Training a dog to obey commands by offering treats is something most dog owners would agree they have certainly tried with positive results, but dog training without treats has its benefits. While even the best trainers rely on treats as positive reinforcement, the idea has its pitfalls. There comes the point when the animal only listens to the owner or trainer if more treats are promised in return.
Regardless of the dog’s breed, it’s pertinent that you allow the dog to listen to your voice commands and not get distracted by its favorite treat. We have a quick guide to get you started with a commonly raised question Can you train a dog without treats? Yes, it is possible to train a dog without using treats as a reward. Alternative rewards such as praise, affection, and playtime can be just as effective in encouraging good behavior.
Top Reasons Why Dog Training Without Treats Is The Best Option
- Treats are a motivation for your dog to listen to your commands. However, dogs can be frisky, and when chasing another animal – something as harmless as a squirrel, the animal may not stop just because you are running behind with a treat. In other words, treat training doesn’t always mean that the dog will listen to you in all circumstances.
- Using treats to lure your dog into doing things may not work when you are stepping out. You can only sometimes expect to take a bagful of chews and bones with you for practical reasons, and it makes sense to look for other means.
- Many experienced dog experts and trainers agree that canines fail to respect their owners, especially if they are trained with treats alone. The dog sees the treat as a reason to do things, and that is not always associated with you. This may, in return, affect the bond you share with the canine. Remember, treats are eventually a bribe, which is not the ideal way to get desired behavior.
Best Dog Training Methods Without Treats
1) Constructive Clicker Training
When training your four-legged companion, you need to be in charge. Instead of making the dog obey your words with a treat, you rely on a clicker sound. The sound reinforces good behavior instead of directly depending on a treat, although you must reward your dog or puppy for the excellent work. Verbal praise is a great way of showing adulation, and you can even engage with the animal in a game.
How To Use Clicker Training?
The best bet is to use the right tool to make a distinct sound that dogs can understand. The sound should not be something your pet is used to hearing but should be unique and easy to identify. Also, the timing is important. Make the sound only when the dog obeys the command or when you want it to listen. The clicker sound stimulates the mind of the dog and allows the animal to associate it with commands. Before you start with clicker training, make sure to fix the rewards, and it is best to give the dog something to cherish for every order they follow in the initial days. Clicker training is considered the best option for dog training methods without treats.
2) Consider E-Collars
Also known as shock collars, E-Collars have been around for years. Many dog trainers have reservations about these collars, considering the static vibrations that canines are subjected to. Still, this can work for you when used effectively and in sync with other training methods. An E-Collar consists of a remote, and each time you press the button, the collar creates static vibrations, which can help correct your dog’s behavior.
How To Use E-Collars?
First and foremost, always choose the right size of the E-Collar, which should fit your dog rightly without clinging or being too loose around the neck. Collars have a wide range of stimulation levels, and therefore, you may need to adjust the same to find what works for your puppy. E-Collars are not enough alone; you need to include verbal commands in the mix. E-Collars can be your answer for how to train a dog without treats!
3) Positive Reinforcement
Simply put, positive reinforcement is about encouraging the correct behavior through reward, but you wouldn’t be using treats in this case. Each time your doctor accomplishes something or listens to a command, you encourage the same through rewards. You can consider rewards like a play session, praises, or gentle touches.
How To Use Positive Reinforcement?
If you choose to offer playtime as a reward, you can start with a toy that the dog likes. You can also reward the dog with other things, such as a beach walk or a dog park run. Verbal praise using simple words also works big time with most breeds, while there’s also the option of touching your dog on the head or patting the back for every good deed. When it comes to wrong deeds, you have to ignore a few missteps and induce other training techniques to correct their behavior.
4) Cooperative training
If you need clarification on how to train a puppy without treats, then cooperative training can be started early with your pet. Instead of using training tools that don’t rely on stimulation, you can consider cooperative training, also known as relationship-based training. It requires pet parents to have a lot of patience as they need to focus on every aspect, from behavior and body language to capabilities, habits, and weaknesses. That training requires active participation, and you are the teacher here.
How To Use Relationship-Based Training?
Always start with easier tasks and simple commands that are easier for the dog to understand. You also need to ensure that are no distractions. You may have to repeat a command many times, which is a gradual process. Try to understand how factors like hunger, tiredness, and stress could make the canine behave in a certain way, which also means you cannot be furious or impatient.
5) Alpha Dog Training
Although controversial and often not a preferred choice for many dog trainers, dominance-based training could be an option for some pet owners. Because dogs are descendants of wolves, it is based on the theory of the pack. Instead of getting your dog to become your pack’s alpha, you take the dominant position. Contrary to popular belief, being dominant doesn’t mean you are abusive to the dog, but you are letting the animal know who is in charge.
How To Try Dominance-Based Training?
Since you are the alpha here, you need to ensure that you are the first when walking along the road or stepping out of the house. Your pet doesn’t get to decide what happens in the relationship, allowing you to have total authority over your dog. You shouldn’t feed your dog until it listens to commands and not give any other reward unless it is in submissive mode.
Five Essential Tips For Dog Training Without Treats
Dog experts often recommend the following tips for pet owners on how to train a dog without treats –
- Avoid talking to the dog for a while. If your canine isn’t listening as you want or has been naughty, you may consider spending time away from the animal, deliberating, avoiding direct eye contact, or talking. Done right, you will see a significant change in how your dog connects with you after some time.
- Focus on the leash. How you handle your dog on the leash says much about your relationship. As the owner, you should be able to guide your dog and not the other way around. Leash training takes time and is all about patience. The leash also tells the dog you are in charge of the situation.
- Use the word “sit” more often. This is probably one of the basic commands you can use to get your animal to listen to you. Your dog could be a hyperactive pet, but if you make the most of the right words, you could force them to listen, even when there are distractions.
- Keep a balance. Yes, you want to train your dog, but remember you are dealing with a form of life here. Dogs often feel stressed and tired, and as the owner, you are required to concentrate on what works best for their well-being. Keep time for training each day, but also ensure that the dog has time to play and enjoy with the family.
- Training is not a one-way street. Training your dog is not just about how the animal responds to your words and commands. It is also about how you deal with the response. Regarding pet training, patience is easily the most critical aspect. Make sure that you don’t get angry or rude to the animal. Take your time and be ready to give a lot of time.
Great Alternatives To Treats For Dog Training
While we have covered many techniques that you can consider for training your dog without treats, here is a list of alternatives that you can consider –
- Touch: Every dog has a favorite spot—some like belly rubs, others like a scratch on the head or chin. As a pet owner, you already know the happy spots and can rely on using touch to reward the dog. Touch is an optimistic reinforcement, no matter the approach.
- Reward: Dogs also enjoy activities that are not about eating. Consider taking your dog for a long walk or making time for games at home. If you have a dog park, take the animal to socialize with other canines. The reward for good training and behavior should be something the dogs associate with being happy.
- Games. There are all kinds of training toys in stores but look for the one your dog enjoys the most. Use the toy only after each session; otherwise, keep it away from sight. The dog will start associating the toy with joy after training.
Benefits Of Training Your Puppy Without Treats
While trainers and owners often use treats, there are several benefits of relying on the methods mentioned above –
- Because you are not using food as a distraction or reward, you can expect to create a better bond with your pet.
- As a dog handler and owner, you will better understand the dog’s behavior. Further, this allows you to decide the best time to train and when to allow the animal to relax.
- As you remove treats from the picture, you ensure your dog is not motivated by food alone. That can further prevent your pet from accepting treats from strangers.
- You will have better control and confidence in your action. You can expect the animal to obey commands even when you don’t have treats. In situations with an imminent threat to the animal, you don’t need something specific to get the animal to listen to you.
- You probably don’t have to deal with obesity concerns. Because dog treats are often high in calories, it may not be the best option for certain breeds to rely on the entire training process on food.
Dogs follow behavior, and you need to avoid the cycle. Your dog will start expecting more treats if you continue using food as motivation to get work done.
As a dog owner, you must grasp how to use tasty morsels to raise your canine. There are many effective ways to reduce the dependency on treats, and the eventual goal is to ensure that the animal is healthy. Treats often have high sugar content and may not be a choice for getting things done when you have an older or diabetic dog. Dog training without treats should be an option preferred by most owners for their pets to be healthy.
When training a dog without treats, the earlier you start, the better the likely results. If you believe you don’t have the skills to train your dog, get a trainer. Let the trainer know that you don’t want the dog to focus on food and treats alone, and they can rely on different tools that are often more effective and can be used in versatile words. Raising a happy and obedient dog takes patience, time, and considerable work.