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Teach my dog to...play?

1144 Views 7 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  zhaor
sorry, this is going to be a little long.

I adopted my dog from a shelter and he doesn't seem to know how to play.

He's a 35lb mutt--supposedly husky mix--around 6-8 yrs old (looks kind of like a small tricolor lab mix). The shelter didn't have a background on him. Very well behaved, almost too well, doesn't bark, doesn't whine, doesn't pee in the house. He doesn't even run to the front door when someone other than me comes home.

I really want to encourage him to enjoy himself and play. He's shown no interest in chew toys, tennis balls, squeaky toys, and the only time he's interested in his kong is when treats are sticking out of it. If the treats require too much effort to get out, he'll simply leave it.

I've tried soaking tennis balls in gravy, covering them with peanut butter, and keeping one in his kibble bag. Nothing. he'll lick the tennis ball a bit and then leave it. I've gotten down on all four and nudge him with my head...playing with toys and he just stares at me, not even really look at the toys.

He's most energetic in the morning. He likes walks and other dogs but I haven't taken him to a dog park since he doesn't listen to "come here" when I call him (still working on that). When we get home and I have his food, I can get him excited enough (or maybe frustrated enough :eek:) to dart around the room, crouching at his various spots and by my feet. When I feed his dinner and take him out for an evening walk, he'll get a little excited but not as much as in the morning. Training sessions with treats get him interested but otherwise he just sleeps.

I don't think he's just lazy and feel that he wants to play. We have a lot of wild rabbits in the area and he's tried to chased them a few times, though not every time he sees them. I've ran around with him at the park and he seems to love that. Problem is that I can't let him run off leash because he would run after other dogs to play or places to smell. Again, need to work on the come command. If I run with him on leash, he gets into that playful back and forth jog and I would trip over him. Almost rolled my ankle to avoid hitting him once :(.

So is he just old? I don't really know what to do. He might have had a rough life before since it seems he's always having nightmares when he sleeps. Only time I've every heard him bark.

Training the come command will still take quite a while. He doesn't seem to learn quick and doesn't pay attention when outside. So I was hoping for some ideas of keeping him active and healthy. Thanks.
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Have you checked him in with your vet, yet? It's not impossible that he has some medical condition that needs looking at. Even a bad case of fleas could make him feel under the weather enough so that he might not want to play with you.

Otherwise, how long have you had him? It took my Alvin weeks to relax enough to chase a ball. Even so, he's not a very playful guy, so he still doesn't engage in any one game for more than a couple minutes at a time. Three throws of the ball and he's over it! Walks are his biggest joy.

At any rate, let the dog settle in a bit. Keep encouraging play. Try lots of different kinds of toys and keep integrating food, as he seems to like that.
Play is usually something that has to be taught as dogs don't have strong play drives (it's a waste of energy). I've had to teach all but one of my dogs how to play fetch. Some weren't real keen on the game...half hearted, low enthusiasm...while others became ball obsessive and couldn't get enough.
Thanks for the reply

Have you checked him in with your vet, yet? ...
He's been checked and everything seems fine. I actually just dewormed him a few days ago for tapeworms and he was checked again then. He doesn't have fleas (no clue where he got the worms).

As for getting settled, i thought that at first but he seems comfortable after about a week like you said. I've had him for over a month now and still no interest.

Play is usually something that has to be taught as dogs don't have strong play drives (it's a waste of energy)....
I understand that fetch needs to be taught but I thought chasing and chewing things were instinct?
Some dogs just don't have high play drives. I could toss a tennis ball to Brutus all day long and he would look at me and go, "Fool, you threw it, you fetch it." Some dogs just aren't very playful the same way some people aren't playful.
Nanuq doesn't play either. It is a real disappointment for my kids. They wanted a dog that they could at least throw a ball for. You can throw it til the cows come home and she just looks at you like " what did you do that for?" I have caught her twice playing with her beaver when noone was looking but as soon as she noticed me looking at her she dropped it and walked away. I also suspect that she is much older than what we were told. It's hard to say since she was a stray. They are only guessing on her age. She also has a zero prey drive. She doesn't chase squirrels or other small critters so she doesn't feel the need to chase toys either. I am beginning to believe that some dogs just don't play.
I understand that fetch needs to be taught but I thought chasing and chewing things were instinct?
Chasing comes easier for some breeds like herding dogs but, most won't waste the time especially if they're already getting plenty of daily exercise.

In a famous study of a Yellowstone wolf pack only one wolf initated the play...chase, wrestle, etc. She was the Omega wolf and when she passed away the wolf pack never played again.

As I said earlier, the play drive is so low for most dogs that the Volhards decided to exclude it from their temperment testing.

BTW, chewing is also a stress reliever and an attempt to keep the teeth clean (chewing on sticks, etc)....not just play or for food.
Thanks everyone.
As long as he's satisfied I'm happy enough.
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