Cheap and Easy Training Treats

While I’d love to provide the super-fancy, mega-healthy homemade treats for my dog that Kolchak gets on a daily basis, it’s not always possible. For one, I’m really lazy. And two, I’d rather spend my extra time training and playing with Shiva, not fussing over something in the kitchen. Heck, I don’t even cook for myself!

Most of our sessions are pretty spontaneous. Often Shiva and I will practice our agility moves while my PH is making dinner. Or we will work out a new trick while I am waiting on my morning coffee. I don’t have time to put together something elaborate for her rewards. We need something quick, that I can grab on the fly, and that also has value for Shiva.

There are millions of great commercial products out there; unfortunately, the best ones tend to be a little pricey. I don’t mind paying more for quality but like many others, we are dog lovers on a budget. We go through a lot of treats in a day. Not only during our formal and informal training sessions but also on our twice-daily walks. I like to reward her as often as I can when I see her doing something well. It keeps that nasty reactivity monster at bay. Since we have yet to make our millions in Hollywood, we also need treat options that are inexpensive.


Lately, I’ve been running out of ideas. Shiva doesn’t seem to mind the same old standbys yet I do notice she has a lot more value for new. It doesn’t matter what it is: lettuce, a different flavour of biscuit, a handful of rice. If she hasn’t had it before, or at least for a long time, it is the most exciting thing in the world. Worth doing hand stands for, even. I attempted to do a google search for “cheap and easy training treats” and surprisingly I came up with zilch. Apparently no one has put together a list of simple and affordable dog treats.

How can this be? I guess this is why they say, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself!

Here is the list of the cheapie treats Shiva scarfs on a regular basis:

– Hotdogs: We buy these in gigantic quantities and store them in our freezer. Just heat them in the microwave for a few minutes, slice into wee bits, and get training! Leftovers store really well in the refrigerator in plastic baggies, which can also be re-used.

Cheese sticks: I used to love these as a kid. Gag, right? As an adult I vowed never to purchase such an inferior cheese – until I got a dog. Now I buy them all the time! They aren’t as cheap as hotdogs but they make up for price by being super-easy. Half the time I just break them into pieces with my fingers.

Cat treats: I may get a lot of death glares for this, but Shiva loves cat treats. She likes them even more than my cat does. I used to buy him all these great high-quality varieties but he turned up his nose in favour of kitty crack.* Why waste a good treat, right? The ingredients listed on the back appear harmless. In fact, many look better than what goes in popular dog treats.  Oddly, they also tend to be cheaper.

Canned tuna or salmon: Any canned meat will do. I’ve also used turkey and chicken. This stuff can be messy but I like mixing it in a plastic baggie with some kibble. It gives the kibble a stronger smell and thus a higher doggie value. My hands are covered in drool after a minute or so anyway. Dog training is totally gross business, don’t let anyone tell you different!

Random chicken or turkey parts: The local meat market is genius. They often put together packages of random animal parts to sell to silly dog owners like me. These packages are huge and very cheap. They also freeze well and cook within minutes in a microwave. Again, they can be kind of disgusting but I’d rather handle chicken bits than stinky tripe.

Sadly, this is where my creativity dies. It’s not a very long list. Do you have any cheap and easy ideas to add?


29 thoughts on “Cheap and Easy Training Treats

  1. Hi Kristine, hmmm…cheap and easy…sometimes we get salmon jerky. It’s not really cheap at $1 for a 5 inch strip but you can slice it up into smaller pieces. We also get salmon yappetizers which are like thick potato chips and they can be broken into smaller pieces as well. We like your ideas so perhaps it’s time to broaden our treat horizons.


  2. How about carrots? My guys love them. Also, I occasionally buy horse cookies (I live with two horses) and the dogs love them too.


  3. Right now I have a grain free good quality kibble, it is made by Blackwood I think I paid $2.99 American dollars for a one pound bag, which lasts me (depending on how much we are walking/training) a week to 10 days. I picked up some Trader Joe’s beef jerky which they are loving right now but I think that’s because it’s new. I sometimes use raw carrots which they like, but I think the key to the treats is to switch is up. I have a can of mackeral in the pantry, I wonder if I shouldn’t mix that up with some kibble? I bet a solid white tuna would be good too. If you drained and rinsed it, it might not be quite so messy.

    Thanks for the great list Kristine!!


  4. Like Jodi, we also use kibble as dog treats. The fish formulas seem to be particularly interesting to my boys. I’ve also used Cheerios and oyster crackers as treats. Buster spits veggies out, so we’re not getting any treats for carrots around here. =)


  5. Hot dogs and string cheese are a thing we use a lot (confession: I still like string cheese). I cut it in half, lengthwise, then again, and then cube ’em up into tiny treats. The hot dogs I’ve occasionally then microwaved, but there doesn’t seem to be a chance in Elka’s enjoyment of them based on that, so I haven’t tried again.

    I also sometimes do things like get a 99 cent bag of pretzels or jerky. Junky, I know, but highly motivating!


  6. For reasons I don’t totally understand, my dogs love plain old cat kibble. I think it’s because I feed the cat way up high where they can only smell it and they think it must be special. It’s a premium kibble, but still cheap and nutritious.


  7. great list! I like things that are dry, as I hate being all slobbery, call me weird. Luna gets the string cheese for show work, she likes it but is not picky. I actually just started eating them this past year myself (because I bought a gigantic bulk size bag and didn’t want them to go bad) and boy are they blah! I LOVE cheese so these just made me sad, and since I used them up I have not bought anymore.
    Biscuits really are not hard, the hard part is finding a small cutter for them. But I often will just cut the dough with a knife into small squares as Luna doesn’t care what they look like. They freeze well too and can be thawed to refill treat bins.

    Here are some other favorites:
    ***Left over roast beef from crock pot meal (a FAVORITE and is usually reserved for the holiday photo shoots I do with her)
    ***Cheerios! Kix are a favorite too
    ***Apple pieces
    ***Liver (cut into strips and dried in dehydrator) I have also done all sorts of meat
    ***”Old” Lunch Meat (dried in dehydrator)
    ***Summer Sausage (she LOOOOVES this and it is a hardy enough meat that it holds it shape nicely when cut into bits)

    That is all I can think of off hand, maybe you can find a cheap old dehydrator, mine seriously is from before I was born (thanks mom) and works just fine.
    The new favorite tool for Luna and I is the food tube. Makes it easier to give her treats and she LOVES it. Just trying to think of creative fillings for the tube.
    I think you have mentioned them before but here is the link:

    Now if I could find where to buy these on my own in bulk… and maybe even with a flip open lid?



  8. Hmm. I use popped popcorn and cheerios, mixed with lamb liver. As well as Elli’s favorite: apples, bananas, carrots, and bread crusts. 🙂 I like the canned fish idea! I’ve been wanting to make those fish brownies for a while but I don’t know if I could stand the smell, hah. I wonder if the fish would totally soak the popcorn.


  9. Hot dogs and string cheese are two staples of treats in my house. I also use stuff like left over meat that I won’t get around to eating. My dogs also like dehydrated sweet potatoes, which I buy and dehydrate myself when they are on sale. Since I feed raw, I use kibble as training treats sometimes. I like to pick up free sample bags of different kibbles and use those as treats as well. Carob chips are also a favorite of my dogs, and Koira really likes peanuts and sunflower seeds, while Pallo will do anything for a nice piece of cauliflower.


  10. I use leftover meat, dehydrated liver (the best part about doing dehydrated treats is that the only time required from you is in slicing things and then putting them away), bananas (Gwynn goes bananas over them), cooked carrot pieces (usually leftover from a meal, but he loves them so much more than raw carrot), the skin from fish purchased for people – buying a salmon flank with skin-on is cheaper, and you can slice the skin off, stick it in the toaster oven or oven for a few minutes until it’s crispy, and then break it into pieces and store in the freezer. Your hands will smell like fish for a while after holding a fistful of these, but they are like crack.


  11. I also use hot dogs and string cheese. With my tiny dogs (11 & 12 pounds) I slice them very small. I like to make a mix of hotdog, cheese, a premium kibble that isn’t their usual dinner fare (sometimes you can pick up free samples), and Charley Bear treats. I make like a trail mix with equal parts of these, and stick the bag in the freezer. I’m usually heading out to train or to class, so it thaws on the way there.

    I like the mix because it’s always something different in my hand – keeps them interested. And if I need to I call use just the hotdogs from the mix to make the treat extra special.

    Now I’m wondering if I can dehydrate tuna in a low oven setting and add that to the mix. My dogs love fish!


  12. I use hotdogs a lot but what makes them even BETTER is if you dice them up as normal, then put them in a toaster oven and broil them. It bakes out some of the grease and it caramelizes the sugars in the hotdogs. Dogs seem to REALLY love these lots. It also makes handling them MUCH less messy because they aren’t as greasy. This can be done in a microwave but after setting my microwave on fire trying it this way, I don’t suggest it LOL!!!

    Food tubes are a fave and something i’ve written about extensively. I’ve used applesauce mixed with some peanut butter (thickening agent) as a cheap but yummy treat.

    I also have people simply cover a wooden spoon with peanut butter and freeze it… since it’s frozen it lasts quite a while because they only get a little bit off each lick.

    I use lots of ‘left overs’ and dehydrate it (slow bake at low heat) so we get crunchy meat treats of meat that would have otherwise been thrown away.


  13. Your idea is not bad, actually is great because all of that are really easy finds. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.. Good job!


  14. Clearly, I’ll never be high-quality dog trainer. I don’t eat meat, don’t like to handle it, soI don’t think I’ll be feeding hot dogs by hand anytime soon. My trainer told me to use plain old kibble, but like you, I think new stuff has higher value. Cheese works. And processed cheese slices are cheaper (I think) than the stringy stuff.

    Let me know if Limburger works. 😉


  15. Cheap treats … a 8 month westie/chihuahua puppy who dislikes most commercial dog treats. She loves, loves Greenies and as soon as I open the bag while they are still soft-ish, I cut them up into fifths for treats and even smaller for treats. I live in a dry climate and they do become harder once they dry which means more chewing time for her. I do leave some of the greenies full length as I think this helps with her dental care.

    For the rest of her treats:

    asparagus – the fibrous ends that are snapped off before cooking. When she poops there will be a stringy bit so she needs clean up help. It does two fold – becomes prey that she plays with before eating (more calories burnt) and then she truly enjoys.

    cherry tomatoes – prey plus food (put down a large towel to protect floors from tomato juice and insist that she stay on it). One little tomato is good for at least five minutes of activity.

    red peppers chopped up into 1/2 inch chunks to be used as treat/training;

    baby carrots two ways: whole carrots can be prey and chased before eating; chopped into smaller chunks for rewards

    other vegetables are hit and miss – but I do like them as your hands are not smelly after feeding to her.

    she loves pomegranite (crunching the seeds) and doesn’t create a mess but it is too easy for her to have too much fibre with the typical consequences

    my sister has a basenji and follows the raw diet so her 4 year old dog gets smallish chicken necks that are raw / uncooked. Great for dental care and her doggy chews the bones to fibre. I have researched — for smaller dogs raw chicken wing tips or ribs could be used but haven’t tried it so use at your own risk.

    Her dog will also eat peanuts and edamame sans shell.

    I’ve only tried Annie on peanuts in the unsalted shell – wasn’t interested in the peanut but loved to crunch crunch peanut shell. Makes an awful mess.

    ice cubes

    youghurt frozen in her kong

    frozen peas

    frozen banana small chunks


  16. Hi…I am really happy about the ideas you have shared here and I am sure a lot of people want to know about this…


  17. Good suggestions! I recently learned that Leroy loves chicken breast, slow cooked in the crock pot in low sodium chicken broth! This is now what we use for bait in the show ring and it really gets his attention!


  18. We use hot dogs, too, but we cut them in little pieces and microwave them. Once they’re crunchy, they last a bit longer and it’s just something a little different than the uncooked hot dogs. They’re also a lot less nasty on your hands! lol Bacon crumbles get used here on occasion, too.

    And I still eat string cheese!


  19. BOL, I see a post on Kolchak the hypocrite coming up. Truth be told, out of every batch of cookies, my dogs get maybe a few; the rest go to friends and the shelter. For the most part the dogs gets sweet bell pepper, baby carrots, green beans and leftover meat chunks.


  20. A lot of people we know use hot dogs with great success. Unfortunately the high fat in hot dogs made Storm super sick and a trip to the ER vet who warned us off of them for her. We also tried cheese, but she just wasn’t that interested….lol. Not enough pay off for her maybe? Your other ideas are good. Too bad I didn’t have them when we were doing obedience work.


  21. I have used our cats’ Origen kibble as treats before. Works great! And because cats are obligate carnivores, decent treats for them should be mostly – if not all – meat ingredients, which actually makes them a high grade dog treat too!

    Moses is also a big fan of cheese, and we used hotdogs when we were teaching him to pull the cart.

    Also a cheap treat? A loaf of bread. It’s like $1.99 for a whole loaf! Knowing my audience, it was great to get Moses up and moving post-surgery. But it’s very messy. And I wouldn’t recommend it as a regular thing, noting the obvious grain content.


  22. You must love Shiva so much! Your list of training treats is very useful… Actually, my dog love cat treats too. Thanks for sharing!


  23. You made a great list here and they are truly cheap. By the way, I am sure Shiva will gonna love you more.


  24. that meat package from the butcher is AWESOME. i wish there were a freakin butcher–ever, anywhere–that stayed open late enough for me to go to it on a weeknight. i should make the effort to get there on a weekend at some point and see if they can whip up something like that.


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  26. I have a can of mackeral in the pantry, I wonder if I shouldn’t mix that up with some kibble? I bet a solid white tuna would be good too. If you drained and rinsed it, it might not be quite so messy.


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