Many times in agility training the need will arise to use
a toy to motivate your dog to move on without you (example: teaching a
"get out" or doing weave poles or any sequence of obstacles
for a gamble). People will ofren lament that their dog is not "into"
toys. Some dogs will not innately want to play with toys but you can create
the desire within them with a little work on your part. If your dog is
really motivated by food and has never shown any interest in toys, an
option available to you is to take the motivating toy you have chosen
to work with and simmer it in a pot of liver, or chicken broth to make
it more attractive to your finicky hound. BE LEERY--if you choose to go
this route, be very careful your dog is never given an opportunity to
be alone with this wonderful smelling toy or THEY MAY EAT IT. Surgery
to remove this from their gut will be neither pleasant nor cheap. The
key to training old Rover to play with you and your toy is that you are
SINCERELY interested in playing with your dog. If you are truly not having
fun, your dog will quickly realize this and will be even more reluctant
to join in. So be sure that you are both enjoying yourselves. Now let's
- Choose a throwable toy--i.e. one that you can toss, but won't roll
too much, like a tug rope, or a ball in a sock or a stuffed animal.
- Attach this toy to a light line, string or lead that is about 3 meters
- Put the toy in a drawer in the midst of your living area--example,
in the kitchen or somewhere else that is easily accessible at all times.
- Before each meal start to act a bit loony. While saying really fun
things to your dog (like "oh no", "what is it",
"do you want this", "where's your toy", etc.) walk,
dance, skip...basically act goofy while you make your way over to the
- S-l-o-w-l-y open up the drawer while continuing to say nutty things
to your dog.
- Stop talking momentarily (a pause for effect) and then pull the toy
out of the drawer, like you just unexpectedly came across a $50 bill
and run with it into the next room.
- Swing the toy above the ground while acting nutty to show the dog
what a great time you are having with this fun toy.
- Dance around for a few more seconds and then toss the toy out like
a lure on the end of a fishing pole.
- Drag it around but BE SURE THE DOG DOES NOT GET HIS MOUTH ON IT.
- This whole process should only take 1-2 minutes the first time you
- End your fun game, which didn't include your poor dog, by running
ack to the drawer, yhour toy in tow snatching it up and quickly putting
it back in the drawer with a phrase like "oh no, it's gone".
- You may then proceed about your regular routine as if nothing out
of the ordinary just happened.
- Re-enact this bizarre performance 2-3 times a day. After the second
day, allow the dog to get his mouth on the toy if he is really keen--but
only for a few seconds. Pull on the line to try and steal it from him.
Once you get it away (be sure you are taking it from him in a very informal,
fun way), play with it a little more by yourself before quickly putting
the toy away.
- Gradually progress, letting him play with you and the toy (tog of
war style) a little more each time until you have a dog who loves to
see the toy come out.
- Do not allow him to play with this toy at any other time except during
this routine and, when he is ready, at agility class.
- Ideally, you should remove any other toys that are lying around the
house during this time. Leave out only things your dog can lie down
and chew on by himself, such as his chew bones.
- Be sure during this training/play session that you never give your
dog any sort of verbal for anything he might do.
- Before you know it you will have a dog who is as nutty about this
toy as you apparently have been!
- This method works particularly well on new puppies.