Playing with Dog that does not play with toys

Posted by mstumpel
Jan 13, 2009

Although not necessarily a dog behavior issue it is certainly an issue I have with trying to interact with my dog more effectively.

I have an Australian cattle dog (Blue Heeler) which I obtained from a pound almost a year ago now. She was 18 months old when I picked her up. She is a lovely beautiful dog but she does not seem to play with any toys. I have given her a variety of toys at different time and tried to encourage her to use them. Unless there is food in the toy she shows no interest. She does not chase balls or anything else, nor does she play tug etc.

I do dog training with her each morning before going to work for 5 to 10 minutes and we go for a walk for about an hour each evening.

She will chase me but gets a bit over excited and starts to nip etc so I stop playing at that time not to mention I get tired before she does.

I am keen to learn if there is a way to encourage her to play with toys so I can interact more with her. I enjoy my time with her, but other than the dog training and the walking I feel I am missing opportunities to interact more with my dog and to mentally/physically stimulate her.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Jan 14, 2009

I love herding dogs. They are very focused and smart. They need jobs so it would be good if you can get your Blue Heeler something to do with you!

I take her being interested in food/treats so how about this:

Have her sit in front of you (sitting too). Put a toy in front of her. Tell her to "take it" (I usually sugget to teach "Leave it" first but your heeler is not interested in toys thus "take it"). I assume she would not take it so you will have to pick the toy up and give it to her. If she grabs it, praise and give her a treat. Put the toy in front of her again and tell her to "take it". You might have to pick it up again but she will eventually learn to pick it up herself. Every time she will get a treat (make sure your treats are smaller than your pinky nail size!)

Now, you toss the toy 2 feet away instead of in front of her, and "take it". You will make the distance bigger and bigger. She will eventually have to stand up and go get the toy and bring it back to you in order to get a treat.

After she masters this, you can put some toys in a different room and send her to get a toy. By this time, she will be able to understand your intention. If not you can lead her saying "come on this way" and show her the toys and tell her to "take it (or "get a toy"). Once she grabs a toy, lead her again back to the room you were before with a happy voice "good girl, come on this way!" and praise and treat as you receive the toy. Pretty soon she will be able to go get a toy from the next room by herself with a command of "go get a toy".

Among toys you can include a ball. Throw the ball and have her go fetch.

This whole thing might take a week or so if you train her 10 minutes every evening but once she learns what is expected she and you will be able to communicate much more efficiently and it will be a lot of fun to have a dog that can understand your language/body language and sometimes can even read your mind! Blue heelers are very smart dogs too.

Posted by mstumpel
Jan 14, 2009
Hello MaxHollyNoah,

As you rightly say, blue heelers are extremely intelligent and mine is no exception hence my desire to keep her mentally and physically stimulated.

Many thanks for your advice. I will go home and try your suggestion.

I will let you know how I progress.