Some dogs don’t care about toys, and no amount of jumping up and down with a new squeaky toy is going to generate much interest. But most dogs love them–toys can provide comfort, exercise, mental stimulation, and camaraderie. And for dogs who spend a lot of time alone, a good stash of toys can stave off boredom and the ensuing destruction of hearth and home.
Rules of the game
- Take away old toys once in a while and swap them for something novel. Later, rotate the old favorites back into play–they’ll seem almost new again. Just like us, dogs need variety.
- Stash toys in a box or basket, so you don’t trip over balls, tug toys, and chewies every time you walk through the house. A good-looking container can even be a household accent, unless of course your dog opts to chew it instead of the toys.
- Don’t use toys to play competitive games, such as tug-of-war, with any dog who has an aggression problem.
Types of toys
With more toys on the market than ever, you should be able to find something your dog adores. Here are some favorites:
- Balls (tennis balls being a particular favorite)
- Sticks (some are made of tennis ball material)
- Dental chews
- Rope toys
- Kongs, or hollow chew toys, that you can stuff with treats
- Toys with squeakers inside
- Interactive toys that make noise, flash lights, or drop treats or other toys when the dog plays with it
The best toy is one that suits your dog
If your dog’s a retriever:
He probably likes to retrieve things (no surprise), and balls are perfect for him. The toy that’s perfect for you: a plastic launcher to throw balls. This will save your arm and help you throw the ball further. And because these launchers let you scoop up the ball without touching it, you don’t have to pick up a slimy ball over and over.
If your dog loves to chew:
He’d love something sturdy to gnaw on, such as a Kong or dental chew toy. Avoid squeakers or small vinyl toys–they’re not made to withstand a power chewer.
If you’ve got a small (or large) dog:
A lapdog’s small jaws can’t drag around a heavy chew rope; likewise, a large dog may ignore (or worse yet, choke on) a puppy-sized plaything. If you have several dogs of different sizes, get the right size toys for each dog.
- Remove any buttons or decorations that your dog might chew off and swallow.
- Throw toys away once your dog’s demolished them. Swallowing a squeaker or stuffing can lead to emergency surgery, which is way more expensive than a hundred new toys.
- Throw away dental chews when they get small enough to choke on. Chews should always be so big that your dog couldn’t possibly swallow them–and the same goes for any toy, really.
- Don’t let your dog hurt himself in his enthusiasm for his toys. Some dogs are obsessive about their favorites (Goldens and balls, Border Collies and frisbees, and so on). Don’t let your dog retrieve balls in the blazing sun until he suffers heat exhaustion, or chew on a hard toy until his gums bleed.