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Rescue Dog Won't Play With Toys? Here's Why

When you adopt that little ball of fur from the shelter or rescue group, you are excited to go out and play with them. While some dogs love to play with their owners, others shy away from playtime. That can be disheartening for those new dog owners. There are many reasons why your dog is not that interested in toys. You can find a solution through training, or you might have to discover other ways to engage with your pet

Are you interested in finding a new toy option for your dog? Runball has a great selection of toys to keep your dog occupied!


When a dog has been in a shelter, that is a stressful situation. In many cases, the dog will have to get used to the new environment of your home. Stress can cause the dog to become disinterested in toys. Along with that, nervous energy might stop him from playing with you. 

If you want your rescue dog to feel more comfortable, you could do a few things to make the dog feel at home. It is important never to force toys on the dog. He might think that the toys are a form of punishment rather than a fun reward. Once your dog feels more comfortable in his new surroundings, you will notice that he will start to get out and explore. When that happens, he might just be willing to play with those new toys

Related: How to Keep Dog Toys From Going Under the Couch


When you are not feeling well, you probably don't feel like doing anything around your home. The same can be said for your furry friend. A dog who is sick may refuse to play with her toys. If you just brought your dog home, and she refuses to play, you might want to take her to a vet for a health checkup. Your pet will give clues when she is sick. Once they feel better, your dog will start to play with those toys again.

In some cases, the illness is not apparent. Your dog will not display signs that she's sick as part of her survival instincts. In any case, if your dog is showing signs of health problems, you will want to make an appointment with the vet right away. 

Related: How to Wash Dog Toys

a big dog sniffing a smaller dog


Unfortunately, not all dogs have grown up in loving homes. Some of them do not know how to play with toys. Puppies often don't know how to have a fun time with a toy. For those shelter dogs, they might have spent their entire lives surviving rather than playing. There are just some dogs that have never fully grasped the concept of playing. In those cases, they just don't have the desire to play with a stuffed toy or rubber ball. With the proper methods, you can teach your dog to play with toys. 

If you have another dog in your home, that dog could show your rescue how to play with toys. Dogs are pack animals, and they learn behavior from each other. When your rescue sees the other dog playing, he might become interested in the toys. 

You can also show your dog how to play. Take a rope and drag it across the floor. Toss those stuffed animals to get your dog interested in them. With that, the dog might see the toys as a way to spend more time with you


When a dog is in pain, then she is not likely to have any interest in toys. If you adopt an older dog, she might have arthritis, muscle pain, or hip dysplasia. All that physical activity might be too much for your aching pal. Your dog might want to just carry around those stuffed toys instead of playing with them. With that, the dog still loves her toys but has found another way to enjoy them.

Anytime you notice that your rescue dog is in pain, it is an excellent time to schedule a vet visit. There are some medications on the market that can alleviate pain. When a dog is injured, she also might refuse to play. Since dogs hide their physical pain, you won't know they are hurt until they stop playing with toys

a puppy looking up from a bed


Many rescue dogs are fearful. Some come from homes where they suffered from abuse, while others could be traumatized from the shelter. Dogs respond differently than humans. What we might think is a friendly toy could be a threat to your dog. Loud noises can also create fear in your rescue dog. Some dogs hate the sound of a vacuum cleaner, and a loud noise from a toy can elicit those same feelings. If your rescue is afraid of squeaky toys, you should find a quiet and less threatening toy

Some toys can increase the anxiety of your pet. You never want to force a toy on your pet since that can worsen your dog's anxiety. It is best to gradually introduce those noisy toys to your dog for a short period of time. When the dog's reaction becomes less severe, you can increase your dog's playtime. 

Related: Why Does my Dog Bring me Toys?


Finally, not all dogs find toys appealing. You might think that the dog will love his new toy. However, when he turns up his nose and walks away, that can be disappointing. Not all dogs are the same, and they have different interests like humans. Your rescue might not like that particular toy you bought, but that doesn't mean he won't play with another one

You will want to introduce new toys to your pet. If he refuses a ball, then try a plush. Squeakies might not work, but you could have fun with a rope. You will want to keep trying all different types of toys until you find the one that your dog will love

Dogs have their own preferences. There are many reasons why your rescue will not play with toys. Some reasons could be physical, while others could be behavioral. The important part is to take the time to find the right toy for your dog

Are you looking for a great toy for your dog? Make sure to check out the selection of toys from Runball!