The Silly Game

Last updated: January 24, 2013

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Animal Training and Behaviour Centre Dog acting silly laying on its back smiling

This is a great game for playing with dogs who are not interested in playing with toys or you. For dogs that play with some toys but not others it can help to broaden their range of toys.

Each session should be kept short and fun. If your dog exhibits boisterous or out of control behaviour the game should end immediately and another session should not be attempted until your dog is calm.

To teach your dog to play with you and your toy you must be SINCERLEY interested in playing with your dog. If you are not having fun, your dog will realise this and will be even more reluctant to join in. Be sure that you are both having fun.

To teach your dog to play with you, it is recommended that you remove all toys your dog might play with by him/herself (including all balls). Choose a throwable toy (i.e. one that you can toss, but won’t roll too much) – a tug rope, ball in a sock or a stuffed animal etc. Put the toy in a drawer (or somewhere inaccessible but in view).

Whenever you and your dog are in vicinity:

  1. Start acting silly and use an excited voice: “… what is it? … do you want this? … where’s your toy? …” and then walk, jump, dance, skip (basically be goofy) whilst you make your way over to the drawer.
  2. S-l-o-w-l-y (we mean s-l-o-w-l-y!) open up the drawer whilst you continue talking in this silly voice.
  3. Stop talking momentarily (pause for effect) and then suddenly pull the toy out of the drawer (as if you unexpectedly found $100!!). Run with it into the next room.
  4. Show your dog what a great time you are having with this fun toy. Laugh and dance around with it. Drag it around on the floor, like a lure on the end of a fishing rod. But DON”T LET YOUR DOG PUT HIS/HER MOUTH ON IT!
  5. Spend 1-2 minutes dancing, playing and actively interacting with this wonderful toy (without your dog getting to play). Then run back to the drawer, toy in tow, snatch it up and quickly put it back in the drawer with a phrase such as, “Oh no … it’s gone!”
  6. Proceed with your regular routine as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
  7. Repeat this bizarre performance 2-3 times a day for two days.
  8. After the second day, allow your dog to get his/her mouth on the toy if he/she is really interested, but only for a few seconds.
  9. Pull on the line to try to steal it from your dog. Once you get it away (be sure to do this in an informal, fun way!), play with it a little more by yourself before quickly putting the toy away with, “Oh no … it’s gone!”
  10. Gradually increase the amount of time you let your dog play with the toy (in a tug ‘o’ war but don’t let go!) each time you bring it out until you have a dog that loves to see the toy come out of the drawer.
  11. Once your dog is keen, start to introduce ‘give’ by swapping the toy for a treat.
  12. During this training process do not reprimand your dog or connect this toy with anything negative.
  13. Once your dog is actively playing with you, continue to keep this special toy special. Do not leave it out for your dog to chew or play with without you.
  14. Use it during training to take a break or use as a payoff for a job well done. Use it as a retrieve toy to build up enthusiasm, and as a reward at the completion of a training session. Introduce other toys the same way for him/her to play with on his/her own.

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RSPCA animal training courses are available across Australia:

  • Queensland: call the RSPCA Animal Training & Behaviour Centre for further information in regard to courses available on (07) 3426 9928.
  • Victoria: for any information on training and behaviour in Victoria call Amanda Murcutt on 92242521.
  • West Australia: call the RSPCA PawsCentral Adoption Centre for further information about courses available near you on (08) 9209-9309 or visit the RSPCA WA website.
  • NSW: Information is available on the RSPCA NSW website.
  • Australian Capital Territory: Information is available on the RSPCA ACT website.
  • South Australia: Contact information is available on the RSPCA SA website.
  • Northern Territory: Contact information is available on the RSPCA Darwin website.
  • Tasmania: Training is available at the Hobart Animal Care Centre in Mornington. Go to the RSPCA Tasmania website for further information.

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