Sophie needs at least two dozen toys. Really? Absolutely. She would like to have something new once in a while–even if it is a toy you hide away for a bit so it seems new again. She’d like toys of different textures and sizes and purposes. At first a toy may not suit her fancy, but tastes change and a few months later, that toy might be fascinating. A toy she’s played with a lot may lose its allure, so just put it aside for a long time. Try tug toys and rubber toys and fuzzy toys and puzzles and balls of all kinds. Try toys she can chase and a snuffle mat for finding kibble. Try toys that look too big for her. Try smaller toys for smaller dogs.
No ghetto toys. You don’t really want to teach your dog to play with socks and old flip-flops and sticks that splinter, do you? Think about it. A small investment in quality toys will go far. If your dog enjoys tearing toys apart, even dollar store toys can work–or buy tougher toys she doesn’t eviscerate immediately.
And at first you may need to interact. Be fun and show Sophie how interesting a new toy is (and how fun you are). “Ooh, look at this fuzzy squirrel! I’m dragging it on the floor. Oooh, I’m hiding it behind my back! You can’t have it. You can’t have it. Oh, okay, here you go!” Not every game is about fetch. Just looking for a toy under the bed or tugging on a rope can be fun, too. Give each toy a name! Sophie is clever and will learn which toy is which.
You may hear silly statements about tug preventing you from getting your dog to “drop it” and even sillier ideas about your showing you are “alpha” (sigh) by always winning at tug. None of that has any merit. Teach drop it separately, and you are the human who can stop the game anytime you like simply by letting go: no “winner” at tug. Tug releases doggie frustration and is a natural behavior: simply name the game “tug” while you’re playing.
If fetch isn’t a successful game at your house, you might try a different toy to fetch. Some pups prefer stuffed toys, some balls. Some will only fetch tennis balls. Don’t throw the toy far at first and don’t worry about Sophie releasing the toy for you to throw again. When she decides to drop the fire hose toy, then you can throw it again. If she isn’t a natural fetcher, take your time and build her drive and distance. Don’t ask for a sit every time (snooze). Again, you have to be fun, too. And you probably need to reward with a treat when she does bring the toy back.
Some dogs need help in learning how cool toys are. Rescue dogs in particular may have not grown up playing much, but we can introduce them to the wonders of play. Treating for play can help. Experimenting with play at different times of the day can make a difference. Having a toy box nearby and even tossing some kibble in the box might make your new dog interested.
“My dog doesn’t like toys.” Wouldn’t it be nice if she did? I’m happy to go shopping with you! Sophie’s life may be enriching in other ways and I hope it is–going places, taking classes, seeing friends–but how nice would it be if you can interact with her with toys or even have her play by herself? Be creative. If you’re fun, she might just catch on!
Sophie is adorable! We have that wobble Kong for our pup. It’s one of his favorites and gives him a great workout!