Choosing Dog Toys: a very Essential Dog Supply – Part Two
So go ahead and walk down any pet aisle in any grocery store, pet shop, even hardware or feed stores, flooded with different choices of dog toys. You will be overwhelmed, putting your poor brain into some sort of decision making mode overload. So how do you go about picking the right toy, that dear sweet little Princess, will take a shine to?
With so many types of dog toys out there, it’s not an easy task to decide on what to spend your hard earned money on. (Who hasn’t spent big bucks on a toy for Princess, only to have her sniff it and walk away, totally uninterested?)
It’s not just about Princess doing mindless play. Playing with toys imparts some valuable input into Princess’s emotional and physical development. (See my other article “Dog Toys are Very Essential Dog Supplies – Part 1” on this site.)
Let’s just take a quick walk down that dog toy aisle; in the first section are the infamously popular squeaky toys. There are tons of squeaker toys, in most any size, shape, or material desired. You name it, all kinds of animal shapes, or bone shapes, or human food articles. The bottom line is, if you can think of a shape, chances are you can find a dog squeaky toy, in that shape. These are great toys for dogs, with that high prey drive thing going on. Nothing quite like the sound of prey trying to escape the jowls from the Hound of Hell, to keep Princess entertained for hours.
Along the same lines as the squeaky toys, are the stuffed plush toys. Again, there are thousands of types and sizes, and stuffed toys make great chewing toys for the right age and size dogs. More about that later.
In the next section are the environmental enrichment toys. These little life savers are worth their weight in gold, especially for owners whose dog is alone all day and not accompanied by a responsible parent or guardian. Enrichment toys have a sound purpose and that is to entertain, stimulate and keep occupied Princess’s little doggy mind (especially when she is alone), as opposed to keeping her alone and bored. A bored dog will usually find something to entertain herself, and if that means playing rip the guts out of the couch cushions, so be it. If she isn’t too interested in just the basic toy types, try one of the blockbusters, the kind that you can hide treats or peanut butter inside. That will get her interest, count on it.
Chew toys, now here we have another real attention getter, capable of keeping your chewing Princess busy for hours. This is especially true when looking for a chew toy for your new puppy. Puppies spend quite a bit of their life in teething pain, and puppy is looking for something to chew on, and something to chew on right NOW. So look for something that is not going to be chewed up overnight. Does Princess like to chew up everything within eyeshot, whether it be rawhide, nylon or rubber? If Princess is a chewer she will attack them all with equal furor.
Just a heads-up on the chew toys, if Princess is a determined/aggressive chewer, you may be better off getting one of the hard rubber type chew toy. Ask your vet about the number of dogs presented with dental issues from dogs working and chewing too hard on that nylon.
INTERACTIVE DOG TOYS
Now we are at the fun section on the isle of dog toys. Here we can find something both of you can enjoy together and at the same time, work on that bond between your pup and you.
When you look at all of the interactive toys, if you stop to break it down, really there are basically only two types of toys, something to throw or something to pull. Now here is where you need to know your little Princess. Is she a chaser or a tugger? Or maybe you hit the lottery and she is both. If she is both you get to pick the best of both, and extend playtime or mix it up, making it more spontaneous and exciting.
It is important to bear in mind that these interactive toys are more than just fun and games. They can and should be used as a positive reinforcement1 in your raising and training. Many people with their pet dogs, think that only high value food treats will work as a reinforcement. Not even close to being true. This toy drive is evident with many pet dogs and working dogs, especially those from certain foreign dog lines. To some dogs, the opportunity to play tug or chase the ball is more of a high value reinforcement than a nice New York Strip.
One last item on using toys as reinforcements, there are certain training steps involved to get the most from this method. Unfortunately, the “How to Train with Toys as a Reinforcement” is not the intent, or the scope of this short paper, but in the very near future a search of the Training Tips Section on this site will provide a step by step explanation.
One of the rules of training or raising a dog is you have to be smarter than your dog. And if I need to tell anyone that the following certain common sense precautions should be taken into consideration, you should not be training dogs.
For example, the age of the dog matters. You certainly don’t want to purchase a heavy-duty Schutzhund2 tug toy for a puppy, when a burlap sack or its equivalent is required. The opposite, is also true, like buying a Great Dane a small ball or squeaky toy that could be ripped apart and pieces swallowed or even swallowed whole.
Also, as previously mentioned, puppies are chewers. So a durable chew toy is a more practical toy than a piece of stuffed plush.
And speaking of stuffed plush…(me getting on my soapbox) there are some of the most atrocious, and in my estimation, cruel stuffed plush toys on the market today. I have seen cute, little stuffed animals with those little button eyes and soft, round ears, stitched on. I don’t care how observant you are in monitoring the playtime activities of your puppy or dog. It only takes a second for those sharp teeth to sever that stitching and inhale that cute little plastic button nose. And when that happens, you and baby are off to see the veterinarian. So again, THINK and use some common sense precautions. Additionally, don’t forget to remove labels from the pet’s toys. There really should be some Governmental Safety Standards in place for pets (Me, now getting off of my soapbox).
Always make sure you supervise and monitor the condition of any toys offered. If you begin to see any wear and tear or other hazard showing, it’s time for that toy to see the inside of a trash can.
On a final note, try to think of the toys you offer as yours, not Princess’s. You take them out to let her play with them to her hearts content, but when you decide playtime is over, you take them back and put them away.
1Positive reinforcement = A reward that would increase the frequency of a behavior using only pleasant rewards.
2 Schutzhund = A German working dog title that encumbrances the fluent skills of obedience, tracking and protection. Although any breed can compete, they are usually German Shepherds, Rottweilers, or Belgian Malinois.