The playful nature of dogs is one of the things that we love most about them. In fact, playtime for dogs is more than just about having fun. Playing with your dog works their body and brain and increases their bond with you. And what better way to play with your dog than with dog toys.
Types of Dog Toys
There are three main types of dog toys. Fleece/fabric dog toys, balls and fetching toys, and treat/interactive dog toys.
Fleece/Fabric Dog Toys
Fleece and fabric dog toys come in a variety of types. There are squeaky toys, which contain one or more plastic squeakers. Some fleece toys come with inserts that crinkle or make unique noises other than squeaking. These toys are actually designed for gentle pups who like to carry their toys around, gently chew on them to make them squeak, and snuggle with them. Of course, dogs with a rougher style of play enjoy tearing the toys apart, removing the stuffing, and finding the squeaker inside.
Other common fleeces and fabric toys are tug-of-war toys. Many dogs enjoy playing tug-of-war with the humans and the other dogs in the house.
According to the American Kennel Club, “Tug can promote impulse control, build confidence, and strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners. It’s an activity that taps into natural drives, making it a motivational, reinforcing, and high-value training tool. It is also a great way to burn off excess energy and keep your dog physically and mentally stimulated.”
Why does my dog love squeaky toys?
Some experts believe that dogs love squeaky toys because the squeaking sound and the act of tearing open the toy mimic the act of hunting and killing their prey. That sounds pretty morbid to us humans, but wolves are the ancestors of modern dogs, so it makes sense to think that the squeaky toy is their prey. Other pet behavioralists think that dogs love squeaky toys because they get our attention. They squeak the toy, and we engage with them, so they squeak it again. And again. And again. And others think that dogs simply just have fun making the toy squeak.
Why does my dog roll around on her toys?
There are a few theories about why dogs scent themselves with certain odors. Some behavioralists think it is a throwback to their wild wolf ancestors. Wolves sometimes scent themselves with the scent of something stinky to mask their own scent and fool their prey. Other trainers think that dogs just like to scent themselves with smells that they like. When your dog rolls around on her toys, she may be trying to mark them with her own scent or pick up the scent of her favorite toys because she likes the way they smell.
Balls & Fetching Dog Toys
Dogs of all shapes, sizes, and breeds love a good game of fetch. According to the Humane Society of Naples, this behavior goes all the way back 10,000 + years ago when dogs were domesticated. They explain that the dogs who were good at this skill were bred, and the skills were passed down through the puppies. All these years later, our dogs still love to fetch things and bring them back to their humans. Of course, not only is it a game of fetch fun for your dog, but it is also great exercise.
Treat & Interactive Dog
Treat toys and interactive dog toys work your dog’s mind. Treat toys include the popular Kong line of toys, as well as some great options from West Paw Design. Treat toys are even better when you layer several types of pet-safe foods and freeze them overnight. Popular treats include peanut butter, pumpkin, diced carrots, unsweetened applesauce, and plain Greek yogurt.
There are also treat-dispensing toys that can be filled with kibble or small baked treats. Your dog must figure out how to roll the toy around to make the treats come out. This is a great form of problem-solving and mental stimulation. Planet Dog offers an excellent selection of treat-dispensing toys. Nina Ottoson has an incredible line of intellectual dog puzzles that require your dog to open different compartments to reveal its treats.
How to Choose the Right Toy for Your Dog
Choosing the right toy for your dog depends on your dog’s personal likes and play style. It also depends on the situation in which they will play with the toy.
Dog Toys to Keep Your Dog Busy
Dog toys to keep your dog busy include treats and interactive toys. A classic Kong, stuffed and frozen, can keep your dog entertained for an extended period, depending on the dog. A puzzle toy with a handful of kibble can also keep your dog entertained independently while they work to get the treats out of the toy.
Outdoor Dog Toys
Balls, frisbees, and fetch toys are perfect outdoor dog toys. Jolly Ball offers a large assortment of balls of assorted sizes, with handles. Originally made for horses, dogs love the extra-large Jolly balls with handles because they bounce around unpredictably and are easy to retrieve.
You can find a variety of brands of automatic ball throwers. Your dog can learn to fetch the ball and place it back in the attached bucket so that it can be launched all over again.
Dog Toy Safety Tips
Social media is full of stories about dog toys gone wrong. Here are some dog toy safety tips to protect your dog from unwanted problems.
Cleaning Dog Toys
While your dog might not care how slobbery and dirty his toys are, it is a good idea to clean them from time to time. You can wash rubber balls, treat-dispensing toys, and fetching toys with a washcloth or sponge and some antibacterial dishwashing liquid. Use a toothbrush or small scrub brush to remove any caked-on dirt.
Fleece and fabric toys can go right in the washing machine. A warm or cold-water wash is best, with just laundry detergent or laundry detergent with a little bit of white vinegar. Skip the fabric softener and bleach when washing. You can dry them on low heat or let them air dry but avoid using fabric softener sheets during drying.
Dangerous Dog Toys
Some dog toys are particularly dangerous and should be avoided. Rope toys, designed for supervised games of tug-of-war, are extremely dangerous when chewed and ingested. The rope can cause considerable damage when traveling through a dog’s digestive system. These toys should always be kept out of the dog’s reach and dogs should be carefully supervised at all times. Many dog owners avoid purchasing them entirely.
Certain rubber balls have been extremely dangerous to dogs. Balls should be completely solid without a hole through them or have a hole all the way through. Balls with a hole that does not go all the way through the toy can create a potentially deadly suction on the dog’s tongue, preventing the dog from breathing because of the toy and extreme swelling of their tongue.
Tennis balls are an iconic part of a game of fetch. But actual tennis balls made for playing tennis have a coating that is potentially harmful to dogs. Instead of balls made for human tennis games, purchase tennis balls made for dogs, or balls made by eco-friendly pet toy companies.
When purchasing any toy for your pet, whether a fleece toy with a squeaker, a ball, or a treat-dispensing toy, it is important to look at the safety practices of the manufacturer. Companies like West Paw Design, Planet Dog, and Jolly Ball use safe materials that are free from toxins and harmful chemicals.
Supervising Your Dog When Playing with Toys
Because it is impossible to make an entirely chew-proof dog toy, it is important to always supervise your dog when playing with toys. Squeakers can quickly become a choking hazard, as can pieces of rubber that dogs chew off balls and other interactive toys. Fleece toys can also be a choking hazard when swallowed.
While it can be tempting to let your dog play with toys as a way of letting them entertain themselves, not only is it safer for you to supervise them. It is more fun for you to play with them, in an interactive way. After all, while your dog loves her toys, she loves spending time with you even more.