Toys can be a great way to stimulate your dogs brain and alleviate boredom; however, we tend to not put much thought into what toys to buy for them or how to best use them. Here are a few common mistakes and tips on how to get the most from your pup’s toys.
- Are toys even necessary? In the above picture you see a pillow. Obviously Pillows are not toys; however, your puppy does not know that. Puppies have to chew, and by not offering appropriate chew toys, you are asking for trouble. Of course having toys does not always solve the problem, but by having toys available, you have the tools to show them what is appropriate to chew on and what is not.
- All toys are not created equal. There are basically two types of toys. Interactive Toys, (plush toys, tennis balls, and tug ropes) and Chew Toys, (Kongs, rubber bones, and dental chews). The first category of toys should always be put away unless you are present, especially plush toys. Heavy chewers can destroy even the toughest toys, creating choking hazards or ingesting peaces that can get lodged in their intestines. Dental toys and Kongs are intended to be chewed on and are much safer options for keeping them occupied when your away or unable to supervise them. (Keep in mind, with any toy there are risks).
- Dogs do not automatically know how to play with all toys. Many times people buy chew type toys and assume that their dogs will know what to do with it. They throw it on the floor and their dog gives it a blank stare, so they figure the dog just doesn’t like chew toys. We need to show the dogs what to do with them. Ruff up the end with sand paper to make it more appealing then rub peanut butter into the grooves. Once they start chewing it, it will become addictive. You can also wag it in their face and motivate them to take it by tapping into their prey drive. Let them tug it, then give it to them. Kong toys are intended to be filled with food. These are the easiest to get them interested in considering all dogs eat. Kongs are great for when you are unavailable for longer periods. You can use their regular kibble, peanut butter, cheese, or canned dog food. To make the food even harder to get out, put kibble in a bowl and moisten it with water or low sodium chicken stock and place it in the Kong and freeze.
- My dog has so many toys I can barely walk through my house. Some of us love to spoil our dogs and want to give them everything they could ever want. We assume that 24/7 access to as many toys as we can afford to by them will make them happy and keep them from chewing on furniture, shoes and pillows, but sometimes quite the opposite is true. By filling our houses with toys, it can be quite confusing to the dog. Its much easier to show them what items are ok to chew on if there are fewer of those items. By keeping most toys put away, and bringing them out a few at a time, it makes those toys more exciting and interesting. Why would I chew on that chair leg when I just got this amazing new toy? Make sure you reserve those interactive toys for when your available for play, and it will make them even more exciting for your dog. You can even use them as reinforcement for training.