Training a dog who doesn’t care about food

Have you ever tried to train a dog who doesn’t care about food? Some of you might be saying, “What? No way! All dogs are motivated by food.” Well my friends this is simply not so, it’s rare, but sometimes a dog is more easily motivated by other means such as encouraging words and petting. I recently helped a friend of mine with her dog, Lilly. Lilly is one of these unusual dogs. She doesn’t care about treats. Pam and I were trying to teach her to come when she was called. I thought it would be an easy thing to do, after all what dog doesn’t come when you offer a piece of hot dog, cheese or other food they normally consider awesome? But right from the start of our training session, Lilly couldn’t care less about any treat we offered.

While I was training Rusty and Sadie I had noticed they loved it when I would clap my hands and tell them what good dogs they were. Would this work with Lilly? I had no idea, but figured it was worth a try.

Turned out Lilly loved being praised. To get Lilly to come, we would call her name and the moment she looked our way we would say good dog, clap our hands excitedly and continue to praise her until she was standing next to us. Once Lilly was standing next to us we would pet her and continue to give her lots of praise. Now Lilly comes when she’s called and Pam doesn’t have to worry about forgetting those not-so-motivating treats at home.

Want more dog training tips? Read “The Dog Tricks and Training Workbook.”


  1. Great to bring up this subject Kelley. My Hovawarts care less about treats (when it matters). For them the best reward is play. Far better than a treat they like to think. With a treat I only get them so far. With a game there are no limits.

  2. It’s fun to see what different types of things motivate our dogs. I love playing games with Sadie and Rusty it is something they also consider a great reward.

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