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Dog Toys: How to Figure Out What Your Dog Likes Best

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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Tons of dog toys. What type of dog toy does your dog prefer? Does your dog like to chew, tug, cuddle, fetch, or be creative with his toys? Is fluffy, rubbery, squeaky, bouncy, or ropey his preference? There are many options to consider when choosing a dog toy. It is important that the toy be safe, entertaining, and just right for your dog's personality.

Why Have Toys?

Aren't dog toys just an added expense and something else to pick up around the house? No, they are much more than that. Dog toys play a very important role in keeping a dog mentally and physically healthy.

Toys provide dogs with an outlet for excess energy and can prevent them from becoming bored or depressed. This outlet may also prevent them from chewing on or playing with other things such as the couch or the garbage. Dog toys can also challenge a dog's problem-solving skills, provide environmental enrichment, and alleviate separation anxiety.

Toys encourage play and exercise, which help keep a dog physically fit. Chew toys can also be helpful for oral health by reducing plaque and strengthening jaw muscles. Puppies can especially benefit from chew toys while teething.

Toy Safety

Not every toy is suitable for every dog; they should be carefully selected based on your pet's needs, his size and his preferences.

What's most important when choosing a dog toy? Safety comes first. Be sure the toy is the appropriate size for your dog. Do not choose a toy that can be easily swallowed or become lodged in your dog's throat. Also, a large toy can be cumbersome to the small canine, and could potentially cause an injury. For example, a tennis ball may not be the best option for a large Rottweiler, and a heavy rope would be awkward for a Chihuahua. Durability is the other aspect of safety. Some dogs do fine with soft, fluffy toys or delicate, rubber toys. Others will destroy and eat them. This can result in a dangerous gastro-intestinal obstruction.

Be careful with toys that have removable parts. If you give your dog a stuffed animal to enjoy, cut off any pieces which could be easily chewed off, such as plastic eyes. Squeakers can also be dangerous. Before leaving your dog unsupervised with a squeaky toy, be sure he is not tempted to be destructive to get to the squeaker. This is true with any toy: supervise, supervise, supervise! 100% confidence in a toy's safety and your dog's behavior is crucial before leaving a dog alone with the toy.

Keep the toys relatively clean. Between drool and dirt, a toy can harvest a lot of bacteria. It is important to wash canine toys from time to time to keep your pooch healthy.

Which Toy Will My Dog Prefer?

Like people, dogs have their own interests and preferences regarding their belongings. Observe your dog; determine what he does for fun. It might take a few toy trials before you discover his favorites. Be patient, and don't give up.

Chewing Dogs

Do you have multiple teeth marks on your furniture? Have any of your shoes been sacrificed for the dog? Does your dog even seem to chew on himself for pleasure?! Yes... Most dogs do enjoy chewing; it is a very natural habit. Provide the right outlet for this with the right toy.

Kong toys are good for destructive chewers. They are made of very durable materials that are difficult to destroy, and they are available in various sizes and weights. Rubber Kong toys are gentle on your dog's mouth and have a decreased risk of causing dental damage.

Nylabones are also good for chewers. They come in flavored and unflavored varieties. There are bones for light to aggressive chewers and small to large dogs.

Rawhides and Greenies are loved by many dogs and are great for cleaning teeth, but MUST be only given with supervision. Dogs should not attempt to swallow large pieces of these treats, as they can easily become stuck in the throat, stomach, or intestines.

Tugging Dogs

Does your dog like to offer you an item then playfully take it away as you reach for it? Is your pant-leg often decorated with a grunting, growling dog jaw? Does your sweet pup tug on plants in the garden or branches of trees?! Yes... A pull toy may be what he desires.

Rope toys and rubber pulls are designed for tug-of-war between dogs or between dog and owner. They are great for interactive play and bonding. Be cautious when playing tug-of-war with your pet that you are not bitten. It is also important that your dog knows the "drop it" command before playing tug-of-war so that you do not lose control and you can stop a problem if the dog becomes too aggressive with the toy. If two dogs are playing tug-of-war it is important that they are supervised and do not fight.

Cuddling Dogs

Is a warm spot to relax what your dog desires? Is your lap often occupied by your canine friend? Are your pillows covered in doggy drool because someone else is sleeping on them?! Yes... You have a cuddler.

Stuffed animals are a cuddling dog's favorite. Of course, there are many varieties of animal, size, color, fabric, and even the noise they make. Some stuffed animals and pillows are designed for puppies that, when turned on, have a beating heart sound. This is to remind them of the comfort of being with their mother and their litter mates. When choosing a stuffed animal for your pooch, it is best to get one designed for dogs, not children, because they have the least removable parts.

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