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4 ways to reward your dog without treats

Does your dog prefer praise or treats? My poodle, Henrietta, will accept both, but she’d rather have a yummy treat in her belly than a belly rub! However, when you’re training a dog and giving him multiple treats throughout the sessions, 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. Our dogs are empathetic to our words and emotions. When you speak in an angry tone, even if you’re saying kind words, your dog will understand the angry tone. Use your words and your tone to praise your dog for a job well done. Whether she’s “sat” when you told her to, or she didn’t run after the neighbor’s cat or she dropped a toy when asked, praise her. She will respond to a “Good Girl!” and want to hear those words and feel those happy emotions you’re emanating again.  

Pets and loving strokes. It’s a scientific fact: When humans pet dogs, our blood pressure drops and we feel less stressed. Imagine how great it feels to our dogs when we pet them. Stroke your dog’s fur. Rub his belly. As soon as your dog does something you wanted him to do, give pets, pats and scratches freely. Give him a scratch behind the ears, under the chin, or another place on his body that makes him melt with happiness.

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

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 bistro or fast food chain that offers treats for dogs in cars. (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.)

Tip: Don’t forget, even if your dog enjoys the wind in his face, you need secure him in a car seat harness, to minimize injuries, falls, etc.


Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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