How to Get Your Dog to Like Toys!
As a professional animal behaviorist and dog trainer, I often hear clients tell me that their dog does not like toys or quickly loses interest in their toys.
I am not surprised. While some dogs will absolutely love all of the products you get them from places like Doggie Solutions, others will naturally lose interest rather quickly.
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 from becoming bored with one toy because she always has access to it. If you only have one or two toys for your dog then go over to DogProductPicker.com to look for some more that your dog will love
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!)
I WISH my dog liked Kongs! Even with treats–GOOD treats–she doesn’t care. In fact, she often doesn’t care about treats at all, even those she does like. Same with food. And playing in general And THE pickiest dog I’ve ever met in 40 years. (The one I just lost was a lab mix, so I’m not used to this, lol. Dog practically has me cooking for her!) Newly adopted, so I’m hoping with time and reinforcement, we’ll get there. Just very hard to find anything that motivates her.
My dog has no interest in toys at all. In fact she hates her Kong toy. She also shreds every bed I buy her. At the end of my reason. Never had a dog before that I couldn’t train. She’s a Labrador/Husky cross
Last year I adopted a dog around 1 or 2 years old. I don’t know how his life was like before or if it has anything to do with the fact that he isn’t interested in toys. Or playing at all. He never bites anything or anyone, he rarely barks and he is soo needy. He asks for petting all the time. I sometimes manage to get him running around happily, but is so hard, it happens like once a week or so. Also he is very smart, and learns really quickly. I taught him to sit, stand on his rear paws and all in less than a week! Why do you think he’s like this?
My dog was found a stay, which may explain his disinterest in toys! 🙁
Does anyone have ideas for some exciting toys I can get for my beagle?
My 4 year old cavalier King Charles spaniel will only play with the same toy which is falling apart. I bought a new one that is exactly the same and he won’t touch it. How do I get him to play with a new toy?
my five year old rescue will not play.just lazy around the house all day so sad for him. i tried everthing
My dog loves to chase his Chuckit ball BUT it must be that particular ball. I have three identical balls, all live in the same bag so they smell similar but he won’t play with the others. His chuckit wheel fell apart and he played with the torn cover until it was a shredded rag, not any of the new wheels. He finally accepted the first ball but now none other and the first one is falling apart.
I’m so beyond frustrated with my rescue maddie!! Got her 10 months ago and she’s never ever cared for running, playing or interest in toys. Iv e put peanut butter all over the toys but only licks it off. I’m at a total loss. I walk her 2 hrs every morning. She paces around miserable and depressed 24 7! Should I take her back to the shelter? Don’t want to but what am I to do???? She’s a border heeler but is dead to the world!!! Help!!!!
Marry is my baby she is spoiled rotten and is very gentle maybe too gentle she wont play with me or any toys she plays with other dogs but not people but I want her to play with me she is almost 6 months and I got her about a month ago what can I do to get her to play
I have a little Yorkie mix named newt. She’s six years old and still a healthy young girl. I’m doing agility with her and I’d love to get her motivated by toys but she has no interest. She likes a kong with food in it but once there’s no more food she loses interest. Other toys she will play with for a minute or two and then get bored. I’ve tried EVERYTHING and she’s still not going for it. It’s very frustrating. Do you have any tips I can use to improve her play drive?
Kacey Olsen, border collies and heelers are both high energy working class dogs. Borders are renowned for their ability to focus intensely on their job, usually herding sheep. Heelers are cattle dogs, bred to have keen eyes and high stamina and a strong personality. Both breeds are highly intelligent and often need a high energy “job” to do to be happy. Long walks usually aren’t enough to make the grade. I had a border collie myself who I recently had to put to sleep due to bone cancer and he was never happier than when I had a job for him to do. I would recommend acquiring some agility obstacles and replace two or three of his daily walks with agility training. Its a high energy activity that also engages their minds. It’ll probably take him a few sessions to figure out exactly what you are asking of him but once he does he’ll be happy to do whatever you ask of him. Plus, many agility obstacles can be made at home cheaply out of lightweight pvc pipe. The high walk,
pause box, and teeter totter could be made out of scavenged/ scrounged scrap wood. With a bit of looking around for materials the only one you will probably need to buy from a manufacturer is the tunnel.
I hope this advice helps!
We got a little maltese-toy poodle mix and he only plays when he thinks nobody is looking. He begs for attention 24/7 if we are looking at him and is extremely needy but if we try to play he just gives us a confused “why aren’t you touching me?” Look.
We know he plays with the toys when we’re gone because we find them moved and/or chewed on, but when I show him the toy he just stares at me. He is not interested in treats whatsoever, ESPECIALLY if he has to put in any effort to get them. We can’t train him to do anything hardly because once he realizes he isn’t getting the treat for free he just gives up. Very frustrating.