If your dog won’t play with you, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible causes and what you can do about them.

So, why doesn’t my dog play with me? Common reasons why dogs won’t play with their owners are injury or illness, learning that they get punished when they do play, thinking that their owner’s don’t want to play, depression or old age.

There are actually many reasons why your dog might be doing it and it might be due to a combination of reasons. However, there are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason and there are a number of things you can do about it.

Reasons why your dog does not play with you

Below is a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and what would make each of them more likely to be the main reason.

Negative reinforcement

It might be the case that it has learned not to play with you because it gets punished when it does. If you often punish it, when it shows signs of excitement, it will likely be hesitant to do things such as play with you as a result. Instead, it would help to train it to behave the way you want with the use of positive reinforcement training.

Injury or illness

Another possible cause is that it has gotten an illness or injury that has been causing it to not want to be active. This would be more likely if it has suddenly stopped playing with you and it has been behaving unusually in other ways as well. In this case, it would be best to take it to a vet.

An issue with its diet

Another possible cause is that there is an issue with its diet and it has been causing your dog to feel tired. This would be more likely if it has started being tired since a change in its diet. It would help to ensure that you have been feeding it correctly and that no one else has been feeding it without you knowing.

Age

If your dog has started behaving that way as it has gotten older it would be more likely to be because it has not got as much spare energy as it used to. When dogs get older they need to use more energy to move around so they will naturally tend to become less energetic and to sleep more.

It doesn’t think you want it to play

Another possible cause is that your dog does not realize that you want to play with it. To prevent this, you could try giving it things that dogs often want to play with such as a rope to play tug of war.

Nature

It might be the case that your dog behaves that way by nature. This would be more likely if it has always not wanted to play and it is a breed that is known for not being very playful.

If you want to get it to show more interest in playing, you could try rewarding it when it shows signs of playing and to avoid rewarding it when it is not.

Depression

The cause might also be that it is depressed. This would be more likely if it started behaving that way suddenly after an event occurred that might have caused it to become depressed such as an owner leaving, being mistreated or another pet dying.

If it seems like your dog might be behaving that way due to being depressed then it might improve over the course of a few weeks. You can help it by giving it positive attention and lots of exercise. If it doesn’t improve then consider getting the help of a vet or dog behaviorist in your area.

Things to consider

Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main cause.

What happened when your dog stopped playing

It would help to consider if your dog has always behaved that way or if it has started doing it suddenly. If it has started doing it suddenly, it might be the case that there was an event that caused it to start. If it did start doing it suddenly, it could be due to things such as learning that playing results in it being punished, rewarding it when it does not play, depression or illness or injury.

What is different when your dog does play

It would also help to consider what is different when it does seem to be willing to play.

If your dog seems to play at certain times it could be that an issue with its diet is causing it to behave differently after eating, it’s not getting enough exercise or it might become fearful of something at certain times.

What to do about your dog not playing with you

Below are some options you have when getting your dog to play with you.

Avoid encouraging it not to play

As mentioned above, it might be the case that it has learned that it gets rewards for not playing with you. Instead, it would help to reward it when it does play with you and to avoid giving it rewards when it does not.

Avoid punishing it

It might also be the case that it has learned that it gets punished if it plays with you. Instead, it would help to use positive reinforcement training to get it to behave the way you want it to.

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement training is where you reward your dog for showing signs of behaving the way you want it to. To use it to get it to play with you, you would reward it whenever it shows signs of being willing to play.

Get help

If it has started behaving that way suddenly or it has been showing signs of injury or illness, it would help to take it to a vet. By doing so, you should be able to rule out the possibility of it being due to illness or injury and to get expert advice tailored towards your particular dog.

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Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.