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Why Your Dogs Only Play When You’re Around? 5 Likely Reasons

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on June 1, 2024 by Dogster Team

owner using dog toy to play with his pet

Why Your Dogs Only Play When You’re Around? 5 Likely Reasons


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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs love to play and roll around with their canine companions. What’s interesting is that dogs play more when their owner is paying attention to them; that’s why you may have noticed they only play when you’re around. Dogs thrive on the attention of their owners and other people, and there are a few reasons that playtime is elevated or reserved for when their favorite human is around.

In this article, we explore some of the reasons a little deeper to understand why our dogs play, why they play more when their owner is around, and why they seek the attention of their human companions.

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The 5 Reasons Why Your Dogs Only Play When You’re Around

1. Your Dogs Feels Safe and Comfortable When You’re Around

When you are around your dogs and are attentive and present, they feel comfortable and safe, which are necessary conditions for play. Sometimes when dogs play, it can lead to aggression, and when you are around, the likelihood of aggressive behavior is lessened, so your dogs are more motivated to play. Some anxious or fearful dogs may feel more secure when their owners are present.

jack russell terrier dog playing on treat dispensing toy
Image By: alexei_tm, Shutterstock

2. Play Is Reinforced by Your Attention

Your dogs playing only when you are around could be something that has been reinforced through associative learning. They have associated the attention they receive from you when they play with something positive, so they are more likely to play when you are around. If you had joined in your dog’s playtime in the past, perhaps when they were younger, this could have reinforced the behavior. When you leave your dog, your pet may revert to its normal state because it no longer has an incentive to do so.

3. Play Could Be an Attempt to Compete for Your Attention

Your dogs may begin to play to gain attention. Dogs are incredibly perceptive and can detect subtle patterns, and if they start playing, they may notice that their owners pay more attention to them.

When dogs are left alone for extended periods, they can become more clingy when their owner returns. Playing could appear to be attention-seeking but may also underscore a degree of separation anxiety. They could also be bored if they are not getting enough exercise and mental stimulation, and if they are not getting enough attention from their owners, playing is a way that will surely capture your attention.

border collie dog holding black toy ball in mouth
Image By: Julia Zavalishina, Shutterstock

4. Your Presence Enhances Your Dogs Positive Feelings

Your presence can add to your dog’s oxytocin, which is a love hormone that makes playtime more enjoyable. Your presence may make your dogs happier and more excited, and playing together is a great release of energy and endorphins.

5. Some Dogs May Prefer Human Companionship

Over the years that dogs have become domesticated, they have evolved to be companions with humans. Much like children, dogs develop a very close relationship and deep bond with their owners. This unconditional love and connection can result in a “clingy” behavior, where your dog always wants to be with you. Your dog may simply prefer your companionship; when you are around, it may feel excited and enjoy your full attention by playing.

weimaraner dog sitting on owner's laps
Image Credit:, Shutterstock


Why Do Dogs Play

Many dogs love to play, regardless of size, breed, or age. It’s like their unspoken language and is essential for their mental, physical, and emotional health. They are learning fundamental skill such as how to move their bodies, acquire food, and defend themselves in fights through play.

Playing is essential for puppies to learn motor skills and coordination. Rolling, jumping, and biting help them understand the skills as well as how to communicate play behaviors with other dogs.

Playing also helps build bonds and social relationships between dogs. In a litter, playing can help determine the dominant and submissive personalities. As a result, they understand and learn social cues and appropriate interaction with different personalities.

white dog playing puzzle toy
Image Credit: Lenti Hill, Shutterstock

Why Do Dogs Seek Attention?

While we believe that dogs value our attention and wish to attribute it to love, a very common reason for seeking attention is boredom. Boredom could be due to simply not getting enough attention from being left alone for long periods. Dogs can also seek attention if they suffer from separation anxiety.



There are a few reasons our canines prefer to play in their owner’s presence, and they’re primarily due to incentives. Attention from their owners is a reward, and when they receive attention while playing, that activity is reinforced. Playtime in your presence is an excellent way for your companions to have fun and expel energy while receiving the attention they require from their human companions.

Featured Image Credit: Alena Veasey, Shutterstock

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