How to Use Treats to Train Your Dog Positively

This week, Big Barker got to interview Kolby, co-founder of Saint Roccos Treats! We were able to discuss how to use treats to train your dog positively with Kolby. Saint Roccos Treats has a mission to "enable pet parents to develop a more meaningful relationship with their dog." To do this, they "view each product we create as a communication tool between you and your dog." 

Continue reading to understand more about Saint Rocco's Treats, as well as get some tips on how to use treats to train your dog positively! 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Saint Rocco's Treats and your mission 
as well as anything else you'd like us to know about you and your brand?

Saint Rocco’s Treats was founded by myself and my brother Kaleb in 2020. We were both sent home from college & lost our summer internships due to COVID-19. After many days of virtual school, we began to wonder how we could use our skills and knowledge to have an impact on the world. But, more importantly, add something professionally relevant to our resume.

We both enjoy a unique combination of a lifelong love for dogs, an immense passion for entrepreneurship, and the knowledge of dog treat craftsmanship, thanks to our dad and grandpa. We knew dogs would taste the difference if we made treats that were baked fresh and handmade daily with the absolute best ingredients possible. Alongside our dad, we spent months perfecting the limited-ingredient, human-grade, meat-based dog treat recipes you see today.

Since our humble beginnings of making the best dog treats ever, our purpose has evolved, but our focus remains on the best product quality possible. Our mission is to enable pet parents to develop a more meaningful relationship with their dogs. To do this, we view each product we create as a communication tool between you and your dog. Our goal is to provide you with the most effective & healthy ways to say "Good Job," "Thank you," "I love you," and so much more! Whether you're training a puppy, encouraging a picky eater to finish their meals, competing in a nationally televised dog sport event, or searching for a way to feed your dog homemade, high-quality food, we want to be there with you!

What are the key principles of positive reinforcement training, and why is it beneficial for pets?

I want it to be understood that I am not a dog trainer. Dog trainers are extremely talented, well-read, and hardworking in their focus on canine behavior. But, as a high-value training treats craftsman… I often enter into incredible conversations with these talented trainers. All of the following advice, principles, etc., is borrowed knowledge from the many amazing professional trainers that use Saint Rocco’s Treats.


The fundamental concept of positive reinforcement training is that every interaction with your dog is an opportunity for learning. Delivering a timely, high-value reward can help the dog understand what behaviors you want them to repeat, which is the foundation of positive reinforcement.

The Power of Positive Reinforcement: How do treats serve as effective motivators in training sessions?

Treats can have varying degrees of value for dogs. In one session, a trainer may find themselves experimenting with different types of treats and noticing a range of responses or enthusiasm from their dogs in reaction to different rewards. It's a constant learning process to determine which treats are the most enticing and motivating for your dog.


Finding the Right Treats: What criteria should pet owners consider when selecting treats for training purposes?

It is important to select treats with limited ingredients and clean recipes. Any training treat you use will be consumed often by your dog, and it is very important to keep a close eye on what is entering their bodies. Additionally, you should think about how you intend to use the treat. Will this be a treat you use for every small achievement, or is this a “high-value” treat that is only given on very special occasions?

Incorporating Treats into Training: What are some effective strategies for integrating treats into different training exercises?

The most effective way to integrate treats into training exercises is to:


  1. Determine your desired outcome, make it clear and obvious what you are hoping to achieve with your dog 
  2. Once you have a behavior that you want to train in mind. you can shape your dog to learn this behavior by rewarding actions that are closer and closer to the end result. for example, if you want to train your dog to rest their chin on the ground while lying down, you might start by putting your hand under (but not touching) the dog's chin. When they put their chin closer to your hand, use a marker (this can be a word like "Yes!" or a clicker) to give them information that they are moving in the right direction. Then, continue marking and rewarding every time their chin touches your hand. Move your hand lower and lower, continuing to mark and reward each time they touch their chin to your hand. When they really understand the desired behavior, start adding a word to the behavior. Say the word, offer your hand, and mark the moment their chin touches your hand, and then deliver a treat. With your dog lying down, put your hand on the ground, say your new word, and mark and reward them for touching your hand.
  3. Finally, try not putting your hand on the ground, say your command, and mark and reward if they put their chin on the ground. This should be a gradual process and may take several sessions for your dog to pick up. Plenty of positive reinforcement through high-value rewards helps the dog understand to repeat the behavior that you're shaping.

The Science Behind Positive Reinforcement Training: What psychological mechanisms underlie the effectiveness of using treats as rewards? 

You want to consistently create positive experiences and associations with every behavior you teach a dog. Food is life-sustaining, comforting, and delicious, so when you pair a positive outcome like eating an exciting treat with a behavior, you'll build positive associations with that behavior through operant conditioning. This means the dog will be very likely to actively try to repeat that desired behavior in hopes of earning the reward. Dogs that have been consistently and frequently rewarded for a behavior (sitting before they charge out the door) will be likely to offer that behavior without even being asked if they associate the behavior with their desired outcome of earning a reward.

This could be life-saving if a squirrel happens to run by and your dog chooses to offer to sit before leaving the door after being conditioned to do that behavior repeatedly instead of running through an open door. 

Building Stronger Bonds: In what ways do treat-based training methods strengthen the bond between pets and their owners?

There is never any loss of trust. Training methods that don’t focus on positive reinforcement and focus instead on more aversive or corrective measures to combat bad behavior cause a decline in this trust. Using aversive methods can lead to dogs shutting down and being unmotivated to try new things in fear of being wrong. 

Using healthy treats for training allows you to strengthen your dogs' physical well-being by giving them a treat that is actually good for them. But, it also strengthens their trust in you, understanding that adhering to your commands and requests results in deliciousness.

Avoiding Pitfalls: What are some common mistakes pet owners should be mindful of when using treats in training?

Overfeeding treats & choosing the WRONG training treats are major pitfalls pet owners should be mindful of. 

Overfeeding is important not to do because treats are often not formulated to replace the vitamins and minerals incorporated into the food your dog enjoys. This can cause them to consume added calories without the nutritional benefits or the physical exertion to warrant the additional calories. 

Choosing the wrong treats is another major mistake. For example, if you are hoping to begin teaching your dog agility or another sport, you should be aware that you are asking a LOT from your dog. You must come prepared with as high-value of a treat as possible. The amount that you are asking of your dog (walking on a leash vs. going to the vet) should translate directly to the quality & value of the treat you give your dog.

Beyond Basic Commands: How can treats be utilized to teach more advanced behaviors and tricks to pets?

Using treats in dog sports or other more advanced behaviors is highly recommended. 

When you are asking your dog to do something new or very challenging (similar to humans) they can experience a lot of fear and anxiety internally. Even if they are well-trained, these emotions can persist. Combating these emotions and replacing them with positive emotions towards the trick, sport, job, or responsibility ahead of them is most effectively done with treats. 

This is because of the ease of use and rapid use of treats. This keeps the feedback loop in a dog’s mind brief, allowing them to exponentially grow their abilities and courage in a short period of time.

Celebrating Success: How can pet owners acknowledge and celebrate progress and achievements in their training efforts?

At the end of the day, treats are just tools. It is ESSENTIAL to remember that your dog is putting in all of this work to earn a reward, but more importantly, YOU. Celebrate with them!!! 

Each new achievement and progression in your personal training journey with your dog is just another external sign of your internal bond strengthening. Celebrate this bond with them and show them your love and appreciation for them!

Conclusion: What overarching benefits do positive reinforcement and treat-based training offer to both pets and their owners?

  1. The trust & internal bond with your dog are strengthened 
  2. The pace of building courage & skills can be accelerated 
  3. When you purchase treats correctly, the physical benefits of positive reinforcement on both your dog's body and mind are incredible