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How To Train a Non-Food Motivated Dog

By Jason Wright

March 17, 2021

Training Without Treats

Although many owners and trainers prefer to use treats there are many other ways to train your dog without the use of treats. Sometimes a dog is just not food motivated! Therefore, its important not to be one dimensional in your training. Having a solid understanding of many different motivational techniques is the best approach.

Finding the Right Motivation

Using Play in Training

Using play in training is an excellent way to keep your dog motivated and engaged with you. Whether you are trying to make your dog’s obedience stronger or have a dog who isn’t food motivated, play should always be a part of the training process.

Using Toys in Training

Using a tug is one of the best toys you can use to play with your dog. Its important to ensure that your dog doesn’t constantly have access to the tug and it should only be used during play or training sessions. This will ensure that your dog associates you with a reward or fun and keeps your dog always engaged and motivated to interact with you through that tug toy.

There must be rules when using the tug and the most important rule or command you must teach is “out”. This means your dog releases the tug as soon as you say so!

Using Praise in Training

Verbal or physical (petting) praise is also another reward we can use when training our dogs. Praise can be done verbally OR physically.

Try Different Treats

Sometimes when our dogs have had constant access to food or are given treats without earning them they tend to be less motivated when we try to get them engaged during our training sessions. One thing we can try is to find what we call a High Value Food Reward. Some HVFR that we like to use to train dogs who are less food motivated are cut up pieces of steak, chicken, turkey and cheese. Which will be best will all depend on your dog.

Remove Distractions

Another reason for your dog not being food motivated may be because the environment is too stressful for your dog. This is why it is important to start your training in a neutral environment where there are minimal distractions. Overtime as your dog is more engaged and motivated in less busy environments, we can slowly increase the distraction. It is very important not to overwhelm or ask too much of your dog.

Are You Overfeeding Your Dog?

Dogs who are over fed at meal times are also likely to be less food motivated. Most of the time our dogs need to be hungry to be motivated to take food/treats during training.

Should You See a Vet?

If your dog isn’t eating for a period of 3-5 days or more you should definitely make a vet appointment as there may be a serious.

The iTK9 Way

During our board and train programs we use a variety of motivation techniques to train your dog including food, toys, praise. When looking to hire a trainer make sure they are not one dimensional as it is important to adjust techniques depending on the individual dog that they are training.

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