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How To Reward Your Dog and a List of Reinforcements | Pupford

December 27th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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If you’ve been part of our community for a while, you probably know that we’re big fans of positive reinforcement dog training, but if you’re new… well, we’re big fans of positive reinforcement dog training.

For new pup parents, or those new to reinforcements, we wanted to give you a guide for the best way to reward your dog.

That way, you can establish routines, teach behaviors, and have an overall happier and more well-behaved dog.

We’re going to start with a basic overview of positive reinforcement training, but if you’re already familiar with that, feel free to jump to one of the later sections:

  • How to reward your dog
  • Examples of effective reinforcements


Reinforcement is a tool for building behavior -- by providing a consequence, your dog can learn whether their behavior is good or bad. In simple terms, positive reinforcement means adding something to the situation after a behavior, while negative reinforcement means taking something away.

We use positive reinforcement to encourage wanted behavior, rather than using punishments to discourage unwanted behavior. When using positive reinforcement training, we’re adding a reinforcer to increase the frequency of the behavior rather than using methods like choke chains and e-collars to discourage unwanted behaviors.

Simply put, rewarding your dog for doing something good will make them more likely to do it again!

Positive reinforcement has been scientifically proven to be both effective and enjoyable for your dog. It fosters trust and communication between you and your dog and can strengthen your bond.

Listen to our interview with Holly Ovington to learn more about why we recommend positive reinforcement dog training.



Positive reinforcement centers around a reward. Using rewards the right way will help solidify behavior while making your pup happy -- win win!

Here are our tips for rewarding your dog:

  • Act fast - You’ll want to reward as soon as your dog does the behavior so they can make the connection between what they did and what’s being rewarded. For example, if you’re working on “sit,” give the reward right when your dog sits, rather than waiting until they come out of it.
  • Be consistent - Using the same cue words and similar rewards throughout training sessions will increase effectiveness.
  • Stick to the point - Use short phrases and simple rewards to avoid confusing your dog.
  • Choose the right reward - Positive reinforcement is only effective if the reward is something your dog finds desirable. Need help figuring out what the reward should be? We’ve got you covered in the next section!


What works as a reward for one dog may not work for another, and that’s okay. The key is to find out what your dog really likes, and use it wisely. It's important to know what your dog's currency is so that you can effectively reinforce their good behavior.

If you’re not yet sure what that is, here are some ideas to try.


golden retriever eating out of a bowl | Pupford

Dogs are food motivated by nature! You can use pieces of dry dog food as a reward, or give them something extra special like:

When giving your dog “human” food, remember to avoid xylitol (commonly found in peanut butters and yogurts) as well as spices, seasonings, bones, cores, or skin on meat.

Also, keep in mind how calorie-dense your treats and rewards are. If you’re doing a longer training session and will need to reward multiple times, using peanut butter may not be the best option because it’s high in calories.

You can use this checklist of 39 Vegetables and Fruits Dogs Can and Can’t Eat to help you pick a safe food for your dog!


old yellow lab dog rewarded with a ball toy | Pupford

Rewarding good behavior can also be done in the form of a fun play session. Use a toy that is exciting, engaging, and fun. Some of our favorites include:

Shop our full line of dog enrichment toys here.

Looking for more toy options? We recently ranked the top dog toys here.


dog getting attention for being a good boy | Pupford

If you don’t have anything on hand but still want to reward your dog, some good old fashioned affection will do the trick.

Once your dog is comfortable with you, your body language, and your voice, they’ll be able to tell when you’re exceptionally happy with them.

Raising the pitch of your voice, using an excited tone, and giving lots of pets and rubs will let your dog know they’re doing a great job!


dog waiting for its treat | Pupford

In this case we’ve saved the best for last. Treats can be an incredibly powerful reward for positive reinforcement behavior. But for the health and happiness of your dog, you want to make sure you’re using the best treats.

Here’s what to look for when choosing your treat:

  • Check the label to make sure there are only natural, recognizable ingredients. Also check the order of the ingredients -- if you’re using a chicken treat, chicken should never be one of the last ingredients listed.
  • Look for minimally-processed, whole-foods based treats.
  • Choose lower-calorie options -- fat is often a major contributor to calorie count, so look for lean options.
  • Choose grain-free treats for fewer carbs and easier digestion.

For rewarding dogs, we recommend high-value treats that check all of those boxes and are enticing enough to be a great reward.

  • Training treats - designed specifically for training, that are small enough for repetitive rewards. We love Pupford training treats because they are made of simple ingredients, are low calorie, and have many flavor options so you can figure out which flavor your dog likes the best
  • Jerky - For an extra special reward, try a high-value jerky. When used in training, break off small pieces to give to your pup at a time. OR give them a bigger piece to really show your pup some love. Pupford’s Jerky Reward Treats only use simple, natural ingredients, and zero fillers, sugar, or junk.

If you’re anything like us, you love seeing your dog’s reaction to a new and exciting reward. Try one of our many flavors of jerky, like salmon, beef, chicken, or lamb (which is great for dogs with allergies, or as a new flavor they don’t try as much).

What is your dog’s favorite reward? Let us know in the comments below.


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