A few years ago I used to buy expensive soft training rewards for my dogs. I was always concerned about them because of the preservatives and chemicals that are listed in the label, but I did not feel I had much of a choice. If any of you follow the top trainers in the nation, you may have heard of Michael Ellis. Michael runs a training school in California for dog trainers called The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers. He is considered one of the top motivational trainers in the country. Here is a link to his website:
The foundation of Michael's dog training system lies in marker training (also known as clicker training). I recently purchased his first video called "The Power of Training Dogs with Food." I love the DVD, and I have learned a lot by watching it. The video can be purchased at Leerburg.com, http://leerburg.com/220.htm.
According to Michael, training treats should be large enough that the dog sees them as a reward, and they should be soft and not too chewy. You do not want a treat that your dog cannot eat within a second or two, otherwise the training is disrupted.
I like to use liver from the grocery store. You can either buy beef liver or chicken livers. Both work well. I cook it in the microwave oven for about 5 minutes on a plate. I feed my dogs raw, but I do not want to work with raw bloody liver in my pocket when I am training! Yuk! Put the liver on a plate, and then nuke it for about 5 minutes. Once it is cooked through, cut it up into small treats. The longer you cook the liver, the easier it will be to handle. I have also tried cooking the liver in the oven on a cookie sheet. This will dry it out, but it takes more time. I don't have a lot of time to waste in my daily life, so the microwave method is working out well. I cook only as much as I think I will need for that particular training session. All of my training sessions are very short, so a handful of liver is plenty. One word of caution -- chicken livers seem to contain more water than beef liver. If you plan to cook your chicken livers in the microwave, make sure you cover them with saran wrap, otherwise they will explode all over your microwave and make a mess. I learned the hard way!
This training reward is inexpensive, easy to make, and very healthy for your dog! There are no chemicals or preservatives added. If you look at the label on most commercial pet treats, they are full of chemicals -- and very expensive. Let's look at Bil Jac Liver Treats that are commonly sold in most commercial pet stores. A 4 ounce box is $2.49 at some of the discount pet shops, but $2.99 at Petco. At $2.49/ounce, that that equates to nearly $10 per pound for liver treats. In comparison, I buy liver in the grocery store for about $1.29 per pound. Bil Jac treats are nearly 8 times more expensive than homemade liver treats.
Let's check out the ingredients in Bil Jac Liver Treats:
Ingredients in Bil Jac: Chicken liver, chicken, chicken by-product meal, corn, glycerin, high fructose corn syrup, wheat flour, propylene glycol, phosphoric acid, salt, calcium propionate, and potassium sorbate and BHA and citric acid (preservatives), iron oxide.
I really don't like to feed my dogs corn, high fructose corn syrup or any of the other chemicals listed here. My homemade liver treats are just beef liver or chicken liver. Easy, quick, inexpensive and healthy! Save yourself some money while doing the best thing for the health of your dog. Try it!