When it comes to dog training, the most common method of positive reinforcement is with the use of treats. And why not, when most dogs tend to respond well? But extra treats and food, if not monitored carefully, can lead to the battle of the bulge –  a common problem among U.S. pets. 

As a healthy alternative to treats, we thought we’d look deeper into positive reinforcement for dogs and give you some ideas for how to “treat” your dog – without the “treat.”  

5 Ideas That Don’t Rely on Food

First things first. Positive reinforcement is the idea that you reward your dog when he does something you want. So it stands to reason that your reward can be anything that your dog finds enjoyable and fun. Spend some time observing to find out what he likes best. 

Here are some ideas:

1. The best toy ever. Most dogs have a favorite toy. Many love the rubber kind that squeak incessantly when pressed. Experiment with different soft toys, rope toys, or even a ball, and see which elicits the most jubilant response. 

2. Outdoor fun. After a great training session, reward your dog with a hike, run, or walk. New sights and smells are great rewards, so keep it fresh and change your route. Some pets love nothing more than a swim, so if that floats your dog’s boat (ahem) that may be the perfect way to reward her for a job well done.

3. The right touch. After you have worked with your dog on a new skill, some extra petting and attention may be the greatest reward. Dogs are designed to want to please people and you showing your approval with 5 minutes with a good brushing, massage, or a great belly rub is definitely positive reinforcement for your pooch. Again, make sure you know where and how your dog likes to be touched. If he comes toward you and asks for more, then that touch is probably rewarding.

4. Warm words. Praise and happy talk are great ways to reward your dog and may be the most common kind of reward there is. Some dogs find praise naturally rewarding, but even dogs that don’t can be taught to become praise seekers if you pair words with something else they really love, like a dash through the sprinkler or a tug on their favorite rope toy.

5. Play time. Dogs love to play. And if your pup has a best dog friend, this would be a great opportunity to give him the reward of play. After a training session, release your dog for some free play time with his buddy. Relaxation, play, and down time are wonderful ways to reward your dog without treats. 

Positive Reinforcement for Dogs

Treats are a great motivator for dogs, but if you don’t want to rely on food for positive reinforcement, there are other ways. And rewarding your dog without treats helps to keep her from packing on the pounds and keeps her training sessions fresh and new. 

For questions or more information about positive reinforcement for dogs, please give your team at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital a call.