Toys aren’t just for puppies – they’re a powerful tool for training and bonding for dogs of all breeds, ages and sizes.
You can use toys as a reward so you don’t have to overload your dog with treats every time you want to work on training.
You can also use toys to redirect excess energy, and to build upon your dog’s ability to pay attention to you around distractions.
But none of this is possible if your dog doesn’t like toys.
No worries – dogs who don’t like toys can be taught how much fun they can be.
Why Doesn’t Your Dog Like Toys?
There can be an underlying reason why toys are not capturing your dog’s attention.
If you recently adopted your dog, they may need some time to acclimate to your home and start to bond with you before they will be relaxed enough to play.
If your dog is older, and never played with toys as a puppy, you can still teach them how to play – it just might not come naturally, at first. With a little time, you can unleash your dog’s inner puppy.
Sometimes, a medical issue may cause pain or lethargy, which can keep your dog from wanting to play. Check your dog’s teeth – grabbing a toy can be painful if your dog suffers from tooth pain.
About 80 percent of dogs will have some form of dental disease by age three. Brushing and chewing on raw meaty bones can keep plaque off, while you may need to see your vet for a professional cleaning if your dog has swollen gums, yellow or brown tartar, or loose teeth.
And while it’s normal for dogs to slow down as they get older, most dogs are playful into their senior years. Keep an eye out for arthritis, heart disease, Cushing’s disease, and other chronic illnesses that can be treated to lengthen your dog’s playful golden age.
Some breeds are more playful than others, but all dogs love to play. Your Yorkie might be a cuddly lap-dog, for example, but they still have those terrier instincts that make them chase after small, fuzzy objects.
Finding Your Dog’s Favourite Toys
Every dog has a unique taste in toys. Some like rubber balls that bounce, others prefer fuzzy toys with long hair that they can grab. Try toys of different sizes, textures and fabrics. Some big dogs actually like small toys; just make sure each toy is large enough that it cannot fit entirely in your dog’s mouth to prevent a choking hazard.
There are even toys made out of real rabbit pelts that attract even the pickiest dogs. They are rarely found in stores; you may have to shop online.
Your Dog Needs You To Play
Dogs typically do not play with their toys on their own. Bring the toy to life! Start by waving it around, moving it slowly within reach, and quickly whipping it away as it catches your dog’s gaze.
Try hiding the toy under a blanket, then move it around like a mouse. Most dogs cannot resist checking out the mysterious lump.
Dogs are also very receptive to social cues. If you make it seem like you’re enjoying the toys, your dog will want to try them too. Try playing with your dog’s toys nearby, but don’t look directly at your dog or interact until they come over to see what the fuss is about.
Games To Play With Dogs And Toys
Unstructured play with toys is a great way to bond with your dog. However, your dog might be more interested in learning skills that involve toys.
Find it! At first, pat the toy and give your dog a treat when they touch it. Then, start to hide the toy in easy spots, and treat your dog for finding it. Once your dog gets the concept, you can add a cue like “find it!” or “search!”. As your dog gets even better at this, you can use it to practice “stay” while you hide the toy in another room for a challenging toy hunt.
Fetch! Encourage your dog to pick up their toy and give it to you from a very short distance – even just beside them. Reward them for any attempts to pick up the toy and place it near you. It’s okay if your dog doesn’t get it right away.
Clean up! Once your dog learns to fetch, you can encourage them to place their toy in their basket instead of giving it to you.
Tug-o-war! Tugging comes naturally to most dogs. Contrary to what you may have heard, it does not lead to aggression or behavioural issues. It’s just a good way to exercise the muscles in your dog’s legs, neck and jaws. Just be sure to keep your dog’s paws on the ground – lifting them up by the teeth while the latch on can cause a back injury.
For More Fun With Your Dog…
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