Why Dogs Love and Need Toys

It is no secret that dogs love toys. Some say they love their toys almost as much as children love candy, especially the kind that squeal and squeak. Dogs may not speak the same language as we humans, but that’s not to say they’re not capable of conveying their feelings. One of the ways they do this is through toys.

Toys Make Your Dog Happy

A dog playing with its toys is an indication that he’s happy and content, and it goes without saying that a happy dog makes you a happy owner.

As a person who’s close to his dog, you want to buy the best for your fuzzy companion. You want a toy to stop him from being bored and one that will keep him away from destructive habits. But the toys you get him must be tempered by what’s in his best interests, which sometimes isn’t the same thing as the toy he likes the most.

A case in point is how safe the toy is for play. Some toys can pose a choking hazard, or cause irritation when swallowed. Still, others – while quite safe – may encourage aggressive behavior from your dog, which can make him uncontrollable. Dog experts, therefore, caution against carelessly purchasing toys without taking into account the effect they have on your pet.

In order to identify what toy to buy for your dog, you need to, first of all, understand why they love their toys so much.

Here are the reasons why dogs love toys.

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Toys are fun

The number one reason why dogs adore toys is because they’re fun to have. There’s no doubt that if toys were no fun, dogs wouldn’t give them a second glance. Toys are a source of never-ending entertainment for dogs and their owners. They keep dogs occupied for hours on end and give them the chance to discover and play new games which is always exciting.

Playing with your dog should form a frequent part of both your lives. Play time improves the mood in the home and creates memories that live with you for a long time.

You can ensure your toys remain fun to play with by rotating them on a weekly basis, and making only a few available at any given time. If you’ve noticed a toy that’s a favorite with your dog, such as a comfort toy, you can leave it out for your dog to enjoy snuggling up to.

Your toys should also serve different purposes; for example, one may be for fetching, another for shaking, and another for comfort. Such toys give the dog more variety, which means he’s less likely to get bored with them within a short period of time.

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Toys facilitate playtime

Playing is important for dogs who build their skills naturally using toys as tools. Play is the natural way in which dogs practice growing up and in the process get a chance to exercise their bodies through running, walking and sitting up.

Dog toys encourage dogs to use their imaginations. The mind of the dog becomes active during play helping the dog understand things quickly. For example, dogs are not born knowing how to hunt for their food. They learn this by chewing on toys during play time.

Dogs gain self-confidence as they play with toys. As they run and fetch a ball or Frisbee that’s been thrown far away, they get a pat or treat by their owner as a sign of appreciation and recognition for a job well done. Such a simple act boosts their morale and gives them a sense of power.

While the dog is playing, the owner can engage him in various games as one way of focusing the pet’s interest in a particular toy. Some common games that are loved by dogs include a game of tug-of-war and “fetch”.

When buying dog toys, pet owners should look out for toys that are useful in the physical development of their dog pets. They should also go for toys that promote sensory growth and brain development.

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Toys help build skills

Playtime provides a great opportunity to teach your dog useful skills. The best part is it’s a fun and effective way of training.

Jen Gabbard, a pet lover recommends using these 4 ways when playing to reinforce good behavior in your dog and increase his skills set.

  1. Use a game of tug to help your dog increase his impulse control. You achieve this by stopping the game whenever their teeth get too close to your hand, or when they become overexcited during the game. By stopping the game you teach them that unruly behavior has consequences and, with time, they’ll catch on and start following the rules.
  2. Teach them how to “drop it” in a game of fetch. Some dogs run around like a mad man once they’ve fetched the ball, rather than returning it to you. You can teach them the importance of playing by the rules by stopping the game whenever this happens. When they do deliver the stick or ball to you, make sure you praise them profusely to reinforce this behavior. Alternatively, you can have an extra toy or treat in your hand which you use to keep the game interesting.
  3. Help them hone their natural scent abilities. You may be surprised to learn that despite having excellent noses for smelling, dogs don’t always rely on scent cues. Like humans, they fall back on visual cues. However, you can help them sharpen their nose work using the 3 cup game. Here’s what you do: you place 3 cups before your dog and place a treat under one of them. You then tell them to “find it”.  When they gesture to the correct cup, make sure you praise them abundantly and repeat the sequence.

Using the 3 cups game you can help your dog learn impulse control by encouraging them to signal gently at the cup rather than grabbing it with their mouth or knocking it over.

  1. A mental exercise can really wear a dog out so it’s a good exercise for honing their mental skills and keeping them calm. Puzzles go hand in hand with treats; whenever your pet moves the correct piece of the puzzle, you reward him by giving him a treat. Jen recommends “find the treat” games because “they keep Laika (her dog) busier for longer, and they’re a nice way to slow down her eating.”

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Toys are good for fighting boredom and preventing destructive behavior

Dogs know that toys are one of the few items that they can carry to the house without being reprimanded. If your dog does not have toys to play with, chances are that they will get bored. Once your dog gets bored, he’ll turn to another activity to keep him entertained.

If your dog is constantly chewing or digging, these are signs of boredom. Just like humans, dogs need to be kept busy with some form of physical or mental activity to keep them away from destructive behavior. Experts, therefore, encourage lots of play to stimulate both their physical and mental capabilities.

You, therefore, need to incorporate playtime with your dog in your schedule to help him expend any pent up energy he has inside him. Try interactive games like hide and seek, or a game of Frisbee at the park to combat laziness, which can lead to complications like poor health for your dog.

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Toys keep your dog company while you’re away

Being away can deal a great blow to your dog and sometimes this can lead to him acting out in one way or other to release his pent up emotions. Jana Randall recommends preparing well for times when you have to be away so as to make the separation easier. She suggests you do the following:

  • Plan the time you leave carefully so as prepare you dog mentally for your departure- don’t overdo the goodbyes
  • “Jazz him up” by playing his favorite game to channel his energy, so that when you’re leaving it’s not such a big deal
  • Exercise together
  • Leave something behind to remind him of you. This can be a comfort toy that he can snuggle up to in his favorite spot until you’re back

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Friendship between the dog and its owner

Toys are not mere playthings as some people may think. Dog toys form the building blocks for a successful friendship between dogs and their owners. The simple act of giving your dog a toy as a present shows the dog that you care about him. Apart from this, paying attention to your dog and talking to him while he’s playing, or participating in the game is a sure way of creating fun for both of you.  Such interaction during playtime helps nurture a close companionship between the two of you. No wonder some theorists believe that dogs can sense the emotions of their owners.

Do you have a strong bond with your dog? Victoria Schade, a certified pet dog trainer suggests you look for the following clues to gauge how strong your bond is:

  • Your dog checks in with you whenever you take a walk, acknowledging your presence.
  • Your dog greets you when you come home from work – mostly by wagging his tail or capering around you
  • Your strolls with your dog are fun times not games of tug and war

When you know what interests or motivates your dog it increases the bond between you. Playing games like catch, chasing each other, or occasionally giving him a treat for good behavior is a good way of reinforcing your relationship with your dog.

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Pet products that can help dogs have fun

Dog toys may include just about anything that dogs find interesting enough to focus their attention on. Even simple items like twigs and pieces of cardboard boxes fall into the category of dog toys. What counts is that your dog has fun while playing with the item. Alternatively, you can also spoil your dog by buying a dynamic, interactive and super durable toy for him as a reward if his behavior has been exceptionally good.

It is not surprising to find some dog owners going for toys that are cheap. While this can prevent you from spending some extra bucks, it may also end up costing you a small fortune in medical bills should your dog have a nasty experience like chewing the toy to pieces in minutes causing a choking hazard or poisoning from the wrong kind of toy. Of course, this is not to say that all expensive toys are good or that all cheap toys are bad; the point is that as a dog owner, you have to be prudent when purchasing a toy, making sure you read the label carefully before committing to purchase it. For example, make sure the label specifies non-toxic.

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Selecting the right toy

Selecting the right toy can also be made tricky by the fact that different dogs have different preferences. It’s a little like shopping for a little girl’s doll. She may love it and make it her favorite doll or she may discard it the moment she lays hands on it. The bottom line is you should be careful what you spend your money on to avoid the disappointment of buying a toy which simply doesn’t do the trick for your canine. This may be a matter of trial and error.

If you want to learn what his toy preferences are, dog experts recommend paying close attention to your dog’s behavior while he’s playing. What one dog may like another may not; while some dogs prefer playing with solid plastic items, others may prefer hollow toys with a squeak or fluffy, plush ones. Armed with such information, eventually you’ll be able to buy toys for them with confidence, without worrying too much that they’ll reject their new toy.

An interesting study conducted by researchers revealed that most dogs love toys that have a short lifespan- that is – toys that can be torn apart quickly. In fact some dogs make it their primary purpose to destroy their new toy as if this was the entire purpose! This is attributed to the fact that dogs expect a reaction from toys when they engage with them. It is for this reason that dogs adore toys that make squeaky sounds. Since these toys are typically hollow, they may not last very long with aggressive chewers who particularly enjoy the challenge of destroying them ☺

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Some of the toy products you can get for your dog include:

Kong

Kong is a good toy for big dogs. It is a treat ball manufactured using hard rubber material which is safe for your dog. In addition to this, the material is quite durable, though not as indestructible as the hardest wearing new Thermoplastic Rubber composites you can find on this site. Their Frisbee product operates on the theory that dogs love to work for their treat. With this in mind, some Kong toys are filled with small treats inside a maze. Once the maze is completely full, it is hard for the food to come out. The dog has to roll it several times before the food comes out.

Kong serves the purpose of keeping the dog occupied especially when you’re not at home or when you’re busy. It also keeps your dog entertained and allows him to play and exercise on his own. Aggressive chewers can work their teeth on the toy but it will remain virtually indestructible to many more aggressive chewers.

Zogoflex is an example of a treat toy that dog owners can reward their pets with. It has an inner lip for hiding treats which adds to the fun and challenge. You do not have to fret about the health risks since it can easily be washed. Moreover, it is recyclable, making it environmentally friendly as well.

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Stuffed animals

For dogs, stuffed animals are fun to play with. Dogs often chew on the fluffy animals, toss them around and sleep with them. The best part about the toys is that they come in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes, which makes them even more fun for the dog. Because of the tendency for some dogs to rip apart such toys, many such plush toys are now made without the stuffing so your furry friend doesn’t leave a trail of stuffing destruction over your carpet!

To make it livelier, manufacturers place a squeaker or squealer inside the stuffed toy, which attracts the dog; since he associates the squeaking sound with a wounded or weak animal. Dogs view stuffed animal toys as living animals, which they hunt down and kill when responding to their base instincts. Only after the noises disappear do dogs see the ‘animal’ as dead. Games with squeaky toys are therefore good for sharpening your dog’s hunting instincts.

Dogs find it fun to have stuffed toys in their doggy beds. Comfort toys are calming and really soothing especially if the dog is in new surroundings. Games that the dog owner can play with his or her dog using a stuffed animal include “catch and carry” or one for hunting and killing. The best part is that stuffed animals are normally safety compliant meaning you need not worry unnecessarily over your dog’s health when you leave them with the toy.

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Frisbee Disk

It is fun to watch your dog play but it is even more fun when you play together. Throwing the disk and watching your dog jump to catch it is as exciting and entertaining as it can be.  Frisbee disks are designed as an interactive training tool to make your dog even more active than simply walking alongside you. They allow you a little more rest while they help dogs stay in tip-top shape. After all, most dogs are full of beans and like to be more active than their owners.

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Rope toys

Rope toys are made in different lengths and are used in the game of tug-of-war. The ends of the rope are twisted and can be tied in a knot making it easy for pups to chew on. Since most dogs like to place things in their mouths as one way of having fun, rope toys with twisted edges are good for such activity. They ought to be soft enough for easy chewing yet, at the same time, be durable enough so they don’t disintegrate into small pieces that your dog could choke on. As a dog owner, you ought to be extra careful not to turn fun into a nightmare.

Puppies chew to soothe gums and loosen puppy teeth. Chewing for dogs eases tension and helps their gums and jaw muscles to be strong. Dogs also find chewing entertaining and a nice way to pass time without causing trouble. By chewing on rope toys, dogs feel content with themselves.

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Balls

Balls that can be used as toys for dogs include squeaker balls, rubber balls, foam balls and plush balls. While some of these balls glow in the dark, others float, making them more pleasant to play with. These products are a great way to keep your dog constantly engaged. Dog owners can engage their companions in a fun game of fetch to improve their relationship.

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Safety compliance

Before you buy dog toys, you should consider if they’re likely to pose a hazard to your dog. A toy can be a safety risk depending on the size, level of activity and preferences of your dog. The Humane Society of America points out that often the very things that attract your dog are the same ones that are pose a threat to his wellbeing. To counter this you need to dog-proof your house by removing strings, rubber bands, ribbon, kids’ toys, pantyhose and any other item that can be swallowed.

You should also get the appropriate toy size for your dog, as toys that are too small can easily get swallowed, or become stuck down the throat. When playing with smaller squeaky toys, your dog runs the risk of ingesting the toy and you should make a point of supervising this type of play. Larger squeaky toys pose less risk though are still susceptible to being torn apart by an aggressive chewer intent on doing so.

Toys which break into pieces or are torn, and that can be chewed off or swallowed should be mended to make them dog-proof or discarded altogether. You should check the label to see if it says “safe for children under 3 years”, and make sure they don’t contain fillings that are dangerous – these include polystyrene beads, nut shells, and even “safe” stuffing which isn’t really digestible.

As for rawhide chew toys, you should check with your vet on which ones are safe and suitable for your dog. Only let your dog play with them when you’re supervising as they too can pose choking hazards.

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