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If your dog needs to get a bit more exercise these days, but he doesn’t really enjoy playing with toys…
If you’re trying to get your dog “ready” for agility training…
If you want to switch your dog’s focus from treats to toys for training purposes…
If you just want to find a new way to interact with your dog by incorporating something FUN into his daily routine…
Whatever your motivation, here’s how to get your dog interested in a brand new toy — to the extent that he will do almost anything to be able to play with that toy!
How To Motivate Your Dog To Play With Toys
1. Choose a throwable toy (i.e. one that you can toss, but won’t roll too much, like a tug rope, or a ball in a sock or a stuffed animal).
2. Attach this toy to a light line, string or lead that is about 3 meters long (about 10 feet).
3. Put the toy in a drawer in the midst of your living area (in the kitchen or somewhere else that is easily accessible at all times).
4. Before each meal start to act a bit loony. While saying really fun things to your dog (like “oh no”, “what is it”, “do you want this”, “where’s your toy”, etc.) walk, dance, skip…basically act goofy while you make your way over to the special drawer. Then s-l-o-w-l-y open up the drawer while continuing to say nutty things to your dog. Stop talking momentarily (a pause for effect) and then pull the toy out of the drawer, like you just unexpectedly came across a $50 bill and run with it into the next room.
5. Swing the toy above the ground while acting nutty to show the dog what a great time you are having with this fun toy. Dance around for a few more seconds and then toss the toy out like a lure on the end of a fishing pole. Drag it around but BE SURE THE DOG DOES NOT GET HIS MOUTH ON IT. (This whole process should only take 1-2 minutes the first time you do it.)
6. End your fun game, which didn’t include your poor dog, by running back to the drawer, your toy in tow, snatching it up and quickly putting it back in the drawer with a phrase like “oh no, it’s gone”.
7. You may then proceed about your regular routine as if nothing out of the ordinary just happened.
8. Re-enact this bizarre performance 2-3 times a day. After the second day, allow the dog to get his mouth on the toy if he is really keen–but only for a few seconds. Pull on the line to try and steal it from him. Once you get it away (be sure you are taking it from him in a very informal, fun way), play with it a little more by yourself before quickly putting the toy away. Gradually progress, letting him play with you and the toy (tog of war style) a little more each time until you have a dog who loves to see the toy come out.
9. Do not allow him to play with this toy at any other time except during this routine. Ideally, you should remove any other toys that are lying around the house during this time. Leave out only things your dog can lie down and chew on by himself, such as his chew bones.
10. Be sure during this training/play session that you never give your dog any sort of verbal scolding for anything he might do. Before you know it you will have a dog who is as nutty about this toy as you apparently have been! This method works particularly well with new puppies.
If your dog is really motivated by food and has never shown any interest in toys, an option available to you is to take the motivating toy you have chosen to work with and simmer it in a pot of liver, or chicken broth to make it more attractive to your finicky hound.
Here’s another way to get your dog motivated to play with toys.
I like to help Dog Parents find unique ways to do things that will save time & money — so I write about "outside the box" Dog Tips and Dog Hacks that most wouldn't think of. I’m a lifelong dog owner — currently have 2 mixed breed Golden Aussies that we found abandoned on the side of the road as puppies. I've always trained my own dogs and help friends train theirs, as well. Professionally, I worked at a vet and have several friends who are veterinarians — whom I consult with regularly. (And just because I love animals so much, I also worked at a Zoo for awhile!) I've been sharing my best ideas with others by blogging full-time since 1998 (the same year that Google started… and before the days of Facebook and YouTube). My daily motivation is to help first-time dog owners be better prepared from the first day your new puppy enters your home. I like to help dog owners understand what's 'normal' and what you can expect in terms of living with and training your dog — how to get through the ups & downs of potty training, chewing, teaching commands, getting your dog to listen, and everything else that takes place during that hectic first year! When I'm not training, walking, grooming, or making homemade treats for my dogs, you will find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites). To date, I've written over 500 articles for dog owners on this site!