Many, many dog trainers frown at the idea of using food as treats when training. The majority of them are old-school gundog trainers and I can understand them wanting to have a dog that doesn’t expect to eat while working because they’ll usually be returning with their potential ‘snack’.
For the rest of us I don’t see treating while training as a problem, so long as the treat is only a means to an end and not used in a way that makes it the trigger for excitement.
There are many things that you can use as treats. For a food-motivated dog or a puppy you will probably find that pieces of his regular food kibble will work in the early stages of training, although most dogs begin to lose interest in this as a ‘treat’ fairly quickly.
Some of the softer chew treat strips can be torn or cut into small pieces. These are interesting enough to hold his attention because they’re not his regular food.
Cooked liver is also high value in the dog world, especially pigs’ liver, although I know that a lot of people dislike handling offal. Users of pigs’ liver pieces often carry it a small sealable tub to isolate the smell.
Tripe pieces are even more pungent but are also very high value in your dog’s eyes (and nose). Carry as per liver if you can put up with the smell of cutting them up (big scissors required).
Super high-value treats include pastrami, mature cheddar, stilton, salami and pepperoni. Use sparingly, because of the salt content, when you have a dog that you’re having difficulty engaging for any reason.
Some dogs respond well to pieces of apple (without the toxic pips) and raw carrot, which are ideal as a way to mix things up so that your dog retains interest because of the variety.
If you have a tendency to treat often, do remember to keep the treats small (about 1cm for cubes and 1x2cm for strips).
Remember that, when treating, timing is very important and your dog should only receive the treat when he is under your control and not leaping about like a loon on a string.