The most important aspect of owning a dog is that it is trained to come to you and be calm around people and animals. Good training makes for a happy relationship between you, your dog and other park or countryside users. And the very last thing you want is for your dog to chase livestock or wildlife.

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My dog Idris is a lovable mix of whippet, greyhound and border collie. Which means he’s fast, gentle, excitable and sensitive. He loves to play with other dogs but his most challenging trait is that he jumps up to greet people. This can cause problems and means he spends more time on a lead than I’d like. So I decided to embark on a fresh bout of intensive training. For him to respond and for us to reinforce a set of boundaries about jumping up and recall, I needed the very best treats.

How to choose the right dog treat

Number 1, a dog treat has to be appealing to the dog. He/she must want it badly enough as a reward to carry out the appropriate command.

Number 2, it’s got to be good for the dog. There's no point training a dog if you’re undermining its health through the rewards you’re giving it. Carbohydrate-heavy food can mean they are difficult to digest and the dog will produce loose, sloppy and smelly poo – unpleasant for all concerned. So I focused more heavily on protein rich and grain free treats.

Number 3, it’s got to be easy to handle on a cold day when you might be wearing gloves or be holding a lead or poo bag in one hand.

Number 4, it should have as environmentally sustainable as possible. And that includes the packaging.


The best dog treats for training

There are hundreds of options out there and I will continue to test as Idris and I work our way to a less jumpy future, more obedient. But these are the best of the treats for dog training that I’ve tested so far.

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Forthglade Turkey Natural Soft Bites

Heart-shaped 2p coin sized soft treats that can be broken in half for smaller dogs. Natural ingredients and grain-free
Also available in Salmon, Chicken and Duck and Lamb, plus others.

Pros
Perfect size for treat giving – both for dog and owner.
Quality ingredients
Soft and easy to handle
Dog avidly enjoyed these and ate quickly without losing attention
Little smell

Cons
Packaging is recyclable but not universally accepted at kerbside.
Soft texture meant that half packet had disintegrated while in a coat pocket.

Muddy brown and white beagle seen from behind

The Innocent Hound Sliced Duck and Cranberry Sausage

Air-dried slices of soft treat (5p sized) – all natural ingredients including 80 per cent duck meat, potatoes and cranberry. Also available in Salmon Bites and Sliced Venison flavour among others.

Pros
Good size, easily handled by dog and owners
Dog adored these and ignored all other distractions.
Soft and easily chewed and eaten while walking so dog did not lose focus searching for crumbs
Recyclable packaging

Cons
Feeding guidelines suggest only 5-6 treats a day so not ideal for an intensive training session

Edgard and Cooper Good Boy Beef Bites (with strawberry and mango)

Cylinders of soft, leathery nibbles made from quality cuts of beef and with added fruit. 1 % of all sales goes to animal charities.

Pros
Quality ingredients and clear labelling
Biodegradeable packaging
Good size for giving as treat – long enough not to have nipped fingers
Dog adored these and ignored everything else

Cons
Slightly heavy smell

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Hug My Dog Cold Pressed Tasty Tester Pack

Cold pressed dog food Small hard cylindrical pellets - maize and wheat free. A variety of flavours including 'Salmon saviour' and 'Chicken Comfort'.
For my seven year old dog, they were probably best used as dog food rather than treats though would be ideal for intensive training a young dog when you can give an entire meal in the form of treats.

Pros
Small so you can really fill your pockets. Can take lots on a long walk.
Were extremely well liked and dog was fixated with them.
Natural ingredients – free-range, outdoor bred or wild meat only (minimum 79% meat content).
Very little smell
Easily recycled or composted cardboard packaging

Cons
Small and fiddly with cold fingers – I dropped a lot, which undermined the training
Small so was nipped more often as my dog tried to take the food from my finges.

Buy the Hug Pet Food tasty tester pack

Pedigree Markies Original Marrowbone Biscuit – 500g

Large cylindrical biscuits with softer inner – designed to look like bone marrow.

Pros
Appealing to look at.
Easy to handle
Cardboard packaging so easily recyclable

Cons
Large and crunchy which meant my dog spent a few seconds getting his teeth around them then hoovering up the dropped fragments so it broke his concentration.
Lots of grain in the product which could be fattening
Not the most loved of the treats tested

Nature’s Menu Original Lamb and Chicken

Soft, small yellow-brown pellets. Made with 95% real beef and pork. Gluten free

Pros
Soft and easily fed to the dog
No artificial colours, flavouring or grain
Very appealing – the dog's attention was solid

Cons
Quite a smell.
Recommends only 5 treats per 10kg – so not good for extended training sessions
Unclear whether packaging is recyclable
Long list of ingredients

Edgard and Cooper Juicy Chicken Jerky with Blueberry and Apple

Large soft, leathery strips of protein-rich treat. Designed more as a reward for extended good behaviour rather than one-off treats, this works well for training as it’s easy to handle and can be torn up into whatever size you need.

Pros
Good clear ingredients
Biodegradable packaging
Dog loved it.
Good smell

Cons
Easily pinched by dog from hand or treat bag if caught unawares

Buy Egard and Cooper Juicy Chicken Jerky treats from Amazon

Pedigree Biscrok Gravy Bones

Quite large bone shaped hard biscuits. Contains cereals, meat and animal derivatives source of Omega 3

Pros
Little smell, quite attractive
Easily grasped from the treat bag by cold fingers
Dog enjoyed these
Cardboard packaging easily recycled

Cons
Hard and crunchy and needed some chewing – meaning loss of concentration
Large – for my smallish dog they were better broken in half

Burns Carrot/Keltie Bites

Crisp dried carrot treats – 100% carrot/natural. Very similar in texture and looks to vegetable crisps. The Keltie bites – chicken and brown rice – are round biscuits about the size of a 50p coin. I feed my dog Burns dried food and it’s proven excellent for his overall health.

Pros
Carrot bites are a single ingredient – guaranteed good for the dog
Lightweight, easy to handle
Pleasant smell
Dog enjoyed very much

Cons
Large and crunchy – took a bit of chewing which meant loss of focus

Forthglade Fresh Breath Grain Free Turkey Treats

Hard biscuit-like heart shaped treats – more substantial than the soft treats. A range of natural ingredients.

Pros
Perfect size for treat giving – both for dog and owner.
Pleasant minty smell
Dog avidly enjoyed these

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Cons
Packaging is recyclable but may not universally accepted at kerbside.
Slightly crunchy which meant the dog dropped a few and spent time looking for crumbs

Authors

Fergus CollinsEditor, BBC Countryfile Magazine
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