Struggling to get your puppy to play with you? Try this trainer's simple tip

Woman cuddling puppy and holding toy
(Image credit: Getty Images)

For many of us, one of the best things about having pets is being able to play with them, and we often associate dogs in particular with play. 

But, dogs sometimes don’t play how we’d like them to. It might be that they get too excited and begin biting, or not engaging in a way that invites a fun play session for both dog and parent. And this can often happen when it comes to puppies, even if you’ve got one of the best dog toys on offer.

So, when you want to get your puppy to play with you nicely, how do you start? In a new Instagram post, Amelia Steele – or Amelia the Dog Trainer – explains what to do.

If you want to know how to play with a puppy, you’re in the right place! Steele begins by explaining that dogs, and puppies in particular, can get extremely hyped up by play, and it can exacerbate problems you might have like biting. So, she recommends teaching your dog how to redirect from something onto a toy, as well as simply how to play. 

She’s working with a puppy, Noodle, and trying to get him interested in a toy. “The key is I want to get it down really low,” she says, “As you can see, he’s going for my shoelaces instead so I’m going to keep this nice and interesting and I’m going to keep trying to engage him.”

According to Steele, people often give up when the dog stops being interested, but she aims to keep persevering to make the toy interesting to them. She moves the toy around and tries to get Noodle to tug on it, using the toy’s squeaker to keep him engaged. 

“And then, after a couple of seconds of play, I’m going to stop,” she says. “I’m going to grab a treat and I’m just going to reinforce something nice and easy – I’m going to do ‘sit’ with him because he knows ‘sit.’

By doing this, you’re taking a break from play and preventing it from escalating. She recommends alternating between play and training with treats, as it helps your dog get better at changing their mindset from wanting to play and being excited to being calmer. And, food calms the brain, so it’s a great idea to use food as a reward here. 

If you’d like to try out some more games with your puppy once you’ve tried Steele’s advice for a while, why not check out these eight great games for puppies that will keep them entertained for hours?

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.