After picking up one of pretty much every single toy at the pet store, you get home to find that Rex wants nothing to do with them. He gives you a blank stare, runs off into your bedroom and grabs one of your shoes instead. When he was in the shelter he didn't get a lot of toys to play with so he doesn't know how exciting they can really be. With a little training and encouragement, your pooch will be playing in no time.
Tip #1 - Replace whatever Rex usually chews on with a new toy. If he tends to gnaw on your sofa cushions, startle him with a high-pitch "eh" sound, guide him off the couch and put a toy in his mouth instead. You're replacing the behavior you don't want with a behavior you want to encourage.
Tip #2 - Get excited. Sounds simple enough, but making a big deal and having a little party when Rex plays with his toys is important. He loves making you happy -- look how much his tail wags when you walk in the door. By patting him on the head and praising him for playing with his toys, he'll be more likely to do it again.
Tip #3 - Fill it up with treats. Sometimes your four-legged buddy might just need a little bribe to play with his toys while you're making dinner. Many dog toys are made of a hollow sturdy rubber material, giving you a perfect spot to hide some treats. He'll have to work hard to get the food out, keeping him busy and simultaneously teaching him to interact with his toys.
Tip #4 - Play with him. Don't use toys as a replacement for you. Rex adores you and wants to interact with you. Simply plopping him in a pile of toys and walking away won't do the trick. If he seems bored with his toys, show him the ones that squeak or throw that ball across the yard so he can see it bounce. He won't know all of the fun things his toys can do unless you show him and play alongside him.
A Couple Considerations
Watch your fingers when playing with your canine pal. He may unintentionally nip your hand if your fingers get in the way during a play session. If this happens, don't yell at him. Just leave him with his toy and walk away to attend to your wound. Yelling can scare him, making him think that you think playing with toys is bad. You'll have to start your training all over. When introducing a new toy, make sure you supervise your furry friend in the beginning. If he shreds it apart he can choke on some of the small pieces. Quickly take away broken pieces or toys that are missing parts.
By Melodie Anne Coffman
About the Author
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.