Every canine scent detection class I teach begins with a taste test of the available food rewards, because building drive depends on making it rewarding for each individual dog. When you offer a dog 2 - 3 high value food rewards, and let the dog select the one they prefer, they will be more highly motivated to succeed.
I learned scent detection from a military detection dog trainer, who demonstrated that most dogs enjoy Rollover or rotisserie chicken from the local grocery store. But while these foods appeal to dogs, they usually fall into pieces that make a distracting mess on the floor. The best training rewards should have it all:
After testing varied recipes with many dogs, I discovered a key secret ingredient: tapioca flour aka tapioca starch. It's a fine white powder, NOT tapioca pearls like in bubble tea. It may be cheapest in Asian grocery stores, but you can also find it with canning supplies, or on Amazon Prime. It's gluten-free, and results in treats with a fine, uniform consistency that doesn't crumble and a wonderful taste.
Recipe for the Best Noncrumbling Tuna Fudge
Yields: 4 Cups
Equipment - Two 4x8” loaf pans (You could also use a cookie sheet, but I find smaller pieces easier to cut.)
(Please note that these training rewards are intended to comprise less than 5-10% of the dog’s caloric intake. They do not provide a balanced diet, but are high calorie, hugely tasty treat. Accordingly, the more rewards your dog consumes in a day, the less you should feed of his regular diet.)
Now that you know about tapioca flour, you can easily adapt this recipe to other proteins such as liver or ground meet. It also bakes nicely in a glass dish in the microwave if you prefer.
One tester commented that she’d never seen her dog salivate before like he did for these rewards. I hope your dog loves them too. Just don't forget to store them at least 6 feet high, or they might not make it to training time.
Looking for another treat to add to your rewards menu? Check out Kathy Sdao's recipe for meatloaf training rewards.
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