How to Train a Dog That is Not Food Motivated: TIPS to Try

Dogs are typically food motivated, which makes them easy to train. However, some dogs are not as motivated by food and require a different approach.

In this blog post, we will discuss how to train a dog that is not food motivated. We will cover a variety of methods that can be used to motivate your dog and get them started on the right track!

Tricks To Train A Dog Who Isn’t Motivated By Food Rewards

Tricks To Train A Dog Who Isn't Motivated
Positive reinforcement, such as toys and praise, are excellent alternatives to treats while training.

Dogs are biologically hardwired to be motivated by food. Sometimes dogs will eat only treats and not their regular meals.

However, for the dog who is not interested in food rewards, you can do a few things to make training easier.

Higher-Value Treats

First, try using higher-value treats. If your dog isn’t interested in regular kibble, try something more exciting like freeze-dried liver or cheese. You may need to experiment to find something your dog really loves.

Positive Reinforcement

Another option is to use positive reinforcement instead of treats. It means rewarding your dog with petting, belly rubs, or verbal praise when he does something you’ve asked.

It can be especially effective for very people-oriented dogs who are motivated by human attention.

Use positive reinforcement and avoid scolding or punishment, as this can quickly lead to a negative association with training.

Try Verbal Cues and praise

You can train a dog that is not food motivated by using praise. Dogs love to please their owners, so praising them for good behavior can be a great way to motivate them.

You can also use verbal cues such as “good dog” or “yes” to mark good behavior.

Play With Toys To Motivate Your Dog

The method you can use to train a dog that is not food motivated is using toys. Dogs love to play, so using their natural desire to play can be a great way to motivate them.

Use their favorite toy as a reward for good behavior, and they will quickly learn what you expect from them.

Avoid Distractions

The distractions are always popping up when teaching your dog new tricks.

You want your dog focused on whatever lesson you’re trying to teach, but people and objects often stand in the way and are usually more interesting than what’s happening the lesson.

Sometimes dogs will simply give up their treat rather than bother with waiting patiently while we work out an easy command or trick.

Short Training Sessions

Finally, keep training sessions short and sweet. If your dog is losing interest, end the session positively before he gets too frustrated.

With a little patience and creativity, you can successfully train any dog – even one that isn’t food motivated!

Why Dogs Aren’t Food-motivated: Deeper Reasons

Why Dogs Aren't Food motivated
If your dog isn’t food-motivated during training, it may be nervous.

The phrase “He’s not food-motivated” or the phrase “He doesn’t enjoy treats” are frequently used by dog owners to describe their pet.

When a dog’s owner attempts to credit their pet for excellent conduct and the dog refuses to accept the prize, it is referred to as a “no taker.” But if your dog were uninterested in food, he would refuse to eat anything.

There may be deeper reasons why he isn’t interested in working for the biscuit.

Influence Of Stress

You may find that your dog cannot accept rewards if the scenario he’s in is too stressful for him. Your dog’s body language may tell you if he’s stressed or not, so pay attention to it.

A crowded street, many people, young children, loud noises, or even other dogs might make your dog anxious.

Try training your dog in a calmer environment. If necessary consult a mental health specialist about the best way to minimize his anxiety.

When dogs are distressed, they exhibit a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Mouth-to-mouth licking
  • Yawning
  • Panting (when it isn’t hot outside)
  • Shaking off
  • The “whites” of their eyes


If your dog is overweight or obese, she may not be eager to put in the effort to get a reward. Some of your dog’s meals may be used during training sessions, while other meals could be rationed out.

Turkey, watermelon, apple slices, and green beans are low-calorie yet tasty snacks. These will aid in your pet’s weight loss efforts and provide positive reinforcement during training sessions.

During The Feeding

If you train your dog just after a meal, she may be unmotivated to work simply because she is full.

Try training before mealtimes and include a portion of the meal into your training.

Type Of Treat

It’s possible that the reward you’re using won’t pique your dog’s interest. Your dog may not find the treatment gratifying if it isn’t interesting enough for him.

When deciding what to eat, consider if a dry biscuit or a piece of chicken from the night before would be more appealing. Each dog, like a human, has his or her favorite meals.

To keep your dog engaged throughout training, it’s crucial to know what goodies they like.

Avoid Long Training Periods

Avoid Long Training Periods
Negative reinforcement isn’t only ineffective, also erodes the bond you have with your dog.

If the training is too long, your dog may lack interest in eating goodies. As a general guideline, it’s best to leave your dog wanting more after every training session, regardless of how long it takes them to engage.

A final piece of advice is to leave the meeting in a high tone. Even if your dog doesn’t understand what you’re saying, you can still terminate the training session positively.

They’ll be more motivated to return to the session later on if you terminate it when they’re still eager to work. If you finish the session when they are worn out, they may be unwilling to work again in the future.

Bottom Line

While it may be more difficult to train a dog that is not food motivated, it is not impossible. With patience and positive reinforcement, you can help your dog learn your desired behaviors.

Remember, every dog is different, so don’t get discouraged if your pup doesn’t pick things up as quickly as you would like. Be persistent and have faith in your canine companion, and you will be able to achieve great things together.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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