TEACHING YOUR DOG TO PLAY WITH TOYS
Toys are some of the most important products you'll need for your dog. Some dogs are just like kids when it comes to their favorite toy. They take it everywhere with them and love it more than anything else. Getting their paws on their special toy is better than any treat could ever be. Other dogs, however, don't find toys all that interesting. That doesn't mean that these dogs can't be taught to be toy aficionados. It just takes a little time and creativity.
WHY TOYS ARE IMPORTANT
If your pup doesn't seem that interested in tug-of-war or fetch, it may not seem like that big of a deal. Maybe she's just a couch potato or she is more of a philosophical sort. So what? Well, having your dog interested in toys has several distinct advantages. First, it is a simple way to get your dog active. Second, playing with toys is a fun way to engage and stimulate your pups mentally, which can prevent boredom. It helps her use her noggin to problem-solve and mimic her natural instincts. Lastly, if your dog loves her toy, you can use it as a reward for her training. This could replace food treats, which will save you money and help manage your dog's weight.1
LEARNING TO LOVE A TOY
If your dog is not immediately mesmerized by a toy, she can be taught to enjoy it. It's just a matter of getting her excited about the toy. If you're trying to establish a favorite toy that can later be used as a reward, it is best to choose a toy that does not roll. Rope toys and plush squeaky toys are wonderful choices for dogs who prefer soft toys. Aside from these, there are different varieties of dog toys your pet will enjoy. But make sure you don't buy too much and just leave them around the house anywhere. Your dog should only have the toy when you are playing with it together. Keep the toy visible, but inaccessible, like on top of the refrigerator or on a high bookshelf. You want to build your dog's anticipation for getting to play with the toy. When it's time to play, start by getting excited yourself. Then raise your dog's excitement by getting up, hopping around, and engaging your dog with lively banter. Where's your toy! You want it! Are you going to get your toy! You need to get your dog as excited as you are. Once you have the toy, start enticing your dog with it. Toss it in the air to yourself. Put it behind your back and then jiggle it in your dog's face. Play with the toy yourself for a few moments toss: it in the air, swing it around, run around with it. All this time, you need to act as if this toy is the greatest thing in history. Basically, act out the feeling you want your dog to have.
When it is time to start playing, throw the toy for your dog. If she takes off after it, run with her and grab the toy before she can. You want to delay actually giving your dog the toy for as long as possible. You can even attach the toy to a cord or rope to make sure you get it before she does. You should do this for about 10 to 15 minutes, but use your best judgment based on your own dog's personality, and stop playing before your dog gets bored. Leave her wanting more.
After several rounds of keep-away, it is time to let your dog get a hold of the toy. Start slowly by letting her have it only for a second at first. As soon as she gets it in her mouth, take it away playfully and build from there. Always remember to end the playtime before your dog gets bored. Eventually, your dog will see that toy as the be-all and end-all of her existence, and you will have a useful reward in her training.2
A FAR-FETCHED IDEA
Some dogs are just naturals. If your dog has Labrador or Retriever in her genetic mix, chances are she will quickly become a fetch-fanatic in no time at all! Any dog, however, can learn to love this game. She just needs to be taught the rules and learn how it can be fun. You have to figure out what motivates your dog and use that to teach her. You don't even need a huge backyard to play, just an open space that's safe for off-leash dogs.
If your dog is toy-motivated and likes to play tug-of-war, you can easily turn that into a game of fetch. When you are playing tug-of-war, toss the toy a few inches away. If she bends down to pick up the toy, praise her profusely, and reward her with more tug-of-war. If when you toss it she just stares at it, try wiggling the toy around on the ground until she becomes interested. Keep playing this game until the fetching and returning becomes the game itself. That way, your dog will get a bit more exercise and tire out more easily.
If your dog is treat-motivated, you can use food to reward her for learning the new game. Start by tossing the toy a few inches away. No matter how your dog reacts, reward her with a treat. Pick up the toy and toss it again. If she sniffs the toy or picks it up, offer her praise and a treat. If she doesn't react to the toy, wiggle the toy on the ground until she engages with it. As soon as she sniffs it or picks the toy up, offer her a reward. Keep repeating this drill, making her work a little harder each time for a treat. Pretty soon, she will equate fetching a toy with having fun with you.
If your dog likes to chase the ball but isn't real keen on bringing it back, you can use a little trickery to teach her that part of the game. First, you'll need two identical toys, like tennis balls or rubber bumpers. Only show your dog one of the toys. Throw it for her, and when she gets it, call her and show her the other toy. She will likely drop the first one and come running for the second one. As she starts toward you, throw the second toy in the opposite direction. Go pick up the first toy and repeat the exercise. After a few rounds of this, you can take the next step. When she reaches the first toy, call her and show her the second toy, but don't throw it. Hopefully, she will run toward you with the first toy. As she gets close, tell her to drop the first toy, and throw the second toy. Do this until she brings the first toy all the way back to you and drops it. Eventually, you can leave the second toy and play a fun game of fetch.3 Once she masters the game of fetch, check out our collection of dog fetch toys to mix up the routine and keep her on her toes (well, paws).
Teaching your dog to love a toy that she doesn't naturally take to can be beneficial to sharing your life with your pup. You can adapt your dog's behavior to fit in with your lifestyle instead of the other way around. If you live in an apartment, for example, having your dog have a favorite tug-of-war toy is a great way to interact and play without having to find an open space to play. Toys are great for pets and pet parents alike. Find one that fits your lifestyle, and with some patience and creativity, your pet can learn to love it.
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