For most, the standard way of rewarding your dog for good behavior is through treats. In fact, it seems to be the only way, since they respond well to it and it can just become automatic. 

Unfortunately, relying too heavily upon food rewards can cause your pet to become overweight or obese. Along with this, changing up your pet’s reward can keep the challenge going and add enrichment beyond the usual dog bone.

The team at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital have some creative ways to give your fur friend positive reinforcement. Let’s take a look!

5 Creative Positive Reinforcement Ideas that Don’t Rely on Food

Food is a great motivator for dogs, we know, but when it becomes too much of a good thing, their weight can suffer. If you’ve found yourself wanting to up your pet’s game when it comes to cool rewards, there are several things you can do to enhance their training sans treats.

  1. Go on a new walking route  – After your pet completes a task or behavior, a simple but effective reward is to go for a walk. Instead of the same-old, same-old, let your pet choose the route and follow their lead with smells. Exercise may not seem like a reward to us, but it goes a long way to our pups. They cherish the time together and get additional enrichment with new sights and smells!
  2. The best belly scratch  – What self-respecting dog doesn’t love a good belly scratch? Most pets adore a 5-minute session of pats and scratches from their owners. The time you take to give your pet attention and affection goes a long way in the rewards department, and this time also services of incredible opportunity to bond. Pats are instantly appreciated. 
  3. Have fun with a new toy – New, challenging toys or games can be a very effective way to reward a pet and reinforce good behavior. Break out your  laser pointer or a shiny new tennis ball as treat, instead of a morsel. Or, if you’re in the morsel-giving mood, you could double dip and use a treat puzzle, for an extra win!
  4. Brush your pet – Brushing a pet can be a soothing reward and can help keep their skin and coat healthy. After you have worked with your pet on a new skill, take 5 minutes to brush your pet or provide some other form of grooming that your pet enjoys. (Believe it or not, some pets love bath time!) To make the experience even better, learn how to massage your dog for good health and well-being.
  5. Clicker training with praise – If you are in the early stages of training your pet, many pet owners report success with the clicker method. The clicker is a small device that emits a “click” when you press down on it. After your pet responds to your command (or behavior), click the clicker and praise the act with “good job”, “yay”,  or any other verbal praise. 

If you want to avoid relying too much on treats, there are so many ways you can provide positive reinforcement without the calories. The sky is really the limit when you think about it. It simply takes some time to think up other creative strategies to use as rewards. Your special pup will appreciate the efforts and you won’t have to worry about overfeeding your furry one.

For more information on positive reinforcement or other training questions, please call us!