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As any bona-fide dog owner knows, there’s nothing more entertaining for your pet than a good toy to bite, chew and play with. As well as entertain, play toys are essential in helping your dog for physical development and mental stimulation.
To understand this better, it’s important to think about the evolution of canines. While today we consider dogs as household pets, they were originally bred to perform certain tasks: from herding, to hunting, to protecting land. Domesticated pets still carry these traits, and therefore the desire to have a job. In the absence of being able to entertain your dog 24/7, toys fulfill this important role.
Before you embark on a shopping spree for dog toys, consider a few points.
Secondly, think about the size of your dog and find a toy suitable for their mouth and paws. As entertaining as a giant rubber bone is, it’s no fun if the dog can’t pick it up!
Lastly, give consideration to the age of your dog. Puppies need more interaction and may benefit from chew toys for teething. While senior dogs may have less energy and enjoy more gentle ways of playing.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF DOG TOYS
Dog toys can vary in a number of ways, but are generally separated in to four different categories: chew toys, plush toys, interactive toys and dental toys. Each serves its own purpose and benefit for your dog, as follows:
- Chew Toys
Chew toys can keep your pet entertained and stimulated, while appealing to their curious nature. Toys that encourage chewing are also said to be soothing to a dog, since they release endorphins in the process. This helps them to calm down, as well as prevents them chewing on your favorite shoe! They are used to some success in pets that suffer with separation anxiety, as a much-welcomed distraction.
Available in different forms and sizes, chew toys can be made from rubber, wood, rawhide, paper and mineral. Think big rubber bones or round objects. Opt for a range of textures that your dog will enjoy chewing on.
Chew dogs can be given to your dog to play with whenever they want. They can be used in obedience training to, when teaching your pet what is acceptable to chew on. Try and integrate this from a young age, for long-term success.
- Dental toys
Like us, dogs can suffer from periodontal issues, such as bad breath, gum disease and plaque. However, these can be prevented with daily teeth brushing and a considered diet. Research has found that dogs that chew actively have less plaque build-up.
Dental toys are another beneficial way of maintaining good oral hygiene, helping to keep that much-loathed dog breath at bay too!
The main difference between chew toys and dental toys, is that the latter has an additional dental benefit. Although they may look similar, dental toys tend to have more small ‘bits’ that are capable of getting in to all the nooks and crannies in your dog’s mouth, cleaning them as they chew. They also stimulate the gums, which helps prevent bacteria forming.
Since dog teeth can be strong, it’s wise to regularly check dental toys to ensure they are intact and not broken.
While there are plenty of dental toys on the market, do speak to your veterinarian for recommendations. They may also suggestions toothpastes and cleaners that can be used in conjunction with them.
- Interactive toys
Even if you played fetch with your dog a hundred times in a day, chances are that they’ll still want more! Going back to the note that dogs like to have jobs, interactive toys play an important role in stimulating their brains. These can be especially useful for pets that are home alone for long periods of time or need extra entertainment.
Additionally, these toys can form a useful part of dog training, and can be used for rewards. As such, they are great in behavioral training.
Interactive toys are often multifunctional; think puzzles, frisbees, balls and ropes. Interactive toys are great for mental stimulation
Rather than leaving these toys out for play at their own leisure, interactive toys should be managed by the owner. Some will require you to play with them in conjunction with your dog.
Some of the specific interactive toys to look out for include;
- Tug-o-war toys – These are great if you have more than one dog, as they are especially good for multi-play. Dogs instinctively like to pull, so this plays to their natural desire for doing so. It is also good for improving jaw strength and as a muscular workout.
- Puzzles – It’s important to keep your dog mentally astute, and using puzzles will help keep them occupied and stimulated. Plus, they can be a helpful distraction if you need to pop out. Most puzzles will have some form of treat incentive, appealing to your pets extra super sense of smell, and unwavering appetite! If your dog is unwell or recovering from injury, these can be particularly good toys to tide them over.
- Toys that throw balls – Appealing to the canine desire to ‘fetch’, seek and retrieve toys are always a hit. This is also a good way to encourage your pet to get more exercise and stay occupied. Some ball throwers can be quite fast, so be sure to check them before using to avoid injury or damage.
- Toys with treats – Similar to puzzle toys, there are a number of toys in the market that dispense treats. These usually have some complex gravitational or rotational release, so that they aren’t gobbled down instantly! The slow release of treats encourages your dog to continue playing with them. They are also another good distraction tool for when you need to sneak out of the home!
- Plush toys
If you’ve ever seen a dog carry a teddy or special soother blanket in its mouth, it’s usually with good reason. If owned from a young age, much like children, these plush toys can offer some comfort and familiarity to your dog. If they have a favorite soft toy, be sure to bring this on holidays and trips with you, as well as visits to the vets, to help them feel secure.
Plush toys come in all kinds of variations, from cuddly teddies to dippy dinosaurs and everyone’s favorite – space aliens! Due to their cuteness, they’re a popular choice for many dog owner too.
As well as for comfort, these toys can be used for teaching. During play, show them how to treat the plush toy as something they should care for. You can do this by stroking the toy and asking them to take it gently. Dogs must be taught that they are not for tearing apart or ruining. It’s an important lesson for them to learn, and may help curb unwanted behavior such as destructing your other personal possessions around the house.
Although they may look the same, never be tempted to give your dog a soft toy intended for a child, as the stuffing may present a choking hazard to them, and can easily be destroyed.
In the happy world of being a dog, fun and games are part of their daily routine. Toys play an important role in keeping them alert, stimulated, energized and healthy. A variety of toys should be bought to play with, each serving a different purpose.