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While it’s true that most pets will be primarily motivated by food, sometimes you can’t or don’t want to encourage them in that way. Rest assured, there are ways around it! For a change of pace or if you’re accidentally running short on treats, here are ten ways you can treat your pet that aren’t based on food.

  1. A Game of Fetch – Instead of dishing out a treat, offer up your time as a reward! Pick a game or activity that your pet enjoys, and spend a good amount of time doing it. Play until they’re ready for a good long nap so they feel like you’ve really given your all to them.
  2. Take Them on a Walk – For some people, this might seem like a no-brainer, but if you don’t usually have the time to walk your pet (or someone else does it for you), allocate time to do it yourself. Your furry friend will appreciate the time spent together just as much as the outside time.
  3. Take a Trip to the Beach or a Park – If you have one close to you, take your pet to a local pet-friendly beach or park. If they don’t get to go there too often they’ll be excited by the rare experience, and might even make some friends while they’re there.
  4. A Food ‘Puzzle’ – We know, this one is technically still rewarding behavior with food. But it’s mixing up the way your pet receives the treat, and giving them some mental stimulation at the same time. Try out a ball that only dispenses treats when it’s rolled around into the correct spot for a reward that lasts more than just a few seconds. Pro tip: See how your pet responds to the puzzle you give them and adjust the difficulty accordingly. If it’s too easy or too hard, they won’t be motivated to receive it.
  5. A New Toy – If your pet is one that revels in the face of a new toy, pick one up for them. Pay attention to what your pet likes, whether it’s plush, squeaky, hard-sided, etc., and get one in that style.
  6. Brush Them – For some pets, this might be a punishment rather than a reward, but if your pet enjoys some pampering, go for it! Try and time this treat for the end of the day when they’re getting tired and will be more inclined to lay down calmly beside you.
  7. Purchase a New Bed – If your furry friend likes to be extra comfortable, try out a new bed for them! With options ranging from raised cots to heated pads, there’s truly an option for every pet. Pro tip: Some animals won’t feel comfortable around the smell of a new bed, so make sure they still have the option to use their old one if they prefer.
  8. Let Them Onto Your Couch or the Bed – Well-trained pets who might not otherwise have the option to be on the furniture will revel in the prospect of it. Pro tip: If your pet isn’t fully trained or can’t be trusted on your furniture yet, skip this reward in favor of something else.
  9. Take a Ride in the Car – What might seem like an annoying errand into town for you might be a fantastic treat for your pet! Bring them along with you and, if safe to do so, let them stick their head out the window and enjoy the fresh air. Pro tip: If your pet is small or at risk of escaping out of your view, bring someone else along to hold onto them. Always drive extra cautiously when your pet is in the car, they’re just as susceptible to injury from an accident as you are!
  10. Offer Them Verbal Praise – While it’s true that most pets are motivated most strongly by food, they also appreciate verbal praise just like humans do! If your pet performs a good behavior, shower them in positive sentiments and a good old-fashioned belly rub. Pro tip: The tone on your voice goes a long way with pets. Speak clearly and enthusiastically so your pet really understands how happy you are with them. The more exuberant you are, the more they will understand that they’ve done a good job.

You’re probably thinking, who knew that pets could be motivated and rewarded in ways other than with food? We’re right there with you! So, the next time you want to treat your furry friend, try one of these ways fun and unique ways that don’t involve food.


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