Here are some mistakes commonly made by people trying to convince a reluctant dog to play:
1. Too much intensity; the pressure turns the dog off the game.
2. Pushing a toy in the dog’s face to try to make him play with it.
3. Getting too excited when the dog is just start to show interest in playing and frightening the dog as a result.
4. Expecting the dog to play one particular game, such as “Fetch,” without exploring other possibilities. Dogs have different play preferences; your no-fetch dog might love to dig in the sandbox with you.
5. Giving up on the dog.
6. Failing to recognize and reinforce embryonic play behaviors.
7. Relying on food only as a reinforcer to teach play.
8. “Lumping” rather than “splitting” – expecting full-fledged play rather than taking small play efforts and very gradually shaping them into full-blown play.
9. Getting “stuck” with small play efforts, and not helping the dog build them into bigger games.
10. Not ending sessions soon enough. Keep them short and sweet; leave the dog wanting more!