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4 Ways To Reward Dogs Without Treats



Does your dog prefer praise or treats? My boxer, Gabby, will accept both, but given a choice she’ll almost always go for that yummy treat in her belly! However, when you’re training a dog and giving multiple treats, you may end up with a chubby pup!

To avoid an obese dog or one with health issues like diabetes because of overfeeding, there are four ways (or more, depending on what your dog loves) to reward her without filling her belly.

Non-food Rewards for Dogs

Words and tone matter. Dogs are naturally empathic and can sense the energy behind the tone of our words. When practicing commands, use a firm tone of voice that leaves no wiggle room for interpretation. Then when she responds by sitting, drops a toy or refrains from running the fence line (after a squirrel or neighbors cat), turn the praise into a P-A-R-T-Y! Clap your hands, and make a BIG happy fuss. Tell your pup how awesome she is with YEEEESSS... “what a good girl” or “you’re the smartest dog ever” or “so amazing” and you’ll have one happy, confident pup coming your way.

Pets and loving strokes. It’s a scientific fact: When humans pet dogs, our blood pressure drops and we feel less stressed. This is great way to show love or appreciation for good behavior but remember, not all dogs feel relaxed with a human hand coming at them. If you’ve adopted a rescue pup, go the safe route initially - scratch under the chin to build trust.

A new toy. Food treats are gobbled down and forgotten until the next treat is given, but a dog toy could be forever! Find a way to incorporate a new toy into your training routine every so often. When you discover what her favorite toy is and keep it out of sight until training sessions start. When she listens and obeys a command, give her the toy and let her play with it—play with it with her—to show how pleased you are that she listened. After the training session is over, put the special toy away until next time.


Go for a nature walk. Forget your usual stroll around the block. Go big and take your pup on a fun adventure to your local dog-friendly park or hit up nature trail. The sniffs and fresh air will have her filling up her senses and you both get in some good exercise and bonding time.

Take a car ride. I rarely meet a dog who doesn’t love a ride in the car. Make the ride even more exciting by heading to your local dog-friendly hardware store or swing through a coffee shop drive thru and treat you dog to a puppuccino (While your dog may get a yummy treat when you’re on this excursion, the reward is being in a car with you with the wind blowing all kinds of intriguing smells through the window.)


The more consistent you are with your training and the way you communicate with your pup, the more successful you will be in having a well mannered boxer. And in the end that’s the best reward.


What non-food reward is your dog's favorite?

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