Are you about to start training your new dog but don’t want to only rely on treats? Don’t worry! There are plenty of great alternative ways to reward your dog and show positive reinforcement without the need for a constant supply of food rewards. Check out this list of ways to train a puppy to sit without treats!
Why not use treats in puppy training?
It is commonly said that reward-based training and positive reinforcement are the most effective way to train your new pup. However, there is definitely more than one way to do this! Many people think that treats as positive reinforcement are the only way to reward your puppy, but this is definitely not true. There are lots of effective methods you can use to get a well trained pup in no time and train a puppy to sit without treats.
There are a number of reasons why you might decide on a non food-based training strategy. While treats can work well in training and many people choose to use them, some people are worried about always having to have them close by or are simply worried about their dog’s diet. Always speak to your vet about how much food you should be giving your dog.
Some dogs simply don’t get what all the fuss is about with treats! You might immediately think that any dog you have will be as food driven as many of them seem. But this sometimes isn’t the case at all! Some dogs are simply not food driven, so treat based rewards don’t seem to be very effective. These dogs are a prime example for where other training methods are likely to be the way forward!
On top of these reasons, you may be worried that you’re simply becoming a food dispensing machine to your dog! Some argue that you can possibly gain a closer relationship with your dog by training them through praise and play as opposed to just food. This will allow you to spend quality time with your dog and also lead to them wanting to please you through good behaviour. Some people note their dog watching them for commands more carefully and their bond becoming stronger as a result.
Always remember, every dog is different and one training method may not work for every dog! Make sure to find the right training system for your dog.
Training a puppy through play
If your energetic puppy absolutely loves to play, then this is the method for you! This also helps if they have a favourite toy or ball to use to focus their attention.
Where to start:
Firstly, choose their favourite toy. This could be a ball or any other toy them seem to like best! Next, start playing with them. Always make the games you play with them exciting and fun for you both!
What to do:
During the game and while you are in control of the toy. Raise it above your dog’s head and clearly say ‘sit’ while they look at the toy. Keep raising it further above and behind their head until they instinctively sit down. As soon a they do this correctly, reward them with praise and also by carrying on the game and giving them their favourite toy.
Repeat and reward:
With repetition of this throughout these games, your pup will soon get the message and connect the command with the action and then to the reward. You’ll get to the stage where you don’t have to put the toy above their head but instead they will respond to the verbal command alone. Keep rewarding them with the positive reinforcement of their toy to let them know that they’re doing the right thing. Before you know it, you’ll have a well trained pup!
How to phase out treats in puppy training
Phasing out treats is a popular and effective way of training your new pup who may be particularly food driven. If your dog is food obsessed (and it’ll become very obvious if they are!), then why not try phasing out treats.
Where to begin:
The key to this strategy, is to begin training as you always would using treat rewards. When training your dog to sit, stand in front of them gaining their attention, and hold a tasty treat above their head. While you do this, make sure you clearly say the command ‘sit’.
Reward the right actions:
If you pup doesn’t sit initially, don’t worry! If they’re food driven, they will no doubt be fixated on the treat at this point. Raise the treat further above and behind their head and repeat ‘sit’. This will likely make your pup sit down while they’re looking above them. When they do this correctly, immediately reward them with the treat and lots of praise! This will let them know that this action was the right thing to do and will let them repeat the action in future.
Repeat and begin to phase out the treats:
Keep repeating! Soon, your dog will get the message and learn to associate the action with a reward. When they’re comfortably doing this, you’re then ready to start phasing out the treat rewards. Begin not using the food reward all the time when your dog completes the action correctly and after time, don’t use them for this trick at all.
Instead, show your dog enthusiasm and praise when they complete the action correctly to make sure they know that they’re still doing the right thing! With practice, your dog will not need treats at all and you’ll be well on your way to having a well behaved dog!
Using only commands in puppy training
The key thing to remember to make this method work is that most dogs absolutely love praise! When your dog realises that they’ve done something right that pleases you, most will happily try to re-create the action in future. This can mean that praise alone can be enough with some dogs to train them effectively!
Where to begin:
Get your pup’s attention by standing in front of them and begin to say the command ‘sit’ in a calm voice. Don’t expect them to do this immediately (otherwise they wouldn’t need the training!), because this idea may be very new to them if you’re training a new puppy. But don’t worry, they’ll soon learn what the command means.
What to do next:
While you’re standing in front of them, some dogs may instinctively sit down after a little while (sometimes just to have a rest!). If not and your pup stays standing, then consider giving them some direction by very gently pushing their back end down. Never push your dog too hard, a very small nudge should give them the idea of what you’re asking!
Reward and repeat:
As soon as your pup sits successfully, give them lots of praise to let them know they’ve done the right thing! Speak in a happy and upbeat tone while still staying calm. Repeat this process until they can associate the verbal command with the action and also with the praise they will receive afterwards!
Using a clicker without treats
Clickers are a great tool for training and have become more and more popular with new dog owners! Clickers are small devices you can keep in your pocket which, when pressed, create a clear ‘click’ noise. Although most people think that clickers must be used alongside treats, this isn’t true! Clickers can also be a great tool to be used to train a puppy to sit without treats.
The idea behind these tools is that your dog will learn to associate the sound with positive behaviour and a reward. Clickers also have the benefit of being a distinct sound that your dog isn’t likely to encounter anywhere else in their everyday life. This makes them extremely recognisable and difficult to confuse with other sounds around them. This will make sure your dog understands exactly when they’ve done the right thing without getting muddled with other similar sounds.
Where to start:
Position yourself in front of your dog and say the command ‘sit’. When they do this, either instinctively when you stand in front of them or when you very gently push their bottom down, immediately press the clicker. Follow this up by immediately rewarding them with whatever method you choose. This could be through praise or their favourite game or toy.
Practice and repeat:
Keep practicing this! Soon your puppy will learn to associate the click sound with positive behaviour and a reward and it will let them quickly know that they’re doing it right!
Are you looking for a way to train your new pup without constantly having to use treats? While treat training can work well, here are some simple alternatives of ways to train a puppy to sit without treats!