How To Train Your Dog Without Treats

There are quite some things aside from treats that you can use to train your dog.  Although dog treats are a very powerful tool to motivate your dog most of the time.  But this does not mean you should rely on them every time that you need your dog to obey you. 

Happy dog

What are real-life rewards? 

Real-life rewards involve activities that do not include food, yet your dog finds them exciting and rewarding. Although what your dog will find rewarding may vary based on the current situation. Dog trainers would ask “what does the dog want right now?” Then they can turn this into a reward for the dog! While a lot of dogs will take treats, actually all the dog wants is to get a real-life reward.

You may adapt these forms of rewards as soon as possible once you start your dog training. This will help in many ways, including;  

  • Using real-life rewards would quickly eliminate giving out food treats as rewards.
  • Real-life rewards will improve your “worth” to your dog, you would appear to them as the one who bears all goodies and fun.  
  • You can never lack real-life rewards, it is always with you. This means, at any time you can reward your dog anywhere. 

Different Types of Real-Life Rewards You Can Give To Your Dog

Your Attention

When you give your dog full attention, it is a good way to encourage good behavior. Dogs love to be involved in what you’re doing. Giving them attention may be as easy as maintaining eye contact, talking to your dog, and also praising them. Your body language when you are with your dog can also be a reward. 

dogs outdoor

For instance, you may use the attention reward when you are training dogs not to jump on human beings. Dogs jump mainly to get people’s attention and when they’re excited. However, for humans, jumping on us usually works. We tell the dog “no,” “off,” “stop it,” and then we would go-ahead to touch them in an attempt to get them to stop. But for dogs, this is the actual attention they want!

If a dog jumps, don’t give them any attention. You can even turn and walk back out the door or away from them. But the moment they stop jumping, you should return your attention to them. With regular practice, your dog will learn that jumping makes what they won’t go away while keeping their four paws on the floor means they will get it.

PRO TIP: For you to get faster results when teaching a dog not to jump, or when training a dog with a habit of jumping, act quickly. Usually, before they get the chance to jump on you, command them the opposite like saying  “Sit” or ‘Down”. This may require that you have a great at hand where they can see it. This will motivate them to act to your command. They will, focus on the food and not jump.   


While some dogs love to be close to their people, others find it a bit too much. If your dog is not the latter, they will love your touch. They would often lean on you or look out for your petting. Touching such dogs is an excellent option to use as a reward! Use ear and chin scratches to belly rubs, try different spots out on your dog’s body. This will enable you to see what type of touch they find the most rewarding. 

You also need to make sure your dog truly likes touches, don’t hug your dog unless they truly enjoy it. Some possible signs that they are uncomfortable with your touch includes: ducking their head, freezing, wide eyes, yawning. You may also lookout for some other body language that shows they are bored. 

Movement, Access, and Freedom to Explore As Rewards For Your Dog

Often, you may need to use the real-life reward to get your dog to go through a door quite often. When your dog is aware of going for a walk, treating them is great., However, what they want is to be outdoors! To get permission to go through the door, they have to wait at the doorway and not dash out the door. They must be able to stay there until you must release them. Or whenever you take your dog out on a sniffing activity, you may ask for some behaviors before allowing them to wander on their own.  

You can leverage what motivates your dog at every moment for your benefit. Make this their reward. A popular behavior that requires the use of movement and access for a reward is loose leash walking. Dogs would ideally pull on their leash for different reasons, and some just pull to get somewhere that the smell attracts them like the bush.  Getting to that fire hydrant and freedom to sniff it is the reward they would get for not forcefully pulling towards it.

PRO TIP: Your dog may find some distractions while you are walking them. If your dog starts pulling on their leash to go after something, stop and use their name recognition cue, or a much easier cue like touching. Once your dog turns towards you, now say “yes!” and run together with them to the location of the object they want to sniff as long as it’s safe and appropriate 

Play and Toys

Playing is most people’s favorite way to connect with their dog. When you get a little playful with a pop, they feel relieved and you feel less stressed. When you introduce play and toys as training rewards, your dog that doesn’t like treat become motivated.  

You need to start using real-life rewards as soon as possible for your dog. This way, it is easier to remove using food treats quickly.  Also, it makes your dog more active and responsive while training them. Since life is not majorly all about food, there should be other treats. Sharing the joyful emotions of life with your dog means your bond with your dog will continue to be stronger. 

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  • Act quickly
  • Make use of action words
  • They may not learn quick

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