Your dog may go into a frenzy of excitement at the mere mention of 'ball' or 'stick' or 'toy'. But apart from all that waggy-tail and drooling enthusiasm, what's the point of dog toys?
Though bred mainly as companion animals, our canines still need to be entertained and engaged. And in the absence of any specific occupation, dogs tend to fulfil their boredom with chewing, barking and other unseemly ways.
Active play with a well-chosen doggy toy can reduce the chance of apathy and decrease the risk of attention-seeking and destructive habits.
In fact, not only are chew toys great for mental stimulation and behaviour modification but also help keep your pups teeth and gums healthy too.
Regular play results in a happy, healthy dog, and this means a healthy, happy dog owner, as well. So, let's break it down and take a look at what this really means and highlight some of the best and toughest toys out there.
Drain that excess energy
Playing with a suitable toy is a meaningful activity that can be equal to a decent walk. And doing both every day means you'll have one happy, calm(ish) pooch in your home.
Active dogs will also love a throwing and fetching toy. And if you have a lazy dog that needs encouragement to get them enthused about toys, a squeaky toy might do the trick. But those with a smart dog on their hand might want to consider an interactive toy.
If you have a power chewer, this nylon range from Rover Dog Products is the bomb! Lots of fun and ultra-durable, these toys are made mega strong and come in a one size fits all variety.
Develop an independent spirit
Instinctively, dogs are pack animals. This means they aren't super happy about extended periods alone. But as much as we'd like to, we can't always be with them 24/7. And a safe and suitable toy will ensure your pup is entertained when you're gone.
Knowing they can have fun without you being right there with them is excellent for building independence in your pooch. Confident dogs are also more likely to give you some space when you are home and need to get things done.
Toys can enhance your pup's ability to learn and develop new skills. It promotes their instinct for exploration and learning. The fact is, our dogs are pretty smart, and they love a challenge just as much as we do.
But not only that, doggy toys are a great tool to teach your pup to chill.
Bones, pig ears and other long-duration chew products promote relaxation and focused chewing. Dogs will lie down and concentrate on this activity for enormous portions of their day.
An interactive toy such as a food dispenser, like the magnum grenade reward toy, is a great idea. Fill it with food, which your pet has to figure out how to get to.
Favourite dog treats, peanut butter, frozen pumpkin or sweet potato are great options. Avoid dry food though, since this can end in frustration for your pooch.
For the fun of it!
Dogs love toys! Plural.
It's not that we're suggesting you spoil your dogs, but we think it's good to have half a dozen of playthings in various textures, size and shape to keep them interested.
Let your pup have a couple on the go all the time and rotate them often, so they always have something different to play with. Swapping out toys is the best way to keep them attractive to your pup.
Calm mind, calm body
Toys can be relaxing and help relieve all that puppy stress- it's a hard life, right? Playthings help your dog feel comfortable and safe, and having variety can help them decompress.
Having a choice of items is also an excellent way to stop your pooch obsessing over one item. This instinctive behaviour is appropriate in the wild but may lead to ongoing issues in the home. Of course, it's great that your dog loves their new toy so much, but possessive habits can cause serious problems. And while hiding and hoarding the things they love is perfectly normal, growling, snapping or biting is obviously not desirable for your dog or your family.
Get your dog to drop their precious plaything by offering another from behind your back. Give your pup a treat for this positive behaviour to encourage a more relaxed attitude to toy ownership.
Prevent problem behaviour
Though behaviours such as excessive barking are also connected to a dogs breed and your pup's history, a good chew toy can often help with these issues.
Habits, such as destroying your property, can also be avoided with a quality pet product. If not taken seriously during puppyhood, unwanted chewing can become an ongoing and stressful state for you and your pup.
In the absence of the constant stimulation they'd get surviving in the wild, dogs can become a little bored in the home. Toys can be an essential aspect of your pups mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
And choosing the right product depends on the breed and personality of your dog. Long-duration chews like the food reward toys can keep most dogs quiet, distracted and calm for a length of time.
The bottom line
The safety and integrity of a toy can change over time. So keep an eye on what your dog is playing with. A soft plaything, for instance, that your dog chewed as a puppy can become a choking hazard as your dog grows and uses their teeth more.
Supervise your dog with new, untested toys and track the dog's interaction with the object to ensure ongoing safety.
Some interactive toys are for both dog and owner, so supervision is a vital part of the activity. Things like balls and ropes should only be available to the dog when you're playing together. After the play session, hide those toys, so the dog looks forward to a play session with their human.
And be mindful of the type and shape of the items you give your doggy. If you allow them to play with socks or old shoes, for instance, they'll play with all shoes and socks. Dogs cannot differentiate between new and old.
If your pooch shows little interest in a new toy, instigate a play with them. Or try putting it amongst some of your personal items for a day or so; items that smell like us are more attractive to our pups. If this doesn't work, it may be the material or size of the toy that your dog doesn't like. But there are some fantastic, durable and fun products out there, perfect for every shape and size of dog.