My Dog Only Listens When I Have Treats: Overcoming the Treat Dependency

My Dog Only Listens When I Have Treats: Overcoming the Treat Dependency

5 minute read

Gabe Garcia

When your dog only listens when you have treats, it can create problems when you need it to listen in everyday situations.

In this article, we'll explain why this can be an issue and share professional guidance on teaching your dog to obey without needing treats as incentives.

Why It Is A Problem

If your dog only listens to you when you have treats, it's going to be very difficult to get it to listen to you outside of training.

For example, if you were out on a walk and forgot to bring its treats, you might have trouble recalling your dog or having it follow commands when another dog comes nearby.

This can not only put other dogs in danger, but it can be very dangerous for your dog if it decides to go up to a dog that isn't friendly.

Your dog's selective obedience with treats can pose problems, reducing your control over them in various situations.

Understanding the root of this behavior and how to address it is crucial for maintaining your dog's safety and ensuring better control.

Where The Behavior Comes From

When you begin training your dog, treats are a great way to reward them for doing tricks because they are easy to use.

Treats help your dog learn that following commands leads to rewards. However, as your training progresses, you should introduce other rewards besides treats. While treats are still useful for daily training, they shouldn't be the only way to motivate your dog.

If you always use treats and show them to your dog before training or giving commands, your dog might only respond when treats are in sight.

This behavior can become stronger if treats are the only way you get your dog to listen. So, how do you break this pattern?

How To Address The Behavior

Dealing with a strong reliance on treats in training may take some time, but it's achievable.

The goal is to teach your dog to obey your commands without showing it treats beforehand. This way, it will listen to your commands and anticipate rewards afterward.

1. Hide The Treats

If you call your dog to training while holding treats or displaying the treat bag, you're sending the wrong message.

Instead, hide the treats in your pocket or a drawer where your dog can't see them. Then, give it a simple command it already knows, like 'sit!' This is important because using a treat to guide it is useful for teaching new tricks.

If it obeys the command, give it verbal praise and then retrieve the treat from its hidden spot and offer it to your dog.

Gradually, it'll learn that you can produce treats as needed, so it'll listen to you more, even if it seems like you don't have treats.

This kind of training eliminates the need for a treat lure and teaches your dog to respond to commands without expecting food as a reward.

2. Use Other Forms Of Positive Reinforcement

After teaching your dog that you can magically produce treats, the next step is to connect training with other rewards.

Instead of offering a treat, you could let your dog play outside in the yard or throw their favorite ball.

This part is more personal because you have many options to reward your dog after they obey a command. Experiment and discover what works best for you. Sometimes, simply praising your dog enthusiastically is enough, especially for eager-to-please dogs.

By repeating these two steps, your dog will learn to follow your commands even when it seems like you don't have treats or don't have any treats with you at all.

Long-term Strategy

Dog treats are an important part of training because most dogs love rewards, especially those motivated by food.

As you continue training, remember to hide treats while practicing commands. Additionally, you can reward your dog with other things it enjoys, such as playtime, praise, petting, or a favorite toy. This approach will help ensure ongoing success in your dog's obedience training for years to come.

If you're looking for healthy dog treats to complement your obedience training, check out our sweet potato dog treats. They only contain one ingredient and are free from all the preservatives and other chemicals you'll regularly see on popular dog treat products.


It's not a problem if your dog likes treats because treat-motivated dogs are usually easy to train.

The issue arises when your dog only obeys commands when it sees treats. To tackle this, train your dog to follow commands even when treats are hidden, and gradually introduce other rewards.

Treats should still be an important part of your daily training routine; it's all about using them the right way.

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