Help! Alfie No Longer Wants To Play.

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by Dioritt, Oct 9, 2012.

  1. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    Some of you may have read my thread about Alfie's resource guarding behaviour problems so you'll know what I'm talking about. For those of you who haven't, Alf became aggressive if anybody so much as put a foot near his bowl or tried to take anything, no matter what it was, from him. He'd bitten so many times (puncture wounds) I've forgotten how many, but with patience and understanding of the problem (and support from some members here) we got through it. He hasn't bitten for several weeks now and will allow most things to be taken from him and will leave higher value things when asked to do so.

    BUT, another problem, albeit less serious, has developed out of this. He no longer has the same enthusiasm for play.

    He'll still run after his toy, get it and bring it back, and allow me to take it from him (he'll bring it right to me) but without any of the exuberant enthusiasm he had before. The dog that bounded after it, came running back and waited eagerly for the next throw has disappeared. I've given him treats, lots of fuss and high voice praise when he brings it, and do all sorts to get him excited about chasing it again but he just sits there and when it's thrown, sort of plods after it and plods back.

    As for playing tug, he won't even entertain it. The trainer at dog classes suggested we play tug after successfully completing the challenges there, but he's just not interested. He'll sniff the toy, but as long as it's in my hand, he won't take it in his mouth. I've tried putting it on the floor, then when he has it, taking one end of it but then he just drops it.

    It's my guess that he's so used to giving things up now after all the work we've done on that, that he feels it's wrong of him to take the toy. He'll only take it if it's at a distance from me (like when we play fetch, but as stated, still without any real enthusiasm). When he's playing alone (he likes to throw small toys around himself and then chase them/catch them) he still has the same enthusiasm.

    Any ideas for what I can do to get him interested in playing these games again, or should I just accept that they belong in the past and find different games that he doesn't associate with biting (or whatever he's associating them with)? And if so, what games might they be? They'd need to be something that I can use as a reward after training.

    Any help and advice would be warmly welcomed.
    MaryK likes this.

  2. MaryK Honored Member

    Interesting problem. It does seem as if Alfie has taken the 'no biting' training very seriously, a bit too seriously in fact:rolleyes: .

    With the tug toy, that one I wouldn't be too worried about, as it just may incite the biting again. I didn't play tug with Ra Kismet when he was a puppy for that very reason. He was a real nipper (not nasty or resource guarding just puppy nipping - it hurt though) and I found that tug toys only made it worse. Now I can play tug with him, and LOL lose every time, without the concern about him nipping. But with Alfie, for a while anyway, I wouldn't use the tug toy.

    Also Alfie is growing up and it maybe just that's he's lost that very young puppy enthusiastic manner. However, having said that, I do feel it's the result of all the training.

    Maybe you could use a ball rather than a toy. As he may be associating toys with the training he's had, a ball is something quite different and will not have the same connection as do his toys. Or some other type of toy, like a Kong, puzzle toy, anything other than the toys he has at present. Even something very simple like a toy made from toilet rolls (the cardboard inside not the entire roll:D).

    And it may just be a case of time, he'll get back to his old enthusiastic self in time.

    I'll give this some more thought, it's very late here at present, so will sleep on it LOL literally, and see what I can think of as new games for Alfie.

    I'm sure others will have some suggestions to make. I can understand just how you feel though, after having a playful chap to one who's a little under whelmed now, would be hard to take. I know, if Ra Kismet stopped loving play, I'd be very concerned.
    Dioritt likes this.
  3. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Hi Sharon

    Have you had him to the vet? Get him a thorough physical, explaining the behavior to the veterinarian. Dogs (as we all lament) aren't so good at generalizing to begin with, so I haven't heard of a dog whose work on resource guarding has affected his or her 'fetch' or tug. Make sure Alfie gets a good orthopedic and oral exam.

    In general, for all dogs, I think it's useful to mark out when I'm playing a game like keep away or tug with the dog. With my hearing dog, I would sing-song "I'm gonna git it" or say "Hey you! Gimme that!" in a jokey voice, with Calvin I put my hands out and wiggle my fingers as I reach for it, or take a few exaggerated 'creeping over' kind of steps as I approach. Then the dogs knew I was making jokes with them, and not truly asking for it. I think most people do this naturally, but it's worth mentioning as distinguishing 'training time' from 'play time' (not that training isn't fun of course!) is useful. I don't want my dog to start dancing around and playing keep-away when he's got a medication bottle in his mouth!

    But really, though, I'd have him at the vet's and make sure there are no physical reasons for this. What if a tooth is a bit loose or something (poodles are infamous for dental problems) and he just can't bear to have pressure on the tug? All sudden changes in behavior should be ruled out with a veterinary exam by a professional -- 'he doesn't seem sick' doesn't cover it.

    Do keep us posted!
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  4. Anneke Honored Member

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  5. southerngirl Honored Member

    Missy was like this over the summer for a couple of weeks I just kept trying to play with her everyday and eventually she started playing again.:confused: Maybe he's not feeling good or is just in a funk. Keep trying to play with him and if you have the money take him to the vet.
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  6. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your responses.

    I'm really not sure what the problem is - whether it's due to his resource guarding lessons, something physical, just being on a bit of a downer or what. We're going to the vet next week, anyway, as I've just rescued an elderly cat that will need a health check so I'll take Alf along and mention it while I'm there.

    Alf love tiny toys, like those designed for cats, so I bought him a new one today to see whether that would give him any enthusiasm. He went through all his tricks happily to get the toy at the end (which I'd showed him, obviously) and was very pleased with. He was throwing it in the air, throwing it across the floor etc and bounding after it. It was a pleasure to watch him. As soon as I took it he backed off. I threw it for him. He just sort of plodded after it. I teased him with it, pushing it across the floor and waving it around etc, making lots of noise etc, but he just sat there looking at me as if I'm the ultimate nutter. He also plays with Bruno - will run around doing zoomies with him, play tug with him etc, so I don't really think it's anything physical.

    Could it be that because Bruno's been living her these past two weeks, instead of just visiting several evenings a week, that he's having enough play with his doggy pal so doesn't really have the same need to play with me? I didn't really think of that before I watched them playing whilst in the middle of writing this post (I often stop what I'm doing to watch them play).

    It just seems a shame if he's lost his will to play with me because A) I can't use play as a motivator/reward, and B) I miss playing with him.
    MaryK likes this.
  7. MaryK Honored Member

    First kudos for rescuing an elderly cat:love:(y)

    I can understand you are upset because Alfie doesn't want to play with you at present. Good idea to just have the vet check him over, but if he's playing with his new toys, doubt it's physical though it won't hurt to check just in case.

    Could well be that he's excited over having his friend with him all the time. You know how it is "hey Mom sorry I'm neglecting you but hey it's such fun having Bruno here all the time and I want to make the most of our time together". Alfie wouldn't stop and think about the fact that you also like to play with him, he's off playing with his chum ALL the time.

    How long is Bruno staying over? I would wait and see what happens with (a) the vet and (b) once Bruno goes home.

    Also give him a little time. He's had an intensive time learning to give and not resource guard, so he may just be a little 'wary' at present about whether he should play with you or not. Try something different, new with him, something which he's not done before and see how he goes. Keep it quite different from past play.
    Dioritt likes this.
  8. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    The elderly cat (who is moving in tonight) was due to be put to sleep on Monday if nobody could give him a home. An elderly gentleman has had to go into a nursing home and his house is being repossessed on Monday so the clock was ticking quickly. All the rescue centres were full and there were FOUR cats needing homes. I decided I have room for one more cat here, my friend is having two and a friend of hers is having one so it's all worked out. The gentleman cried with relief when he was told that all four now have homes. I know how devastated I would be if I were in the same position so I had to help. Y'know, do unto others as you wish others to do unto you. A good rule to live by I think, religious or not.

    Back to Alf. Bruno's going home on Saturday so I'll see how Alf is next week. My daughter has taken Bruno out alone for the afternoon so Alf and I have had some 1-2-1 time. We've been training "close the door" and loose lead walking. He's rubbish at LLW (too many exciting things going on in the world), but was more enthusiastic doing it in the house than he's been for ages. He even stayed right by my side without the lead today, which he hasn't done before. He usually has a tendency to wander off a bit because.... yes, you guessed it.... he can hear Bruno elsewhere in the house and wants to go play with him (or at least see whether he's doing something more interesting). This tells me that having Bruno here full time probably has been at least part of the problem. He even ASKED to play fetch after I'd sat down and told "all over" (no more training/play now).

    I'll still take him to vet with the cat next week but I think things may change when he no longer has Bruno here 24/7. Mind you, the new cat might be the next novelty for him because he's used to Jack (our cat) and Magic (my mum's cat) who are both willing to play with him. Whether the new one wants to play or not remains to be seen. I think he's about 12 though, so I doubt it.
    MaryK likes this.
  9. MaryK Honored Member

    Oh Sharon, that's wonderful of you all to help the elderly gentleman out, can well understand how he cried with relief. Big HUGS to all of you. Yes, I agree, religion or not, that's a wonderful way to live and what you put out, comes back with interest:love::D

    LOL oh on loose lead outside, I do let Ra Kismet smell all those interesting things. He's pretty good, doesn't pull or get under my feet, but if there's an interesting smell he'll spend forever sniffing. So maybe Alfie would like to sniff a bit more on llw???

    So happy you had 1-2-1 time with him and he was so responsive. That's great news. I do feel he'll be 'back to normal' once Bruno goes home.

    Something tells me a 12 y.o. cat will not really be into playing with a young puppy:D Though Alfie may be interested in the newcomer at first, I think he'll quickly lose interest once he realizes that the cat just wants to nap:D
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  10. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    Alf doesn't pull either, but he does have a tendency to cross over in front of me (but only occasionally) but that isn't acceptable if we're to get our Bronze award. It's not for another six weeks though, so plenty of time to train. If I let him sniff more, he'd never move! Lol. He'd like to stop and sniff every two paces (there's ALWAYS something on the ground on by the side of the road that's terribly exciting) so I have to limit the sniffing. I'm pretty sure he gets enough, though. I think it's more that everything's just so interesting and he needs to learn that just because something's interesting it doesn't mean he HAS to stop and sniff it. Just like I might stop to smell a rose, but I don't stop to smell every flower we pass :)

    The cat has been under an armchair ever since he arrived. Bruno keeps barking at him (play barking) and Alf sits there watching him. I don't think he's gonna venture out until the boys decide that watching him is boring. He did come upstairs during the night, when the house was quiet, but as soon as he saw me he scooted back downstairs. Jack (our cat) has seen him but isn't interested so it doesn't look as if there will be any trouble between them. I can understand Simba being frightened, though. He's lived in the same house his whole life, with the same people, and has never even been in a car before. The whole ordeal he's been through these past few days must have been dreadfully upsetting for him. I'm sure, given time, he'll learn to trust us.
    MaryK likes this.
  11. MaryK Honored Member

    Didn't realize it was for the Bronze Award. I would use a treat, held in my hand, and keep Alfie 'interested' in that. I do that when I want Ra Kismet to come 'close heel' when we're out walking and we have to pass someone on the footpath. He doesn't mind people but cannot let him take up all the footpath.

    LOL Ra Kismet likes to sniff a lot, especially if it's 'new' territory. But what I did (and still do at times) when he sniffed for too long I would 'call' him to my side and click/treat. Now he'll sniff for a short space of time and then come to my side and of course, LOL, look for a treat.

    Poor Simba, what a massive upheaval for him. His lifelong home gone, along with his forever companion, car rides, strange house, strange dogs and cat, no wonder he's under the chair. But sounds like it's all quiet and peaceful, except for Bruno play barking, so I feel all will go well in the end. Bruno and Alfie will as you say, get bored, no response=no fun! And your cat Jack sounds a purrfect gentleman, just leaving Simba to find his paws.
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  12. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    How I wish treats worked, Mary, but he has absolutely no interest in them when we're out and doesn't really pay much attention to me. He looks at me every now and then but mostly not. The world's just too exciting. At classes they used to use treats but Alf was having none of it (they're fading the treats out now because we're not allowed to use them when we take the final test), so they asked me to just keep giving him lots of happy praise while we're walking and he's in the right position but because I have both peripheral vascular disease which makes my legs hurt when I walk, and breathing problems, the combination of walking and talking loads in a high voice just doesn't work for me. He's not interested in a toy, either. Even the trainer was stumped as to what we could do to get his attention. How I've managed to come this far is just by changing direction every time he gets to the end of the lead. That's obviously working because he stays close far more now than he did, it's just the suddenly deciding to sniff every 3-5 steps that's the main problem now. I think I'm going to try changing direction every time he does that, too, until he understands that he can't do it the whole time, and then gradually let him have a few sniffs when I decide he can.

    When everybody but my daughter had gone to bed last night, (including Bruno, who goes up and gets in bed himself when he's tired), Simba came out and sat on the arm of the chair purring. Massive step and big award to him for being brave. He also ate his food during the night :) My friend, who has taken two of the four cats, tells me that one will come out and lay on the floor but the other is currently living behind the TV. I expect Simba wonders where his three brothers have gone, too.
    MaryK likes this.
  13. MaryK Honored Member

    Great minds think alike Sharon:D(y) I was going to suggest, if treats didn't work, changing direction to get Alfie's attention:D So glad that is working for you. I don't use a 'high' voice for praise, partly because my voice has always been a 'lower register' so it's unnatural for me to speak in a high tone, and also because I have found with some dogs it just makes them over excited. Can understand it must be hard for you though to walk and talk.

    Good idea to use the same tactics with the sniffing, you've found what works with Alfie and that's just grand!:D(y)

    Oh I'm so very happy Simba has come out, he must feel he can trust you and that you love him. Poor chap, forgot he would also be wondering where his three brothers have gone. Animals grieve just as we do and I think all of them will be going through a grieving process. Which added to the trauma of everything else is really tough for them. Kudos to you and your friend for making all three so welcome. I am sure that with a little more time all three will settle into their new, loving homes.

    LOL Bruno sounds like Zeus. He too will take himself off and put himself to bed when he's tired. His late sister Tiger Lily would do the same, going one step further, she would get right under the duvet. All you could see was a big mound and LOL she's let out a few 'growls' to let you know she was under there. Nothing nasty, I called her 'grumble bums' when she did that:LOL:

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