When you think of dog toys, you probably think of timeless favorites like a tennis ball, stuffed animal, or favorite stick. While these are still fantastic dog toys, there are a plethora of other options available these days too. Toys are an essential part of your dog’s day. Toys provide stimulation, enrichment, and an opportunity for you and your dog to bond. Some toys can decrease boredom, and others can comfort your dog when you aren’t home. Still, others can get your dog’s brain firing. Different dog toys have different uses, so which toys are right for you?
Different Dog Toys
There are so many different types of toys available on the market, but what are they all for? Having various toys can serve multiple purposes and provide variety to keep your canine from growing bored. Playing and even chewing are natural behaviors for dogs. Our goal with toys is to direct their behavior to appropriate places.
We all know that to our dogs, almost anything can be a chew toy! Hopefully, by providing appropriate chew toys to our puppies and adult dogs, we can direct their natural chewing instinct away from our shoes and furniture. Chew toys are great for puppies (and adult dogs, too) when they get bored. If you have a puppy, it’s a good idea to keep a few different kinds of chew toys around, especially to divert their attention away from problematic behavior. You can use single-use chew toys like rawhides or more durable ones like Kong products. Examples of chew toys include:
- Animal bones
- Rubber chews
- Plastic bones
- Dental treat chews
Note: you can also use food such as sweet potatoes or large carrots to keep your dog occupied for a few minutes.
Rope toys are generally, you guessed it, made out of rope. Some products might have plastic or rubber parts incorporated. The most popular use for a rope toy is tug-of-war, but you can use them for fetch or chewing too. Rope toys with handles are an interactive toy for you and your pooch, or even among two dogs if you have multiple. You can use a rope toy to play with your dog; make sure it’s comfortable for you to grab and for your dog to grab with their teeth. Be careful if your dog likes to chew rope toys, though; if they get small pieces off, they may accidentally ingest them, which can cause stomach upset or even a blockage. If you notice your rope toy begin to unravel, it’s time to throw it away.
Food Dispensers/Puzzle Toys
Every dog household should have food-dispensing toys. These toys are fun, stimulate your dog’s mind, and help them exert energy for the reward of a treat at the end. Puzzle toys can trigger the hunting instinct in your canine companion, but instead of hunting something warm and furry, they’re using their brains to figure out how to get to the treat. These kinds of toys come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There’s also a wide variety of foods you can use in these toys, which helps keep your dog from getting bored with them. For example, if you have a kong cone, you can fill it with peanut butter one day and kibble the next.
Puzzle toys normally have a few moving parts your dog needs to manipulate to get to their treats. This gets their minds going and requires them to use fine motor skills, usually with their nose or paws, to receive their reward.
Comfort toys are generally the plush, stuffed animal variety. We often use these toys with puppies that might be missing their littermates. Some of these dog toys have squeakers inside, which seem to simulate the sound a small animal might make if your dog ever caught one. While some adult dogs enjoy plushies, too, many resort to ripping their fluffy little stuffed animal bodies apart and spreading their stuffing all over your house. Like rope toys, once your dog begins tearing apart a plush toy, it’s time to throw it out.
Balls and Other Retrieving Dog Toys
We can’t talk about dog toys and not talk about the OG toy: balls! Throwing a ball often triggers your dog’s prey drive – in a good way! Balls are perfect for playing fetch, and while some dogs may play fetch from day one, others may take a little training. Fetch is a fantastic opportunity to bond with your dog and to help them get some exercise. Other retrieving toys besides balls include discs, ropes, bigger balls, and floating toys.
Dog Toys and Play
Play is crucial for your dog. Our pets get bored just like we do, and stimulating their minds and bodies is an integral part of being a pet owner. Dog toys help us bond with our dogs, give their intelligent minds problems to solve, and overall help our dogs thrive. Try out a few different kinds of dog toys and see which your dog finds most engaging. It may take a little trial and error, but once you find the toys your dog loves, their enjoyment and enrichment will pay you back tenfold.