For some dogs, playing or a special toy may actually be the highest value reward to use . . . but for most, it will be food!
And that makes sense, right?! Because we need food to survive, so taking the biological need for food along with some really great tasting food makes for a food motivated pup!
Think of it this way: If you are trying to motivate yourself to do something, let’s say write that paper for English Lit, and you really don’t want to do it but you decide that once you get it done you will reward yourself with an ice cream cone … That’ll make you want to get it done, right?!
Now, as your dog becomes proficient with a certain action or behavior, you can begin intermittently rewarding with treats and substituting other rewards, such as a favorite toy, a massage, playing or some excited praise like “Good Girl / Boy” with a gentle pet.
So, yes, initially you will need to reward with food every time … but you can gradually reduce the food rewards and substitute with other valuable items to your dog.