Puppy with toy

“My dog doesn’t like playing with toys” Q My pup, Ted, doesn’t like playing with toys. I can get his interest for a short time and then he walks off bored. Should I be bothered that he isn’t toy motivated and if so, how do I get him to play?

Sue Williams advises…

Toy motivation refers to a dog’s focus and intent on a toy. As a trainer, I would recommend that all owners look to motivate their dogs with toys. Playing and interacting with toys offers dog and owner quality time together. It helps in exercising and enrichment; both of these are essential to a dog’s physical and psychological well-being.

If a dog is toy motivated – and by this, I mean that they are so highly motivated by it that literally anything could be happening around them, yet they ignore the distractions and focus completely on it – then the toy becomes a powerful training tool. A dog who would rather play with his toy than anything else is unlikely to chase or run off after another dog.

This is, without doubt, one of my secrets to successfully training numerous top display dogs, who reliably and happily perform at shows with lots of high-level distractions. It is also useful in countless other scenarios.

Find the type of toy Ted likes most. It may be one that squeaks, a ball or a soft toy – it doesn’t matter. Now, remove all other toys that are similar to the chosen one. If he can access these at any time, the chosen favourite will lose its appeal.

Interact with your dog using the toy, but for a very short time. It is vital that you stop the game before he switches off. Once you have finished, put it away so he can’t have it. If he does lose interest or just doesn’t play, this is where your acting skills come in! Play with the toy yourself, making out that you are having the most exciting, fun time. While you do this, totally ignore him and don’t let him join in the fun. You will find that the next time the toy appears, he will be keen not to miss out!

It will take time to increase his toy drive, but, with patience, you will soon achieve success.


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