpensive treats for everyday training as well as "high value" treats. All meet the criteria outlined above.
ZiwiPeak's Good Dog Treats are over 90% meat, but not just any meat. ZiwiPeak uses only the finest New Zealand meats, ranch raised without antibiotics and growth hormones. The treats are air-dried and minimally processed, so nutrients remain largely intact.
These are small, thin chip-type treats that can be broken into even smaller pieces if you like. They have no smell, make no mess in hands or pockets (including jeans pockets), and dogs think they're the tastiest treat ever. Perfect for teaching your pit bull to walk on a loose leash, desensitizing dog aggressive pit bulls to other dogs, and any other time you need a super "high value" treat.
Available in 6 varieties:
Beef contains at least 90% free-range beef.
Lamb contains at least 90% free-range lamb.
Lamb Liver contains at least 66% free-range lamb muscle meat and at least 24% lamb liver.
Venison contains at least 90% free-range venison.
Venison and Fish contains at least 66% free-range venison and at least 24% white fish.
Venison and Green-Lipped Mussel contains at least 66% free-range venison and at least 24% green-lipped mussel.
All 6 varieties also contain chicory syrup, fish oil, lecithin, parsley, and mixed tocopherols (natural preservative).
Great for dogs with allergies, gastrointestinal issues, and those who don't do well with grains in their diet. In fact, these treats may just be the perfect training reward! They're quite pricey if you buy the 3 ounce pouch (about $5), but the 1 pound pouch is a great deal for $13-15, especially when you consider the quality of the ingredients and the fact that these treats are almost all meat.
Premier's Liver Biscotti treats are a long-time favorite of our dogs. Made in the USA with simple, wholesome ingredients and featuring USDA Select beef liver as the main ingredient, these 100% human-grade treats are sure to be a hit with your pit bull too.
Liver Biscotti treats are completely mess-free and have a dry, crunchy texture much like croutons. They're also low in fat and contain just 2 calories per piece.
The Original Recipe is made with beef liver, whole wheat flour, bran flour, water, carrots, egg whites, egg yolks, garlic, parsley, and baking powder, while the Wheat & Egg Free Recipe contains beef liver, oat and barley flour, water, carrots, applesauce, parsley, canola oil, and baking powder.
These treats come in four sizes. For training, stick with the Original Bite Size or the Small Bite Size. Both of these sizes come in 8 ounce (over 250 treats in Original size) and 5 pound (over 2,500 treats in Original size) bags. The 8 oz bag usually costs $7-9, while the 5 lb bag is a much better deal for around $50.
Need a "high value" treat for your pit bull? Our dogs absolutely, positively adore Cloud Star's Tricky Trainers Chewy Dog treats. These soft and chewy treats have only 3 calories each and come in salmon, liver, and cheddar flavors. The salmon variety is a particular favorite, but we must warn you: While these training rewards are nowhere near as stinky as some other fish treats we've tried, they're not exactly odorless either. If that's an issue, either keep them in their resealable pouch (as opposed to your hand or pocket), or stick with the other two varieties.
The Salmon and Liver varieties feature salmon or chicken liver as the main ingredient and also contain barley flour, potato flour, maple syrup, glycerine, tapioca starch, natural flavor, gelatin, salt, garlic powder, and natural preservatives.
The Cheddar variety contains barley flour, maple syrup, tapioca starch, potato flour, cheddar cheese, glycerine, natural flavor, gelatin, salt, garlic powder, and natural preservatives.
All Cloud Star treats are made in the USA using only human-grade, American ingredients. Each resealable 5 ounce bag contains 150 treats and typically costs $4-6.
Zukes Mini Naturals have a soft, semi-moist texture much like Cloud Star's Tricky Trainers and come in three delectable flavors: chicken, salmon, and peanut butter. The salmon flavor has a slight fish smell, but it's not overpowering and won't leave you smelling like fish for hours like some other salmon treats we've tried.
Despite the semi-moist texture, these treats won't fall apart, nor will they will leave grease stains in your pockets. They will dry out if exposed to air, but our dogs don't consider this to be a problem. If you prefer they keep their moist texture, use a resealable sandwich bag as your bait pouch. Dried treats can also be rehydrated by placing them between two moist paper towels.
These treats are made in the USA with 100% human-grade ingredients:
The chicken and salmon varieties feature salmon or chicken as their main ingredients. Other ingredients include ground rice, ground barley, malted barley, gelatin, vegetable glycerin, tapioca, brewers yeast, natural flavors, fish oil, lecithin, salt, and natural preservatives.
The peanut butter variety contains ground barley, ground rice, peanut butter, malted barley, vegetable glycerin, gelatin, tapioca, canola oil, lecithin, salt, and natural preservatives.
All three varieties make excellent "high value" treats, and at 2 calories a piece, you can afford to reward your pit bull a lot.
Available in 6 ounce and 1 pound sizes for $4-5 and $9-10 respectively.
Need a lower priced treat for everyday training that still meets all the above criteria? Then check out Charlee Bear Dog Treats. Made in the USA with all-natural, human-grade ingredients, these crunchy treats have no odor and won't be messy in your hands or pockets.
They come in three refreshingly simple recipes:
Liver contains wheat flour, poultry liver, salt, and garlic powder.
Cheese & Egg contains wheat flour, cheese, egg, salt, brewers yeast, and garlic powder.
And the new Turkey Liver & Cranberries variety contains wheat flour, turkey liver, cranberries, salt, and garlic powder.
The ingredients are naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), and each treat has only 3 calories. A 1 pound bag typically costs just $4-5.
If you don't mind spending some time in the kitchen, making your own training treats is always an option too. Be sure to check out our recipe for homemade training treats.