Best toys for dogs
Choosing the right toys for your dog is not an easy feat. With so many products in the market and being bombarded with ads that try to sell you “the best toy ever”, it’s not always clear what to look for in a dog toy. Read on and find out how to make buying dog toys easy.
What types of toys are out there
Different toys serve different needs for your dog. What are those needs, you might be asking. Here’s one way to break down the functionality of dog toys.
Interactive toys require the owner or trainer to participate in a game (rope toys can be used to play tug-of-war, for example, chew toys can be used to teach your dog to fetch). Socializing with humans is very important for dogs’ well-being and should be prioritized whenever you have some time to spend with your four-legged friend. We humans also benefit greatly from spending time with our pets, physical activity， and emotional release when we play. For puppies and young dogs, interactive toys facilitate training and learning the general rules of how to behave.
While social time is important, your dog likely has plenty of opportunities to play on its own when you’re at work or going out, and toys can make your dog’s alone time pleasant. During the day, dogs can engage and a variety of activities such as carrying their toys around, hiding them, and trying to hunt and “kill” them like they would do in the wild with prey. Toys with rope elements and sturdy, durable chew toys are good for this purpose.
Mental exercise is equally as important for dogs as physical exercise. If you want to encourage your dog’s intellectual development, their desire and skill to be well-mannered and obedient, it’s important to build their intellectual skills with the help of toys and activities. Try to provide activities and toys that engage your dog’s different senses. For example, sniffing things has been shown to, among other things, alleviate stress and improve cognitive functions in dogs, so a treat dispenser or food puzzle can be, pun intended, indispensable.
Not all dogs get to live with other dogs or pets, and not many owners can be around a lot, so pet dogs can enjoy and appreciate a plush companion. Some dogs like them squeaky, some – stuffed, and some – soft and snuggly. Try out a few and see which one becomes your dog’s BFF.
Apart from the intellectual benefits mentioned earlier, these toys can be useful for dogs who tend to eat too fast or overeat. Essentially, you can feed your dog an entire meal using these. Look for something that’s reasonably big and easy to clean, with a few features and moveable parts that will keep your dog engaged throughout a meal.
What to consider when choosing toys
Size of your dog
How does the dog’s size affect your choice of toys? Safety is one of the aspects. Make sure that any toys offered to your dog cannot be swallowed or get stuck in their throat. Generally, when your dog is holding a toy and one or more parts of the toy are sticking out of the dog’s mouth, the toy should be reasonably safe. If it’s a ball, it’s important to find the balance between it being small enough to carry vs. big enough to not be swallowed. Another aspect is durability: if your dog is small and gentle, a lot of toys will last them a while. For big dogs, opt for sturdy toys made of safe materials that won’t easily crumble or break off pieces when exposed to aggressive dog bites.
Pay attention to the materials your dog’s toys are made of. Not all toys humans find attractive are safe for dogs, so try to keep toys free from small decorative items that can be chewed off (small tassels, plastic eyes and noses, zippers, sequins, etc.) For soft toys, check what the filler is made of. Choose toys without filler if your dog tends to rip them open. Supervise your dog playing with any new toy to decide whether that toy is safe for them to play alone. If you’re not sure about whether a certain toy is safe for your dog or not, do check with a vet.
How to make dog toys last
Rotate your dog’s toys
Toy rotation can be done on a weekly basis or however frequently your dog gets tired of playing with the same toys. Put out one toy of each category and store away the rest. This helps your dog get the best out of focusing on one toy for a while, without being distracted by too many options to choose from. It also helps you keep your house tidy as few toys can be easily picked up and put in a toy basket or other open storage accessible to your dog.
Use toys as part of training and socialization
Playtime with your dog is a great opportunity to train them as well as socialize. A bored dog might end up destroying a few toys just because it doesn’t know any better and can’t figure out what else to do with them. But, for example, teaching your dog to play tug-of-war helps reinforce a few useful commands as well as gives your dog a chance to practice being obedient followed by a reward. Hence, playtime won’t be so much about the toy itself (and whether or not it can be destroyed) but about interacting with a human and developing social skills.
Avoid toys with parts similar to home items
Toys that have parts very similar to your home items (say, tassels on a toy that resemble tassels on your carpet) might lead your dog to believe that it’s okay to play with those home items as well. Since home items aren’t usually made to withstand biting, chewing, and tugging, they might easily get damaged by a dog. However attractive and well-designed some of the toys might be, make sure they don’t remind your dog of anything valuable that shouldn’t be played with.
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