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How do I get him interested in toys?

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My BC is now 1 year old, and I have had him for a few weeks. He's warmed up a lot and is quite comfortable here now. He has ZERO interest in toys (other than playing tug of war with our other dog). He's pretty mild tempered. How do I go about in getting him interested in toys so we can play fetch, etc. later on? I don't think he was ever introduced to toys as a puppy.

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Does he have a decent interest in food? They make toys that you can put food in to motivate him to play. You should be able to transition away from food once he knows how to play the game you are trying to play.


Here's a link to cleanrun's food stuffable toys (you can get some of these elsewhere, cleanrun just has them in a nice separate group). http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_ID=22


Also, you can make your own for fetch. Just take a tennis ball and cut a slit in it. Then you can drop treats in and toss. For fetch just start with short tosses, your goal is to teach that bringing the ball back get a reward.


I've never dealt with this so I can't say any of this will work from experience, but hopefully it will give you some ideas.

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As Chanse said, use toys -- like a Lotus ball-- that allow you to put food inside them. Or use a flirt pole.


And/or find an experienced dog person who will teach you how to offer toys to your dog in an irresistable manner.


If you know what you are doing, and your dog is still not playing with toys, go to a vet and get your dog's mouth/teeth checked. (Some dogs won't play because they dare not bite down on rotten teeth or bleeding gums.) If your dog is playing tug-of-war with your other dog -- I do not think this is an issue.

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I've had to teach my dog to play. She was seriously not interested in any kind of play except with other dogs. And to answer mr. McCaig's question - because play is important to me and I wanted to share that with my dog, it's one of the reasons I rescued a bc, I expected a very active and play oriented dog. Of course, if it turned out that she really didn't want to and had zero fun playing with me in spite all the efforts, I would eventually have given up, I would't want to push it beyond limits. So my plan was this - gradually introduce her to play, reward heavily with food (she's food obsessed) and hope that one day she will find some self - reward in the process. I started with really fun introduction to toys, at first with nose touch, paw touch, and reward afterwards. Gradually I rewarded only when she would pick it up. Then we moved to building "hold it". Then I started throwing balls and toys around the house and reward every interest to go for it. Eventually she would slowly go, pick it up. It took some time to teach her to bring it all the way back. Luckily most border collies are great at generalizing, so it wasn't a big deal to teach her all the stuff she knows in the house to apply to the outside world.

BUT, it has to be super fun and you have to be generally positive and enthusiastic about it. If the dog senses any frustration, it stops being fun and you can't build anything from it. Like I said, having a food obsessed dog helps.
A few months later, I can say we spend a good deal of our walks doing fetch and frisbee, and she's doing it like a pro too :)


There are really mellow and toy disinterested dogs out there. I believe you can't teach every dog to enjoy play, some are just not into it. But you won't know until you really try to, many of them were just never properly introduced to it. :)

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Good advice above.


Dear Ms.Olathe,


Why do you want to?


Donald McCaig

Same as above-play is important to a lot of people and their dogs.

Maybe what you are saying is "that is how your dog is why change him"? Well, maybe he doesn't know how fun a toy can really be and you just need to figure out a way to show him.

I want my dogs to play with toys because some of the tricks I train are much easier to train with toys than with food. Also, if I go hiking and decide it is a good opportunity to proof commands but I don't have any food, I can grab a random stick and use that for a reward.



Back to OP, I'm not really sure. What I might try is

1. Try playing with him before exercising him or when he is most active. Maybe first thing in the morning?

2. Let him play with the other dogs and their toys anytime he wants to. I mean, if he's just driving them batty pestering them and stealing their toys than no but........

3. Make a point of playing with the other dogs when he is close by and watching. Maybe the other dogs need to show him how it's done.


Duke was like this at about eight months because I never really played with him when he was younger. I tried #1 above and that worked really well. He did have SOME interest in them though.

Part of it I think was, he was intimidated by me because that was before I left the "old style" training in the dust. So changing that helped too.

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Part of it I think was, he was intimidated by me because that was before I left the "old style" training in the dust. So changing that helped too.


Just wanted to put a huge signature here. Amen to that. Positive reinforcement has done wonders for me and my dogs.


One more thing I incorporated in the process of teaching her how fun it is to play, I would demand that when we play, we play. You bring the ball or catch a frisbee, I give you the best food I can get. That worked for her since she would gladly "work" for food. Freya is also a snooper and can go on for hours just snooping around. So to reward her even more for a (at first shorter) play session, I would let her go sniff for a while, then after 10 minutes or so call her to come play for another session. The point is, you know your dog best, and you have to figure out what will do the trick.

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Experiment with not-so-obvious toys to use. Years ago I saw a video by a noted agility trainer, can't remember his name. He had a client dog who had zip, zero interest in playing with anything.


The trainer started just randomly leaving household objects where the dog would encounter them, dog-safe ones of course. Oddly, the object the dog fell in love with was an old cookie baking sheet. He'd bark at it, paw at it, carry it around, bat it around and just had himself a grand time.


The trainer then used the cookie sheet to introduce other, more traditional toys.


I didn't read the other posts, so this may be repetitive. Dogs take a long time to settle in, some dogs longer than others. Keep at it, but keep it low key. If he's sensitive to social pressure from humans he might be less willing to engage when you are more intent on teaching him to play.


Good luck!


Ruth and SuperGibbs

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