Most dogs are willing to do just about anything for the chance at a tasty treat. That kind of food motivated behavior makes training with treats a dog owner’s go-to move, but what happens when your dog isn’t interested in your pocketful of biscuits and bones?
Without proper motivation, training a dog in obedience can feel impossible. You need something to grab their attention and get them listening, and when treats don’t do the trick, it’s time to switch tactics. The good news is, treats aren’t your only tool when it comes to training. Try these tips to tame your treat-resistant dog.
Up the Ante
Think of dog treats like currency. You’re basically paying your dog to perform a certain behavior, and some dogs refuse to work for minimum wage. A generic brand of dog treat might not be doing it for your pup, but a fresh-off-the-grill piece of chicken or a chunk of cheese might be enough to get their stomach’s attention.
Before you give up on training with treats, test out different kinds of high-value (and dog-friendly) foods. Meat, cheese, and peanut butter are known to be all-around favorites, as long as your dog has no allergies or intolerances.
Distractions are a constant obstacle with training. You want your dog focused on whatever lesson you’re trying to teach, but people, objects, sounds, and smells are often way more interesting than your insistent commands and coaxing. Sometimes a dog simply decides that staring down the cat across the street is worth giving up a treat for.
If you’re trying to train a dog that’s new to your home, they may be too busy inspecting their surroundings to care about the treat in your hand. Try taking your dog somewhere quiet without distractions and see if they suddenly find their appetite.
Use Play as a Reward
If your dog consistently refuses treats no matter what kind of food you offer, don’t lose hope. All it means is that you need to resort to a different kind of positive reinforcement. Interactive play will give your pup something to work toward, and it has the added benefit of strengthening your bond.
Hold your pup’s favorite toy out as you would a treat, and when they perform whatever you’re asking of them, immediately reward them with a rousing round of their favorite game. The trick to training with toys is getting your dog to calm down afterward to continue working. It will take patience, but they’ll catch on quickly with repeated action.
Practice With Praise and Pets
It can be hard to believe when they steal your sandwich and chew on your shoes, but most dog breeds are known for being people-pleasers. They honestly want to make you happy, and using praise as a form of positive reinforcement can be just as effective as using treats.
They don’t speak your language, but you can get your point across using your tone of voice and body language. You’ll strengthen the message by throwing in a few other things they really like, like butt scratches and belly rubs. Be enthusiastic and upbeat, and they’ll soon put the puzzle together to realize what actions warrant such satisfying responses.
Training a dog that isn’t treat motivated is all about finding something that works. All dogs are different, and you can’t expect your pup to fall into your pre-categorized expectations. Spend time with them and get to know their personality. Try out different techniques, and, as always, be patient.