If you take a trip to your local pet store you will see that there are an overwhelming number of different dog toys. Most dog owners will simply just get a selection of toys that look interesting or think their dog may like.
However, if you understand the three main categories of dog toy you can develop a strategy to use the various toys to:
develop your relationship,
teach important skills and behaviors
help to make your dog calm, balanced and happy.
The three categories are Chew Toys, Interactive Toys, and Plush Toys.
Let us take a look at each of these dog toy types and how you can implement them starting with:
These are designed to be chewed, punctured, gnawed on and beat up on on a regular basis. These should be available for your dog all the time. Some people may say that their dog isn’t interested in chew toys as they prefer their ball or stuffed toy. It is important to condition them to want to use this type of toy. The benefits are huge. You can achieve this by smearing a small amount of peanut butter or similar on the toy. Alternatively, you can encourage them by rewarding them for showing interest in the toy by way of treats, verbal encouragement or pats.
Chewing releases endorphins that calm your dog down and produce a feeling of contentment. A chew toy-trained dog is comfortable being alone and tends to stay out of trouble when unsupervised. They are less likely to chew items that they shouldn’t eg shoes, slippers or even your neighbor’s pet rabbit.
Also included in this category are dental chew toys and Kongs or similar toys that can be stuffed with food. Dental toys have ridges, knobs, and fins on them. They have the benefit of cleaning teeth, they massage gums and promote blood flow. In addition, you can put dog toothpaste on them for better cleaning and breath freshening. Never use human toothpaste as your dog obviously can’t rinse and will ingest the toothpaste which is not good. It is also important to check these regularly for damage to ensure that bits are not coming off that your dog may swallow or choke on. In fact, this is true for all chew toys and they should be disposed of if showing too much damage.
With the Kong or similar toys you stuff with food it is important to ensure you are not using junk quality foods. You can buy the paste and treats that go into these but generally, they are low-quality calories.
These type of toy don’t hold as much food as you would think, so I suggest selecting the toy you think is right for your dog and buying the next size up.
Your dog’s diet should not consist of more than 10% treats so it is a good idea to use there normal balanced diet for stuffing. If your dog eats dry kibble you can soak it in water, stuff into the toy and freeze until you want to give it to your dog. If you feed a raw diet simply stuff the toy with this food and again freeze until you are ready to give it to your dog. You can even use their regular food as training treats and save the special treats as a bonus reward.
Food stuffed toys are great to help speed up crate training. They keep your dog mentally stimulated making alone time more enjoyable and circumventing the destructive behavior associated with boredom and isolation distress. You can also tie a rope through the toy and hang from a tree to add another level of challenge.
Ultimately chew toys are great for funneling your dog’s energy into something and helps to cope with stress keeping them calm while not destroying things they shouldn’t.
View the range of chew toys on Amazon
Interactive toys are toys that have more interaction they just lying around and chewing. These toys are great for building your bond with your dog, providing mental stimulation and burning energy
In this category are included everything from balls, frisbees, tug toys and even puzzle type toys. These are best brought out when you want to initiate a play session with your dog. This way you decide what game to play and when. This way you can leverage the toy and activity as a training reward.
Rewards don’t always have to be treats and toys are a great way to phase out treats altogether. There are three main ways to reward your dog. Gifts such as treats or toys, verbal praise, and touch.
Touch is a very powerful reward as by rubbing your dog in certain areas such as under the chest between the front legs or where the ear joins the head you are stimulating a concentrated group of nerve endings. This produces endorphins such and dopamine (the reward chemical in the brain) and serotonin (the love chemical) which strengthens the dogs bond with you.
Many people may say you should never play tug with your dog but as long as they know how to release when you say and know the rules of the game it is fine. It also teaches your dog bite inhibition and soft mouth knowing not to bite your finger by accident while playing. Tug toys without squeakers are probably better as the sound can trigger high levels of arousal and may encourage your dog to destroy them to get to the squeaker.
Many dog owners buy their dogs plush toys and simply give them to their dog to destroy. This is not a good habit to encourage. Remember your shoes, slippers or the neighbor’s pet rabbit.
If your dog doesn’t destroy plush toys it is ok for them to have them all the time, otherwise, bring them out only when you can supervise your dog. These toys are a great opportunity again to teach soft mouth and how to be gentle.
You can start off with a game of tug or similar and them give them the plush toy rewarding them for being nice with the toy. If they start to get to rough take a five-minute break with the toy and continue with the interactive toy. Repeat the cycle until you get the desired result. It is not necessary to use treats as a reward in this situation as the reward is the activity and fun they are having with you.
By understanding the differences it will enable you to use each type of toy as a training tool to teach important skills, to provide mental stimulation for your dog and release energy and to help strengthen your dogs bond with you. I hope this guide has been of value to you and you may never see dog toys the same again.