Non food rewards for dogs
Tips and Ideas

You will be surprise to discover that non food rewards for dogs are plentiful.

Some of them you use everyday without even realizing it! Others might take a little bit of planning but your hound will love them as well.

Once you understand the true concept of reward, you will be able to come up with many non-treat based prizes for your hound.

Below there are some ideas, please fell free to share your ideas too!

What is the benefit of using non food rewards for dogs?

  • During a training session it will add variety to the mix of rewards. This will actually make each individual reward more valuable because the animal doesn't know what comes next.
  • Helps prevent over feeding and many dog health problems associated with overweight.
  • It will give you a chance to train your pet during the routine of the day, outside of training sessions. This will make your canine's repertoire of behaviors more reliable.
  • It will teach your pooch that nothing is free in life! He will learn self-control and will be more in tune with you.
  • You will get to know your dog better. I bet you didn't know he enjoyed liking ice cubes in the summer so much!

What is a reward?

Golden present by Natika

Basic question. The answer should be fairly simple, right? No quite.

  • A reward should be enjoyable to the individual receiving it.

And the most important piece of information…

  • A reward given at the correct time will make the behavior happen more often (or will make a more reliable response to a command).

You know when something is rewarding to your dog when IT WORKS!

If you are using a certain "reward", like patting your pooch on the head, but he doesn't seem to be responding to your command very well…then you can discard patting on the head as a prize.


The concept of punishment is similar but opposite to a reward.

Punishment will make the behavior happen less often. So, if you are chocking your dog with a leash to make him stop pulling…but he keeps doing it…guess what? That's right, chocking is not enough of a punishment or your timing is wrong.

I would much rather make mistakes using rewards, than using punishment.


Now that you know the proper definitions, you will be able to use rewards appropriately!

The next step is to find out what is a non food reward to your dog.

Non Food Rewards For Dogs

Verbal Praise for your dog

Our dogs don't speak English, words have no effect on them. Verbal praise will only be an effective dog reward without food if you have taught your pet the meaning of it. To do this read "Marker-Word the first thing you should teach your dog!".

Some dogs will get super excited about verbal praise only because they are able to recognize the body language of their owner, which tells them you are in a good mood! Other dogs love verbal praise because it has been associated with good consequences (food, going out for walk, etc.).

If verbal praise is one of the many non-food rewards for dogs you can use with your pet, mix it with other prizes.

Physical affection for your dog

Some dog parents love hugging, patting, petting and snuggling with their pet. Most of the time your canine friend loves it too. However, often enough dogs just put up with it but don't particularly enjoy it.

Just like with verbal praise though, you can teach your furry friend to like physical praise. Pet them (or pat them, or hug them, or belly rub them) then give them a food reward. Do this often and randomly (like training a Marker Word). You will notice that your hound will start anticipating physical praise and enjoy it too!

Note: you can use other non food rewards for dogs as reinforcers when teaching your dog to enjoy physical interaction.

At that point you can start using physical praise as a reward. This type of praise is not a primary need of your pet, so you will need to keep it going by giving food rewards after petting once in a while.

Examples of physical praise:
* Petting, rubbing along the spine.
* Patting on the head or shoulders.
* Rubbing behind the ears.
* Belly rub.
* Dog Massage.
* Cuddling on the couch/bed.

Dog Toys

Most hounds love toys! There are so many different toys out there that I am sure you will be able to find a few your pet will adore.

What? Your pooch doesn't like to play with toys? Usually dogs will love playing with toys if they have had good experiences with them as puppies. If your pet is not motivated by toys you can teach him to appreciate them too!

Like you did with verbal praise (Marker Word) and physical praise. Show them the toy, immediately give them a food treat. Repeat many times.

You can even teach your canine friend to play with certain toys using the dog training method of shaping. First reward your dog for sniffing the toy, then for licking it, then for picking it with it's mouth…and so on.

The best toy rewards are the ones that include time with you! You can play fetch, tug-of-war and hide and seek.

Toy examples:
* Toys that make noises your dog enjoys producing while chewing.
* Toys that have textures your pet enjoys while chewing.
* Puzzle toys (the animal has to get food our of them by moving it around, licking and chewing).
* Pretend kill toy (the dog shakes the stuffed animal to "dismember it").
* Fetch toys: balls, Frisbee, bones, sticks.
* Tug-of-war toys: ropes and stuffed animals

Toys can be excellent non food rewards for dogs!

Dog Games

Boy and dog playing fetch by Martina Osmy

Games can be an extremely fun non food rewards for dogs! You need to teach your pet the rules of every game. Basic rules include: You start and stop the game, if you feel your dog's teeth in your skin the game is over, If you request the toy (drop-it command) your pet MUST let it go.

Keep "special" game toys locked somewhere. This will give them more value and it will also help in training the above rules.

Games to play with your canine friend:
* Hide and Seek: you hide, your dog has to find you. He needs to know the command Stay (so you can hide!)
* Fetch
* Tug of War
* Treasure Hunt: hide treats around the house, then let your furry friend find them! You can also use a "special" hide and seek toy.

Access to something they usually don't get but like.

You probably don't let your hound do many of the behaviors he loves because they might be "annoying" or inappropriate. Some of these behaviors could be used as jackpots! Let your dog engage in them after a really good obedience performance.

Examples:
* Chasing squirrels or birds.
* Jumping on a lake or pond.
* Getting wet with the sprinklers in the yard.

Access to something they usually get for free.

There are many non food rewards for dogs you give for free daily. Why not use them in exchange of good behavior?

These are called life's rewards and can be extremely useful to teach manners to your canine friend.

Instead of letting your dog jump on the couch with you whenever he wants, ask him to respond correctly to a command first. This will teach your dog self-control, it will teach him that he needs to ask for permission before doing certain things.

Examples:
* Jumping on the couch to snuggle up with you.
* Sleeping in the bed with you.
* Going outside (walks or the yard).

Non food rewards for dogs can be very useful. Pay attention during your daily routine and ask your dog to respond to a command (sit or down) before you proceed to reward him.


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