Best Treats for Training Puppies and Small Dogs
I recently got a Dachshund puppy and found I needed a lot of really good training treats for her.
Since I had the chance to start “fresh” with her, I signed her up for puppy classes to socialize her, want to train her to follow obedience commands, and teach her to be a well-mannered dog (yes, it is possible to train a Dachshund).
UPDATED: March 23, 2023.
I learned in class that what matters most to a dog when you are training them is the frequency of the treats, not the size of the treat.
That means that I can easily go through a half bag of training treats in one class.
In order for my Dachshund to be really motivated to learn, and for me to feel ok about giving my small dog that many training treats during class, I spent a lot of time (and money) searching for the right ones.
I want to share what I learned to make things easier for you.
Note: some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that we receive a small commission if you make a purchase.
What Makes a Good Dog Training Treat for a Dachshund?
The best training treats for your Dachshund will be:
This has a lot to do with your dog’s preference.
Generally, though, a high value dog treat is delicious, not a flavor that they get normally, sometimes described as smelly or stinky.
During dog training, you’ll give your dog a lot of treats so they need to be low calorie.
Small dogs like Dachshunds can easily become overweight if fed too many calories.
For Dachshunds specifically, and other dog breeds prone to IVDD, it’s very important to keep them from being overweight because excess weight can put pressure on their already fragile spines.
Although there is a little more leeway with puppies because they are rapidly growing so use up a lot of calories, you still don’t want to overdo it.
I don’t use treats that are over 5 calories each and try to find ones that are under 2 calories each.
This kind of goes with the above in that, generally, a smaller treat has less calories.
There are also several other reasons to choose small training treats for your Dachshund.
- The smaller volume the treat, the more you can give your small dog without filling up their little belly and causing indigestion
- Rapid rewarding is key during training so you want your dog to be able to eat the treat fast in order to get to the next command
Sometimes I end up buying that cat version of the treat because they are half the size, or less, of the dog version.
With the higher quality treats, often the ingredients are exactly the same in both the cat and dog versions (be sure to check though by reading the labels carefully though!).
Hold Together Well
It’s very disappointing to reach in your pocket only to pull out a handful of dust or microscopic crumbs.
It feels gross, it gets stuck under your fingernails, and the treats are essentially unusable.
Some of the small treats, especially the semi-moist ones, are prone to crumbling.
You can test how likely they are to hold up by first giving them a light squeeze between your fingers.
One important thing to note when choosing training treats for your Dachshund is that taste trumps quality to a certain extent.
In other words, in order to make your dog obsessive about listening to you and following commands, you need to choose a training treat that they can’t resist.
I’m usually a food quality snob when it comes to what I feed my dogs but I’ve had to lower my standards a bit when I’m training.
Of course, you don’t want to choose something that is harmful to them but think donuts vs. broccoli in your own diet.
A few donuts once in a while are ok for most people. While broccoli is better, most people aren’t super excited about chowing down on a plate of broccoli.
However, I still try to choose the healthiest treats available.
The Best Training Treats for Small Dogs and Puppies
I searched around for treats I could use for training my small breed puppy and tested out many of them.
These are my top picks.
My #1 favorite dog treat for training my small dogs
Hallelujah! I after years of searching, I finally found the perfect dog training treat for small dogs.
Pupford dog training treats are single ingredient, made of real meat (except for the sweet potato flavor) and are only one calorie each!
While they will work for any dog, they are a great size specifically for puppies and small dogs.
Available flavors include:
- Beef liver
- Sweet potato
For 10% off, use this Pupford training treats link and enter the code summitgretel10 at checkout.
Read my Pupford Treat Review for more info.
Other small dog treats for training
Zuke’s Mini Naturals
Zuke’s Mini Naturals are made with only whole food, natural ingredients and are crafted in the USA.
Each treat contains approximately 3 calories and can easily be broken in half to make each treat 1.5 calories.
Redbarn Pet Products Protein Puffs Cat
Redbarn Protein Puffs are baked treats that combine natural ingredients and lots of protein.
I use the cat version because they are smaller and are less than 1 calorie per bite.
They come in three different flavors to match your dogs favorite tastes.
Crumps’ Naturals Mini Trainers Freeze Dried Beef Liver
Crumps’ Beef Liver Mini Trainers are made with just a single ingredient (beef liver) and complement a raw food diet.
These low-calorie treats are made in Canada.
First Mate Mini Trainers
FirstMate Mini Trainers have only 1 kcal per treat.
These high reward treats are designed to be a meat-based alternative to a typical biscuit.
While my Dachshunds don’t find them as high value as some others on this list, they are eager to perform established commands for them.
Human food you can use
Sometimes you may want to use human food cut it into tiny pieces as training treats.
This usually ends up being less expensive than store bought dog training treats but is often messier (although, you can put a thin, latex free disposable glove on to help keep your hands clean).
Some examples of human food that can be cut into tiny pieces and used for dog training treats are:
- String Cheese
- Hot Dogs
- Cooked lean ground beef
Don’t Forget the Dog Training Equipment
Besides having training treats on hand that your dog absolutely loves, there are some supplies that may also make training sessions easier for you and more effective.
A Convenient Way to Hold the Treats
In order to make training rewards “rapid fire”, they need to be conveniently and quickly accessible.
The easiest way to hold dog treats when training is by using a treat pouch.
My favorite is the Ruffwear Treat Trader Pouch.
I like it because:
- It’s deep enough to hold a lot of treats
- It clips around your waist using an included webbing belt
- It has an easy-access magnetic closure, which pulls open quickly by grabbing a red tab on the outside
- It’s not huge and bulky
It can be worn with the included waist strap or clipped to a belt, has a magnetic closure, and has one small outside pocket to hold poop bags or a clicker.
If I’m being honest though, sometimes I just stick dog treats right in my pockets when we are not in training class.
Yes, that can be messy, and means that I sometimes walk around smelling like dog treats, but it’s the easiest for me when we are on the go.
If you are like me, one good solution is the Hurtta Trainer’s Vest
The vest is water-repellent and breathable, has reflective markings for visibility, and has a hood that can be folded inside the collar.
It’s got 4 zippered pockets, including (most importantly!) one with a detachable Inner pocket that can easily be washed after use.
I do hear it runs a bit small so you may want to size up.
A Visual Go-To Place
When you are training your dog, especially if you are taking a training class, you’ll want to establish a go-to place they should rest between training exercises.
The goal is to get your dog to sit or lay down in one spot to rest (practice self-control) and wait for your next command.
This is often called teaching a “place” command in puppy class.
In order for this command to make sense for your dog, they need a visual marker to tell them where they should sit or lay down.
You can accomplish this by using some kind of mat to visually marks the spot you want them to go to.
My favorite thing to use for this is the West Paw Nap Mat (it’s comfy and comes in so many fun colors).
Even a folded towel would work but make sure you are always using the same color and size mat, at least at first, so your dog starts to recognize it.
A Clicker for Marking Commands
I refused to use a clicker in any dog training attempt before I got my puppy.
It was because I really didn’t understand how to use one.
I was afraid that my dog would become dependent on the clicker – never doing the command unless I used one – and there would be many times I didn’t have a clicker with me.
However, I can attest that a clicker does make your dog pick up a command way faster than not using one.
To learn more about why and how clicker training can be valuable, watch the video below.
I use the StarMark Clicker because it makes the sharpest, loudest noise and has not started to wear out or gotten quieter with a lot of use.
The concept is that a clicker, versus using your voice, produces a precise sound at the precise moment your dog does the thing you want them to do.
This way they learn, more quickly, exactly what they should do when you say the command.
However, you can choose to use a marker word like “YES!” instead of a clicker or in addition to (that’s what I do).
Once they have the command down reliably, you phase the clicker out so don’t be afraid to use one like I was.
Choosing the right small dog treats for training will help motivate your dog and reduce the chance that too many treats will make them fat.
I’ve presented my favorites in this article.
Whether you choose to take my suggestions, or search for your ideal dog training treats, the selection process for puppies and small dogs should include the size, calories, and ingredients.
It’s important to choose something that is small and low calorie while being of high value and irresistible to your pup.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
WOOHOO, I will look for the cat puffs treats, I bet Ruby would like those. I use little pieces of cheese, she will do anything for cheese. She knows sit, down-lay down, crawl, roll over, shake for her right paw and high 5 for her left paw, taps my hand if she wants what I have, wait- for being picked up for the car, bed, couch. she is super nice about taking a treat from anyones hand, walks pretty well on a leash, has great recall, but I sure would like to teach her to stop barking when we go outside. I know from previous doxies its ‘hey I am outside now’ letting everyone know! but it drives me crazy. the only way I can curb it is to carry a fly swatter, just carry it. Her mom and dads owner would smack the coffee table with the fly swatter if the pups got to loud playing. almost 11 yrs later and she still remembers. any suggestions for the barking? cece
How do you keep the cheese from not being messy? I’d love to use cheese more regularly but it gets soft and gross! And good for Ruby for knowing so many commands. Hats off to you and her 🙂 As for the barking, at this stage, I don’t think there is any way to train her not to do it. If there are things that Gretel does that I know I won’t be able to correct, we just avoid the situations that set her off as much as possible. Sorry I’m no help. Ha, ha.
My dachshund loved carrots, so with so many dogs getting sick from bought treat’s, carrots became his treat
I found the best dachshund is one that has been socialized at a young age, and believe me it helps as my vet office told me once, I had the nicest dachshund that came into the clinic.
I wholeheartedly agree that socializing a dog at a young age, especially a Dachshund, is one of the best things you can do to help them be well behaved dogs later in life. And my girls love carrots too 🙂
Dachshund are barkers..Some more so than others. That’s how they communicate.Maybe you should look in to another breed. If it bothers you that much.
I’ve been searching for high value, healthier treats for training! My puppy loses his mind for tiny pieces of hot dogs, but I love the other options you recommend! Thanks!
I discovered the Crumps at my local pet store and have been using them for my standard poodle. Love the small size, but wish their other treats were as small.
It’s been so long since I actively trained that I forgot that 1 of my favorite treats to use was cat food. I remembered after I got some samples of some premium cat food. The kibble pieces are a good size to use.
I hear you. I would also like to use some of their other treats but they are so big.
Thank You For Sharing This Amazing Article… I was searching for treats for my 5 years old pub. I really want to keep him healthy. I have tried Crumps’ Naturals and i found them good enough for my pet. and I found many other good ideas here for my jack .. Once Again Thank You.
Awesome article on training for Doxies! I wish I had seen this while my Emmy were still with us. Unfortunately, she crossed the Rainbow Bridge a little over a year ago, and I miss her terribly. This article would’ve been perfect for her (And me!)! Keep up the great work, I will continue to follow to prepare for when I get my next Doxie! Well written, easy to follow, and relieves much worrying over training techniques! Thanx!
Thank you and I am sorry for your loss.
Thanks for sharing this article. I think some dogs are just particular. I’ve bought treats for both my dogs and they have such different tastes sometimes. Other times it makes no difference!
I’m sure over the many years you’ve owned dachshunds unfortunately you’ve had to deal with loosing one or more. Sunday two weeks ago I lost my little buddy?, after12 years 8 months & 8 days. I haven’t been able to remove his bed, toys, etc in the house, pickup etc. I have never grieved like this in my life, spending several years with him in my lap after spinal surgery. Being retired and 68 plus years young it’s really a hard loss!! He fully recovered but he was my shadow and like a part of me for so many years!
Do you have any suggestions on getting over my little “Yogi”?
Thank You Very Kindly For Your Time,
Hi Robert. I’m sorry for your loss and apologize for my delayed response. It’s been some time since you left this comment. How are you doing now? Sometimes only time can heal. Other times, changing your perspective can help. When I’ve had to let my dog’s go, I tried to choose my sacrifice as the “last, best, noble thing” I could do for them. Letting go is hard but choosing to do so despite that, so they no longer have to suffer, is one of the kindest things you can do for your pet. Also, there are some people that choose to heal their heart by donating all of their dog’s stuff to a shelter or rescue (helping needy dogs) or to welcome a new dog into their home. Everyone has to find their own path to healing.
Thank You For The Kind Words & Suggestions. I’ve Put A Deposit On A Black & Tan Pup And Believe It Will Help Fill My Day Taking Care Of Her. “YOGI” Was A Dapple Male & I Was Hoping A Female Might Be Easier To Potty Trained.
Thank You Again And GOD BLESS!!,
Congratulations and good luck!
With my 13 year old doxie died in my arms on New Year’s Day, my heart broke. She was my last birthday gift from my husband before he died. Had originally figured I would have to wait a little bit to get another 1. Boy was I wrong! I am glad I started hunting 2 weeks later. I found my new baby Lilywho was born the week before Daisy died on Christmas Eve. Once I learned the date she was born I knew she was the one for me. It took one look at each other to know we were right for each other. My advice is do what feels right TO YOU. And only you will know what that is Only you. Only you can know when that is. Good luck.
I’m sorry for your loss, in both cases. I know how heard it is to have to say goodbye to a “part” of a beloved family member who passed. I am glad you and Lily found each other though 🙂
Adopt another one