My Dog Won’t Play with Dog Toys. How Can I Properly Exercise Him?


We’re getting ready to start your Perfect Dog system and we’re excited. My only concern is the play time. My dogs don’t play with toys at all. They will wrestle with each other occasionally, but not very often. What can I do to give them enough exercise?



Now and then you’ll come across a dog that’s not “in to” playing with dog toys, a ball, Frisbee, etc. No matter what you try, the dog seems completely immune to being enticed to play. In this kind of case, I believe the best form of exercise is to have the dog run alongside you as you ride a bike (at a pace suited to your particular dog and its individual exercise needs). It’s a convenient and very effective activity, and it’s doable with more than one dog as long as they’re about the same size and fitness level (which depends on age, health, exercise history, etc.).

However, if there’s a significant physical difference between the dogs, you’ll have to consider exercising them separately seeing that their pace level will be unequal. Either one dog won’t get adequate exercise because you have to ride more slowly for the smaller/less capable dog, or the smaller/less capable dog will struggle to keep up at the pace that’s suited to the bigger/more capable dog.

Most dogs need at least 15-20 minutes of strong cardio exercise at least twice per day in order to stay fit, healthy and satisfied (review my Perfect Dog DVDs for a more in-depth discussion on the importance of daily exercise). You can begin using the Command Collar and a Freedom Training Line during the bicycle/running option, but as the training progresses you’ll be able to wean your dog down to even no line at all if you wish.

Also, finding the best form of activity for your dog is sometimes a matter of discovering your dog’s “niche.” This summer, I heard from one dog owner whose dog was completely disinterested in chasing after any kind of toy in the yard. The owner claimed to have truly tried everything! But, as soon as he taught his dog to swim in the pool, the dog would eagerly swim after – and fetch – virtually any object!

The swimming demonstration on my DVDs is a great step-by-step process that can get almost any dog swimming confidently within one session. So, if you happen to have a pool or a lake nearby (and if the weather is warm enough where you live), you could try this as well.

If you live in a colder climate, it can be more difficult to give your dog regular cardio exercise when he’s not enthusiastic about playing in more traditional ways. In worst case scenarios, I recommend a doggie treadmill. It’s certainly no equal replacement for a variety of outdoor activities in the fresh air, but at least it’s something that will suffice until you can, for example, go bike riding again with your dog.

If you live somewhere where you can snowmobile, cross-country ski, or toboggan down hills during the snow season, then you’re in a better position. Having your dog follow you in the deep snow is certainly good exercise!

– Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”

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