When it comes to dog toys, there are quite literally millions of choices available. However, it’s important for your dog’s physical health and emotional well-being that you select the most appropriate toys.
To find out what attracted dogs to toys, researchers from Bristol Veterinary School conducted a study in 2012 where they presented dogs with a variety of different toys for 30-second intervals and studied how long it took each dog’s attention to falter. The study’s results: Familiarity breeds contempt (or at least indifference), something you probably know from experience as a dog owner. The fact is that no matter what toy you select, your dog will lose interest after adjusting to the initial qualities.
It is important for your dogs to have a wide variety of toys so they don’t lose interest. In addition, you should control access to these toys so they remain “new” to your dogs. This is why you should think about “function” and the reasons why you’re shopping for a toy.
When it comes to choosing pet toys, size really does matter. Too big, the toy presents a problem to your dog’s teeth and jaw. Too small, the toy can pose a choking hazard. This is why it’s so important to choose a size-appropriate toy for dogs and to make sure that if a large size can be easily reduced (i.e., when your dog tears the toy apart), you’re there to (quite literally) pick up the pieces.
When buying toys made from plastic, be sure to focus on BPA-free toys. This is the same quality level we would expect for human infants, and there isn’t a dog alive that doesn’t deserve that type of consideration.
It’s important to note that there is no perfect toy. Indestructible toys can be uninteresting and possibly dangerous. Destructible toys can be too expensive. There are “better” choices on every level.
For dogs who need mental stimulation and physical activity
Smart toys are great for dogs who show signs of stress, boredom or are up to generalized shenanigans on a regular basis. Nina Ottosson has an extensive line of “smart toys” focused on food in which the dogs must solve a puzzle prior to earning their treat. If you’re worried about your pet picking up pounds, you might prefer plush puzzle toys. There are several available, from plucking plush squirrels from a pretend tree to dismantling a sheep pen, options abound in this fun category. Check out Kyjen and ZippyPaws for some fun options.
Retrieving and Flirt Toys
For high-energy dogs who have a strong prey instinct
Action dog toys are get pets moving. These are fantastic options for pets who are regularly lying around, watching too much DogTV, and refusing to exercise. Kong’s ChaseIt line of toys works much in the same way as a cat dangler, encouraging pets to run after its prey. Also in the action category are remote-control cars (such as GoGoDog Pals) and automated tennis ball throwers (such as the new automated ball launcher from iFetch). If your dog is high-energy, you should consider a toy that will help burn off the excess energy. You might also want to consider a good old-fashioned Frisbee (now specially designed for dogs from Wham-O).
For sedentary dogs who are food-motivated
Food- dispensing dog toys are perfect for pets who are overweight, choosing a toy that will encourage slower eating throughout the day should be a consideration. Rather than encouraging your pet to eat on a schedule, they are free to “earn” their food. The Foobler is a new toy designed to do exactly that: Fill the six compartments with kibble, then set on the ground and head out. The toy will allow only one compartment to open at a time, and only in scheduled intervals, each of which are signaled with a sound. This is a great toy for dogs who prefer to work for their food, or who are easily bored.
For dogs who enjoy chewing and the comfort of holding a toy
Plush dog toys can be a mixed bag. As a dog owner you know how difficult it is to select a plush toy that will last longer than a few minutes. My favorite options include ultrasonic HEAR DOGGY!® toys, which have a squeaker that only your dog can hear—perfect for those who work at home or just don’t want to hear a squeaky toy all day). The Go Dog brand offers a durable toys that feature tough Chew Guard™ technology. Pogo Plush from Petsafe is another fan favorite, as these toys feature a cage that houses a floating squeaky. This helps make the squeaky elusive, prolonging the time it takes to burrow into it.
Designed to keep dogs’ teeth and gums healthy
Dental dog toys are specially designed to keep your pets teeth and gums healthy. These specially designed chew toys encourage chewing. One of my dogs’ favorites is the Busy Buddy Bristle Bone from Petsafe. There is no shortage of natural chew toys either; two of my favorites include Antlerz and Himalayan Dog Chews. While these are indeed wonderful toys for most dogs, some types have been known to break teeth.
Indestructible Toys and Tug Toys
For heavy chewers
For your very destructive dogs who need an indestructible toy, you should check out two of the toughest: Goughnuts, which consists of a large plastic ball that you can fill with water to let even the most destructive dog chew all day without damage, and Bionic toys, which are made from a BPA-free, indestructible Bionic Rubber® that can withstand even the most aggressive chewers.
No matter which type of toy you choose, remember to switch out your pet’s toys often by taking them away and introducing another. This is important to keep your pets interest day-to-day.
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at www.StacyMantle.com