Dog friendly toys
Dog friendly toys are a great way to entertain your dog and keep them happily occupied. Dogs have a need to play as a form of learning and also, as relaxation. Chewing is a must-have life need for a dog as it relieves stress and promotes good dental hygiene. Many dogs love a good chew on something and, in the absence of something appropriate to satisfy them, will inevitably find something else to make short work of.
What can I give my dog to chew?
So, what are good things to chew? Some people might ask, ‘What’s wrong with a stick? Dogs have been chewing sticks for centuries!’ and it’s true – most dogs like chasing, retrieving, and chewing a stick. But sadly, as any vet will tell you, sticks can be really dangerous for your dog. A dog won’t stop and think ‘Hmmm, I really should balance this enormous stick carefully in my mouth before I charge off after that pesky squirrel…’ and if one end of that stick catches on the ground or in a gatepost, it can cause considerable damage to your dog’s mouth. Sticks can also have sharp edges and may splinter and cut into your dog’s soft mouth. Worse still, if any splinters are swallowed down, they may cause life-threatening injuries to your dog’s insides.
So, with that in mind, we need to make sure we find dog friendly toys to occupy and entertain our four-legged friends that are ‘safer than sticks’!
Firstly, here’s a quick check list which you might find helpful to determine whether the toy truly is dog-friendly. Ask yourself if the toy is:
- Designed specifically for dogs?
- The right size for your dog?
- Damaged or has it got any sharp edges?
- Non-toxic or stuffed or filled with anything toxic?
- Designed to suit the play activity?
Fortunately, dog friendly toys are plentiful and come in all shapes and sizes, with squeaks and without, plastic and fabric… the choice is huge. They all serve different purposes but it’s essential that we make absolutely sure each toy is actually designed for a dog and thus, that it’s safe for your dog. Even a small dog has a powerful bite and children’s toys just won’t withstand the pressure.
Toys for accompanied play
Dogs love to chase and retrieve something when out on a walk and there are lots of different toys to satisfy them.
The first and most obvious choice is the ever-popular ball and it’s very important to check that it’s the right size for your dog’s mouth. If your dog can close his or her mouth around the ball, they could then swallow it – especially if it’s slippery! On the flip side, if your dog can’t hold it in their mouth, it’s obviously too large and they’ll get frustrated.
Tennis balls remain a popular choice but we’ve got to admit that we’re not fans of regular tennis balls here at Dogs for Good. It’s easy for them to become really slippery and then swallowed/caught in the back of a dog’s throat and this can obviously have very serious and sometimes fatal consequences. However, they remain a popular choice for large and medium sized dogs and happily, it’s now possible to get larger sized tennis balls which are a much safer option – as well as smaller ones for smaller breeds, too.
Keep a plentiful supply of balls ready so that when one starts to degrade you’ve got a new one ready for action! Also, make sure you store them out of reach and never leave them out when your dog is unsupervised; if your dog is a chewer, he or she may end up damaging their teeth and of course, if any bits are swallowed, it can be very dangerous.
Some balls come with a rope attached which is handy for you to hold onto, great for throwing and also, importantly, for getting the ball out of your dog’s mouth, in case it becomes lodged. You can also use balls that have gaps in them or have been designed to allow air in.
Firmer balls made of a softer rubber come in different sizes and can be more resilient and ‘Chuck-It’ balls are immensely popular, durable and safe. In addition, they will usually float and also have a pleasing bounce to them which most dogs love. Obviously, it’s best not to bounce the ball too high… remember, what goes up must come down and a dog that jumps high for a ball could also twist their body in mid-air, land badly and hurt themselves.
‘Jolly’ balls are slightly misshapen balls made of rubber that come in different sizes and give a good, unpredictable bounce which will keep your dog happy.
Another thing to consider when throwing a ball for your dog is to throw it away from him or her. If you throw it towards them, it’s more likely that they’ll jump up to get it. Also, throwing the ball away from them means it’s got more chance of bouncing and keeping low to the ground before your dog catches it up.
It’s always best to avoid hard, rigid balls with as they can shatter or cause damage to your dog’s teeth if caught it at speed.
As well as balls, there are rubber or plastic throw sticks available, as well as some heavier plush toys and, of course, the ‘discs of doggy delight’ – frisbees! Most pet stores offer specially-designed dog frisbees with soft edges that don’t crack or splinter which are a far more dog-safe option than those designed for children. And because they catch and rise in the air, it’s really important not to throw them too high and save your dog from injuring themselves as they jump up to catch.
Other interactive dog friendly toys include tug ropes and rubber versions of a similar design and also, flirt poles. The latter are like over-sized cat toys, comprising a long pole attached to a rope which has a lure at the end for the dog to chase.
Toys for solitary play
When left alone with a toy, many dogs will want to chew it to the point of destruction so keep a careful eye out and regularly check that the toy is still safe and hasn’t got bits missing that your dog could inhale or swallow. This is particularly important when dogs are given a toy and then left alone.
Interactive dog friendly toys
Like us, dogs have a real need for mental stimulation and enrichment and an interactive toy can deliver these things really well. Interactive toys are often paired with food, so that dogs earn a food reward through play and there are many different toy suppliers and manufacturers offering a great range to choose from.
Other dog friendly toys include resilient rubber chew toys and snuffle mats which are made of knotted fabric and you can hide food rewards between each strand. We also like ‘licky mats’ which have a raised patterned surface. A paste or other suitable substance can be spread across the surface and we guarantee that any dog will enjoy licking the surface to get to all yummy stuff contained within!
Kongs are also properly designed for all kinds of dogs and are universally recognised as being safe, durable and fit for purpose. They can be stuffed with a food reward such as kibble, paste, or frozen yoghurt and can keep a dog focused and occupied for a long time. They come in a wide variety shapes and sizes to cater for every size of dog and also offer different levels of resilience to allow for the variety of power different dogs can exercise during chewing. Some bounce like a rugby ball, while others topple or run along the ground which means your dog will have to work to get the reward.
Dog friendly soft toys
Many dogs like to have their own soft, cuddly toy. Some dogs will carry them around for months without damaging them, while others simply won’t rest until the squeaker inside has been exposed and dealt with, leaving a trail of nylon wadding across the floor… Extra care should be taken when leaving a dog with a soft toy when they’re unsupervised or crated.
It’s important that soft toys are free from:
- plastic eyes
In addition, they should be puncture-proof. They also tend to get a bit whiffy so will need regular washing and thorough drying before being given back to your dog to minimize the risk of mould or fungi.
Whatever the toy, make sure you check it regularly to ensure they’re still fit for purpose and get rid of any damaged ones.
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