Seeing your dog enjoy their newest squeaker or plush toy can make you just as happy as they are, but what happens when your pup refuses to play with their toys?
The best way to help bored dogs become more engaged with their toys is to invest in a variety of toys. Diversifying the type of toys you offer can ensure that dogs are stimulated mentally and physically. You can also rotate the toy supply, offer tasty treats, and socialize the dog more often.
In this article, we’ll explore a handful of practical ways to help a bored dog become more interested in its toys, helping alleviate its boredom and ensure they’re living the best possible life!
1. Supply Your Dog With a Variety of Toys
If your dog refuses to play with their toys, take a moment to analyze what toys are available. Are there only chew toys? Are all the toys essentially different versions of the same item?
Like people, dogs can quickly become bored by toys that are too similar. Once you’ve gotten over the thrill of finding out a bright pink hippo makes a loud squeaking noise every time you press on it, it’s challenging to get excited about it again.
For this reason, you’ll want to supply your dog with a variety of toys. For example, it’s a great idea to supply at least one of each of the following types of toys:
- Squeaker chew toy
- Plush toy
- Toy ball
- Puzzle treat dispenser
These four basic toy types offer a combination of physical and mental stimulation, helping bored dogs become and stay interested in playtime. That said, mental stimulation might be the more important aspect when attempting to help a bored dog enjoy their toys.
Toys That Mentally Stimulate Bored Dogs
Puzzle treat dispensers are some of the best options for bored dogs. They lure bored dogs in via the smell of a tasty treat but require cognitive effort to “solve,” requiring dogs to mentally engage in order to access the treat.
Let’s briefly explore some of the best puzzle treat dispensers for dogs available on Amazon.com:
Outward Hound Dog Brick
The Outward Hound Dog Brick is a rectangular “brick” with sliding compartments and removable “bone” pieces. These compartments and pieces sit above a hidden channel. Owners place treats into these channels and compartments; dogs must sniff and explore to find them.
The entire toy is made of food-safe material and washes clean with just a little warm water and dish soap. So, post-play cleanup is a breeze. Besides, the Dog Brick is just one of many mentally-stimulating treat dispensers Outward Hound produces!
Outward Hound Dog Casino
The Dog Casino is a more challenging puzzle, making it ideal for pups who’ve grown bored with the Dog Brick toy.
This treat-dispensing puzzle has six hidden compartments ideally sized for hiding treats. After you’ve placed treats into the compartments and pushed them shut, dogs must twist the white bones on the top of the puzzle to unlock and reveal each compartment.
WEST PAW Zogoflex Qwizl
This puzzle treat dispenser is a mouthful—literally! It’s designed like a classic chew toy and is durable enough for even the strongest puppy jaws. The open-cavity design is the main feature that differentiates it from other chew toys.
The semi-hollow interior makes it easy to slip small treats into this toy. However, getting the treats out can be challenging, often requiring a decent amount of rolling and chewing. This treat-trapping design keeps dogs engaged and reduces boredom.
2. Rotate the Supply of Available Toys
Novelty can go a long way in alleviating a dog’s boredom and making them excited to play with toys.
You might see this for yourself when you bring a new toy home for your pooch. A brand-new toy can make your dog’s eyes light up with delight and kick start some intense tail-wagging—but the novelty often wears off quickly.
Still, you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars each month to keep your dog interested in its toys.
Instead, you can implement a toy rotation schedule. This essentially means removing toys from your dog’s play area and storing them out of reach, restricting the number of toys they can choose from.
When your pooch is bored with the available toys, you simply pack them away and replace them with the ones you’ve stored! Naturally, you’ll still need to replace worn-out toys with new ones.
But implementing a toy rotation could extend the lifespan of your dog’s toys, potentially reducing the amount of money you spend on dog toys each year. You could even use the money you save to buy more delicious treats for your pup.
3. Reward Your Dog for Playing With Toys
Rescue dogs adopted as adults can come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some of these backgrounds can be neglectful or abusive, resulting in a dog that doesn’t know how to play with toys.
If you’ve adopted a dog with a history of abuse, you might need to train your dog to play with toys.
Now, this might seem like a strange choice. After all, dog training typically consists of teaching dogs to follow specific commands and exhibit desirable behaviors (such as resisting the urge to chew the furniture).
Still, you can use the same methods involved in obedience training to help your dog learn how to enjoy playtime.
Positive reinforcement is the way to go. You’ll want to give your dog a tasty treat each time it successfully plays with a toy. Of course, if you’ve provided toys that dispense treats, the dog might begin to naturally develop a taste for playtime.
Poorly socialized dogs that seem bored or uninterested in toys can also benefit from regular visits to local dog parks.
4. Visit Local Dog Parks and Bring Toys Along
When dogs spend most of the day alone at home, it’s easy for them to end up feeling bored. Walking your dog in the morning before work or immediately after returning home can help reduce or offset this boredom, but it might not be enough to satisfy your dog’s needs.
Fortunately, visiting local dog parks (with toys in tow) at least once a week could help reduce boredom even further. It’s also an opportunity for dogs to socialize with one another as other dogs will be drawn to the toys, especially balls and other throw toys!
If you don’t own multiple dogs, socialization opportunities can be rare. But dog parks are a fantastic solution. It’s also important to note that a lack of socialization (with people and other dogs) is one of the leading factors contributing to canine depression, boredom, and anxiety.
Boredom and depression are common causes for a dog’s disinterest in toys and playtime. Addressing the root causes of these conditions can help your dog become healthier and happier.
So, if you think your dog might be bored because it needs to socialize more, start scheduling weekly trips to the dog park to turn things around. You can also enroll your pup in a doggie daycare.
Dog Daycares Can Reduce Boredom and Stress
Although weekly trips to the local dog bark are a great way to socialize your pup, boredom could continue to be an issue if your dog spends most of its time at home alone.
Fortunately, you can enroll your four-legged family member in a dog daycare program to reduce their loneliness and boredom. At dog daycare, your pup will get to socialize with other dogs and enjoy plenty of playtime with a variety of fun toys.
You can drop them off before work and pick them up after the workday ends, just like regular daycare! Besides, there are hundreds of these programs throughout the country. So, there’s a good chance there’s one in your area.
Dog Toy Tips
Always remember the following additional tips about your dog’s toys to keep your pooch safe and happy.
- Check toys often to make sure your dog cannot bite off parts that could cause harm.
- If you need to leave your dog in a kennel, toys are an excellent way to address boredom. Just keep the tip above in mind.
- If you use a dog boarding facility when traveling, a favorite toy from home can comfort your dog.
- Tailor your dog’s toys to his breed and personality. For example, my Labrador loves hunting type toys, such as squeaky water duck toys and large, hard chew toys while a small cuddly dog will most likely enjoy a soft toy.
Final Word: Bored Dogs That Won’t Play with Toys
If your dog only has a handful of toys, and they’re all the same type of toy, it can easily grow bored. By diversifying the types of toys available to your dog, you can pique its interest and help it enjoy playtime more than ever.
Rotating the toy supply, offering snack-based rewards for playing, and socializing your dog by taking them to dog parks are also excellent ways to help your dog overcome boredom.