Choosing The Right Toys
By Jamie Sharma
How much money do you think you have spent on replacing or fixing things your dog has chewed up, including toys? It's okay, you don't need to say it out loud.
What if I told you, you could have saved so much on just purchasing the correct toys and using them correctly? In your defense majority of dog toys do not come with instructions. I categorize dog toys into three separate categories. Toys for interaction, toys for mental stimulation and the third category is fully edible chews. These three categories serve three different purposes. First you have to ask yourself why you are purchasing the toy and what you want the toy to do for your dog.
If it is not used correctly, your dog will use the toy as she sees fit. Typically, dogs enjoy destroying a toy by chewing, shredding and even consuming the toy. Destruction is not just fun but also a great mental stimulation. After purchasing a bag full of toys you come home to find majority of them shredded and destroyed, sometimes in a matter of minutes.
Not all dogs will destroy their toys. Sometimes because of character and sometimes because they receive adequate mental stimulation. This can also vary depending on breed. The more active the breed the more destructive they can become if not stimulated enough. Destruction can also be a sign of other issues such as anxiety but lets keep on topic here.
So what is considered stimulation? There are two forms of stimulation needed for a happy dog and to keep your favorite pair of shoes intact. Physical stimulation and mental stimulation. Physical stimulation is a walk or fetch in the backyard or anything requiring a physical work out. An effective physical stimulation for a dog is to play with them. Which brings us to our first category of toys. The interactive toy. This toy will be one used by you to interact with your dog. This may be obvious to most people however what they neglect to tell you on the packaging is that when you are finished playing, the toy needs to be put out of reach of the dog. If your dog is destroying toys, or anything else, this can also be a sign of needing more mental stimulation.
Mental stimulation can be anything that makes the dog have to think. Training is one of the greatest mental stimulations however let's not get off topic.
Interactive toys are almost every dog toy sold on the market from balls and ropes to squeaky stuffed animals and rubber toys. This includes the "strong" or "tuff" and my personal favorite, "indestructible" labeled toys. If that last one made you snort a little then you know why it's my favorite. If you didn't snort a little, then I have some bad news for you. No toy ever made is truly indestructible unless the toy is used correctly or you don't truly have a destructive dog.
These are just a few of each category pictured.
The next category of toys are the mentally stimulating dog toys. They are also referred to as puzzle toys. These toys generally require the use of food although there are some available that do not. The concept of this toy is to give the dog the food packed toy and help them figure out how to get the food out. Dogs are very intelligent but be sure not to fill a puzzle toy and give it to your dog hoping they will figure it out on their own. Doing this, you may find your dog becoming frustrated and chewing on the puzzle toy. Just like the interactive toy, puzzle toys need to be refilled or removed from your dog's reach once the food is gone.
One of my personal favorites is the Kong Genius, snuffle matts and lick pads. Another great brand is the Dog Games toys. With so many brands on the market your best bet is to do an internet search titled, "dog puzzle toys". I highly recommend having a variety of puzzle toys that are used in rotation. Another, cheaper, option are homemade puzzle toys. If you're looking for a great reason to go out and purchase that new set of Tupperware, here it is. Using a Tupperware and lid, you can cut a few holes in the sides of the Tupperware, add some treats or food, a tennis ball and put the lid on. Bada-boom!
Go ahead, tell your spouse I said it was time for new Tupperware. You're welcome.
The last category are edible chews. This category is pretty self-explanatory. These are primarily used to fulfill a dog's desire to chew. Also great for occupying a dog while hosting a party, having dinner or being able to peacefully gather laundry from the dryer without your dogs "help". These should be 100% edible and safe. A few that I recommend are bully sticks, antlers, Whimzees and the Himalaya dog chews. If you are giving your dog a new chew for the first time make sure they are supervised to ensure they do not swallow whole pieces and that the particular chew is a good fit for your dog.
This is another favorite of mine and more importantly, my dog. After filling with boiled chicken, a handful of kibble and my dogs favorite treats I add one part unsalted chicken broth and three parts water then pop it in the freezer. Once frozen it pops right out of the Tupperware. You can fill with anything your dog likes. This would serve as both a mental stimulation and chew. Great for teething puppies!
The next time you are in the pet store shopping for toys, you will know what you're looking for. Just remember this. If you're needing something to occupy your dogs time alone I suggest going for a 100% safe and edible chew. If you are wanting to occupy your dogs time and give a mental stimulation try a puzzle toy. And if you're trying to curb mouthing issues or just play a game of fetch, go for the interactive toy!
If you have questions or need recommendations please feel free to contact me!