Dog toys provide multiple benefits to dogs and their human companions. In addition to providing a way to play, bond, and have fun together, high-quality dog toys are designed to honor dog’s natural instincts - tugging, fetching, chewing, finding, and so on.
If you don’t supply your dog with a variety of safe, fun, and durable dog toys, odds are they’ll find something in the house to chew on, tear up, or fling around with glee. So, in addition to adding more joy, fun, and activity into your dog’s life - the right dog toys help to preserve your furnishings and possessions!
Here are tips for choosing the right dog toys for your beloved four-legged friend.
Many of the things dogs choose to play with on their own (socks, children’s toys, ribbons, rubber bands/hair ties, shoes, the trash) are unsafe. In addition to being made with potentially toxic ingredients, these items don’t digest well and can cause everything from asphyxiation to life-threatening intestinal blockages.
Dog toys sold by your local pet store or veterinarian’s office are specifically designated for dogs and are manufactured using tough and less toxic or harmful materials.
Most dog toys specify whether they’re best for a small, medium, or large-sized dog. This information is important. If your small dog can’t get his jaws around a specific chew toy or soft plushy, they’ll either ignore the toy altogether (wasting your money and defeating the purpose) or they can actually injure themselves if the toy wedges their mouths open or is stuck on their teeth and they can’t get it off. Similarly, large dogs can choke on - or inhale - toys that are too small for them, posing a serious health risk.
Just as we recommend choosing the right dog breed and size for your family and lifestyle, dogs fare best when you provide them with dog toys suited to their size and breed traits.
Yes, in the wild - dogs love to chew on bones. In “captivity,” this isn’t safe. Cooked bones (as well as bones from chickens and other fowl) splinter into hard, sharp shards that are a leading cause of unnecessary vet bills and dog fatalities.
Only purchase high-quality chew toys for your dog - but do invest in them. In addition to strengthening the jaw and providing lots of enjoyment, chew toys are essential for removing tartar from a dog’s teeth. Dogs provided with regular chew toys have healthier teeth and may never need dental cleanings from a vet.
While rawhide chews have been a long-time favorite, they’re not always the best choice. For one thing, many rawhide treats are the byproducts of inhumane fur industries. Also, dogs with missing teeth, loose teeth, or who are prone to rapidly chewing/swallowing toys may need other chewing options.
Speak to your veterinarian about which chew toys best suit your dog.
Tug of war is a favorite canine pastime, easily accommodated by affordable ropes, including ropes with knots. Many breeds treat these as freshly caught prey - flinging them rapidly back and forth. If your dog is small or delicate in stature, the knots can whip around and cause injuries when the rope size doesn’t match the dog. You do have to watch them with rope toys as there is a chance if they can choke on loose strands.
Be careful to choose tug-of-war toys made for your dog’s size and temperament to prioritize fun and minimize injury.
Some dogs are far harder on toys than others. Larger dogs with strong teeth and jaws can tear stuffed or squeaky toys apart in no time. The same is true for some smaller dogs, who will fixate on a toy’s stitched or reinforced ribbed seams of a toy - and then delight in pulling out the stuffing.
Firstly, this can be as messy and frustrating (not to mention costly) as when the dog tears up things in the house. Secondly, these pulled-apart bits and stuffing aren’t meant to be ingested.
If you have a dog that is hard on toys, seek out dog toys designated as “indestructible” or made for “aggressive chewers.” Again, a call to your vet may help you identify the best dog toys for your dog.
Some dogs need interactive toys to keep them satisfied. This is especially true for dogs with separation anxiety or who aren’t exercising as often as they should. Interactive toys are also a good option if you’re leaving your dog alone for longer-than-normal periods or if a busy schedule means you aren’t able to play with your dog as much as you usually do.
Also called enrichment toys, interactive toys use a combination of a fun toy and nutritious snacks to keep your dog busy for long periods. Examples include things like Kong's or puzzle toys. Depending on the type of toy, interactive dog toys activate the Dog in your dog by allowing them to sniff, smell, revel, seek, work, chase, scavenge, and so on.
Just like children or adults, dogs prefer a variety of entertainment sources and grow bored of the same things day in and day out. We recommend having a wide range of different dog toys, which you rotate every few days or weeks. Put some away for a while and then bring them back out again. In addition to giving your dog a variety of toys, regularly rotating toys protects them from excessive wear and tear, increasing their lifetime.
Are you having a hard time finding or choosing the right dog toys that will interest your dog? Some dogs are less into toys than others, and older dogs may not require the same entertainment as younger dogs. So, a disinterested dog doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. If your dog is participating in destructive behaviors, has excess energy, or you feel they’re depressed or bored - AND they don’t seem interested in toys - it may be time to work with a professional dog trainer.
Alternative Canine Training can assess your home, lifestyle, and dog - and then create an exercise and play plan - with recommendations for the ideal toys. We can also work with you on dog training if you’d like help with basic commands or to stop undesirable behaviors for good. Our training sessions come with a lifetime guarantee - that’s how confident we are in our ability to support healthy human and canine relationships. Contact us to schedule a session.