I recently adopted a two-year-old dog rescue from China. She had been in a rescue center here for three weeks when I got her. She is a wonderful dog, but, probably because of her background, has no interest in any toys, not even the ones that offer a reward. I take her for a walk each day, and she spends time in my backyard, but when she is home, there is nothing to entertain her. The only thing she likes is chewing on a bone, but I can’t give her too many of those. I would love for her to entertain herself with something. Do you have any suggestions? She is not destructive.
— Diana, Smithtown, New York
Play is something people and animals do when they feel safe in their environment. Because you say it’s a recent adoption, give her more time before deciding she won’t play with all toys. I agree she probably has had an interesting journey, so it may take several weeks or months before she feels safe enough to play and explore her world. Don’t worry if she is not playing right now. Continue taking her for walks and let her just enjoy outside time with an occasional bone. She is watching and smelling and learning about her world. As she adjusts, she will likely get more animated.
As she acclimates to your home, introduce her to a Kong toy filled with a few pieces of her food or treats along with a schmear of peanut butter inside and outside to entice her. Do not give her lots of bones to chew, but there are long-lasting chews that a dog can nosh on that might be appealing to her. Remember to supervise her when she is chewing on a bone and put it away when she is done. Smear a little peanut butter on the bone every other day to keep her interested in playing with it.
Now having said that, you should know some dogs, when not introduced to toys as puppies, may never fully enjoy toys. But that doesn’t mean she might not enjoy a game of hide and seek or that you can’t train her to learn some commands or complete a small obstacle course in the backyard. Start training her to sit, stay, come, lay down, and heel on her leash to build trust between you. It will feel like play to her and keep her active.
As she relaxes in your home, her personality will continue to emerge, and you might be surprised at what she enjoys six months from now. Thank you for rescuing her.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal