Monday, March 9, 2009

Dogs and Toys

Do you spend time playing with your dog? Daily exercise and play time is important for a happy healthy dog. Do you wonder which toy might be your dog's favorite?

There are tons of dog toys. What type of dog toy does your dog prefer? Does your dog like to chew, tug, cuddle, fetch, or be creative with his toys? Is fluffy, rubbery, squeaky, bouncy, or ropey his preference? There are many options to consider when choosing a dog toy. It is important that the toy be safe, entertaining, and just right for your dog's personality.

Why Have Toys?

Aren't dog toys just an added expense and something else to pick up around the house? No, they are much more than that. Dog toys play a very important role in keeping a dog mentally and physically healthy.

Toys provide dogs with an outlet for excess energy and can prevent them from becoming bored or depressed. This outlet may also prevent them from chewing on or playing with other things such as the couch or the garbage. Dog toys can also challenge a dog's problem-solving skills, provide environmental enrichment, and alleviate separation anxiety.

Toys encourage play and exercise, which help keep a dog physically fit. Chew toys can also be helpful for oral health by reducing plaque and strengthening jaw muscles. Puppies can especially benefit from chew toys while teething.

Toy Safety

Safety comes first when choosing a dog toy. Be sure the toy is the appropriate size for your dog. Do not choose a toy that can be easily swallowed or become lodged in your dog's throat. Also, a large toy can be cumbersome to the small canine, and could potentially cause an injury. Durability is the other aspect of safety. Some dogs do fine with soft, fluffy toys or delicate, rubber toys. Others will destroy and eat them. This can result in a dangerous gastro-intestinal obstruction.

Be careful with toys that have removable parts. If you give your dog a stuffed animal to enjoy, cut off any pieces which could be easily chewed off, such as plastic eyes. Squeakers can also be dangerous. Before leaving your dog unsupervised with a squeaky toy, be sure he is not tempted to be destructive to get to the squeaker. This is true with any toy: supervise, supervise, supervise! 100% confidence in a toy's safety and your dog's behavior is crucial before leaving a dog alone with the toy.

Keep the toys relatively clean. Between drool and dirt, a toy can harvest a lot of bacteria. It is important to wash canine toys from time to time to keep your pooch healthy.

Chewing Dogs

Yes... Most dogs do enjoy chewing; it is a very natural habit. Provide the right outlet for this with the right toy.

Kong toys are good for destructive chewers. They are made of very durable materials that are difficult to destroy, and they are available in various sizes and weights. Rubber Kong toys are gentle on your dog's mouth and have a decreased risk of causing dental damage.

Nylabones are also good for chewers. They come in flavored and unflavored varieties. There are bones for light to aggressive chewers and small to large dogs.

Rawhides and Greenies are loved by many dogs and are great for cleaning teeth, but MUST be only given with supervision. Dogs should not attempt to swallow large pieces of these treats, as they can easily become stuck in the throat, stomach, or intestines.

Tugging Dogs

Rope toys and rubber pulls are designed for tug-of-war between dogs or between dog and owner. They are great for interactive play and bonding. Be cautious when playing tug-of-war with your pet that you are not bitten. It is also important that your dog knows the "drop it" command before playing tug-of-war so that you do not lose control and you can stop a problem if the dog becomes too aggressive with the toy. If two dogs are playing tug-of-war it is important that they are supervised and do not fight.

Cuddling Dogs

Stuffed animals are a cuddling dog's favorite. Of course, there are many varieties of animal, size, color, fabric, and even the noise they make. When choosing a stuffed animal for your pooch, it is best to get one designed for dogs, not children, because they have the least removable parts.

Fetching Dogs

There are many toys for playing fetch... rope toys, Kongs, tennis balls, stuffed animals... they all work great. However, there are some designed especially for fetch.

GoDogGo and Chuckit! are made to throw tennis balls long distances and wear your dog out, not you!

Creative Dogs

Treat balls make your dog think and work to get a snack. Load the ball with treats when you are leaving for work or when you are busy and can't entertain your needy canine, and he will be occupied by the challenge his toy presents. The ball must be rolled about for the treats to be dispensed from the openings. Your dog will be mentally stimulated, and he will be physically exercised.

Kong toys that are hollow on the inside are also great for treat stuffing. Peanut butter works especially well in Kongs; your dog will be entertained licking the sticky treat out of the toy. When he is done, the rubber Kong can be easily washed with soap and water.

The Joy of Toys

Even the most sophisticated dog has a fun, playful spirit. Just like all children need toys to entertain, enrich, and exercise their bodies and minds, so do dogs. Provide your furry child with multiple appropriate, safe toys. Rotate them; put some away and get different toys out each week so your pet doesn't get bored. Though toys are great to occupy your dog when you are busy, don't miss the opportunity to appreciate your dog's playful energy. Use the toys to bond with him, play with him, and laugh with him.

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