The easiest one is to use your dogs food as reinforcement. That said, what I do is cut way back on meals while training with treats. I use whatever my dogs will eat for the level of distraction so I carry a wide variety and change it up often.
Also...training sessions should be short and rate of reinforcement should go to intermittent rather quickly unless you are working on the recall. That means you shouldn’t need a ton of treats for long periods of time.
For recall I always carry treats (hiking for instance) because there is the potential for some level of random high distraction such as loose dogs, bears, deer, and rodents.
I would also encourage teaching you motivation so you have another tool in your box.
Kirsten, do you leave food out all day for your dog, or do you only provide food during meal times? I leave dry food out, but only give her wet food during meal times. I like your idea about switching the treats up. I'll run by Petsmart tonight after work and grab something different.
I sometimes use regular treats and break them into small pieces about the size of a Cheerio. We moved a few years ago and had to do boundary training, so I decided something extra special was in order. I baked organic chicken and cut it up into very small cubes and, boy, did that work like a charm!
I haven't used a dehydrator for the dogs, but it's a great idea! My husband was talking about getting one to make venison jerky, so it could serve double duty for that and homemade dog treats. I think they'd love it!
Training with treats can be tricky when your companion is already a little too heavy.
Have you tried any healthy, low-calorie treats, such as carrot sticks, apples (without the seeds), cabbage, green beans, broccoli, banana slices, or berries? Air-popped popcorn with no butter or salt can also make good treats. I have a friend who's dog goes wild for popcorn. You could also break plain cooked chicken into small pieces to use as training treats.
I bet plain popcorn will be a big hit. It's the only kind I eat anyway and Sadie likes to hear it pop. The vet recommended PupCorn but Sadie only likes one variety of it and it's hard to find in small bags. Thanks for the tip, DenverDogLover!