A dog toy is not just an optional toy your dog may play with, it is crucial for your dog’s mental and physical health and development. There are different kinds of dog toys available in the market, and they are made keeping different types of dogs in mind. Every dog toy is not just an object to play with but is beneficial for your dog in many ways.
A good dog toy actively engages your dog and perform the following important functions:
- It does not let your dog get bored.
- Calms him down when your dog has too much energy.
- Promotes his dental health.
- Discourages his problematic behavior of chewing furniture and other expensive items.
- It provides mental stimulation and sharpens your dog’s reflexes.
- Strengthens the bond between you and your dog by providing a good playtime activity.
- Acts as your dog’s best friend when he is alone or needs to play.
Getting a variety of dog toys will help your dog in multiple ways, both physically and mentally. There are many types of dog toys available in the market, but the most common and effective ones include dog bones, puppy toys, training aids, squeaky (sound-producing) toys, balls, frisbees, and similar discs, sticks, and plush toys. Get your dog a combination of these toys to obtain overall health benefits.
However, not every toy provides benefits to every kind of dog. Many dog toys are excellent for a certain breed but harmful for the others. So, how do you know which is the right toy for your dog?
How to Choose the Right Dog Toys
There is a wide variety of dog toys available in the market and each toy is specifically designed keeping a certain dog “type” in mind. What works for one age, size, or breed of dogs may be totally useless or even harmful for the other. For this reason, you need to choose your dog’s toys carefully while considering a combination of factors such as your dog’s size, his activity level, chewing and playing habits, and the environment your dog lives in.
Dog toys should be durable and have an element of fun for your dog. Although there is no guarantee that your dog will fall in love with a certain toy (dogs have their reasons to be enthusiastic about certain toys), there are some factors you need to consider before getting the right toy for your dog. These factors are:
Age of Your Dog
Young dogs need developmental toys that provide them with ample exercise and build their stamina and muscles. Puppies need toys that are easy to get a grip on and something gentle on the gums. When they are teething, their gums and jaws become sore and itchy, and the puppies need relief from a toy that they can chew on (just like we give our babies teethers when they are teething).
An older dog may not be as fascinated by some toys as a younger pup is. Also, a dog may not realize the difference between a toy and an everyday thing that can pose danger to him. You need to dog-proof your home to make sure there are no rubber-bands, beads, strings, ribbons, or children’s small toys that your dog could ingest.
Size of Your Dog
The dog toys should be according to the current size of your dog. An average-sized playing ball may be too small for a small-sized dog to get hold on to but can be just right for a dog that has a larger built. On the other hand, a small ball that is perfect for a smaller size dog could be life-threatening for a bigger dog as it could be swallowed or could get stuck inside your dog’s mouth or throat.
Large toys could also be overwhelming for small-sized dogs. If you buy you a small-sized dog a larger plush toy, your dog may find it very hard to play with.
Breed of Your Dog
Unlike a child who knows exactly what toy he/ she wants to get; a dog can never communicate with you about his toy wish. However, there is a way you can tell what dog toys could interest your pet friend – your dog’s breed. Every dog’s breed has a certain characteristic that defines your dog’s personality and could help you immensely when deciding the perfect toy for your dog.
The retriever dogs have soft mouths (they do not bite what they carry) and are excellent at fetching games. A tennis ball (or a similar-sized ball) can be a great toy for them as you can throw it and they would love to fetch it for you. Terriers are small and very active dogs who have a built-in ability to hunt. Treat dispensing puzzle toys are great for them. The Sighthound dogs like to hunt using their vision and not their sense of smell. A frisbee is a great toy for such dogs who would want to run as fast as they can to make sure the target does not go out of sight.
If your dog’s breed requires less exercise, you can get them soft toys that they would love to play around with, but if the breed requires a lot of activity, choose a toy that would make them run around and drain out their energy.
Dogs tend to quickly lose interest in toys that have hard, tough surfaces as well as the toys that don’t make any noise when played with. Texture plays an important role in dog toys. A puppy or a small built dog may find toys with soft plush textures more playable than others. For a teething puppy, uneven textured toys where he can rub his gums on is a definite favorite.
A lot of dogs prefer textures that can be torn apart just like they would do it to a prey, bringing out their hunting instincts. This may explain why your dog may find tearing and shredding tissue rolls so exciting.
If you live in an apartment and do not have access to the ground or park, you may not invest in frisbee or similar discs. You can throw a ball or a stick, but you have a limited area to do that. You may want to get your dog some interactive toys like a treat dispenser that keeps your dog drain his energy without using much of the space.
If your dog is used to open fields, get him a bigger toy that he can run and play with. You may want to keep plush toys (that absorb moisture) away from your dog if your dog is used to going out in wet conditions, or he has easy access to pool or pond.
Types of Dog Toys
Your dog may get irritable and lethargic if he does not get enough exercise and playtime. Toys are an excellent means of keeping your dog busy and spending quality time with him. There are different types of dog toys for you to choose from, depending upon your dog’s age, size, breed, and environmental factors. Here are the main types of dog toys:
Chew Dog Toys
A chew dog toy is specially designed to be chewed by your dog to eliminate boredom and provides stimulation to your dog. Dogs find biting a chew toy quite soothing. These toys work best if you have a teething puppy who wants to press his gums against a toy, as doing so releases the feel-good chemicals in the brain and helps in soothing the teething pain. However, chewing and gnawing is not limited to teething puppies only; big dogs love to play with chew toys as a means of burning their energy.
Chew dog toys also keep your dogs away from chewing things in your home that your dog may chew and destroy, such as furniture, curtains, shoes, etc.
There are different kinds of chew toys available in the market or online, such as the rawhide, wood, rubber, and mineral-based dog toys.
- Rubber and Latex Bones: Whether it is real animal bone or artificially manufactured dental and rubber bones, a bone is a dog’s favorite thing to chew on. However, chewing an actual bone can have many dangers including the dog breaking his teeth, along with the possibility of ingesting small bone fragments which may cause serious health issues.
Rubber bones and latex dog toys are a great alternative to actual bones, and they provide a safe and healthy way to satisfy your dog’s chewing instincts. These dog toys help in keeping the gums strong, and the teeth clean, and hence play an important role in keeping your dog’s oral hygiene up to the mark. Different types of rubber toys are available in the market for your dog to chew and play with.
- Rawhide Chew Toys: A rawhide dog toy is made up of animal skin. It is quite sturdy, and your dog may take months to destroy it. The most used rawhide chew toys are the twists and rawhide bones.
- Wooden Chew Toys: A wooden chew toy is usually made from softwood which is often brightly colored with vegetable-based paints or dyes. These toys, such as the commercially produced toy rope, are a great alternative to the wild twigs, pinecones, and shrubs that your dog may want to chew on in the wild. Wooden chew toys keep your dog’s teeth trimmed down preventing eating difficulties in your dog.
- Mineral Chew Toys: Made from animal-safe minerals, the mineral chew toys are often flavored. So, when your dog plays with these toys, he is not just exercising but also intaking some healthy minerals.
- Chewable Balls: There are different sizes of balls (that may be squeaky as well) available that can be used by your dog to play and chew. Make sure the chew ball is specially designed for your dog as you do not want it to break down and get stuck in his throat.
Interactive Dog Toys
Generally, a huge portion of your dog’s day involves doing nothing, and he may get bored quite easily. You must have given your dog a different variety of chewable dog toys to play with when he is alone, but there is a limited amount of activity he can indulge in when your dog is all on his own. This is where interactive dog toys come to the rescue. The main features of interactive toys are:
- They are multifunctional toys and offers a lot of option to play in a single package.
- These toys stimulate your dog’s brain and provide your dog with some kind of puzzle to test his capabilities.
- These toys give your dog hours of playtime and fun, which prevents your dog from getting bored.
- They control your dog’s aggression level to some extent. Note that if you feel your dog is getting very aggressive, you may need something more than a toy – it’ll be a good idea to take some professional help.
- They keep them active and drain their energy, so at the end of the day, you do not have a fully active (read as hyper) canine chewing your sofa.
- These interactive dog toys are safe and if some pieces of toys are ingested, they are safe for your dog.
Examples of interactive dog toys are puzzle toys, chew challenge toys, and toys stuffed with dog treats. If your dog gets bored easily, he may love to explore interactive toys like the ones that have peanut butter (ask your vet first if you can give your dog peanut butter) or dog treats inside, so the more he chews and plays with the toys, the closer he gets to his treats. Make sure the treats are in a reasonable quantity – you do not want to make your already active dog extra hyper, do you?
The interactive dog toys are ideal for dogs who have lots of energy to burn and are extremely active. Such dogs need especially designed toys that are more interactive than a piece of toy bone to chew on – they help your dog in mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. A good interactive toy is versatile, safe, and interesting for your dog to enjoy.
A toy dispenser is an excellent example of an interactive toy. If you think your dog is getting a bit lazy and the plush, squeaky toys and tennis balls don’t excite him much, maybe it’s time you get him a treat dispenser toy. You can put treats or kibble inside the toy which is normally shaped like a ball, and your little fellow will have to earn his food! When your dog rolls it and plays with it, the treats are slowly dispensed. It is a great way to make your dog exercise while enjoying the process.
In short, your dog’s ideal interactive dog toy should have the following qualities:
- Easy to clean: An ideal interactive dog toy should be easy to clean. Most of the interactive dog toys involve treats to encourage your dog to play with them. This results in the toys getting dirty (and often moldy) and they hence need regular cleaning or washing.
- Safe: You do not want any unwanted toy pieces going inside your dog’s tummy. Make sure the toy is strong and does not have the potential to break off easily. Also, it should be made up of non-toxic material which is safe for dogs.
- Available in different sizes: A dog toy should be available in different sizes to cater to your dog’s growing age. It should also cater to different dog breeds. A toy that is too big or too small for your dog will lose its utility and may end up lying in the corner for weeks.
- Adjustable Level of Difficulty: Your dog may get bored of playing with one toy. He may figure out the exact technique he can use to get out a certain treat, or certain interactive toys may become too easy for him due to excessively playing with them (practice makes a pup perfect!). On the flip side, a certain interactive toy may be too hard for him to figure out and he may lose interest in it. For this reason, interactive dog toys need to have a difficulty adjusting mechanism.
You do not want to waste your money on a dog toy that just sits there in the toy box and collects dust. You want to make sure it is right for your dog’s age, size, and breed. If you are getting your dog a toy like a frisbee or a ball when you won’t be around to play fetch with him won’t serve any purpose. Instead, get him a combination of different kinds of toys: a couple of safe toys made with non-toxic material that he can chew on, along with a couple of multifunctional interactive toys that entice and invite him to play when no one is around.