Choosing the right toys for your dog


July 19th, 2017

Playing and chewing are natural canine behaviours. Though some dogs will play or chew more than others, dog toys are essential items for all dogs. In fact, behavioural problems can develop when dogs do not have the opportunities to exhibit their natural instincts through play.

There are loads of toys available with hundreds of options, which can make choosing toys for your dog confusing.

How do you choose toys that your dog will love? A dog’s toy preference depends on her personal style of playing and chewing. Trying a variety of different types of toy and learning how your pet prefers to play will help make the toy dilemma much easier in the long run.

It’s important to remember that all toys can pose a risk if your dog ingests them, so play should be supervised, especially with strong chewers. No matter how durable a toy seems, there is still a possibility that pieces can be chewed off and swallowed.

Ball Toys

A ball toy is a must-have for any dog that loves to fetch. Ball toys come in many varieties, from tennis balls or rubber balls to glow-in-the-dark and flashing-light balls. Some balls contain squeakers or holes for treats, while others are basic bouncers meant for retrieving.

When choosing a ball for your dog, pick one that is large enough for your dog to carry without accidentally swallowing it. The tennis-ball size works fine for most dogs, but there are also extra-large balls available for large breed dogs and mini balls for the daintier dogs.

If your dog loves balls, it is important never to leave them lying around your home in easy reach of your dog. Balls are interactive toys and should never be treated as a chew toy – shredder material and small pieces chewed from balls could lead to choking or gastrointestinal obstruction if ingested.

Interactive Fetch Toys

Dogs that love balls and playing fetch also tend love other retrieval toys. A disk or Frisbee type toy is a bit more versatile than a ball when it comes to fetching, as you can vary the speed of the disc and cause it to change direction, further challenging your dog. Other retrieving toys, such as dummies and rope based toys give your dog a uniquely shaped toy to fetch. They may be made of rubber, plastic, rope or another material.

Soft Plush Toys

There are many dogs out there who love the interaction they can get from a soft plush toy. They will carry them around like babies or tear them apart like prey. Stuffed dog toys usually contain squeakers and stuffing. Dogs often rip into them and the stuffing goes everywhere. Many dogs will be seen to “kill” their “prey” by destroying the squeaker and tearing at the toy. After the toy is “dead” dogs will often be seen carrying them and shaking them, this is a natural part of the hunt behaviour in dogs and can be very satisfying for them.

Supervision is KEY when allowing pets to play with plush toys to avoid the risk of swallowing parts of the toy during their destructive “kill play”. Plush toys will not last long with strong chewers, but can still be plenty of fun (with supervision).

Squeaky Toys

Non-plush squeaky toys come in many shapes and sizes. Typically, they are made out of vinyl, rubber or plastic. Durability varies, so choosing wisely and making a selection that best matches your dog’s chewing habits and jaw strength is essential. Generally, thick rubber is best for stronger chewers. Thinner vinyl or plastic toys are better for mild chewers or if you will be supervising play at all times.

Rope Toys

Rope toys are made of braided rope and sometimes have rubber or plastic parts. They can be used for fetch, tug-of-war or simply chewing. Many dogs love rope toys, while other have no interest. The action of chewing on a rope toy can be very beneficial for your dog’s teeth as it creates a brushing-like action and can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup, promoting good dental hygiene. However, strong chewers can easily shred rope toys. This can lead to serious gastrointestinal obstruction, dogs should always be supervised when given a toy that they are able to chew to reduce the risk of ingestion.

Tug Toys

Many dogs enjoy playing tug with their owners and other dogs.  It’s a healthy display of a dog’s predatory nature, plus it’s great mental and physical exercise. There are many types of tug toys on the market in various shape, sizes, and materials. You should always choose a tug toy that is comfortable for you to hold in your hand and pull on, as well as easy for your dog to bite and pull on. In addition, tug toys should be durable enough to hold up to the strength of your dog’s pulling. Replace worn or fraying tug toys so they do not break in the middle of a game of tug-of-war and hurt someone.

Floating Toys

Floating toys are great for dogs that love swimming. Usually made of a foam, rubber or plastic material, floating balls, rings, and other toys are easy for your dog to find and grab in the water. Brilliant for encouraging swimming exercise when supervised, and mental stimulation as they have the think and puzzle out how to grab and fetch the toys.

Treat Toys

Food and treat dispensing dog toys and puzzle games should be in every dog’s household. They offer fun, mental stimulation, and are a great way for dogs to focus their energy. Food dispensing dog toys come in various shapes and sizes and are usually made of rubber or plastic. Perhaps the most popular of all food dispensing dog toys is the Kong, which can be filled with treats, kibble, peamutt butter and other foods and can provide hours of fun for your dog.

Also a favourite are toys such as Kong Wobblers and other puzzle games that ask the dog to solve the puzzle of releasing the treats to eat. A brilliant toy for this is the Foobler, brining both learning and food together. As with all new games, toys and chews, dogs should always be supervised and you should choose a toy that they will not be able to chew and ingest parts from. These toys should be removed if they become damaged in any way and if the dog becomes frustrated and unable to complete the tasks demanded to receive the treats as this can then lead to negative experiences for the pet rather than being fun.

No matter what kind of play and interaction your dog prefers there will always be a toy for that they will love. And finding out their preferences is all part of the fun. But care should ALWAYS be taken to ensure the dog is supervised and safe during play and chew time.