Fear Of Playing With Toys

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by Ripleygirl, May 12, 2012.

  1. Ripleygirl Experienced Member

    Ripley is a rescue dog that I have owned for 1 year - she is now 2 1/2 years old (18months old when I had her), she has come a long way with one hell of a lot of everything but she will not play with toys. She can show interest occasionally to certain toys (particularly rope toys & she has shown a slight bit of interest in squeaky toys, when I have tried to entice her, by squesking the toy and being very excited, myself, by it, but as she shows a little bit of interest in it she tries to squeak it but is too gentle with her mouth and can't squeak it so loses interest immediately:( ) As 'tigerlily' has said in a different thread - try peanut butter or similar on a toy I add that I have tried this on various toys & Ripley LOVES peanut butter and this did help for a while with a Kong toy I had bought her but unfortunately it didn't instigate any sense of play in her just that if she run to that toy she could then lick peanut butter off all of it and then leave the toy as it was, even when I tried this with a rope type toy which she occasionally has shown interest in playing tug but not much as she plays tug for, like, 30 seconds and then just gives the toy up and goes all submissive like she shouldn't have pulled against the human ( even though huge amounts of verbal praise have been given while she was playing ), on this we already know she had been hit (in her previous life before we owned her) as she cowers if you move your hand too quick etc, and it is like she is remembering this if she shows a bit of play in her with toys, it is like she is expecting a whack if she 'forgets herself' for a few seconds and enjoys the play we are trying to instigate, despite the praise.

    I thinks this underlying fear she has related to being hit is the main cause of her not wanting to play with toys and don't quite know how to let her know that we are never going to hit her for playing (or anything else for that matter), it took her about 4 months to be able to go to stroke her head without her ducking then running and cowering in her bed (a dog cage we got so she would have a safe 'den' with a blanket over and a soft cushion inside)!!:cry:

    She has made GREAT progress from when we had her (excellent recall and trick training, happy and relaxed dog about 90% of the time, no more destruction of household item of our garden, looks for attention now and wants to be stroked, will now be bathed/brushed/wormed/defleaed/inspected etc) but I think this fear is still underlying in her not wanting to play with toys.

    I have bought an array of toys in the past year - I think we have about 30 different ones now - big/small, squeaky/rope, rubber/floating, soft/cuddly, balls/frisbees... the list goes on!!!! I never keep all of them where she can get at them, I do rotate and try and get interest in different toys. I play with them myself and with my partner to try and entice notice and interest in the toys but when she does show a slight bit of interest the above happens when she decides she is scared of what will happen to her, seen as she has tried to play, and she then 'seems' to think she will be hit... :(:cry:

    I have tried so much to try and get her to play and just this week she did show interest in sticks (as said in the thread 'teaching you dog to swim' not ideal due to safety concerns) to fetch when going in swimming but it is a genuine interest in play and can hopefully be moved on to phase out the sticks and introduce 'safe' toys...

    I would like to add that my dog is NOT a shy dog, She has no ends of confidence playing and meeting other dogs (too much when on lead) and is fine, NOW, meeting and greating strangers and friends of the human world.

    I would LOVE my dog to put aside any fears and learn the joy that can be found in playing with toys so any pointers or advice is greatly appreciated?
    Tâmara Vaz likes this.

  2. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Do other dogs ever play with toys - namely her toys - in her presence, and if so, does she show any interest then? Or could you arrange for a dog to come over maybe for a playdate (or a few) and make a point of playing with some of her toys? Dogs can teach other dogs things that we humans just can't - perhaps another dog can show her how to play, and that it's just great fun! If there's still no interest, keep in mind that sometimes it may just be that that particular dog just isn't interested in playing with toys. Dogs have all different kinds of interests, like people do - and altho we, as humans, think they should think toys are fun (and most do, and it's a great way for us to interact with each other), sometimes they don't share our love of toys and just don't want to play our silly game. :oops:

    I'm sure others will come up with some suggestions - I hope Ripley comes around, cuz playing with toys with our dogs is indeed fun!
  3. Ripleygirl Experienced Member

    Her doggy friend, Ollie, does stay over with us quite a bit and will play with her toys, she occasionally shows a bit of interest and will play tug with him for a bit but as soon as a human becomes involved in the play with her she will behave the way I said above, despite Ollie being quite happy to carry on playing with human's or Ripley's interactions.
    Tâmara Vaz likes this.
  4. injoydogtraining Active Member

    I'd say keep genuinely playing with her and NOT try to make not playing with toys a pressure on either of you. You can probably get her to tug, or rip meat off a bone, or tear into a thin-cloth-(maybe start with paper)-wrapped irresistible thing (like a dried heart). But I wouldn't feel like your dog is inadequate for not ever being the toy crazy dog that'll play with anything, anytime, anywhere. Build it for sure, but it sounds like just making her feel less pressure, since she's worried, would be priority with a dog like this. I'd also focus on getting my hands on her to have a positive association, too. Introduce touch when you run, like play "tag your it"...Ok, guys, this is my idea that I'll share, but I get credit for the name:)
    Run and touch, and push and physically start your blood pumping, both of you running, and reach down and push the dog, saying the physical "Tag. You're it!", complete with the running away part. Introduce a toy if she gets "teethy". Until a dog is ready to start trying for you in play with their mouth, I don't think one should be so worried about toys. Just have fun, and if toys end up working their way in, cool.
    Dogster, Ripleygirl and jackienmutts like this.
  5. Anneke Honored Member

    I have been pondering over this, since you wrote your post. And eventhough I think the others did give good advice, I think your problem does lie with her fear of getting hit/touched.
    I think it might be that the rapid movements involved in play frighten her.
    Have you ever tried to tie a furry toy to a rope and dragging it in front of her? There are toys that are for chasing, they look a bit like a fishingrod with a fluffy flat toy on the end of the line.
    This way you create distance between you and Ripley and MAYBE, just maybe she would dare to chase it??
    I would keep throwing sticks, even though they could hurt your dog. I throw stick for my dogs too. They love it.
    If Ripley likes the sticks, that might be your way to get her to play. Once she feels safe enough, you can maybe try throwing other stuff.
    If she is foodmotivated... maybe you could try one of those dummies you can fill with treats, or a treat ball?
    Dogster, Ripleygirl and jackienmutts like this.
  6. running_dog Honored Member

    I can second Anneke on the toy on a rope.

    I'm trying to build up Zac's tug play and I've had to tie a toy onto an old dog lead, Zac tugs great on that but will always drop a toy if I touch it. He obviously needs the distance from me to be confident for some reason. He likes to chase me all over the house to try and grab the toy as I drag it along. If you do this you should probably let your dog win so she feels great about the game :).
  7. jackienmutts Honored Member

    I love the idea of a furry skin on a 'fishing rod' sort of thing, don't use those for mine (they'd be toast in no time) but do with another dog I know and she flips for them. It does put some distance between you and the dog and will give her a chance to get into her own world. I also agree - if she likes chasing sticks, then there's a good start. Find a good big one, and let that be your big ticket item. Maybe if you can make it a big deal, take her out, find a great one with her, just throw it a few times for your first time (hopefully she'll be interested in it), quit before she's ready, and call it a day, take that big prize home, and put it away. Then take it out (like you would a toy) and use that same wonderful stick again the next day or a few days later - make that same stick your special stick for a while, and see how that goes. I'd make a big effort to take any pressure off of her tho - if she doesn't want to play, make sure she knows that's ok with you. Maybe a stick could then, over time, graduate to a toy faux stick and work up from there? Baby steps.
    Dogster, Anneke and Ripleygirl like this.
  8. Ripleygirl Experienced Member

    Thank you, guys for all your input, it is really appreciated! I love Anneke's idea of a fishing rod type toy and we haven't tried that sort of thing. I am looking into that one as we speak... I do agree that distance will probably help and that she definately needs baby steps. She is keeping the interest in sticks at the moment, I tried taking a floating toy to the park yesterday to see if she would fetch that from the lake and tried after she had been fetching sticks nicely, she went in after it, picked it up and brought it back part of the way then seems to realise it was a toy and wouldn't bring it out of the water! I had to go in to get it in the end and ended up soaking.... :ROFLMAO:! I will keep posted on any progress and try the ideas you guys have come up with too and would still really appreciate any more ideas/thoughts/input from anyone! Thank you all!
    Dogster and Anneke like this.
  9. Amateur Experienced Member

    I havent read through the other response yet but my first impression is that maybe you dog wont play with things because she isnt sure that that is "Her" toy, and not something that belongs to people for which she has been punished in the past for touching. Can you somehow make a safe area or room that she can be sure that anything there is hers to play with. Secondly, I read somewhere to get the dog interested in a toy, play with it yourself like its the greatest thing on earth, and dont worry what the dog is doing. maybe by wondering what the heck is so great about the toy she may become interested.

    I reemember our second dog Raleigh ( a rescue ) never had a rawhide or bone before and didnt know what to do with it -- it was kind of sad ... but all he did was watch our other dog and soon he was gnawing away like a champ.
    Dogster and Ripleygirl like this.
  10. Ripleygirl Experienced Member

    I am unsure exactly what you mean by 'tag your it', how much physical contact would you mean - because I have spent a lot of time making Ripley sure I will not hurt her when touching her - I would hate to cause that to go backwards - but it sounds like an interesting idea - but I do only use positive desensitisation so would want to go about it in a very positive way?
  11. Ripleygirl Experienced Member

    I think that maybe this could be a part of it... Thank you for replying, Amateur. She was a very distructive dog when we had her with object around the house and out in our garden, this has subsided completely now by giving her the exercise she needs and training to keep her mind busy and desensitising her to being left alone too. But if she has been punished in the past, then there may be something in what you say. Thank you! How would you go about teaching her that that place in the room is her place and what is there is hers?
  12. Amateur Experienced Member

    I guess make a spot with visual cues as to borders then place her toys there. If she show interest in "other " things " people things ... take her too her spot and play with her stuff there.
    I am just guessing here ... maybe other may pipe in ... but I guess whenever you give her something ... go to that area... Mybe also put a bed or crate or something there that she knows is hers ... hopefully she will get use to this ... our guys have bones and stuff lying all over the place now and they know what is theirs ..but at first they were given their toys in a controlled environment so there was no confusion. Worked for us... hopefully this can be part of your solution.
    Ripleygirl likes this.
  13. Ripleygirl Experienced Member

    Thanks for your input, Amateur. Much appreciated!
  14. injoydogtraining Active Member

    Yeah, for sure don't attempt to engage her physically in a way that she's not comfortable with. But, I would really focus on being able to reach down and tap her on her hindquarter or shoulder and run away...a really light "tag" with an immediate relief of the pressure by moving away, also with your body turned slightly away or your back to her as you leave. If you can work up to playful pushes, cool. Just make sure to (you) target her sides, not her front/face. Dogs in general don't like that straight at your face engagement...no "handkerchief" toys (where you try to rub their face with the tug). And I totally agree about distance from you, via a rope of some sort. Even for confident dogs, the toy on a rope initiates a type of drive that you'll be hard pressed to top. A must for rewarding a dog's motion, like in agility. Have fun:)!
    Ripleygirl likes this.
  15. Ripleygirl Experienced Member

    Thanks, Injoy, I understand now, thank you for the advice!!

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