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home : columns : columns June 24, 2016

7/15/2014 1:27:00 PM
Dogs and their toys
Indy and his favorite toy. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
Indy and his favorite toy. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

You return home after being gone for a few hours. Fido is at the door to greet you wagging his tail with "Squiggles," his favorite rubber squeak toy, clenched between his teeth, ready to play.

Dogs play, snuggle, and sleep with their toys; some even bury their toys. Toys are important for puppies and young dogs. Dogs that have toys to play with are less bored. Often, dogs that have behavior problems have lots of energy and nothing to do. Toys can direct your furry friend to healthy behaviors, use up excess energy, and be a way for the two of you to play together. Playing with different toys encourages exercise, which benefits your pet's overall health.

Deciding what toy to buy for your restless pooch isn't an easy decision. Each dog has a unique personality and energy level, and therefore will have a unique preference for the type of toy he likes to play with. There are chew toys, rubber toys, ropes, tug toys, balls, stuffed toys and food dispensing toys.

Toys keep dogs busy. Some are useful when pet parents cannot play with their dogs, like food puzzle toys and dental chew toys.

Dog toys are not safe if small pieces can be chewed or pulled off, as these could be swallowed by your furry friend. Choose toys made with non-toxic materials. Educate yourself before buying toys for Fido. Read the warning and size/weight labels. Many factors contribute to the safety or danger of a toy, and a number of them depend upon your dog's size, activity level, and preferences. The size and aggression of the dog will help you determine what to get. Dogs, like children, have oral fixations, so everything goes in their mouths.

There are a wide variety of dog toys on the market that are designed for different purposes, depending on your furry friend's characteristics.

Be cautious, because the things that are usually most attractive to dogs are often the very things that are the most dangerous. Dog-proof your home by removing ribbon, rubber bands, human children's toys and anything else that Fido can get his mouth on and be ingested. Toys should be appropriate for your dog's size.

The urge to chew is deeply ingrained in your dog's instincts, so finding the right toy is important, especially if your pooch tends to want to chew on your table legs. If you are a pet parent to a puppy, there is no getting around the fact that baby Fido will need to chew (teething) and you can guide him toward constructive chewing with the right toy.

Most dog trainers prefer using Kong toys, which come in different sizes and are made of hard rubber. Some of the Kong toys are also food-dispenser toys. Nylabones can also be good for chewing. With the right chew toy, dogs that are aggressive chewers have a safe way to satisfy their biting instincts. If you're thinking of giving your pooch rawhide chew toys, be sure to check with your veterinarian about which ones are safe and appropriate for your dog.

Tennis balls are great for fetch, but not for chewing on because they can come apart and be ingested. Balls of all shapes and sizes help keep dogs active and fit; they are a great way to play and exercise a dog at the same time. The flying disc or Frisbee is also fun for Fido and will keep him fit, but you don't want it to be so tough that it could hurt your pooch's teeth or mouth if he doesn't catch it perfectly.

Most dogs enjoy playing tug-of-war, and rope toys are usually available in a "bone" shape with knotted ends.

Your pooch might like comfort toys or "stuffies," soft toys that are good for several purposes, but aren't appropriate for all dogs. Depending on Fido's size, the stuffed toy should be small enough to carry around, but not too small to choke on.

Pay attention to any toy that contains a squeaker buried in the center; your pooch may feel that he must find and destroy the source of the squeaking, and he could end up swallowing it.

There are many toys that Fido would have a great time with by himself or interacting with you. Remember to educate yourself about the kind of toys that you think would be best for your particular dog. It's also important to remember that all toys can pose a risk if your dog ingests them, so play should be supervised, especially with aggressive chewers.

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