Now that Doodlebug’s leash has been cut loose and he’s allowed to run and play, we just have to teach him. Apparently, playing doesn’t quite come naturally to him, but he’s starting to get the hang of it.
What he likes most is tennis balls (especially the Kong squeaky ones), so we started there. Whenever we sense that he’s feeling a little energetic (which is not too often), we go and grab the ball, get him excited about it, and toss it a short distance or just offer it to him. If he puts it in his mouth, we praise, praise, praise and pet him until he drops it. The second it falls out of his mouth, we stand up and walk away, taking the toy with us. A couple of minutes later, we do it again. If he takes the ball, he gets lots of praise and petting. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. It’s been slow going, but we are noticing some little changes — he will now hold the ball in his mouth for a full 30 seconds or so on occasion, and often brings it back over to us after retrieving it (instead of running off to his own corner to chew on it). Far from perfect, but he obviously is starting to understand the fun that a ball can be!