One of the great rewards of owning a dog is the time you get to play together. Dogs love playing, and they love toys. If you have recently got a puppy, you will soon find that your house is beginning to fill with an assortment of toys of all shapes and sizes, and every trip to the pet store will result in at least one more. But are there right and wrong toys for your dog?
All Dogs Are Different
There is no one toy that is the answer to every dog’s needs. Dogs, like people, get excited about different things. Some like to gently carry a soft toy from room to room, others only want to tear things to pieces; some play happily by themselves, others only play with you. The breed of dog will have some influence on the sort of activity the dog prefers (a retriever will often be happy with gentle carrying, a terrier may want to shake everything to bits) but more is down to the individual dog.
The secret is to watch your dog carefully, and decide what sort of toy is most appropriate. This is also the secret to keeping your dog safe when playing, as some dogs with some toys are a risky combination.
There are two good reasons why you should look for durable toys. First, these things cost money, so you want them to last longer than an afternoon. Second, toys that come apart can conceivably create a danger of choking or digestive problems.
While no toys should be made of materials that are actually poisonous, it is as well to play safe and only buy your toys from reputable dealers. The greater danger is from pieces of a disintegrating toy becoming inhaled—so avoid the sort of very soft rubber that some squeaky toys are made of. Dogs can also swallow toys that can cause an obstruction in their guts, so be careful with fibrous or small toys.
There are plenty of excellent indestructible dog toys on the market. Yet even these can over time succumb to the determined attentions of a large dog. A dog’s bite is incredibly powerful and they can be extremely persistent. So be sure to inspect all your dog’s toys frequently—if bits are beginning to come adrift it is time to ditch and replace the toy.
Your Dog and You
Toys are not just to amuse your dog when alone—they are an important part of your relationship. Toys are an important alternative to treats as part of your training routine. Such toys will mainly be used for throwing or tugging.
Throwing toys should be of a tough material, and large enough for your dog to carry when running, without the risk of accidental swallowing. Tennis balls are a good size but should be discarded when they are punctured. Tugging toys need to be checked often for unraveling fibers.
Some dogs like toys which remind them of their owner, like shoes and clothes. These can be extremely dangerous, especially anything elastic, which can stretch through the gut and cause terrible problems. As well as not allowing your dog to play with your old clothes, it is probably a good idea not to allow toys that make them think this is acceptable.
Your dog also needs toys to provide distraction when alone. By watching your dog at play you will probably be able to select items which are enjoyable and safe. Tough toys in good condition are important.
A good way to keep dogs amused for hours is to use the toys that are designed to have a treat of some sort placed inside, which the dog has to keep working at in order to get a little at a time. It is important only to get the best quality for these toys, and avoid toys with a single air hole as there is a small risk of tongues getting stuck. You can also get puzzle toys with various ways to get the dog thinking about how to find the treat, but you will need to keep a close eye on any with movable parts.
We have all watched a dog playing with a toy and been moved by the thought of getting so much pleasure from something so simple. Playing with toys is an essential part of the beautiful relationship between humans and canines. It only takes a little care to keep it safe as well as fun.
Cerys Dickinson has always been an animal lover. She has a menagerie of her own at home with 3 dogs, 3 cats, various smaller furry critters that the kids look after and a feathered friend! She enjoys writing about pets, and animals in general.