“Safe” ToysThere are many factors that contribute to the safety or danger of a toy. Many of those factors, however, are completely dependent upon your dog’s size, activity level, and personal preference. Another factor to be considered is the environment in which your dog spends their time. Although we can’t guarantee your dog’s enthusiasm or their safety with any specific toy, we can offer the following guidelines:
- The things that are usually the most attractive to dogs are often the very things that are the most dangerous. Dog-proof your home by checking for string, ribbon, rubber bands, children’s toys, pantyhose, and anything else that could be ingested.
- Toys should be appropriate for your dog’s current size. Balls and other toys that are too small can easily be swallowed or become lodged in your dog’s mouth or throat.
- Avoid or alter any toys that aren’t “dog-proof” by removing ribbons, strings, eyes, or other parts that could be chewed and/or ingested. Avoid any toy that can break into pieces.
- Ask your veterinarian about which rawhide toys are safe and which aren’t. Unless your veterinarian says otherwise, “chewies” like hooves, pig’s ears, and rawhides, should be supervision-only goodies. Very hard rubber toys are safer and last longer.
- Take note of any toy that contains a “squeaker” buried in its center. Your dog may feel that he must find and destroy the squeak source and could ingest it, in which case squeaking objects should be “supervision only” toys.
- Check labels for child safety, as a stuffed toy that’s labeled as safe for children under three years old, doesn’t contain dangerous fillings. Problem fillings include things like nutshells and polystyrene beads, however, even a “safe” stuffing isn’t truly digestible.
- Remember that soft toys are not indestructible, but some are sturdier than others. Soft toys should be machine washable.
Toys We Recommend
- Very hard rubber toys, like Kong products. These are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and are fun for chewing and for carrying around.
- “Rope” toys that are usually available in a shape or with knotted ends.
- Puzzle toys like Roll-A-Treat Balls or Buster Cubes.
- Kong toys, especially when filled with your dog’s meals, broken-up treats, or, even better, a mixture of broken-up treats/food and a substance that binds (i.e. peanut butter or yogurt). The right size Kong can keep a puppy or dog busy for hours. Only by chewing diligently can your dog access the food, and then only in small bits – very rewarding! Once your dog gets talented at emptying their Kong, you can fill it and freeze it before giving it to your dog.
- Puzzle toys are large cubes/balls with hiding places for treats. Only by moving the cube around with their nose, mouth and paws, can your dog access the goodies. These toys are best used when you are home with your dog as they do not tolerate heavy chewing.
- Soft stuffed toys are good for several purposes but aren’t appropriate for all dogs. For some dogs, the stuffed toy should be small enough to carry around. For dogs that want to shake or “kill” the toy, it should be the size that “prey” would be for that size dog (mouse-sized, rabbit-sized, or duck-sized).
- Dirty laundry, like an old t-shirt, pillowcase, towel, or blanket, can be very comforting to a dog, especially if it smells like you! Be forewarned that the item could be destroyed by industrious fluffing, carrying, and nosing.
Get The Most Out Of Toys!Rotate your dog’s toys weekly by making only four or five toys available at a time. Keep a variety of types easily accessible. If your dog has a huge favorite, like a soft “baby,” you should probably leave it out all the time.
Provide toys that offer a variety of uses – at least one toy to carry, one for treat filling, one to “kill”, one to roll, and one to “baby.”
“Hide and Seek” is a fun game for dogs to play. “Found” toys are often much more attractive than a toy that is blatantly introduced. Making an interactive game out of finding toys or treats is a good “rainy-day” activity for your dog, using up energy without the need for a lot of space. Only hide your dog’s toys in areas you don’t mind them digging and searching (down the couch cushions might not be the best idea).
Many of your dog’s toys should be interactive. Interactive play is very important for your dog because they need active “people time.” By focusing on a specific task, like repeatedly returning a ball, Kong, or Frisbee, or playing “hide-and-seek” with treats or toys, your dog can expel pent-up mental and physical energy in a limited amount of time and space. This greatly reduces stress due to confinement, isolation, and/or boredom. For young, high-energy, and untrained dogs, interactive play also offers an opportunity for socialization and helps them learn about appropriate and inappropriate behavior with people and with other animals, like jumping up or being mouthy.