Dogs love to play, and they do play a lot when they are not eating or lulling in their favorite spot in the house. It keeps them busy, gives them some much-needed exercise, and, most importantly, makes them really happy. Dog toys make for a great way to facilitate play among dogs, although some simply wouldn't play with their toys or end up losing interest in their playthings after a short while. A dog not playing with toys can be a cause for concern to many dog owners, some of which end up baffled as to why their canine friends wouldn't dare touch the toys they used to love.
There are many reasons why a dog would not bother playing with their toys. Such are as follows, and you will probably be surprised at how simple some of these reasons are:
Dogs are known to be neophiles, or creatures that love new things. They will always be in the look-out for new experiences, and subjecting them to a daily routine will only bore them. They would not enjoy a walk to the same spot in the park the same way they did the first couple of times, and while they certainly enjoy your company and that of the other dogs in the house without reservation, they certainly can't help but be bored if they don’t meet new friends.
The same rings true with their toys. Your dog loves the toy you give them the first time around and they will surely enjoy playing with it. While many dogs display a certain degree of fondness for their toys in the long run, others would simply discard it after several minutes of play and move on. The novelty quickly wears off among dogs and they will end up losing interest in playing with the same toy after a certain period of time.
Under- or Overstimulation
It should also be noted that dogs do not enjoy all toys. There are certain toys that you simply cannot get them excited enough to play, resulting in under-stimulation which, in turn, gives way to boredom and leads them to find different ways to amuse themselves. This may have something to do with the toy's design, or your pet simply is picky when it comes to their toys.
A dog can also be overstimulated, and you will be surprised at how they react in the same way as in an under-stimulated state. A very excited dog can suffer from sensory overload, and this results in a very volatile attention span. In other words, you should not expect an overstimulated dog to stay still, and they will quickly lose interest in the toys that you give them. In any case, inadequate or excessive stimulation both results in a lack of long term interest, causing them to end up being bored with their toys for not too long and behave in an erratic manner.
Growing up, a dog may associate certain things with negative experiences. For example, they can associate snakeskin patterns with a previous traumatic encounter with a snake. Likewise, behavioral training can instill negative association with things that have something to do with undesirable behavior. Things that dogs can relate to negative experiences come in all shapes and sizes, and the toy you have just given them may just have evoked a negative response from them.
At best, your dog will simply ignore things that trigger a non-positive response. The worst thing that could happen, however, is that it triggers stress or fear. A scared or stressed out dog would either withdraw to a location they deem safe or display an unnecessarily aggressive behavior. They will keep doing so until treated or the cause of stress or fear has passed.
Age and Health Issues
Your dog may be experiencing health problems, or simply are too old for any sort of play. Disease or other health problems, in particular, can cause discomfort to your canine companion, which can cause them to lose all sorts of motivation for everything that involves physical activity. An old dog, on the other hand, will not simply enjoy a toy in the same way as they would when they were younger. They simply do not have the same energy as they used to, and would probably require some training if you want them to find dog toys exciting once again.
Teach Your Dog to Like Playing with Dog Toys
A dog not playing with toys is generally a dog that is not enjoying their day, and teaching them to like their toys is essentially bringing the fun back to their lives. There are many creative things that you can do to get your dog to play with their toys, but if you are running out of ideas or have none to begin with, here are some tips:
- Smear something tasty on the toy to encourage them to pick it up and play with it. Reward them with food as soon as they have picked it up to reinforce the behavior. Alternatively, you can show them the toy in one hand and their favorite treat in another. Make sure, though, that they grab the toy first before you give them the treat.
- Move the toy around with your hand or a piece of string. Wiggle it and make happy sounds so as to engage them, and give them the toy as soon as they try to grab it. However, do take note of the way your dog reacts to your little puppet show. If that scares them, you might want to tone things down a bit or try a different angle.
- Give your dog a different toy or set of toys each day. You don't have to buy new toys for that matter, as you can simply limit the number of toys that your dog has access to and then swap them out the next day with a different set of toys you have hidden from them. You can also combine different toys to create different shapes and make it look new to them. This takes advantage of your dog's penchant for novelty but, of course, this will only work if your dog has a varied collection of toys. Use toys to play with your dog before each meal. Requiring your dog to play with their toy before giving them a meal is a simple yet effective way to reinforce their interest in their toys. You can combine this with the above methods for better results.
While it really is concerning to see your dog not playing with toys, it’s not something that plain old training can’t fix. The key here is positive reinforcement and stimulating engagement. Be sure to reward them for playing and show them that you are enjoying the entire affair. Don't be afraid to try out different toys for that matter, and if you are looking for one that can engage them, Pro Pet Stop has a great selection of Super Tough Chew, Squeaky, Plush, Ball, Dog Toys for Sale that you can check out.