Diamonds in the Ruff

Sensitive Stomach?  Allergies?  Picky eater?  Stress or Anxiety? 

It can be challenging to find suitable high value food rewards for dogs with sensitive stomachs or food allergies!

Think outside the box. 

You aren't limited to "only the safe kibble" which won't be motivating enough to interest your dog highly distracting or stressful situations.  Dog food kibble can be fine when training at home or for incredibly easy-to-motivate dogs, but it won't be enough in distracting or concerning environments.


Dogs who have upset stomachs are often upset dogs.  Even if you fed them nothing but their regular brand of dog food, stress can cause loose stool.  In the exciting class environment or when competing with the sights and smells of the real world, your dog will be more interested in real cubed meat, soft-moist treats or canned foods that are calorie dense with high moisture content.  These will work much better in the face of high level distractions in the real world than boring, old, dry, dog cereal. High value, highly desirable rewards are essential for worried, fearful and excitable dogs, as Adrenalin and stress chemicals suppress appetite.


Look on the ingredients list.  What is the tolerated meat source?  What is the safe binder?  (Rice flour?  Oatmeal?  Sweet potato?)   This will give you a starting point of things your dog CAN eat and will like enough to work for them in their "pure" non-cereal form.  These are things you can use as high value rewards.  Rice cake bits or cheerios left in a bag with a slice of bacon will take on the smell of bacon and still be safer choices.  Chop up a sweet potato into small cubes and dry the bits in the oven on low heat to make little 'jerky bits' to add variety to your treat mix.  If oats are okay, how about oatmeal granola?  These could be good 'medium grade' options for lower-distraction environments and/or add a little variety for non-stressed, easy-to-please dogs.

If your dog is on a special diet, purchase the canned version of what he can eat, and use a Go-Toob, camping food tube, or large plastic syringe.  By squeezing out just a tiny "lick" you can limit how much of amazing high value reward and keep your hands clean when delivering it. 

If your vet has put your pup on a bland diet for stomach upset (unrelated to illness), they have probably given you instructions on what foods you may feed your dog, like chicken breast, boiled hamburger, baby food, chicken and rice, and/or low-fat cottage cheese.  These bland foods can be combined in a blender and turned into a soft paste that can be delivered on a spoon or from a Go Toob, camping tube, or large syringe.  Thin with broth or thicken with rice flour, if needed, to get the proper consistency for ease of delivery.

Pro-biotics can help your dog adjust to new foods as well as the excitement and stress of the classroom.  Prairie Dog Pet Mercantile carries a great brand of pro-biotic powder that you can add to your dog's meals.

Happy Howie!  Dog food meat rolls are great high value options with limited ingredients that are often easy on the stomach and healthy options that dogs love.  Check the label for anything that your dog is sensitive to, and choose a meat source you know your dog tolerates well.

A high rate of reinforcement is the key to successful training.  The higher the value, the smaller each reward can be. This eliminates satiation and weight gain, as well as lessening the impact of the amount of food hitting the digestive tract.  This is especially important for tiny breeds.  Whatever you add during training should be subtracted from his bowl at meal time.

Make your own.  You can also use the canned version of a special diet as a base for baking your own high-value "training brownies" using ingredients your dog can handle.  Use the safe "binder" in your dog's dry kibble, such as rice flour to thicken the canned food as needed  Press into a non-stick brownie pan and bake on low temperature until it is the consistency you want.  Cube and refrigerate.

A silicone baking mat, like this one, available on Amazon, can be used to make pre-cut tiny training rewards in the flavor of your choice.  Great for dogs on special diets. Press your batter into the squares and scrape off excess.  350 degrees, 10-12 minutes. Let cool and stretch the sides to loosen the teeny treats.  Dump them out!

Recipe and directions > CLICK HERE

Here is a recipe for de-hydrated turkey jerky treats (you could use any appropriate meat for your particular dog's needs, as long as it is lean meat.)

Be creative when it comes to High Value Options!

If your dog is tiny, picky, on a special diet, or highly distracted or fearful, he needs super duper, extra-high value rewards!


A food tube or syringe may be the answer!


Honest Kitchen is an excellent dehydrated raw food in powdered form.  Just add enough hot water to mix it to the desired consistency.  You can add pate' style canned dog or cat food for added palatability and put the mixture in a GoToob or plastic syringe.  You can also use Honest Kitchen as an addition to homemade treat mixtures.


Here's a great article by Eileenanddogs  and a video on how to create and fill a home made food tube.  Great for dispensing canned or raw food as a training reward.

Other suggestions to tempt Picky Eaters and Stressed Dogs

If your dog has a food sensitivity, read the label and be sure to pick appropriate ingredients!

Baby food, dehydrated or freeze-dried raw food, canned cheese, innards of any kind - liver, heart, gizzards, canned tripe, dried fish skins, fake crab, natural peanut butter (no xylitol!)  Cat treats are great because they are small and smelly.  Dehydrated liver. You can crush it into powder and sprinkle it on anything you want to make higher value.  Peanut butter sandwich, rolled flat with a rolling pin and cut into tiny squares with a pizza cutter.  Ask your dog what makes his tail wag!

Vegan and can't handle cooking or handling meat?  Any meat substitute will probably be a reward choice you can both agree on.  Of course, if your dog has a sensitivity to soy products, you may find that your carnivore will do better on the real thing.

Go here for tips to help increase enthusiasm for rewards in a dog that is just not food motivated.

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