What To Do When a Dog Loses Interest In Toys

Does your dog have a basketful of toys, but no interest in playing with them? No worries. There are several reasons why your dog may have lost interest in playing with his toys. And most of the time, this behavior is quite normal. Of course, since you’ve spent good money on those toys, you probably would prefer that your dog would play with them. If so, here are some suggestions on what to do when a dog loses interest in toys.

What to do when a dog loses interest in toys?

  1. Play with your dog
  2. Give them a toy they find exciting
  3. Use treats to incentivize their interest.

The good news is there are ways to reignite your dog’s passions for his toys if he’s just bored with them. We’ll explain those to you in this article. We will also discuss the signs you should look for to distinguish whether your pup is just bored with his toys or is not feeling well.

First, a Little Bit About Me

I’ve had dogs for as long as I can remember.

Some of the breeds I’ve owned include Dachshunds, Wire Fox Terriers, a Dalmatian, an Australian Shepherd, and a Welsh Terrier. I have also fostered several dogs and have been a volunteer at the local no-kill rescue for more than 12 years.

I have also written and researched countless articles on canines. So, basically, I live and breathe everything dog.

Why Has My Dog Lost Interest in His Toys?

If you’re like most pet parents, you’ve probably invested a small fortune in toys. So, it can be a bit disheartening to see your dog ignoring them and playing with — say — an empty toilet paper roll!

Before you toss out your toys, let’s take a look at several reasons why your dog may be giving them the cold shoulder. We’ll also talk about what to do when a dog loses interest in toys.

Boredom

Have you noticed that your dog seems to get really excited when you give him a new toy? It’s not your imagination. According to studies conducted by researchers from the University of Giessen in Germany and the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, dogs love getting new things.

In the 2008 university studies, dogs were presented with three toys and allowed to play with them all. The researchers would then take one toy away and replace it with something new. In 38 out of 50 of these tests, the dogs in the experiment immediately picked out the new toy. 

Does this mean you need to give your dog a new toy regularly? No. For most people, that would definitely not be a practical solution. 

Instead, dog experts suggest that you try the following if your dog lost interest in toys.

Rotate your dogs’ toys

Create a rotation of toys.

You can do this by taking some of your dog’s toys and putting them somewhere they can’t see them. You might, for example, hide them in a closet or in the basement. Then after a week or so, you can return those toys to the rotation while removing others to hide away.

Continue to do this regularly to keep your dog from getting bored with their toys. 

Add an interesting scent to the dog toy

Perhaps, you can roll the toy in grass or wash it.

Or rub a dry dog treat (that your dog likes) across a soft plush toy.

Bundle the toy up in wrapping paper

Do you give your dog wrapped gifts on his birthday or holidays?

Does your dog get excited when he gets a chance to tear apart the wrapping paper?

Then, you might want to try wrapping one of his old toys and presenting it to him as if it was new. (Hey, I know some people who do this to their kids. So, it’s possible it might also work on your dog.)

Play with the toy with your dog

Maybe your pup has forgotten about the toy. Playing with that toy with your dog may rekindle their interest in it once again. A good example is playing tug of war with a dog toy.

How to play a tug of war game with your dog

Do these suggestions help gain interest?

It’s important to note that while the dogs in those university studies were very interested in the new items presented to them, their excitement was “transient” or fleeting.

This could explain why dogs will often “pick” toys at the pet store and then show no interest in playing with them in their homes.

You’ve Chosen the Wrong Type of Toy

Every dog is different.

My Wire Fox Terrier, Vinnie, loves a game of tug-of-war. It’s his favorite thing in the world to do.

My Welsh terrier, Kuzy? Not so much. He’d rather chase a ball.

You should also consider your dog’s breed when choosing toys. Take the Labrador Retriever. As its name implies, this breed enjoys retrieving or “fetching” toys. Beagles were bred to hunt small furry animals. So, if you have a Beagle puppy, it would probably love playing with a squeaky stuffed rabbit.

Take a minute to look over your dog’s toy stash. If your dog isn’t playing with the ones you’ve bought, it may be because you’ve been choosing the wrong ones.

Is Your Pup Not Feeling Well?

Sometimes, it’s easy to tell when your dog is not feeling well. They may, for example, be experiencing bloody diarrhea or is vomiting.

Other times, the signs that your pup is a little under the weather or is dealing with an injury may be more subtle. For example, let’s say you have a pup who loves a good game of tug-of-war. Then, one day, you notice that he doesn’t want to play anymore. This may be an indication that your dog has an injury to his mouth or neck or may have damaged one or more of his teeth.

Another example would be a dog that typically enjoys a fun game of Frisbee. A game of Frisbee is excellent for a very active dog. If this dog suddenly loses interest in running or leaping in the air to catch his toys, he may have suffered an injury, such as a muscle strain. And, of course, there’s a good chance that a dog who is feeling ill will also refuse to play with his toys.

dog doesn't want to play anymore

If your dog doesn’t want to play anymore, make sure to look them over carefully to ensure that they don’t have an injury. Can’t find any issues, but your dog continues to refuse to play with his favorite toys? Then you may want to take him to the vet, especially if you notice any other symptoms.

Your Dog is Maturing

Just like humans, dogs may no longer find a need to play with toys as they get older.

What To Do When a Dog Loses Interest In Toys

Has your dog stopped playing with toys, but is in good health? If so, you might want to try the following suggestions to see if you can get your pup interested in playing again.

1. Play with your dog

Imagine being surrounded by a bunch of your favorite toys, but having to play by yourself all the time. It would get pretty dull after a while, right? Your dog is probably feeling the same way.

They would really love to play fetch or tug-of-war, but those games require a partner.

And chewing on a squeaky toy may be fun for a little while. But it would definitely be more exciting if someone threw that squeaky toy for them so they could “hunt” it down.

2. Give your dog an exciting toy

My dogs’ absolute favorite toy looks like a fishing pole and is sometimes called a flirt pole by trainers.

At the end of the pole is a nylon rope that is attached to a squeaky toy.

What to do when a dog loses interest in toys 2
Vinnie chasing the squeaky toy at the end of his flirt pole

The pole and string allow me to drag the toy just out of reach of my dogs as they try to catch it. For my dogs, this toy is the closest thing to chasing a live squirrel or a rat.

My dogs are terriers and they LOVE this toy. I actually have to limit the amount of time they play with it because, after about ten to fifteen minutes of playing with the flirt pole, they’re panting and gasping for breath.

Another toy that can be “exciting” for a dog is a wobble ball. Instead of rolling smoothly, these balls are designed to move in an unpredictable manner, which seems to excite canines. These wobble balls usually also make unusual noises that are intriguing to most pets. You can also put treats inside the wobble ball to get your dog interested.

3. Use treats to get your dog interested in toys

Do you have a food-motivated dog? Then he may love playing with a puzzle toy since these will give your dog a treat each time he manipulates it in a certain way.

Dogs also enjoy toys that can be filled with treats, such as Kongs. Some pet owners will freeze a filled Kong to make it more challenging for a dog to get the yummies out.

Not sure what to fill your Kong with? No worries. Here are just some of the food treats that pet owners recommend filling a Kong with:

  • Plain yogurt
  • Wet dog food
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned plain pumpkin
  • Canned fish or meat
  • Bits of ground meat
  • Applesauce
  • Cottage Cheese 
  • Kibble.
Dog stopped playing with toys
Kuzy, My Welsh Terrier, trying to get the treat out of his Kong

4. Try a Treat Box Service

Let’s say you are having trouble finding the right toys for your dog. Or maybe you just don’t have time to visit the pet store regularly. Here’s an idea… consider signing up for a subscription service that will deliver a box of new toys and treats to your canine once a month.

These subscription services introduce a variety of different toys to your dog.

You may discover your dog has a preference for a certain type of toy that you had never bought them before.

5. Ask for toy suggestions from your fellow dog owners

Ask around at the dog park to learn what type of toys are liked by the dogs you know there.

Another great place to find ideas for toys is on canine enrichment pages on social media sites, such as Facebook. The pet enthusiasts on these websites are dedicated to finding toys and games that will keep dogs mentally stimulated and entertained.

How to Get a Puppy Interested in Toys

When it comes to puppies, toys aren’t just for fun.

The right toys can give your new puppy something to chew on when it’s teething so that they’re not biting on you or your belongings.

Toys can also keep them from getting bored.

And there is even a stuffed toy that has a fake “beating” heart in it that will comfort your puppy when it’s feeling lonely. It’s called a Snuggle Puppy. My daughter bought one for her 5 month old German Shepherd puppy.

Dog lost interest in toys
Five month old German Shepherd Hachiko with his Snuggle Puppy

Playing with toys will also help to strengthen your relationship with your pup.

To help get your pup interested in toys, we suggest that you:

  • Appeal to the puppy’s natural prey drive by moving a small, furry squeak toy just out of reach of the pup. Make sure to squeak it once in a while to capture the pup’s attention
  • Have another dog you trust to play with a toy in front of your puppy. One caveat: Make sure your little one has had all of its vaccinations first before allowing it to be around other dogs.
  • Replace anything your puppy is chewing on inappropriately with a toy. A teething puppy will chew on just about anything (including you) that it can get its mouth on. So, for your sanity and the sake of your home, make sure to give your puppy a chew toy that he can gnaw on to his heart’s content.

And it’s not just puppies that need to be shown how to play with toys. While volunteering at the no-kill rescue, I’ve met numerous dogs that had come from homes of neglect or that had come from puppy mills that had never been exposed to toys. These dogs need to be taught how to play with their toys, as well.

Don’t Give Up on Your Dog Toys

While it’s easy to dismiss toys as unnecessary or frivolous, they actually play an essential role in your dog’s life.

The right toys will provide your dog with the mental and physical stimulation that he needs.

But it’s important to remember that many of your dog’s toys require a human partner — you.

So, here’s your first plan of action when you’re wondering what to do when a dog loses interest in toys. You need to play with him! Your dog just isn’t going to have much fun with that tug-of-war toy, if he has to play with it by himself. So, remember to set aside time each day to play a game or two with your pup. He’s sure to appreciate this quality one-on-one time that the two of you will get to spend together. 

Make Playtime the Best Fun Time For Your Dog

Secondary to being outside and having fun, dogs also have fun with their toys, whether inside or outside your home. Given we’re all about you and your dog having fun here at Outdoor Dog Fun, we’ve written exhaustively on the topic of toys. Have a read of these articles to ensure that playtime is super fun and safe for your dog.

  1. How do you sanitize dog toys with squeakers?
  2. What is the impact of dogs destroying their toys?
  3. Rope toys: friend or foe for dogs?
  4. Make more fun playing outdoors with the right dog toys
  5. How to entertain dogs disinterested in dog toys
  6. Why do dogs have favorites in their toy basket?
  7. Flying solo: which toys are best for dogs that play alone
  8. Our best list of dog toys for crates

Author - Jane

Jane owns 2 high-energy dogs - Kuzy the Welsh Terrier and Vinnie the Wire Fox Terrier. Jane's favorite thing to do is take her dog on long walks in the woods. They also love hiking, kayaking, and boating together. Jane walks her dogs several times a day whether it's raining, snowing or just plain cold. She is interested in teaching Kuzy how to Barn Hunt. Jane walks rescue dogs on the weekend so that they can enjoy a little fresh air and exercise.

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