How A Dog Who Doesn’t Like Toys Plays!

It seems like a natural thing for a dog to play with dog toys. But like most things in life, there are always exceptions. Are you confused because you have a dog who doesn’t like toys? I was. Admittedly, I was perplexed at first by my rescue dog, Henry’s dislike for dog toys.

Moreover, I wondered if he just needed to get more comfortable in his surroundings, and then he’d start playing with dog toys. Nope. Henry had to teach me how to play with him in his own style. In this article, I’ll share with you how a dog can show their human how to do simple things, such as play on their level. Your dog can do the same thing.

*Updated: November 5, 2023
a bored dog who doesn't like toys waits for his dog owners to play the way he wants to play
disclaimer note
Budget Tip:

If your dog doesn't like toys, then he/she just saved you a bunch of money on your dog toy budget. You can still have fun with your dog and play with him/her but you don't need to waste money trying to find that "perfect" toy you think your dog "might" like. Instead, play in the style your dog wants and save your money for other things on your dog budget. It's a major budget winner!

My rescue dog doesn’t play with toys? Does it matter?

My dog doesn’t play with toys. But he does play. The key is he plays. That’s what you really want to focus on with your dog. If your dog isn’t engaging in any matter, then call your vet.

Why is it important for a dog who doesn’t like toys to still play?

When a dog plays it not only exercises the dog but also engages the dog’s mind. It’s been shown that when given a choice dogs will generally choose to play with their human over a dog toy.

Additionally, playing also helps to build and strengthen their bond with their human. Play is also important for helping dogs (especially young dogs and puppies) to work on basic motor skills, social interaction, and build coping abilities for events they may encounter at various points in life.

Consequently, All of these reasons are more than worthy of making play a priority in any dog’s life. Even an adult or older dog needs to keep engaged and have keen motor and coping skills.

Why doesn’t my dog like toys?

There could be many reasons why a dog refuses to play with a toy. They can include:

  • Past trauma associated with playing with dog toys
  • Never taught how to play with a dog toy
  • Not introduced to a dog toy that stimulates the mind
  • No human is willing to play with the dog and the toy
  • The sound of squeaky dog toys gives the dog anxiety
  • An underlying issue is holding the dog back, like a sore mouth or teeth

Do any of these reasons ring a bell with you? With a rescue, it may be difficult to know your dog’s history. But you’ll get a general idea by the way your dog reacts to you offering a toy.

For example, my dog Henry looks at me oddly when I try to give him a toy and play with him. As such, I have surmised he wasn’t taught to play with dog toys or perhaps given any dog toys with his previous family. 

How do I know if my dog doesn’t like dog toys?

If you have a new rescue or new dog, give them a bit of time to adjust to their new environment before you label him/her as a dog who doesn’t like toys. However, do continually offer a toy of different sorts to your dog and see how he reacts. Make sure you are engaged with your dog with each of these offerings.

Have you ever gone on a dog date? In this article, I share 25 great dog date ideas you can do with your partner and they are all affordable too.

Why should I try so many different dog toys?

At first, you won’t know your dog’s likes and dislikes. Each type of toy is geared toward a different type of dog interest. For example:

  • Squeaky dog toys are great for those dogs that are more prey-oriented
  • Rope dog toys are perfect for dogs who love to chew or like to fetch
  • Fetching dog toys can be superb also for prey or hunting dogs
  • Flirt dog toys are excellent for dogs that love to run and jump
  • Puzzle dog toys are wonderful for dogs that are big sniff dogs and motivated by food
  • Snugglable dog toys are designed for anxiety dogs that need to be near their human or other dogs

NOTE: Always discard toys, bedding, and clothing when they start to get worn. You don’t want your dog to eat or choke on any small or large pieces of these items. 

Offer the toys at different times over several weeks. Even if your dog is a big sniffer on your walks, but refuses to explore any puzzle toys. Don’t worry about it. There are other options. After I exhausted all my options I soon learned there were indeed other options.

How do I let my dog who doesn’t like toys set the pace for dog play?

Over time with Henry, he began to show me what he liked and what he didn’t like. Your dog will do the same. Be patient.

Henry loves:

  • sniffing almost everything
  • enjoys a good chase and would rather you chase him than the other way around
  • digging a hole and “jumping” at the same time
  • a good-smelling cookie will always pique his interest
  • belly rubs
  • back massages
  • and, of course, anyone or anything, he believes will “play” with him in “his” way

With this information, I knew Henry loved to play. He just didn’t want to play with toys.

Not sure how to give your dog a massage? In this article, I walk you through exactly how to do it at home and for free.

However, there is ONE time, Henry will pick up a toy. If he is at his dog friend’s house, he will steal her toys and run around the table simply to get her to chase him. He gets her to do one of his favorite things – chase him!

Henry showed me he could quickly learn what he needs to do to get another dog or human to do what he wants, such as his puppy friend to chase him.

How to entertain a dog who doesn’t like toys?

Henry loves to dig in a few spots on the property every day (they’re safe spots away from the yard). With this in mind, I hid plastic eggs in one of his holes for him to discover with smelly treats inside. He was confused at first but then thrilled with his discovery.

I’ve even learned new games from Henry. Recently Henry decided that just eating out of his bowl was boring. He sat one evening next to his bowl and looked at me. Then he glanced at the bowl and then the floor.

Another great way to engage your dog is through training sessions. Do you think you can’t train your dog because you don’t have the time or money? Think again! In this article, I share with you how you can train your dog on your time and for free.

A new game was invented

With this, I soon understood that he wanted to play a new game. I took a piece of his food and threw it across the room. He eagerly went and got it with his tail wagging. He ate his whole bowl that way. I’m really glad I have wood floors. If I had carpet this game would be a bit difficult.

Henry even has a nightly game of chase where he has me chase him around the property and then when he deems the chase is done, he’ll dig a hole for several minutes. While this isn’t a dog toy, it is stimulating his mind and keeping him active. It’s also strengthening our bond.

Want fun ways to bond with your dog? In this article, I share great and free ways to strengthen your relationship with your dog.

Is there a way to get my dog to play a game?

The best way to get your dog to play a game is just to watch him and take his lead. If he jumps and runs a bit, but then turns to see if you’re there, then run after him and play tag. This is basically about letting your dog create new games as you become even more bonded with your dog.

Mealtime is a fun time to play with your dog and engage his/her mind. Henry loves it! In this article, I share 4 free mealtime dog brain games.

Summary of how a dog who doesn’t like toys plays

While it can be disappointing to discover that your dog doesn’t like to play with toys, it’s not that big of a deal. There are many other ways to play with your dog. Perhaps when your dog creates his own game the play is even better because he’s totally engaged from the creation to the translation to you and engagement in it. The most important thing is to figure out what your dog loves and then play with your dog centered around those likes. You won’t go wrong. Plus, you’ll be engaging his play skills while strengthening your bond.

a happy dog dog who doesn't like toys still loves to play

What will you do to engage your dog who doesn’t like toys? Will you try any of these tricks?

About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

14 thoughts on “How A Dog Who Doesn’t Like Toys Plays!”

  1. Great post! I actually have a senior dog who was not a rescue, I’ve had him since he was 9 weeks old. He did play with toys when he was younger but throughout his life I noticed that the older he got, the less interested in toys he got. Not to say that he’s lazy or not playful – he just knows exactly what he likes lol. He loves very specific toys, wrestling with my other dog, and running around outside.

    • That actually very good your dog is staying so active. He has communicated which toys he likes and how much he wants to play. It sounds like you’re keeping his skills sharp as he ages. That great! Give him a pet for me! 💞

  2. Hmm, I’m not a dog mom however found this post quite informative and helpful. I didn’t even think of half of those reasons why a dog may not want to be entertained with a toy. I think once you get down to the source of the issue, then you can pick a solution based on their needs. You provided great tips and solutions! Pinning this to share!

    • I’m so glad you found this an informative article. Yes, there is always aa reason for the action, or lack. The key is finding that source and making accommodations. Thank you for sharing your insights. 😊

  3. This is a wonderful guide to figuring out how to engage a rescue dog in play. As strange as it seems, not all dogs know how to play or have the desire to. In our first Rottie, who was taken away from her litter too early, I even noticed that she had a hard time figuring out how to play with other dogs.

    • That’s a very good recognition the time a pup is taken from their mom can certainly play a role in a dog’s willingness to play with dog toys. My childhood dog was just like your Rottie. I had forgotten about his early departure from his mom and litter mates. He and I were the same age. Thank you for reminding me of this additional issue with dog toys.

  4. It sounds like Henry has such a wonderful life with you! I love that he figured out how to get the other dog how to play chase with him. My dogs all play differently, much like my kids did.

    • You are absolutely right! All dogs do play differently, just like kids. As dog parents, we just have to recognize the style of dog play that works best for each pup. Thank you for pointing out that great analogy.

  5. I never thought about a dog not wanting to play with toys. Truffle and Brulee don’t play a lot, but they do have certain toys they prefer. They both like interactive string toys where I must do the action to get them to react.

    • Awe, interactive cat toys are the best! My cats use to love them as well. I’m glad Tuffle and Brulee like to play with these types of toys. That’s a great way to keep their minds sharp and wonderful exercise. Plus, it’s awesome entertainment for the cat parents. Thanks for sharing your experience with pet toys.

  6. Indy was never a fan of toys – right from the beginning, he was all about food and attention, and toys didn’t provide him with either. The only exception, of course, is toys where we can add food – then they are interesting until the food is gone, hahaha! We can still get him playing, but he wants to play with us instead. He’s happy to play chase or wrestle with us.

    • Oh, how sweet! Indy knows what he likes and you know how to play with him. I’m glad you all figured it out. Henry loves to chase as well. He’ll somewhat play with food by chasing it, but he hits his threshold fairly quickly. Dogs that aren’t traditional in their play do keep us on our feet. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know you’re the same. Thank you so much for sharing how Indy likes to play. I love hearing about it.


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