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

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.

Fetching Dogs

Are you greeted at the door by a dog with an offering, such as shoe? Does your dog have excess energy to burn and love to run? Do you toss a banana peel in the trash only to have it returned at your feet?! Yes… A game of fetch is in order!

There are many toys for playing fetch… rope toys, Kongs, tennis balls, stuffed animals… they all work great. However, there are some designed especially for fetch.

GoDogGo and Chuckit! are made to throw tennis balls long distances and wear your dog out, not you! GoDogGo is a battery powered, remote controlled, tennis ball launcher. You select the distance of the toss, press the button, and watch your dog run. Chuckit! is a plastic catapult-type thrower powered by you which allows you to throw the tennis ball long distances with ease. It also allows a hands-free ball pick-up so you don't have to bend over only to be slimed by a yucky ball.

Frisbees are a classic which are great for talented dog/owner fetching teams! Not all dogs are proficient Frisbee catchers and picking up a Frisbee from the ground can be a challenge for some dog jaws. There are Frisbees made especially for dogs which are durable and gentle on a dog's mouth.

Floating retrievable toys are available for the dog who loves to fetch in the water. They are easy to clean, easy to spot in the water, and you don't have to worry about your playful pup diving underwater to snag his toy!

Creative Dogs

Is your pooch an Einstein? Has he devised a plan to steal a snack from the cupboard or the refrigerator? Does he get easily bored or lonely during down-time? Yes… Your dog is brainy and needs a toy to utilize his smarts.

Treat balls make your dog think and work to get a snack. Load the ball with treats when you are leaving for work or when you are busy and can't entertain your needy canine, and he will be occupied by the challenge his toy presents. The ball must be rolled about for the treats to be dispensed from the openings. Your dog will be mentally stimulated, and he will be physically exercised.

Kong toys that are hollow on the inside are also great for treat stuffing. Peanut butter works especially well in Kongs; your dog will be entertained licking the sticky treat out of the toy. When he is done, the rubber Kong can be easily washed with soap and water.

The Joy of Toys

Even the most sophisticated dog has a fun, playful spirit. Just like all children need toys to entertain, enrich, and exercise their bodies and minds, so do dogs. Provide your furry child with multiple appropriate, safe toys. Rotate them; put some away and get different toys out each week so your pet doesn't get bored. Though toys are great to occupy your dog when you are busy, don't miss the opportunity to appreciate your dog's playful energy. Use the toys to bond with him, play with him, and laugh with him.