How to Get Your Dog to Like Toys!
I am not surprised.
I am going to show you how you get your dog excited about toys and how to use those toys to make both of your lives easier!
First, you must realize that toys do not have intrinsic value. Meaning, dog toys are not necessary for your dog’s survival.
Food and water have intrinsic value to your dog. They need it for survival.
Your dog doesn’t have to be taught to eat. They innately know to do this.
So, this means we often have to train dog to find toys rewarding and reinforcing!
Why Your Dog Doesn’t Like Toys
There are two main reasons your dog doesn’t find toys rewarding:
- The dog was never trained to find toys rewarding.
- The dogs have access to the same toys day in and day out. <— Most common reason!
Mix Up The Toys For Your Dog
Most dog’s wont have to be trained to find toys reinforcing. Instead, all you have to do is mix up what toys your dog gets, when they get them, and for how long.
For example, my dog Callie has a huge box of toys in our pantry that she does not have access to.
She has a box of toys in our living room that she does have access to.
Each day, I replace 1, 2, 3, 4, or even all of the toys from the living room box with items for the pantry.
This way, each day, there is a different variety of toys for her to interact with.
This prevents her becoming bored with one toy because she always access to it.
Think about people and television. I love watching TV! But, if my only option was to watch reruns of Will & Grace, I would eventually get bored. But because new episodes come out and there are other shows to watch – television doesn’t get boring.
What I just explained is the best thing you can do for a dog that gets bored with toys.
Two toys on their own may not be that interesting to your dog.
Take two toys and put them together.
For example, look at these two toys:
With only the slightest bit of imagination, these two toys can make an entirely new toys!
Get as creative as you like!
If your dog still isn’t loving their toys, then it’s time for some quick and easy training.
My preferred dog toys are KONG dog toys! They are durable and have so many options.
How to Train Your Dog to Like Dog Toys
Pair your dog toys with things that your dog already finds reinforcing.
Does your dog like to play or “rough house?” Grab a toy and start the fun!
Does your dog like dog treats? Stuff those treats in your dog’s toys.
Does your dog like to go outside? Train them to grab a ball when they want to go outside. Then, take that ball outside with your dog!
Quick Dog Training Session #1
One of my favorite activities to start training a dog to like their toys is to hold the toy in one hand and a treat in another hand. Encourage your dog to touch the toy (in anyway you can). Once your dog touches the toy, get very excited and give them the treat.
Repeat this exercise until your dog is consistently touching the toy for the treat.
Then, lay the toy on the ground and encourage your dog to touch the toy. Again, when your dog touches the toy, get excited and release the treat. If your dog picks up the toy with his mouth, heavily reward that and get even more excited!
Quick Dog Training Session #2
If you really want to make things simple, play with your dog and their toys before feeding times.
“Want breakfast, pooch? Okay, let’s play with this toy first.”
“I have a treat, but bring me this ball first.”
When we place intrinsic reinforcement after toys (or any secondary reinforcer we are trying to make more reinforcing) we show the dog that good things happen when they interact with the toys.
What most people do is, feed their dog and then give them a toy. When you do that, you can make food more reinforcing and you can actually decrease the value of a toy.
So, switch those around!
Quick Training Session #3
Place treats in a Kong Toy (or any other dog toy that can fit treats). This is SO easy to do! You literally put treats in a kong, give it to your dog, and then tell them “good” when they are trying to get the treats out of it. (This is also a great trick to fight separation anxiety!)