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Hi guys,
A month ago, we adopted a 3 year old Jack Russell from a rescue, and we need help teaching him games.

First of all, he seems interested in squeaky toys. His reaction is strange: as soon as he hears the squeak, his ears go up and his head turns. Then, he starts making a very quiet crying noise and he wags his tail. We have tried throwing the toy at this point, but he'll stare and come up to whoever was holding the toy in the first place. We've tried running while making the toy squeak, and he'll chase us sometimes, but only for a short period and then he'll stop and stare, as if wondering what to do.
Since we know Jack Russells are hunters, we got him a raccoon squeaky toy that we attached to an invisible thread. My husband took it outside and made it squeak, and Jack was very interested. He eventually started running after the toy and acting all excited. We put the toy away, and the next two days did the same thing. On the fourth day, his interest for the raccoon was gone. Now the raccoon is just lying in the toy box.

We have a small ball for him, some chewing bones, and a small rope, but all of those go ignored. Jack seems indifferent to all of them, even when we throw the ball or the rope and act excited. We also have a frisbee that we'll play with outside between my husband and I, but he seems uninterested in the game.

Today I was practicing his recall with him because I saw this recall game where you have treats, call the dog to you, then as soon as he gets to you, you throw the treat for him to go get. Then you keep that up for a few repetitions. He started getting very excited by the end, running up to me enthusiastically, and then running for the treat afterwards. So then I thought of this: what if I have a treat, tell him to GO GET IT then click and throw the treat, so he learns to go get something. Then once he's got this down, I can try it with one of his toys, and reward him when he goes after it?

Not sure if this idea would work, but any other tips on how we can make Jack become interested and excited in toys would be great. We would love to teach him how to fetch, since he needs to exercise, and a daily walk is not enough. Thanks in advance!:(
 

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Sounds like you are doing really well so far! It'll take a while for his confidence to build if he's been conditioned not to play or investigate things. Are there any positive based trainers around you? I found taking a class really benefited Echo and my confidence. I'm learning more every class and refining my communication skills with Echo.
 

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Yes, we want to take some basic classes with him, but the issue is that he is very shy and scared of strangers. I've taken him with me to Petsmart just to walk around and he freaks out and tries to hide when people get close.

I will probably take a private lesson first to see what the trainer thinks we can do, or if he would be fine taking a group class.

He is very happy and relaxed in the house, but the issue is usually when we go outside and there's other people he doesn't know.
 

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Congrats on your new dog! :) I had the same issue with my adopted dog when I got him almost four months ago. He had no idea how to play with a toy or showed any interest in anything, but looking at him now you'd never know it. I think part of it is just the adjustment time it takes for a dog to settle into a new home, but for some they may not have ever had toys in the past, or the same types of toys they are getting now. And some dogs won't really ever be toy-focused, so keep that in mind too.

What helped with my dog is praising and treating whenever he acknowledged a toy I wanted him to play with. When he would look at it, he'd get a treat and lots of praise. Then we slowly worked that up to whenever he'd touch it, whenever he'd pick it up, whenever he'd follow it, etc. He started to get pretty interested in the toy once he associated it with treats. Eventually he realized that the toy itself was pretty fun, and chasing a thrown toy was A LOT of fun. It just took a lot of time and continuous effort on my part, but he got the idea. :)

I'd also suggest getting several different toys of different materials and sizes to test out what he finds interesting, and giving them to him on different days. My dog still has no interest in plain tennis balls, for example, but he'll go nuts for a squeaky or scented ball. Same with stuffingless toys--I got him a lanky squirrel toy thinking it'd be durable and fun, but he will ignore it for a big stuffed toy any day. He's also pretty 'meh' when it comes to rope toys, unless the rope is soft enough for him to get a good grip on.

Good luck with him! Hopefully he will come around soon enough and start playing with his toys. :)
 

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Back on topic.
This seems to be a common problem for rescues? I'm in the same with Sonic. Doing much of what is suggested (barring that weird suggestion 2 above), but last week decided to throw a treat bag (I've attached a favourite tug toy). I put a mix of treats in it, including a whole hotdog, let him see what's inside, oh wow! Throw the bag, and let him fetch, have some fun with it, then open the bag just a tad, let him bite a piece of hotdog, or lick out a smaller treat, make sure he knows he's not getting all of it, and repeat.
Also, separately, clicker training him to touch a tennis ball, and yes, I need to start there, as he is so afraid of taking his eyes off the food, or my hands, this is the first step. We shall see.
Maybe teaching dogs to play should be a sticky. Is not as easy as folks think, when one has a rescue that was never played with before.
 

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Back on topic.
This seems to be a common problem for rescues? I'm in the same with Sonic. Doing much of what is suggested (barring that weird suggestion 2 above), but last week decided to throw a treat bag (I've attached a favourite tug toy). I put a mix of treats in it, including a whole hotdog, let him see what's inside, oh wow! Throw the bag, and let him fetch, have some fun with it, then open the bag just a tad, let him bite a piece of hotdog, or lick out a smaller treat, make sure he knows he's not getting all of it, and repeat.
Also, separately, clicker training him to touch a tennis ball, and yes, I need to start there, as he is so afraid of taking his eyes off the food, or my hands, this is the first step. We shall see.
Maybe teaching dogs to play should be a sticky. Is not as easy as folks think, when one has a rescue that was never played with before.
Seconding the treat ball idea! It was one of the first toys my dog showed an interest in after bringing him home. A JW Hol-ee roller with some biscuits shoved in and thrown around. If food is a good motivator for your dog it might be a good angle to take to start with. :)
 
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