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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Helping Toy-Challenged Dogs Enjoy Playtime

by Carrie Boyko
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(c) Carrie Boyko
Finally--Blue Puppy Gets Playtime

Oliver, my 9 lb. Papillon, is not really very big on toys. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that. The reality is that Tanner, my Golden Retriever, is Oliver's toy. Oliver grew up playing on top of Tanner, as if Tanner were his personal playground or jungle gym. I’m not sure who enjoys it more—Tanner or Oliver!  

To this day, Oliver continues to enjoy playing with Tanner’s ears and tail, snuggling with Tanner for an afternoon nap and following him around during his daily rounds of the house--sort of like a pesky little brother, except that Tanner loves it.

Once in a great while, Oliver will get interested in one of his many toys. Oliver’s not exactly starving for playthings. I have tried very hard to get him interested in a plethora of different types of toys, generally to no avail. 

There are a few that he favors. One is a blue puppy, small enough for him to pick up and carry around. This is to say that it is VERY small, as Oliver has an extremely tiny mouth. This picture was taken on one of the rare days when Oliver was enthralled with the blue puppy. Yeah! If only I could get him to enjoy all of his toys this way.

Often, when Oliver seems to be in a toy mood, I will try to introduce him to another toy, along with the one he has chosen. After all, every little boy needs a variety of playthings to stimulate his brain. What usually happens is he loses interest in both and begins to follow me around. He is so cute, sort of like a deaf child who is imploring me to explain, in his own language, what I am doing and how he can be a part of it.

One of my agility friends who is a very patient trainer, gave me some tips on getting him interested in toys. I’ve tried a few. Treating him when he plays with a toy seemed like a great idea, but failed miserably when he decided it was better to follow me to get more treats. The toy was abandoned and I became the object of interest.

Playing games with his toys, like hide and seek, chase, fetch or catch, are all things that Tanner absolutely loves to do. Yet Oliver looks at flying toys as potential danger. He sees something flying through the air and runs for cover, as if to exclaim, “Incoming!” 

I tried gently tossing a soft toy to Oliver as a reward for good agility work, and he ran away from the toy. Ugg!

Today I read about a toy game that might work, so we’ll give it a trial run and see how we do. I found this game on Raise a Green Dog, one of our favorite websites. You can come along for a ride. Perhaps if you, too, have a toy-challenged dog, you might find this tactic works. 

Tuck a couple of small, great smelling treats into the sections of a muffin tin. Then set 12 small toys on top of each treat, also inside the cups of the muffin tin. The idea is that the smell will encourage the dog to pick up the toy, in order to find the yummy treat. When the dog picks up the toy, be sure to praise him or pet him immediately. The final reward will be finding the treat.

We’ll practice this a few times and see how we do. If you try it, will you report back. Hit the comment link at the bottom of the post and let me know how it worked for you. Good luck!

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