Wondering the aisles in the local pet store or the numerous pages on your favorite pet supply website can be overwhelming in the toy department. Will she like this squeak? Will he like the way this fits in his mouth? Will this be destroyed in 30 seconds? Will this one be ignored forever? Buying the right toy(s) is an important choice for you and your dog.
The first thing you need to remember when choosing a dog toy: 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. Even though your dog may have a preference on toy type, it’s still good to have a few other options available.
We have found 5 different types of toys available for dogs and some of the toys can be placed under more than one group:
Training toys – These types of toys are designed 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 or strengthens the bond between owner and pet. This group can be from something simple and easy like a toy to play fetch or something with more extreme dedication like jumps and tunnels used for agility courses.
Self-amusement – These toys are stronger, more durable toys and can be used while left alone. The line of KONG classic rubber toys seems to have lasted the longest with the big chewers. 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.
As your dog ages their toy needs may also change. The cute pink or blue baby stuffy that your 8 week old mastiff carried around for weeks may not be appropriate when s/he is 130lbs! It could now be swallowed and become an obstruction in the airway or digestive tract. The toys that are used to help with a teething puppy could be painful for an arthritic 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. Be sure to check the toy basket often for ware and tear that may injure your pet. If they are swallowing pieces of the toy, it may no longer be an appropriate toy or appropriate material for your dog.
Why would I spend all this money on toys when I can just give my dog my old tennis shoe or my son’s old baseball or even my daughter’s no longer loved teddy bear? Two things come to 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.):
- 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 help the dog differentiate: the new pair of pumps or old tennis shoes, the old teddy bear or the new unicorn, 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 only belong to them.
- The toys listed above may contain small parts that can be swallowed and cause an intestinal blockage. The items listed above could cause intestinal upset that may lead to vomiting and/or diarrhea.
As a rule of thumb, your dog should be supervised when playing with them. Some toys will begin to break down and need to be replaced. There can be accidents that will need immediate attention and can turn deadly if they are left alone to play with them.
Another thing to remember is that just like with human children they can get bored playing with the same toys (except for their comfort toy). Keeping a rotation of toy baskets with a few different types in each will keep the excitement alive. This also gives you a chance to wash/clean the toys as needed in between rotations.
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.