(Closed) My dog doesn’t know how to play

posted 7 years ago in Pets
Post # 3
4327 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: January 1992

I have a friend who adopted a great dane who had the same issues. He literally had to teach him how to do everything. He’s had the dog now for probably 2 years, and says the dog now plays like he’s always been doing it.

Just be patient. Don’t try too much at once. Show the dog one behavior at a time, and she’ll start thinking it’s fun. It might be frustrating at first, but the results are worth it in the end.

Post # 4
7293 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2011

Hmmm she needs help with being engaged ( haha you know the attention/attraction part)

This is common in resuce dogs!

You gotta find what makes her tick! What breed is she? Have you considered a flirt pole? An old sock, water bottles, icecubes, a little swimming pool. Stuffed animals?

Also start really small, like throw it a few inches and when and if she acknowledges it, give her a reward, so she begins to realize if I go towards it , thats what they want. It starts with getting attention. So have Darling Husband throw it and when she gets it, give her a treat ( hopefully she is food motivated?!)  Then keep doing it till getting the ball becomes the reward in itself.

She may never be a a crazy toy freak but you should be able to get a special toy or two for her to look forward too.

Post # 5
1723 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

Aww!  I adopted a shelter dog this past Christmas and we are working on catching.  Normally, when you throw something and a dog, they want to catch it with their mouth.  She puts her paws up and turns her head because she is afraid of it coming at her! lol.  So I let her sniff it, then take it in her mouth and then she’s not scared of it anymore.  Then I try to throw it and when she catches it I give a lot of praise.  I would try those steps.  Then, if she gets the hang of catching it, try throwing it farther away and see if she wants it.

Post # 6
1701 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2010

Throw something, when she gets it, call her back to you and give her a treat to “trade” for the item.  She will catch on eventually that she needs to bring it back to you.  Some breeds pick up on this faster than others (retrievers, border collies, australian shepherds, other working breeds).  I had a greyhound that barely fetched at all.

Also, if you have any friends with dogs or a dog park near by, that is a great way for her to learn to play, as long as she is OK with other dogs.

It is not uncommon for rescue dogs to have to learn to be pets.  Sometimes it takes 5 or 6 months for them to “get” it. They don’t know what is expected of them.  Being with other dogs in a home environment can help.

Post # 7
5498 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: September 2010

We adopted out now 6 year old Pom Mix when she was 3. She hates toys, and most bones. Looks at a ball like we are nuts…

We sort of just accepted that she is how she is. She’s afraid of feet and really skittish still, so we just let it go. She does play with my Sister’s Chweenie a lot, though.

Hopefully someone else can give you better advice!

Post # 8
602 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2010

 I could have written this post.  I have had my dog about three months now,  and it broke my heart in the beginning.  She had NO IDEA how to socialize or interact or play (she did like bones though,  this girl knows a treat!).


How long have you had her?  I keep brining Penny to the dog park and she gets more and more interactive each visit.  We’ve only had her three months but I feel like she is learning something new all the time.

Post # 9
2607 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2009

You’ve gotten some great ideas, so I don’t have much to add.  Some dogs just are not “fetchers” and never will be, but many can learn to do it with time and patience.  Also, if she has a stuffie she really likes, you could try throwing that instead.  Our foster puppy, (who just went to his forever home last night!), knew how to play and would fetch anything.  He would bring balls, bones, kongs, stuffed animals…whatever he happened to be playing with, and drop it in your lap to throw.  So don’t limit yourself to tennis balls and frisbees just yet. Smile  Oooh….maybe a ball or stuffie with a squeaker in it, so it encourages her to actually pick it up in her mouth?

Also, dogs can learn a lot from observing other dogs play and interact, (a lot of rescues who pull dogs from puppy mills require that there be another dog in the foster home so the dog can learn doggy behavior from them).  So if you have a family member or neighbor with a friendly, playful dog, having “play dates” could help, or taking her to a dog park.  Obedience classes are also a good idea for socialization with other people and other dogs, and of course, builds a bond between the two of your.

Congratulations on your new family member!



Post # 10
7293 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2011

@Miss Apricot: This!  I second the play date idea 🙂

Post # 11
9483 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2012

I wish I had some advice, but I know exactly how you feel.  My maltese (who will be six on September 5th) used to play as a puppy.  We had another dog around when she was brought into the picture.  Unfortuantely, my ex and I broke up so he kept his dog and I took mine with me.  Now she doesn’t play whatsoever.  She’s changed completely in fact.  She doesn’t like other dogs, people, etc.  Very protective and lazy bones.  Love her to death, but I wish the silly dog would engage more in activity!

Post # 12
1093 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: Private home

patience is Key!

We adopted a rescue (Corgi!) in February and he spent at least the first two months hiding under things.  He’s been getting better and better, and we’ve found a couple of toys he likes.  He’s a chewer so a nylabone is great and he loves any thing we can stuff with peanut butter.  Doesn’t play fetch, but he thinks it’s great to chase our other Corgi when she fetches and try to herd her away from the ball!

One of the things that helped the most was getting him socialized enough to go to doggy daycare once a week.  Just that one day of playing with 20 other dogs makes a huge difference to his attitude and activity level. He’s started challenging our other dog for the chew toys and defending his KONGs and taking over the sofa (and bed).

If you can find a friend with a friendly dog who can come to play for a little bit once a week or so (to give your pup somthing else to chase!)  I think it will make a big difference in their play level. Sometimes they just need another dog to teach them how to play.

Eva the Diva (tan and Black) and Sir Winston Piccolo taking over the bed

Post # 13
375 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2010

I think most people nailed it and gave some awesome ideas. We had and are still wroking on this same issue. I work in Rescue, and we took in a young Aussie. She had been tied up since a pup, colar actually grew inter her neck and had to be removed by surgery. She had been abused and tied up her whole life. We have had her just over a year down and is much better with playing and just recently got down the fun of FETCHING.

Other dogs are tons of help, play dates and what not like prev stated. Time, patience…your pup will get there. Like someone else stated too. You will find what toys get your dog “going” more than others too.

Post # 14
2183 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 2011 - Florida Aquarium

@Dragonsus: I totally second this idea. If your rescue is predominately one breed, try finding someone with that breed. My pup (2 years old) is a corgi, and when we lived in Florida, we would take her to corgi “meet ups” so she could play with other corgis. They play the same way, so her instincts kicked in, and she had a blast with them. Unfortunately, where we live now, she’s about the only corgi we know so she plays a lot less at dog parks, but we still take her. My point is that some breeds have certain characteristics (corgi=herder), and getting your pup around other “family” may help bring that out.

All that said, Starbuck only plays “go get it” when she feels like it, and she’ll never catch something in the air. But, that’s just who she is.

Really, just give your pup love. A new home is scary place at first. Everything else will fall into place.

Post # 15
1679 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2012

My neighbor’s rescue was like this.  I loaned her my golden retriever for a week (okay, we were going on vacation) and by the end of the week, her dog was catching on by being around mine.


Do you have any friends whose dogs you can babysit for a couple days? 

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