Appropriate toys for dogs

My feelings towards my pets are that they are my kids with fur and 4 legs. One of my favorite things to do is to buy them toys. Seriously, there are 3 baskets full of toys! I am by no means an expert of the subject of pet toys but between my many years in animal sheltering and my own pets, I have quite a bit of experience with pet toys. This week’s blog will discuss dog toys.


Keep in mind that as your dog ages (puppy, adult, senior); they will need to have toys that are appropriate for their age group. The toys that are used to help with a teething puppy could be painful for a senior dog to chew on. Speaking of puppy chew toys – because puppies lose their baby teeth through the ages of 4-7 months, providing toys that can be frozen can help alleviate some of the pain associated with teething.  Also, keep in mind the size of the toys. I‘m not just talking about making sure your Chihuahua toy isn’t being played with by the German Shepherd. But even your 8-week-old Mastiff toy is not an appropriate toy size once that Mastiff grows to 130+ pounds. In both situations, the toy could be swallowed and cause an obstruction in their airway or digestive tract. 


The first thing you need to remember when choosing a tog toy is that there isn’t one single perfect toy for a dog. Just like people, dogs are individuals and have their own preference of what they like to play with. My lab/shep mix loved playing tug of war with a rope toy. My Dane (when she wasn’t sleeping) loved squeaky toys. My Pyrenees/Mt. Dog mix loves soccer balls – or any ball that is of equal size. Even though they have a preference on what type of toy they like, it’s still good to have a few other options available to them.


There are basically 5 different types of toys available for dogs.  Some toys can be placed under more than one group. They are:

Training toys – These types of toys are designed more for younger dogs. They are chew toys that will help redirect puppies and dogs from chewing on inappropriate items (like shoes and table legs). Teething toys are considered to be in this group as well.


Enrichment toys – These toys help with mental stimulation and curb boredom. Toys in this group can be found for all ages. This is a great toy group for dogs that can be destructive in the home and for seniors who need mental stimulation without an exhausting workout. 


Interactive toys – These toys builds the bond between owner and pet. This group can be from something simple and easy like a toy to play fetch with or something with more extreme dedication like the ones used for agility courses. Here are examples for agility toys


Self-amusement – These toys are stronger, more durable toys and can be used while left alone. The toys I always think of are the line of KONG classic rubber toys. Many of these Kong products have lasted the longest when it came to the big chewers at the animal shelter. Numerous self-amusement toys are also enrichment toys.

Comfort toys – Toys in this group are pretty self-explanatory. They are usually plush toys but can be any toy a dog bonds with. My girl Kaylee has a Wobble Wag Giggle Ball that she has had since she was a pup and she still plays with it and carries it around.  


Although, there are some generalizations of breed traits that will help guide you to the type of toys your dog might need. Observing your dog at home and watching what it does in their own environment is the best guide. Most of your herding breeds and highly intelligent breeds will benefit from the enrichment and self-amusement toys. I have bought Kaylee a couple of enrichment toys and it is just amazing to see how quickly she can figure out how to get the food out of the puzzles. Your high-energy breeds tend to need interactive toys.


There are two things to keep in mind if you provide items other than toys specifically made for dogs (like old shoes, kid’s stuffed animals, cooked beef/pork bones from your meals, etc.): 

First, your dog will not know the difference between what is okay to chew on versus what isn’t. There will be no way for them to understand or for you to differentiate: the new pair of pumps or old tennis shoes, the old teddy bear or the kid’s birthday Elmo, the Christmas ham or the soup bone, etc. So, if you provide items like this, your dog may develop bad habits because you didn’t provide toys that they know are only theirs. 

Secondly, many of the items listed above could have small pieces that can be chewed off and cause an intestinal blockage or worse.


Regarding most types of toys, your dog should be supervised when playing with them. There can be accidents that will need immediate attention and can turn deadly if they are left alone to play with them.  


The other thing to remember is that just like with human children they can get bored playing with the same toys (except for their comfort toy). Another reason I keep 3 baskets of toys is that I will rotate the toys around. Each basket has a few different types of toys in them but when it gets time to wash the currently played with toys, I pull out the next basket and it is like Christmas again with “new” old toys. The freshly washed toys will get packed away until next time. 


There are a lot of toys out there on the market and it may seem a bit daunting to find a good toy for your dog, but knowing your pet’s behavior and the types of toys to look for, you are sure to find a few that they will love.


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