How To Train A Dog That Is Not Food Motivated (Or Treats)

The vast majority of dogs are relatively easy to train, considering they’ll do just about anything for a tasty treat. Whether that’s sitting down on command or behaving around new people, a dog’s appetite is often the key to effective training.  

But, what if your dog isn’t motivated by food? Are there any other methods that are equally as effective for training your pooch? 

The good news is that treats aren’t the only approach you can use, with a number of other tools available if you’re struggling to discipline your dog. 

This guide will take an in-depth look at five of the most effective methods of training a dog that isn’t motivated by food or treats. We’ll also look to answer some of the frequently asked questions related to the topic. 

How To Train A Dog That Is Not Food Motivated (Or Treats)

Using Praise As Positive Reinforcement

Lots of dog breeds are people-pleasers, meaning they’ll do just about anything to make you happy and feel an important part of your life. With this in mind, using praise as a means of positive reinforcement can be just as effective for training your pooch as using treats. 

Dogs may not be able to speak the same language as us, but they’re more than capable of understanding emotions through cues such as body language and tone of voice. 

Therefore, you can positively reinforce good behavior by giving them belly rubs and back scratches, as well as being upbeat and enthusiastic when communicating with them. 

Ultimately, training a dog that isn’t food motivated is different from breed to breed. Take the time to get to know your dog’s personality, and learn exactly which types of praise work most effectively for them. 

Remove Any Potential Distractions 

For the vast majority of dogs, distractions prove to be a constant obstacle to successful training.

Whether it’s other dogs playing, people talking, or the smell of nearby food, it’s hardly surprising that dogs find these types of distractions far more interesting than your insistent commands. 

Therefore, it’s a good idea to remove these potential distractions by training your pooch in a quiet area where there are very few external distractions. This may also provide a settled environment where your dog may rediscover their appetite. 

Using Play As A Reward

Another highly effective method of training is to use playtime as a reward for good behavior. If your dog isn’t interested in treats no matter what kind of food you provide to them, interactive play will give them something different to work towards.

So, instead of holding out a treat, grab your dog’s favorite toy and reward them with a period of playtime when they perform whatever it is that you’re asking them to do. 

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this training method is to get your pooch to calm down afterwards. It may take a fair amount of practice and patience, but they’ll soon catch on with repeated action. 

Demonstrating Your Authority 

It’s important that your dog learns to respect your authority if you’re struggling to motivate them with treats. To provide this clear authority, you should use commands such as “sit”, “stay”, and “quiet”. 

Using commands is effective for dedicated training sessions, as well as during everyday interactions. For example, a common command may be asking your dog to sit in their bed when there’s a visitor at the front door. 

If your pooch isn’t listening to your commands, be persistent and show them that they have to obey your authority. Try to assert your dominance in a controlled and calm manner, even if they ignore you the first few times. 

Try Them With High Quality Foods 

If your dog isn’t motivated by the current treats you’re offering, it could be a good idea to try them with something that’s higher quality. Swapping a generic brand of dog treat for a fresh piece of chicken may just be enough to get their stomach’s attention. 

Therefore, before you give up on training your pooch with treats, try out a wide range of different high quality, dog-friendly foods to see if the change makes a difference.

Meat, peanut butter, and cheese are some of the most popular choices so it could be worth starting with these. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Dog Not Eat Treats?

It’s firstly important to check whether your pooch is suffering from a medical problem as a loss of appetite can often be one of the first signs of illness in dogs. It could be something as little as a tummy bug, or perhaps something a little more serious such as a medical disorder. 

Another potential reason why your dog isn’t eating treats could be due to an emotional issue. For example, stress, anxiety, and fear can often impact a dog’s appetite, as stress hormones lead to a number of physiological changes.

If you’re sure that it isn’t a medical or emotional problem, there’s every chance that it might have something to do with the treats themselves. For example, some treats may be low quality, stale, or have expired past their shelf life. 

Why Won’t My Dog Eat But Will Drink Water?

If your dog’s refusing to eat, but will still drink their water, this may indicate that they’re a picky eater. If this is the case, continue to monitor their behavior for a few days and see if their appetite changes. 

If they continue to avoid their food and only drink water, it’s a good idea to contact your vet for professional advice. What’s more, if your dog is also refusing to drink, then it’s essential you consult your vet as soon as possible. 

When Should I Worry About My Dog Not Eating? 

If your dog hasn’t eaten anything for a couple of days, and is displaying other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy, it’s a good idea to seek immediate veterinary attention. 

Can A Fear Of Punishment Lead To My Dog Not Eating? 

Yes, dogs that have previously been pushed around and have bad memories associated with food may turn their noses up at food when you offer it to them. In order for them to move beyond these feelings, you need to prove to them that it’s safe for them to accept the food.

This may mean giving them plenty of space during dinner time or serving it to them in a place they feel safe and comfortable such as their bed. 

Which Dogs Are Most Obsessed With Food?

While the vast majority of breeds love their food, Labrador Retrievers have earned a notable reputation for having large, ravenous appetites.

What’s more, this is substantiated with evidence, as according to a study, one in five Labrador Retrievers carry the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene mutation. 

Daniel Johnson
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