by Jill Kessler-Miller, CPDT
If you have a dog with special dietary requirements, this article is probably not for you. I understand that some dogs can only have Cheerios. And I’m sorry.
When a trainer tells you to use “high-value” treats, she doesn’t mean kibble. She doesn’t mean hard biscuits that you can’t break without pruning shears, or a handful of stale pretzels from the cabinet. She means the kind of stuff that will not only get your dog’s attention but have them offering to stand on their heads to get a bite of what you have. And that means MEAT.
Everyday training treats
For everyday training or class exercises for moderate/non-problem dogs, I like to use a product called Happy Howies (www.happyhowies.com) or some other soft meat product, such as dog-jerky or prepared hotdogs (recipe below). I’ve also been known to use cubes of cheddar, or some other stinky cheese (the smellier the better). Sometimes I grab old turkey slices out of the refrigerator, or cut up leftovers from dinner, such as chicken, pork roast, or whatever else is soft and easy to cut up and serve in small pieces. Remember, dogs don’t eat by flavor but by smell—you want something aromatic and enticing to their noses.
For dogs that are either over-aroused, aggressive, inattentive, or for competition days:
Sometimes you have to bring out the big guns. On those days I use fresh chicken (Or, go buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the market. Use judiciously as these typically contain a lot of salt!), or steak. Yep—STEAK.
I like to go to the “manager’s special” area of the meat department and look for meat that is about to expire and is on sale. Stew meat, cubed meat, pounded meat. . . if it’s inexpensive, unseasoned, and beef, pork or lamb I grab it. My personal preference is beef.
When I get home, I heat up a pan and cook it up on high heat. Sometimes I use a little olive oil, and a dash of Worcester sauce. When it’s done, I put it on paper towels and let it drain. I cut into the size I want, wrap in a clean, dry paper towel, put it in a freezer bag and toss in the freezer. Now I have something amazing when I need it!
People often ask me “Why are your dogs so happy and willing?” Because I bribe them with super-delicious treats. “Why is my dog following you around?” Because I have the best snacks. “What do you have in your treat bag that the dogs are so crazy about?” Meat! If a dog works for me, I PAY THEM AND PAY THEM GENEROUSLY. That’s why all dogs work for me, and are happy to see me. Because I am a sure-fire high-quality Pez-dispenser!!
RECIPE: Hotdog Jerky
One package of good BEEF hotdogs (not the cheap crappy ones!!)
1. Cut into pieces slightly larger than you want to end up with.
2. Put a couple of paper towels on a plate. Put the hot dog pieces on the paper towels in a single layer. Cover with a few more paper towels.
3. Put in microwave for six (6) minutes. You now have super treats! They are very smelly, and dogs can’t ignore it, they’re too yummy! The hold well in the refrigerator and freezer.
**Warning—be careful with hot dogs, as they are high in sodium. I do use them, just not frequently.