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We have two dogs, Wally and Poppy. Wally is an English shepherd and Poppy is a little Beagle mix. They are both friendly and affectionate, but have several issues, largely as a result of no training at all when they were younger. We've moved in with my girlfriend's mom, and her mom and dad spoiled the dogs by letting them run out the door. They didn't keep to the 5-acre property and in the past we heard from neighboring farms - including one "I'll shoot your dog if he bothers my cows again" threat.

Anyway, that's some background leading up to my question. I built a large outdoor pen for these dogs. It's about 25x60 feet. I've made it so they can't escape. (They did at first, so I fixed the very specific problem that allowed them to get out.) I make a point of going out there several times a day to play with them and give them love and attention, and they respond very well to that. But once I leave the pen and go out of sight, I can see through the windows that they spend most of their time sitting around. It almost looks like they don't know what to do with themselves - like they're just waiting for a bus or something. Of course, they spend all day lying around inside on rainy and cold days, but I'd like to get them able to appreciate their outdoor time both with me and without me. I leave some toys in the pen, but they hardly touch them unless I pick them up and toss the toys around.

Does anyone have any advice about getting these dogs to enjoy themselves on their own time? They're not anxious. They just don't seem to associate fun with the lack of humans. I think part of it is that their idea of self-amusement included cow-tipping and unrestricted freedom, but those days, for their own safety, are over.
 

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Dogs spend a lot of the day sleeping or laying around. Younger dogs will play more but it sounds like they are doing what dogs do. My two boys don't really play with toys. My dane pup mostly plays only when I play with her. She'll play here and there by herself, but mostly it's with me. You can give them puzzle toys and other interactive food dispensing toys. Otherwise if they seem relaxed out there I wouldn't worry about it.
 

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That's more or less what I thought, but I wanted to be sure. Thanks!
 

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My dogs are together most of the day. They'll play 3-4 times a day for 10-15 minutes or so and then they'll sleep for about 20 hrs
 

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Does anyone have any advice about getting these dogs to enjoy themselves on their own time? They're not anxious. They just don't seem to associate fun with the lack of humans. I think part of it is that their idea of self-amusement included cow-tipping and unrestricted freedom, but those days, for their own safety, are over.
They do enjoy it they just do it sleeping. If there is nothing interesting happening dogs sleep.
 

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My dogs never liked being out in our fenced yard. They always preferred to be with us, in or out. We got rid of the fence. Your dogs probably do need the fenced yard if they were used to be outside so much, so I think in this case, they are probably just bored because roaming the neighbourhood is twenty times more fun than being penned but we just can't let dogs do that. So I wouldn't worry.
You could buy some enrichment toys (puzzle toys that dispense food when rolled) or frozen kongs stuffed with soft treat food). And spend time with them, playing, walking them, training them, when you can.
 
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