Remember the joy of Christmas morning when you were young standing in front of a mound of presents and anticipating what would be in each brightly colored box? What if every day could be like Christmas morning for your dog?
Dog toys are vital to the happy formation of your new puppy as well as his continued entertainment as he grows and matures. Dog toys help burn off excess energy, exercise his mind and body, and even help him learn and problem-solve. Dog toys help you to interact with your four-legged family member in a fun, positive way while helping to build your relationship as well as an opportunity to work on his manners and overall training.
Young puppies need different toys then an older puppy or adult dog.
Stuffed dog toys should be made from soft but strong material, as their gums and milk teeth are not tough enough to withstand the coarse materials of some toys. They should also be smaller so the pup is not overwhelmed by the sheer size of the toy (although giant stuffed toys are often used as a security bed or pillow for pups that have recently left the litter).
Rubber squeaky toys should be soft enough that the pup is able to make it squeak but not so thin that their brutally sharp milk teeth can puncture the material. Dog toys that are made out of a variety of materials, oddly shaped and various types of noise makers inside allow puppies to explore new things while exposing them to different noises.
A variety of household items can also make great puppy toys such as an empty water bottle or milk jug, just monitor it carefully for signs of rough edges or the pup chewing bits off.
Other toys for young puppies include boxes with holes cut in them so the pup can crawl through it and explore, tunnels made out material stretched over wire, and even a clean round garbage pail that is big enough for the pup to push around or climb in and explore. Use your imagination on what you can expose them to that is new and exciting, as well as your common sense to find household items that are sturdy and safe enough that the pup will not hurt themselves.
‘Teenager’ Dog Toys
Dog toys for pups between three months and a year to year and a half have their own special requirements. Pups between these ages are teething and have an actual physical need to chew. Chewing helps cut adult teeth through the gums, helps milk teeth fall out, and finally helps set the new teeth in the jaw. For most breeds, teething continues up until the pup is eighteen months old so destructive chewing must be expected. To keep the house and yard safe through this time, dog toys that are designed for destructive chewers are vital.
The infamous Kong is an ideal toy for a teenage pup. They are as tough as nails, help maintain interest by bouncing erratically, can be filled with peanut butter and biscuits, and are relatively inexpensive to replace as needed.
Stuffed toys for pups this age must be super tough to withstand their destructive tendencies. Most owners find that they only give their teenager a stuffed toy when the play can be monitored and as soon as the pup begins to shred the stuffy, it is either taken away or, better, the owner uses the time to teach the dog the ‘gentle’ command.
This is an ideal time to continue working on the ‘fetch’ command and many balls are now designed that are tough enough to withstand chewing but without the abrasive texture of tennis balls.
Adult Dog Toys
Adult dogs are usually more gentle on their toys then pups and often a toy will last for years with care. To keep interest in toys, keep a ‘toy box’ and rotate the toys that the dog has access to each day. This way every morning is Christmas morning for your dog and they will be less likely to chew your stuff! By the time a dog reaches his adulthood, he will know what types of toys he likes and does not like. Some prefer balls or Kongs while others enjoy playing with stuffed animals. Let him tell you what he wants to a point but always continue to try to interest him in types of toys – you never know what will stimulate the adult dog brain.
Senior Dog Toys
Dog toys for the senior pooch are much like the softer puppy toys. As teeth become more painful and jaws loose their power, toys made out of soft rubber become popular again and stuffed animals no longer need to be made out of indestructible material. Keep rotating the toys, however, to continue the stimulation of new and exciting things in their lives.
No matter how old the dog is, keep toys clean and inspect them for damage. Most toys are machine washable and as soon as any dog toy begins to fall apart or have chunks chewed off replace it immediately. It is amazing how many toy chunks are removed from the intestines of dogs each and every year!
Having discovered a fondness for insects while pursuing her degree in Biology, Randi Jones was quite bugged to know that people usually dismissed these little creatures as “creepy-crawlies”.