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Our dogs will do just about anything for a yummy treat. Food motivated behavior is logical, tried and true, but if your dog isn’t displaying interest in your treats, then we’ll need a Plan B. Dog obedience training is difficult enough, and without appropriate motivation, training a dog can feel near impossible. Attention grabbers are necessary and when dog treats aren’t doing the trick, you’ll need alternatives. Don’t worry, treats aren’t the only tools you can use for dog training. So, here are some tips on how to train a dog without treats.

Try Other Flavors

Think of your dog’s treats like money. You’re paying your dog to complete a specific action, and some dogs won’t work for minimum wage. Generic brands of dog treats may not be a worthy motivator for your dog. Perhaps a chunk of cheese or a freshly cooked piece of chicken might just get your dog’s attention though.

Test different kinds of dog-friendly foods before giving up on training with treats. Cheese, meat, and peanut butter are all well-known favorites. Just make sure your dog doesn’t have an intolerance or allergies first.

Eliminate Distractions

Dog training distractions are constant obstacles for all dog owners. It’s difficult to train a dog when people, sounds, and smells are often more interesting than your persistent commands. Sometimes, the neighbor cat next door gets all the attention.

When training dogs that are still relatively new to their home, keep in mind that they might be too busy sniffing out the new atmosphere to prioritize their appetite. Find yourself a quiet, distraction-free area to eliminate distractions.

Leverage Play as a Treat

Positive reinforcement is the name of the game. If your dog isn’t responding to treat training, you can train a dog without treats by leveraging play. Bonding interactions will give your dog something to work for, and of course, strengthen your bond.

Grab your dog’s favorite toy and hold it as if you were holding a treat. Whenever they perform the desired action, immediately reward them with a delightful interaction or a round of their favorite game. Try not to get your dog too wound up, because he’ll need to calm down afterward to continue training. Be patient with this method. Your dog will catch on quickly as you repeat the action.

Use Praise to Reinforce

Most breeds of dog are known as people-pleasers. This is tough to believe when they chew on the couch and snatch dinner table items, but they honestly do want to make us happy. Using praise as positive reinforcement has been known to be just as useful as using treats.

Though your dog doesn’t speak your language, you can still train a dog without treats with body language and tone of voice. Strengthen your messages by adding belly rubs and butt scratches to the training. Stay enthusiastic and maintain a positive tone, and your dog will start to understand what actions result in satisfying responses.

Training a dog without treats is about getting creative and finding what works for you and your dog. Spend time getting to know their personality. Since every dog is different, you can’t form exact expectations on training progress. Dog training without treats can be difficult, but it’s more than doable. Be patient and remember to have fun.

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