Get the Gear, where we review our favorite tools of the trade. This week we tackle the treat pouch a.k.a. the bait bag.
I’ve owned a variety of treat pouches for training over the years. Of course, I started out by grabbing the cheapest bag in the training section at PetSmart, the one most dog owners probably use if they have one at all. Lots of company's make pretty much identical versions of this. It’s relatively small, has a clip to latch to your belt, and has a draw string to close. As I got more serious about training, this just wasn’t cutting it. Either the bag stays open for easy access or it’s drawn shut, but when you’re navigating an agility course you need both easy access and for your treats to not going flying everywhere as you run around. The always-open bag lead to treats tumbling out when I bent over, plus the bag doesn’t have a ton of room and I found myself running out of treats or having to reload. Maybe this is a good option for an owner just planning on taking one or two basic obedience classes with their pup (and it’s definitely better than shoving a bunch of hotdog bits in your pocket or fumbling to get a baggie out of your purse every time you want to reward), but for more active owners or for serious trainers, not a great choice.
Another treat bag that can be found at most pet stores is the PetSafe Treat Pouch. This bag comes with a belt attachment so you don’t have to worry about the clip flopping off while you move around. It has a divider so you can keep two types of treats in the pouch and has a pocket where you may be able to store a cell phone, poop bags, etc. While some people may like the snap hinge, I found it to be a less desirable feature. Popping the bag open and closed just didn’t allow me fast enough access to the treats (and when you’re starting out and want to deliver that treat as close to the marker as possible, timing is everything). I even found myself sometimes having to use two hands to pry the bag open, totally defeating the purpose. Plus, the square design lead to treats getting smushed into the corners. Finally, my biggest issue is that it doesn’t take too many uses for that snap to break, it can only endure a few months of use.
There are many other snap hinge style bags I've seen other trainers use, such as the Kyran Pryor Treat Pouch. And some have a few extra features such as the Hurtta Treat Bag which is larger, comes with more pockets, and a poop bag dispenser. But after my experience with the PetSafe, I have no desire to try out these bags—that hinge just won't last.
The bag which I currently use is by far my favorite, Starmark Pro-Training Treat Pouch. It has a rounded bottom so treats don’t get lost or crushed in corners, which was a big issue with the PetSafe pouch. The front zipper pouch is the perfect size for a cell phone and business cards. It has loops on the sides you could attach a carabineer to hold your keys or a drool rag for any mastiff owners out there. The belt is adjustable, and can fit most people. Most importantly, it provides easy access to treats via a neoprene overlap top. The design generally keeps treats from bouncing out, but is easy access to plunge your hand in. The only down side may be if you have a chow hound who will stick his nose into the bag and help himself, but my answer to that would be to just not let it happen. Once or twice I’ve had a dog go for it while I was on the floor clipping nails, but overall it hasn't been an issue for me.
Amongst the bags I have not tried, but would be curious to test is the Doggone Good Rapid Rewards Pouch which is reportedly very deep, and has interior treat divider, two side pockets and a front pocket, and rings on the sides to clip keys, etc. It closes shut via magnets, which might be a good alternative to the snap hinge. I'd also be interested in trying that the OllyDog Treat Bag Pro, which also has more pocket features than my current pouch and closes via imbedded magnets.
Do you have a preferred training treat pouch? Let us know!