Are There Canine Coaching Rewards Different Than Meals?


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Your pup loves performing obedience cues for yummy treats.

However you wonder if you’re giving too many and if there are different canine coaching rewards aside from meals. Sure! There are!

On this weblog submit, I’ll describe what different methods you should utilize to reward your canine when coaching.

And every canine’s a person so what motivates one canine won’t encourage one other. 

However you recognize your canine. And you’ll strive alternative ways to reward him and see what works the very best.

Why Ought to You Strive To Use Rewards Different Than Meals?

For many wholesome canines, meals is a really highly effective motivator. So whenever you reward your canine with a deal with after he sits, he’ll sit the subsequent time, anticipating one other.

Through the use of rewards aside from meals, you turn out to be extra vital to the canine. 

In most of the rewards aside from meals that I talk about beneath, akin to enjoying together with your canine, you turn out to be a central a part of his reward. You turn out to be enjoyable!

There are numerous causes to section treats out and to make use of different reinforcers generally. These embody:

To Be sure that Your Canine Doesn’t Change into Chubby

The Affiliation for Pet Weight problems Prevention estimated in 2022 that about 59 p.c of canines had been obese. 

That’s a daunting estimate, as being obese or overweight can drastically have an effect on the standard of your canine’s life. And his life expectancy. 

It’s basic math: feeding too many treats or these with too many energy will result in your pup being obese. 

Fortunately, there are lots of different methods to reward him.

Your Canine Might Not Be Meals-Motivated–or Be Motivated Extra in Alternate Methods

I do know this sounds unusual. However some canines aren’t as motivated by treats as others. 

Some breeds, like labs, pugs, and beagles will normally inhale any deal with offered. However some herding canines, working canines, and terriers will not be as food-driven.

Though my Aussie combine Millie loves good treats, she finds enjoying fetch far more rewarding. So, if there’s a possibility to play, she ignores a deal with altogether. 

Once I’m coaching her and she will be able to safely run after her favourite ball, I’ll have her do numerous behaviors–sit, down, stand, spin, communicate, dance, or contact–earlier than I throw the ball. Right here’s a video of Millie performing these behaviors for a ball:

She’s ecstatic simply chasing and retrieving her Kong ball. Even when I provide her a deal with, she ignores it and would somewhat play.

You Might Have Brought on Meals To Be a Detrimental

Inadvertently, you could have triggered your canine to have a unfavorable expertise with treats. 

This may happen when a deal with is given and one thing unfavorable happens afterward, akin to a nail trim or tub. 

Within the canine’s view, meals then predicts one thing scary occurring.

You May Not At all times Be Carrying a Deal with

When you rely upon all the time rewarding a canine with meals, you would wish to all the time carry it. And there will likely be occasions whenever you received’t have a yummy sufficient deal with on you to your pup to be rewarded. 

However there’ll all the time be one other kind of reward, which I talk about beneath, that you may give your canine.

A Canine Can Change into Too Depending on Treats

A canine might turn out to be so depending on treats that he received’t take heed to you for those who don’t have any.

Treats Are Costly

Meals rewards that canines love are sometimes pricey–particularly if that’s all you employ to reward your pup.

The Canine Might Not Be Hungry

In case your pup isn’t hungry–akin to after he’s eaten a meal–a meals deal with will not be attractive or efficient to reward him.

The Canine May Be Sick

If a canine’s not feeling effectively, a meals deal with will not be interesting.

The Canine Might Not Just like the Deal with You Present

Generally treats aren’t implementing to a canine as a result of the deal with isn’t as high-value because it might be. So use a high-value meat, cheese, or fish deal with.

When Ought to You Give Rewards Different Than Treats?

After a canine reliably performs a habits–even with regular distractions–you should utilize different forms of rewards too. 

Simply make certain that you don’t go from all treats (or rewards) to none or most canines will likely be completely unmotivated. 

  • Random Deal with Reinforcement Schedule. First, go to a random reinforcement schedule the place you give treats much less and fewer ceaselessly. So in case your canine sits everytime you use the “sit” cue, have him sit the primary time and not using a deal with. Then ask him to take a seat once more and provides a deal with. Fluctuate when he will get the deal with. Generally give him the deal with the primary time he sits. Then on the third time. You get the concept.
  • Numerous Non-Deal with Rewards. You possibly can reward with issues and actions that your canine enjoys aside from treats. For many canines, I counsel nonetheless utilizing treats randomly sometimes. However, for those who reward your canine with one thing he enjoys aside from meals, his behaviors will nonetheless stay robust. Simply uncover what motivates your pup. 

Each time going to a random reinforcement schedule, reward much less and fewer ceaselessly. However don’t cease all rewards or your canine will cease working. 

You wish to guarantee that he reliably maintains the habits. 

For instance, in case your canine sits reliably even with distractions on walks, you can begin randomly rewarding him with treats. And you can begin to section in different forms of rewards. 

So that you would possibly give a deal with the primary time he sits. Then reward him the third. 

And what your canine finds to be extra rewarding will change in numerous conditions. If he’s in a playful temper, in fact play will likely be a really highly effective motivator. 

Let’s talk about the various different methods you’ll be able to reward him.

Rewards Different Than Meals

There are such a lot of methods to reward our canines that we do with out even realizing it. So let’s talk about a few of them.


Does your canine ever paw you or bark at you for consideration? Most canines like to get consideration from their pet mother and father. 

Consideration can imply many issues. Right here I’m simply referring to your pup in a pleasant method.

The Pet Mother or father’s Optimistic Physique Language

Canine are nice at studying our physique language. So you probably have optimistic physique language and aren’t tense, your canine will learn that you just’re happy with him. 

This may even embody a smile the place a canine is used to seeing you smile whenever you’re comfortable.

Touching and Petting

Many canines love a scratch below the chin or a pet alongside the facet of his face. Some love tummy rubs. 

Study what your canine likes. Then that may be considered one of his many rewards.

Being a touch-feely golden retriever, Riley loves to be petted. 

And he’s not shy about letting somebody know. He’ll put his massive, blocky head in your knee for those who overlook. So petting is a superb reward for him.

Riley Soliciting Petting

Riley Soliciting Petting

Nonetheless, my Lhasa Ralphie doesn’t like to be petted–particularly by strangers. 

Though he’s good with dealing with and can tolerate it, it’s simply not his favourite factor. So I don’t pet him as considered one of his rewards. However he loves reward.

Ralphie sitting for praise

Ralphie sitting for reward

However I notice that not all canines love being touched. Or they won’t like being petted in a sure manner. 

Many canines be taught to just accept being petted on the highest of the top (in any case, it’s what many individuals do), however many don’t prefer it. In order that kind of petting normally shouldn’t be used to bolster a desired habits. 

When you’ve had your canine some time, you most likely know what kind of petting he likes–and what he doesn’t. 

When you’re undecided, search for the next indicators that he’s uncomfortable and confused:

  • Freezing
  • Lip licking
  • Whale eye (the place the whites of the eyes present)
  • Drooling
  • Yawning
  • Ducking his head


Once I’m coaching, I pair a verbal marker (“sure”) with a deal with. However, as I section treats down, I’ll generally simply use the verbal marker as a reward.


Many canines like my Aussie combine Millie like to play–usually greater than meals rewards. So play is usually a very highly effective motivator.

Millie waiting for her reward ball for spinning, lying down, and sitting on cue 

Millie ready for her reward ball for spinning, mendacity down, and sitting on cue 

I do know many individuals who, when coaching their canines, will intersperse the coaching with tugging on a toy or fetching. 

Once I prepare my golden Riley, I play tug as a reward after he performs a habits like sit/keep or come. 

I’d launch him from the keep, then wave the lengthy delicate toy round and inform to tug. He additionally has a “give” cue when he releases the toy. 

Or when he involves me, the toy seems and we play tug.

Doing this generally really improved his impulse management. It’s like an on-off swap from the tug to the keep. 

And the interplay will enhance your bond. And Riley actually seems ahead to coaching. Let the video games start!

Life Rewards

There are numerous methods we reward our canines that contain every-day actions that they like. 

So you probably have your canine sit by the door earlier than going for a stroll, he sees the stroll as his reward (assuming he likes walks). 

Once I take my golden Riley for a automobile trip, which he loves as a result of he is aware of we’re going someplace enjoyable, I’ve him sit earlier than he will get within the van. 

He robotically sits even and not using a cue now. He’s anticipating his reward of going to the pet retailer or canine class. 

Riley loves actions and, being a golden, can’t wait to come across extra folks to pet him and provides him much-deserved consideration.

Life rewards can embody many occasions, together with:

  • Going outdoors and enjoying
  • Going for a stroll
  • Enjoying in a sprinkler
  • Occurring a sniffari
  • Freedom of motion

So there are lots of ways in which you should utilize life rewards in on a regular basis conditions. 

In case your canine is admittedly enthusiastic about going outdoors for a stroll or to play in a yard, have him sit/keep first. Then, you’ll be able to inform him to exit in your cue. 

The reward is his freedom to roam or to go on a stroll with you. 

Earlier than I am going out to play with my canines within the yard, I’ve them sit generally. Their reward goes out to smell and play. 

When you’re on a stroll and your pup is pulling to succeed in one thing, you’ll be able to cease strolling. 

When he stops pulling and settles, stroll once more and cease if he begins pulling once more. You possibly can reward him every time he stops pulling. 

One other kind of life reward you may give generally for not pulling is to stroll shortly forward to what he was trying to succeed in, akin to a tree. 

Solely do that when it’s protected and acceptable to take action. Don’t let him rush as much as different folks or animals.

How To Use Life Rewards

I’ve given some examples of the best way to use rewards aside from treats. Let’s delve into the topic in additional depth.

Every canine’s a person. When you employ non-food rewards is dependent upon your particular person canine. 

This is dependent upon how far your canine is alongside in his coaching. And you must use non-food motivators that he enjoys.

Earlier than going to non-food rewards, I’ve discovered it greatest to go to a random deal with schedule. So after he is aware of a habits on cue akin to “sit,” for instance give him treats randomly:

  • Say “sit,” reward and provides a deal with and launch him from the sit
  • Say “sit” once more and simply reward when he sits (then launch)
  • The third time, say “sit,” and say nothing after he sits (then launch)
  • On the fourth time, after he sits on cue, give a deal with, then launch him

Over time, begin phasing treats out an increasing number of. Don’t do it too shortly, or your canine will turn out to be demotivated.

You discover I’ve used reward as a part of his reinforcement.

When including different non-food reinforcers, first guarantee that your canine reliably performs the habits earlier than switching to a non-food-based reward. 

So in case your canine will sit every time you say “sit,” even with distractions on a stroll, you can begin to section in different rewards. 

For instance, you are able to do the next to reward your canine for sitting on cue:

  • The primary time, reward him when he sits (and launch)
  • For the second sit, pet the facet of his face (and launch)
  • For the third sit, say nothing (and launch)
  • For the fourth sit, give him a deal with (then launch)
  • For the fifth time, say nothing earlier than releasing him
  • For the sixth sit, launch him to tug or fetch a favourite toy

As soon as you discover non-food reinforcers that your canine values as a lot as meals, you’ll be able to wean treats down (slowly) even additional.

My sheltie Gracie loves sure video games we play. I’ve made it a sport to nostril goal to my hand. 

So after we’re heeling, I’ll generally cue her to “contact” my palm that’s a few foot above her head. She’ll contact, then return into heeling. 

It’s cute as a result of she’s so perky and prances whereas she’s heeling. It’s a enjoyable sport for her. 

And it’s a reinforcer I can use any time as a result of it doesn’t require a deal with.

You need to use these non-food rewards to bolster many behaviors, together with tips. 

So use them for consideration, sit, down, keep, shake palms, go away it, come, free leash strolling–and extra. 

The sky’s the restrict! You simply should make certain that the exercise or merchandise you employ rather than meals is admittedly valued by your canine.


My canine’s gaining an excessive amount of weight due to all of the coaching treats I give her. What can I do?

Begin weaning down the treats slowly and use different reinforcers, together with reward and play.

My canine likes to fetch. How can I take advantage of this in coaching? 

You possibly can first section deal with rewards down, then give your canine a habits cue like “sit.” Launch him to fetch his favourite toy earlier than telling him to take a seat once more.

My canine loves consideration from me. Can this be used to have him sit?

Sure! You need to use him and reward as reinforcers for his behaviors. 

Remaining Ideas

There are numerous methods to reward your canine aside from meals. Simply uncover what your canine loves. Then you’ll be able to reward him for good habits with that exercise or merchandise.

Do you employ rewards aside from meals when coaching your canine? Inform us about it within the feedback part beneath.

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Are There Dog Training Rewards Other Than Food? - dog playing with ball

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