A sweet, docile dog is a wonderful companion, but if you're having trouble getting yours to perk up and play, there are several tricks you can try to stimulate your pet's interest. Just be sure that you first rule out any serious causes for your dog's apathy, such as an undetected health condition that might be making him reluctant to get out and romp in the grass.
Take your dog out regularly on leashed walks to expose him to other dogs and people. Sometimes a lack of socialization can make a dog bored and apathetic. The presence of other dogs or people can sometimes reawaken your dog's interest in play.
Reward your dog with a treat immediately every time he engages in desired play behavior. Most dogs quickly learn that the behavior and the reward are related.
Remove all your dog's toys and put them out of his reach. Select one and stuff it with dog food or treats, but make sure to secure it so the treats don't fall out. Tie your dog up nearby and make a big production of throwing the toy to a friend. Make sure your dog sees that you're having a lot of fun with the toy. When you're done, put the toy where the dog can see it, but can't reach it. Repeat for a week. On the seventh day, before your dog has eaten, use the toy to play fetch with him, suggests dog trainer Julie Sansregret. It may be best to choose a sturdy plastic toy for this exercise, rather than a cloth one, to ensure that your dog doesn't tear and eat the toy once he gets it.
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