By Drewbles, KPA-DTF
Many people bring a toy back home, put it in front of their dog and then go off to do their own thing. Meanwhile the dog sniffs at the toy, perhaps even takes a nibble, and then loses interest. People will often lament that their dog is just not into toys.
While it is true that some dogs will not innately want to play with toys, you can still create the desire within them with a little work on your part. If your dog is really motivated by food, take the toy and smear some peanut butter on it. This might make the toy more attractive to your dog - but be careful, it may become so attractive he will want to EAT it.
If they are not motivated by food, then this is a whole other topic by itself. In a nutshell, the solution is to starve the dog. Yes, starve the dog. Now before you start stoning me for dog abuse, have a read of the full article here. Back to playing with toys. There are two key principles to training old Rover to play with you and your toy. The first is that you must be SINCERELY interested in playing with your dog. Pay attention to your own energy and don't lie to yourself or your dog. If you are truly not having fun, your dog will quickly realize this and will be even more reluctant to join in. So be sure that you are both enjoying yourselves. If it doesn’t happen the first few times, don’t get annoyed and sulk, it will just make things worse!
The second is to understand what would drive a dog to play with objects. Dogs don't play with toys the same way a human child would. They don't build castles out of Lego or dress up a Barbie doll. You don't just buy a toy and then simply give it to your dog and expect him to do something. Instead, the prime motivator is their prey drive - anything that resembles what they would do if they were chasing, hunting, trapping and tearing apart a prey animal. They must work to get it. So think fast movement, sound (especially high pitched squeaky), smell (of food) and chewing (textures).
You are not going to allow the dog to have this toy at any time, except for when you and he are playing with it. When you are not playing, keep the toy someplace where your dog can't get his paws on it.
Act like an idiot and tease your dog with excited, goofy chatter about the toy – i.e. “Where is it? What is it? Do you want it? Do you need it? Where’s the toy?” When he is showing signs of excitement, go and get the toy, while continuing to chatter to him excitedly, and show the toy to your dog – be real dramatic, the more dramatic the better.