Toys are not just things that your dog likes to play with. They serve a vital purpose in your dog’s mental and physical development. And they are great tools for behavior modification and training. When you pull your dog’s favorite toy out of the basket, they are not just thinking about the toy itself.
Your dog is actually interested in having a good time. So, how to use toys for training? How to play with your dog? Let’s try and answer these questions.
Why Do Dogs Play with Toys?
Let’s start with a little bit of intro and background. Why do dogs love to play with toys? Well, each toy has a different purpose in your dog’s behavior development.
To be true, you can use all toys for a similar training technique. But the general use of toys is this one:
- Dogs play with fetch toys because of their natural instinct to seek and return things to their human. Dogs were used as hunting animals long before they were domestic pets
- Speaking about squeaker toys, one theory is that it has to do with genetics. Hunting is the reason again. When your pup listens to its favorite squeaker sound, they respond to their instinct to hunt their prey
- Dogs love chewing toys because they explore and interact with the world using their mouth. Using their mouth for exploring leads to a lot of chewing. In training, you can use chew toys and squeaker toys to train bite inhibition
- Dogs love playing with tug toys because they interact with their human and it gives them an opportunity to bond with you and spend time with you. Another reason is the push and pull aspect activates your dog’s predation instinct. You can use it to your advantage in dog training
Generally speaking, dogs love getting attention from their humans. There are a few things more effective that make your dog happy than you stopping whatever you are doing and paying attention and playing with your dog.
How to teach your puppy to play with toys
A lot of owners think that toys are only for dogs. Wrong. Very few toys, Kong, for example, are designed for the dog to play with it on its own. The reality is that toys are made for interaction. You and your puppy play together.
So, how to get a dog to play with you and a toy? Well, it is very simple. All you have to do is engage with him. Do not just throw the toy and expect your dog to play with it. Yes, he will do. But that reinforces behavior that your dog should be on its own. He becomes more independent and doesn’t love spending time with you.
Your dog learns that you are not a fun person. The fun thing is the toy he can chew to destruction.
How do engage your dog? Well, think of different ways to create desire. For example, hide a toy in your jacket, and tease your puppy. Ask him if he wants to play, put your hand in the jacket and slowly take out the toy. And then play with your dog.
As I’ve talked before, you can teach a dog lots of commands using a toy. For example, take the toy teaches pick up and leave. You can teach your dog to carry a toy during walks that will prevent reactive behavior toward other dogs.
Find Your Dog’s Favorite Toy
Your dog probably has a favorite toy. All dogs have. Yes, they will play with most toys you give them and spend time with them. But every dog has a favorite toy. It is that one special toy you can use to play with him at any given moment, prevent any distraction, and teach him anything your dog likes. Your pup will die for that toy. And you need this toy for dog training.
Remember, every dog likes something different. To find out his favorite toy, show him a couple of toys. See which one he will go for. If he has many toys, gradually eliminate the non-favorite toys.
Pay attention to how your dog reacts to different toys. Once you find out his favorite toy, you have him. You can tell him to do whatever you like, and your puppy will oblige.
Play with your dog and get him interested in the toys. Eliminate the toys he doesn’t engage much one by one. During all the time, talk to your puppy and communicate with him. Get him interested in the theme. Praise your pup when he engages with the toy.
Moving the Party Outside
It is important that you find your dog’s favorite toy, or kryptonite if you like inside. Once you have that, you can move the party outside. Using his favorite toy, you can prevent distractions.
Start gradually. Go to an open field where there are a few distractions. Let your dog run free, and out of nowhere, pull out his favorite toy.
This should give you a free recall and put your dog close to you.