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I adopted a 5 yr old female shiba mix 6 months ago,recently spayed, has had litters, was a stray in CA. she is mostly interested in sniffing, eating, sleeping, and being petted by anyone/everyone. Wont play with toys or me or other dogs. How can I get her to be a joyful companion?

It is never straightforward to explain the behavior of a dog that has been a stray: early-life experiences, especially traumatic ones, can produce profound and long-lasting distortions of what a dog finds rewarding and what it finds unpleasant. My guess here is that she was formerly starved (hence the food obsession, which I’ve seen in many other former strays) and also at some point was punished severely for playing. However, just because she isn’t exuberant doesn’t necessarily mean she’s not joyful; her life with you must be better than it was before. My advice is, first, be very careful never to punish her, since it’s likely that she is over-sensitive to punishment (try raising your hand slowly up alongside your shoulder – does she cower?). Given time and patience, you should be able to teach her to play again, by using shaping techniques. In a food-orientated dog, clicker training is a good way to achieve this: if you’re unsure how this works, and your behavior class can’t help, there are recommendations for books that will show you how to do this at the back of “Dog Sense”.
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