Dog Does Tricks Only When Food Or Treats Given


New Member
Hi Everyone,

Long-time reader, first time poster. My dog Tutsy has learned many tricks over his few short years living with me, but he only does them when he knows I have treats. If I ask him to do it without a treat he will do it slow and sometimes not at all ... what can I do???



Staff member
First of all, hi!

Second, where do you keep your treats during training? Is it on you, on the counter, in the treat bag?

If you keep them in a treat bag or pocket, get them off your body. Put them on a counter top or table, away from you. Stand near the counter, and ask for a simple command, sit or down. Use everything you've got, just as if you DID have the treats on you. When he does it say YES! or click, and get him a treat off the counter.

If that doesn't work try this next one.

Put the treats and clicker in your pocket. Make sure the dog sees this happening, make it real obvious. Go to the counter, take them out of your pocket and put them on the counter. Rapid-Fire* ten treats from the counter to your dog (not quite as rapid as if you had them in your hand but that's okay . We're explaining to the dog that the treats are available, even if they aren't on your person). Now pretend to pick up another one, ask for the a simple command, say YES! and click. And very obviously get another treat from the counter to give him.

*Rapid-fire is basically charging the clicker but as fast as you can. Click, treat, click, treat.


Honored Member
Another method is to use play or life rewards.
Mix them into his life constantly.

Your dog wants his dinner he has to do a trick for it.
Your dog wants to go outside he has to do a trick before you open the door.
Your dog wants to be let off the lead he earns that privilege with a trick.
Your dog wants to chase his ball he earns a chase by performing a trick.

There are almost endless opportunities and once your dog gets the idea he might well have higher drive working for these rewards.


Experienced Member
My dog, Winston, has a similar behaviour which I'm trying to get rid off - I'm keeping treats on the counter for example, and it's pretty useful since he's not seeing the treat actually but he can smell it. I still have some issues with some tricks but he's doing pretty good with this.
Also you might want to add in the occasional "good boy!" and pet instead of clicking and treating, if your dog likes petting. I also use life rewards like running dog said.
If I want to walk my dog I'll tell him to sit so I can put on the leash, for example. With Hosen, if I'm playing fetch, I'll ask him to do a trick and then throw the ball. But Hosen is easier than Winston, haha! He got the hang of the "you will get treats OR another pleasing thing" pretty quick. Hosen loves doing a lot of things, but Winston is kind of food-only-oriented, so it's harder to work with him without treats.
It depends on the individual dog.

Tâmara Vaz

Experienced Member
I have the same problem... Plus problems with distractions...
I'm slowly solving it like ppl suggested on the up posts.