Why won’t my puppy play with me?

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my puppy won't play with me

Is your puppy not playing with you? You’re probably confused as to why. There are several reasons why this could be.

Once you know why your puppy isn’t playing with you, you’ll be able to find the right ways to get him more engaged in playing. We’ll tell you how here!

My puppy won’t play with me—why is that?

Playing with your puppy is important for several reasons. First, playing gives your puppy some much-needed exercise.

When you play frequently with your puppy, it also builds up your bond and brings the two of you closer. If you’re looking for more information on that, here are 11 ways to bond with your dog.

But if your puppy won’t play with you, that can make getting this exercise and experiencing these bonding moments much more difficult. You’re probably asking yourself why exactly your puppy doesn’t seem interested in playing with you.

Common reasons your puppy won’t play with you include that he doesn’t yet know how to, or thinks you don’t want to. Not every puppy has a playful nature to begin with, but he could also be injured or ill. Positive reinforcement and perhaps a vet visit can help with most of these issues.

Let’s dive into all this in a bit more detail.

Puppy doesn’t know how to play yet

If your puppy is still quite young and hasn’t spent a lot of time with you, he might simply not know how to play.

Puppies, just like human babies, learn by watching others. Some puppies just don’t get the chance to watch and learn from other puppies.

As his human, your job is to show your puppy the way the world works. And that includes how to have fun!

We’ll talk more about how you can get your puppy to start playing later.

what i can do when my puppy won't play with me
With a little bit of training, your pup can learn how to play with you.

Illness and injury

Not playing could indicate that your puppy simply doesn’t know how. Or it could indicate a more serious issue.

You can usually tell if your puppy is sick or injured by the way he acts. Is he limping, whining, or panting excessively? Those are all signs that he needs to go to the vet.

Another big sign that your puppy’s lack of playfulness is due to illness or injury is if he stops playing suddenly. Maybe he used to love playing, but one day he completely lost interest in it.

If that happens, a trip to the vet could be smart.


When dogs don’t get the right food or also they get too much food, this affects all aspects of their lives.

This is why it’s so important to feed your dog quality food and be mindful of his caloric intake. Make sure everyone in your home knows how much food he should be getting. This will prevent people from accidentally overfeeding him.

He thinks you don’t want to play

Humans and dogs communicate in different ways. Most of the time, we can understand each other. But sometimes it’s hard for you and your puppy to read each other’s body language.

This is especially true for your puppy, who may not have spent much time around humans! He might not realize yet that when you pat the floor it is an invitation to come play.

Likewise, you might not be responding to his own signs like play-bowing in the way he expects.

Over time, the two of you will learn how to read each other’s body language. You’ll know that when your puppy play-bows, it means it’s time to play!

maybe my puppy won't play with me because he can't read me and I can't read him
Front down, back up? With a play bow, dogs signal that they want to play.


Have you ever punished your puppy when he’s shown signs of excitement, even unintentionally?

If you’ve punished your puppy before, either by ignoring him or actively punishing him when he’s excited, this is going to affect him. Now he’s going to think that being excited about something will get him into trouble.

You should never punish your puppy for normal dog behavior like excitement.

If you rescued your puppy, then it’s possible that he has memories from his previous owners punishing him for things like this. Working to build up confidence will help.

Your puppy is afraid of you

Some puppies are naturally a little more nervous than others. On the other hand, something may have happened that made your puppy afraid of you.

If you rescued your puppy, then the issue could be that his previous owners abused him. He might be afraid of re-experiencing that abuse.

Regardless of why your dog is scared, the most important thing is to build up his confidence again. There are lots of great ways you can do that. These related articles will have some tips for you:

Just not playful

Just like humans, dogs have all sorts of different personalities. No two dogs are going to be the same.

Some dogs are naturally much more playful than others. If you have a dog that’s healthy, happy, but still refuses to play much, you might just not have a playful dog!

For some dogs, their own moods can have a significant impact on whether or not they want to play. Your dog may simply not be in the mood for playtime.

As long as your dog seems generally happy and healthy, there probably isn’t anything to worry about.

puppy won't play with me because he's just not playful
Some perfectly happy pups just don’t like playing in general.

How can I get my puppy to play with me?

Now you know reasons why your puppy might not be playing with you. So how can you get him to start playing?

Here are some ways you can encourage playtime with your puppy.

Figure out the reason your puppy won’t play

Before you can do anything, you need to figure out the reason why your puppy isn’t playing. The solution you use is going to depend on what the problem is in the first place.

You can usually tell what the issue is by observing your puppy. If he’s acting hurt, for instance, he probably needs a trip to the vet.

If your puppy plays with others and not with you, then it could be that you need to adjust your play style to what your puppy likes.

Once you figure out what the specific problem is, you’ll be able to find the right ways to initiate playtime with your puppy.

Teach him to play

If your puppy just doesn’t know how to play yet, then it’s your job to teach him!

Most dogs will intuitively pick up on playtime pretty quickly. Other puppies need a little bit of help.

You can start training him to play by rolling a toy toward him. If he seems interested in it, reward him with a treat. Keep doing this until your dog is engaging a little more actively with the toy.

If your puppy is old enough, you can also try arranging for puppy playdates. Hanging out with other puppies could help your dog learn how to play.

Get your free puppy schedule planner

Reward your puppy

You can use positive reinforcement dog training to teach your dog how to play.

This is going to be especially helpful if your dog doesn’t know how to play, or if he’s afraid of playing for any reason.

Whenever your dog interacts with a toy, reward him with one of his favorite treats. Keep doing this consistently until your dog is playing happily with his toys.

Not only will positively reinforcing playtime get your puppy playing, it will also help strengthen your own bond with him.

Don’t punish excitement

It can be annoying if your dog is super excited all the time. But you should never punish that excitement!

Unless your dog is acting out, being excited is perfectly normal and acceptable behavior for him. If you want your puppy to grow up happy and confident, then avoid punishing behavior like this in any way.

Now, if your dog starts getting over excited and won’t listen to commands or starts getting destructive, there are some things you can do. Here are some articles on over excitement that will help you out:

Watch his body language

Make sure you know how to properly read your puppy’s body language so you’ll know when he’s trying to play.

When he does things like play-bow or tries chasing you or getting you to chase him, those are big signs that he wants to play!

The more time you spend with your puppy, the more you’ll start understanding his body language.

puppy chasing you
Chasing you—or getting chased—is tons of fun for most puppies.

Choose other games or toys

Your dog may not be playing with you because he’s just not interested in the ways you’re playing!

Try getting creative to see if that gets his attention better. Giving some new toys a shot or trying new games can help.

Need some inspiration? Here are 10 brain games for dogs to play at home.

Puppy playtime FAQ

If you still have questions about puppies playing, this section will have the answers for you.

Why doesn’t my puppy pay attention to me?

Your puppy may have a hard time paying attention to you if there’s a lot going on around him.

If he’s still very young, then he’s learning all about how the world works! There are lots of things all around him to distract him!

To get your puppy paying more attention to you, you need to make yourself more interesting. Engage more often with your puppy and reward him when he spends time with you.

8 week old puppy doesn’t want to play, why can I do?

At 8 weeks, puppies are still very young.

If your puppy doesn’t want to play, then the issue could be that he just doesn’t know how. It’s your job to use tips like the ones above to show your puppy how much fun playtime can be!

With consistency, your puppy will learn how to play with you.

Get your free puppy schedule planner

My dog won’t stop play biting me, how do I make him stop?

Play biting is a normal way for dogs to play with each other. But it can be pretty painful when it happens to us!

You need to show your dog that biting is painful and that if he keeps doing it, he doesn’t get to play anymore.

There are lots of ways to use positive reinforcement to do this. These related articles will give you a good starting point:

My dog won’t play without me, what can I do?

Playing with your dog is fun, but you can’t be around to keep him entertained all the time!

It’s a good idea for your dog to know some ways to play by himself. This will keep him busy even when you can’t be there.

If you’re looking for some ways to help your dog stay entertained when alone, try these 11 tips to keep your dog from being bored when home alone.

Why won’t my dog play with me but plays with others?

If your dog regularly plays with others but won’t play with you, there are a few possible reasons.

For one thing, your dog might be scared of you for some reason. Building up confidence and strengthening your bond can help.

It could also be that your play styles aren’t matching up. Pay attention to how your dog plays with others and try mimicking that to see if it interests your dog.

You might be less fun to play with than a fellow dog.

My dog doesn’t play with other dogs, is this normal?

If your dog doesn’t have much experience playing with other dogs, then he may not know how to play with them.

You can help teach your dog to play with others by arranging doggy playdates with dogs you know are playful and well-behaved. When your dog starts playing with another dog, make sure to reward him!

How do I teach a rescue dog to play?

Some rescue dogs have a hard time relaxing and feeling safe enough to play. The most important thing for you to do is to build his confidence.

Do this by rewarding him whenever he engages in any kind of playtime. If you stay consistent, in time your dog will learn how to play with you.


Playing with your puppy is great way to keep him entertained and strengthen your bond. If your puppy won’t play with you, the first thing to do is find out why. Once you do, you can use the above tips to get him playing!

Get your free puppy schedule planner

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