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My Dog Has Odd Play Habits. Does Yours?

My French Bulldog Louie won't play with me or most toys, but he loves to fetch for my son. And that's just the beginning.

Karen Dibert  |  May 26th 2016


My dog Louie has his share of issues, including separation anxiety, but the oddest are his playing habits. The short story is that Louie doesn’t play like a normal dog. I’m going to tell you the long story, too.

Louie will play with other dogs. He loves wrestling, chasing, and chewing on a friend’s leg or ear. He just doesn’t play with toys. There are a few exceptions, of course. Nylabone is one exception, so we have half a dozen of those scattered around the house. Other exceptions are empty spools of thread (a perk of being a seamstress) and golf balls. The golf balls are mostly to antagonize our youngest child — they are also one of his favorite toys. It’s a bonus for Louie that golf balls are off limits because I consider them a choking hazard. He likes the thrill of the forbidden, I think.

But tennis balls, squeaky toys, ropes, stuffies, and anything else that you can find in the toy aisle at our local PetSmart are not going to get Louie’s attention. I know; I’ve tried most of them. He doesn’t toss toys into the air, carry them from room to room, or snuggle with them in his bed. Toys just aren’t his thing.

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Louie does love playing with other dogs. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

Louie loves playing fetch with our youngest son. They’ll run themselves ragged with the tossing and fetching, and it’s adorable to watch them interact. But Louie will feign ignorance of the fetching game when anyone else wants to play with him. He won’t even so much as look at what we’re throwing, unless it’s a piece of food, and then he’ll eat it and end the game after the first toss.

My husband likes to wrestle with the kids, and Louie feels it is his job to coach. He’ll stand off to the side, barking his approval or disapproval, and encouraging the underdog to finish strong. He doesn’t get involved in a wrestling match otherwise; he simply barks and snarls and sounds like he’s going to eat the loser for a snack, but when the match is over, he quietly sits and waits for the next round. Is this even considered playing?

If my older kids shuffle their feet at Louie, he’ll do a play bow and bark at the moving shoes. He loves this kind of interaction, unless I am the one doing the shoe shuffle. In that case, he quietly slinks to his kennel as if he’s done something wrong. He won’t play with me at all, and it’s rather disappointing at times. (His snuggles are all mine, though, so there’s that.)

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Louie playing fetch with our son Mikah, the only person he’ll retrieve for. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

Louie loves kids. A lot. If he sees a kid, he’ll start by gently licking their face, then by some unspoken mutual agreement, they’ll start playing tag with each other. It’s also quite fun to watch, if the child isn’t afraid of dogs and I have to reel my enthusiastic, kid-loving dog back in. Louie will only run with me, however, when we’re on a hiking trail in the woods and he’s encouraging me to jog rather than sedately walk. He likes to mock me for my slothful ways.

One of Louie’s favorite games is Catch the Belt. When my husband takes his belt off at the end of the day, Louie waits in anticipation, lunging at just the right second to try and catch the end as it flicks past his nose. One night, he lunged off the bed in a particularly rousing game of Catch the Belt as my husband dangled it for Louie’s benefit. When I try these kind of shenanigans, Louie looks at me like I’m asking him to jump off a bridge. It’s just so far out of his range of acceptable behavior that he won’t even entertain the idea of playing with me.

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Louie’s reaction to most toys. B-O-R-I-N-G. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

These all sound like normal dog-playing behaviors, but given the fact that this is the limit of how Louie plays, I fear my dog needs rehab. He doesn’t engage in any other types of play, and he’ll never play with me.

Maybe I’ll start slowly with a piece of meat wrapped around an empty spool of thread to encourage him to run after something that I throw. I now have a life goal. I’m going to teach my dog to play with me.

Let’s hear from you, readers. Does your dog have any unusual play habits? Share in the comments!