10 Ways to Show Your Dog Love Without Making Them Fat

People often show their love through food. Some mothers love to cook for their kids and encourage them to eat up.

When someone has a Birthday people often take them to dinner, bake them a cake, or buy them some nice candy.

Valentine’s Day is all about couples going to dinner and the exchange of candy.

To some people “quality time” with friends and family is spent going out to eat.

People also show their pets that they love them through food.

Fat dog on scale

Some people give their dog the recommended serving on the food package and then a little extra just because they love them.

Some people get sad when their dog acts like it is hungry so they give them some table scraps.

Some people “make their dog happy” by giving them a treat every time they “ask”.

In my experience, people are uncomfortable if they feel like they are “denying” their dog anything food related.

Unfortunately, this has led to an obesity epidemic.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 55.6% of US Dogs are Overweight or Obese.

Some of the major health risks to pets that are overweight or obese are high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, kidney disease, many forms of cancer and a decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years).

Treats aren't the only way to show your dog loveOver feeding is one of the biggest influences on a pet being obese. Perhaps we need to look for other ways to show our dogs that we love them.

Here are 10 alternatives to food and treats that will help strengthen the bond between you and your dog:

  1. Give your dog 5 minutes of undivided attention
  2. Give your dog a hug (IF your dog likes hugs – these signs of distress will tell you if they don’t)
  3. Take your dog for a walk
  4. Play a game like tug-o-war or fetch
  5. Teach your dog a new trick (like jumping through a hoop or how to roll over)
  6. Play hide the treat (like in k-9 nosework – here is how to get started)
  7. Give your dog a massage (also a good opportunity to check for lumps or abnormalities)
  8. Go for a hike
  9. Spend some time watching your dog (like 15 minutes – doing it both inside and outside of the house helps) and trying to learn what their body language is telling you.
  10. Sing to them (dogs love to hear our voice – singing in the car on a mini-road trip is even better!)

Now that people are recognizing that fido’s waistline is expanding, and showing love through food is not helping, movement is becoming the new affection.

What are some ways you could show your dog love that doesn’t involve food or treats? Is there something extra special he/she likes?

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


  1. I agree with Ruckus… and the funny part is that most of that list IS giving your dog undivided attention. Massages are one of our favorite ways to show our love here! Plus we are big fans of burning off what ever calories we consume. Yes, we- humans and canines!

    1. The dogs do fine but I wish I was equally as diligent about burning off calories in for me! I give Chester and Gretel little “massages” once in a while but they are really just little rubs because I don’t know how to do it for real. Chester’s favorite is what we call chestie rubs 🙂

    1. As expected, it only took about 5 minutes before Gretel was jumping through the hoop when it was a few inches off of the ground. I am going to see how high she will go but we haven’t worked on it in a few days.

      There isn’t much to groom on Chester and Gretel because they are small. They don’t have much hair either. They don’t like it much either 🙂 Great suggestion for dogs that do though.

  2. I like the alternatives. Much better than all the problems that go with a pudgy pooch. Great tips

  3. Oh Nose…No tweets???? We hear Mommy tell Daddy that all the time. Fortunately we have him well trained. Mommy said she is going to hide all the tweets and make him feed us carrots instead.

    1. Chester and Gretel would mutiny if there were NO treats. Ha, ha. I just mean that they should be given as a reward for doing something (like obeying or a trick). When owners just want to show their dogs love, they should give them undivided attention instead.

  4. You are so right, food has become a symbol for love for humans and pets and both are becoming obese. We love food at our house too, and we get plenty of treats, but our treats are almost always after a walk or doing some other activity. It is always fun to learn new tricks or obedience items, or a new skill like our K9 FitBone or we love nose work. Work out with your pup and then have a reward but also within reason! Bigger doesn’t really mean better and often times our reward is not a treat but a big old snuggle fest which we love and Mom loves too!

    1. Hear, hear Emma. We have plenty of treats around our house but they are almost only used as rewards for work or doing something right.

      I’ve been training Chester and Gretel on our FITbone too. I have learned fast that I have to start playing treat roulette and only giving them one every second or third time they do what I ask. Otherwise, we would go through an obscene amount of treats. The times they don’t gt one I let them know they have done the right thing with verbal cues.

  5. Food is not love. The single most important way that pet owners can show their love is to keep the pet fit and trim. Having an overweight dog will cost the dog and the human:

    1- Lean dogs will live on average almost two years longer than their fat littermates.
    2- The dog’s quality of life will suffer. Fit and trim dogs will lead a more active life, and have less pain and disease.
    3- It is expensive and will shrink the owner’s wallet. Owners of fat pets are spending a lot of money that they might otherwise not spend if their pet was fit and trim. In the U.S. alone, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention , there are about 37 million overweight dogs. We estimate that the owners of these overweight dogs are spending somewhere near $8 billion dollars each year, on extra food, medical care, and medicines, all because they have fat pets. For context, a stack of 1 billion $1 dollar bills would measure about 68 miles high. A stack of 8 billion dollars would reach near 550 miles long, approximately the driving distance from New York City to Fort Bragg North Carolina!

    1. Thanks for the reminder of the consequences of over-treating (and for some, perhaps the first time they have realized). I am positive that Chester and Gretel’s healthy life can be attributed to being active and staying fit.

  6. You are so right…WE are the ones that have the ability to control our dog’s weight. I really like the 10 alternative…and guess what…your dog will too!!

  7. Great tips and a great post! When Rocco starts fussing at me it would be easy to ply him with treats, but what he really wants is attention… ok, and probably a few treats too. In addition to your top 10 (which we love!), we also play indoor frisbee (I roll it on the floor), and just last night I started teaching to jump through a hoop I make with my arms. He doesn’t quite have that! Good luck with your hoop jumping! If you haven’t done it already, start with it on the floor and get them to walk through it. Then raise it just a bit. You can progress to smaller and smaller hoops too!

    1. Hi Diane. That is what I did with the hoop for Gretel. She has a natural instinct when it comes to jumping on/over things so it only took about 5 minutes for her to do it when it was 5 inches off the ground. I am going to work up and see how high she will go. It wasn’t through a hoop but the highest she has jumped before is around 3 feet.

      I don’t think I could ever Get them to jump through my arms as a hoop. As soon as I bent over or got on the floor they would think I am trying to give them pets 🙂

    1. I think it is harder with older adults who grew up in the time when you fed your dog table scraps all the time. I visited my Dad on Thanksgiving with Chester and Gretel and he kept sneaking them turkey and stuff. Since it was a “special occasion” it wasn’t a huge deal but I had to put my foot down when we tried to give them a big piece of fatty turkey skin. They get sick if the food is too fatty. Luckily, my Dad doesn’t live with me. If he did we would need to have a very stern conversation with him 🙂

  8. Good post.

    Hunting dogs especially want to go out and catch a rabbit if they are at all hungry…and they always are. Having them search for food or work for it satisfies the appetite and wears them out.

    1. I also recently discovered using a “cat toy” to give them a little “hunting play”. I use a toy – a stuffing-less fox – tied to the end of a rope on a stick. I need a bit of room to do it but if I drag it around on the floor, Gretel goes nuts!

  9. Great tips. I had this problem myself with Kelly. Of course, at the time I was treating myself the same way, and eating too much, so it took me a while to recognize what was going on with my dog. Now when I want to give her love, we usually have extra play time. It works for both of us!

    1. I have the same problem too…but with myself and NOT Chester and Gretel. I take better care of them than I do myself and tend to comfort myself with food. When I was young I had the energy and time to burn off the cheeseburger and I don’t think I’ve admitted to myself that is not the case anymore.

  10. Movement throughout the day. Last time were we at the vet for a weight check, so sad to see an overweight Golden. I need to gain weight but I’m still moving and not having much treats. Dog owners just need to be conscious and properly educated. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  11. For Kolchak, food IS love. I can understand! Food is soooooo good. So, instead of choosing not to dole out snacks, we choose better snacks and I make it my business to know the calories in everything he eats. For example, if he eats one of his favourite treats, I know we need an extra 15 minute walk. A heavy treat day may means we need an extra hour walk! It’s all about understanding that my treating actions have consequences at Casa de Kolchak.

  12. That is a great list, and a good reminder about what a huge impact being even a little overweight can be on our pets. I see lots of older overweight pets, and helping them lose a little weight can give them a new lease on life. I know myself that when I carry extra weight, it is exhausting doing even basic tasks.

    I particularly like the one about 5 minutes of attention. To a dog, giving undivided attention is the best treat of all. I also like brushing as a daily routine that is great for quality time.

    If you like canine massage, Victoria Stilwell does a great video if you search on YouTube under Victoria and canine massage (couldn’t seem to post the link here).

  13. Being Jewish (which translates to being neurotic, paranoid and full of guilt lol), it is my genetic “right” (lol) to show my love through food. I absolutely LOVE the tips you shared for showing your love for your dog in ways OTHER than giving them food or treats.
    I have to make a conscious effort to incorporate more exercise into Dakota’s body, instead of putting food and treats in his mouth!
    Thanks for this great and eye-opening post.

    1. I’m NOT Jewish and I have trouble not showing my love to Chester and Gretel through treats 🙂 Truthfully, it’s the easier thing to do. I know they like it and it only takes seconds out of my day. I know it’s not quality “love” though. It doesn’t enrich their lives, improve our connection and it can negatively impact their health.

  14. Mom does try to watch the treats with me especially when I am stuck indoors like now with no long walks. We just checked out your nose work piece as that is something mom keeps seeing and is interested in trying. She doesn’t want to just hide treats around the house for me to find because that will activate my OCD (obsessive compulsive Doxie) but does like the box idea and may actually dig up some patience and time to try thanks! Love Dolly

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