Your dog's safety is entirely in your hands
On this page we highlight some of the ways toys will impact your dog's health. Within this website, under the Types of Toys pages, we also discuss the pros and cons for the many toys available and how they may be used in varius training scenarios. Our goal is to make you the consumer more informed.
Recognizing dog appropriate toys
The dark side of toys.
Your goal is to ensure all of your dog's toys have a positive impact on their health.
It goes without saying, dogs love to chew. That's a given. It's up to you to make sure that what they chew on is safe. From the very start, puppies explore their environment using their mouth. Nursing puppies are soothed by the licking, grooming and contact of their mother. However, once they are weened, they're on their own to relax and cope with stressful situations. For most dogs, a significant outlet is chewing. Chewing is a means to get out their frustations and relax.
As gate keeper to all new toys that arrive for your dog, its up to you to inspect them and understand the use and limitations of different types of toys.
Probably the most useful advice one can give is know your dog. Observe how they chew on different types of toys. No two dogs chew on toys the same way.
For many dogs, what goes in the mouth is meant to be swallowed. Its important to recognize this and be sure that small objects that could be swallowed are not left on the floor or in reach.
Recognizing dog appropriate toys
Stuffed toys often have small ears or limbs or other items that are easily chewed off. Its always the pieces that stick out or dangle that get our dog's attention and are the first to be chewed off. Beware of attached eyeballs or other decorations that are often sewn on and can easily be removed and swallowed. The culprit is often because many stuffed toys that are not intended for dogs, still end up as a dog toy. A best practice is only give your dog plush chew toys that were meant for dogs.
In some households, the danger is not so much the dog toys themselves, its all the other items left in our dog's reach that end up being swallowed. The best practice is to confine your dog to areas of the house that are kept picked up.
Many small items when swallowed pass through the trachea without becoming a choking hazard only to become a problem in the digestive tract. Bowel obstruction is a common condition that every veterinarian encounters. In a study conducted by a group of German Veterinarians, the highest incidence of foreign body obstruction was in dogs under 2 years of age. Veterinarians report, bones and rawhides are the most common items found when treating gastrointestinal obstructions. If not treated, the condition is life threatening.
Today, the pet store shelves are full of rope toys. These are toys that are composed of a braided rope either entirely or in part. Many of these toys are intended for chewing with the promise that doing so will help floss your dog's teeth. There is a great deal of discussion over whether flossing is actually accomplished. Regardless, its important to keep an eye on how your dog chews on ropes. If your dog goes at it with zeal and shreds it in short order he may be swallowing a significant amount of strings which can be dangerous. For additional guidelines, see the discussion under Ropes & Tugs.
Prevention is the safest course of action. Be sure to provide your dog with safe toys to chew on and always supervise. As the chew toy is chewed down or shredded, remove it before it can be swallowed.
People often ask, "Is chewing healthy for my dog?" The best answer is probably a qualified yes. Dogs chew to relax.
Its not uncommon for dogs to be given a bone to chew on because its believed it helps clean their teeth. Its also not uncommon for dogs chewing on bones to fracture their teeth. To make matters worse, its not unusual for dogs with a fractured tooth to appear perfectly normal. Its only when further complications arise that the fracture is identified.
The enamel on the dog's tooth is actually half as thick as the enamel on a human's tooth. Dog's teeth are not harder and yet many dog's can produce far more chewing force than a human jaw. Therefore, breaking a tooth while chewing on a very dense bone is easier than one might think. Our pages on Hard Natural Chews and Synthetic & Rubber Chews have extensive discussions on the various types of hard chew toys and how to best match them to your dog's chewing style.
So the question is, can toys actually play a positive role in the oral health of your dogs? The answer is yes, but supervision is the key. It turns out, tooth decay in dogs is so similar to tooth decay in humans, that they are the research model for tooth decay. Proper oral hygiene is critical for your dog's overall health. There are toys that can help.
Its not always possible to know or determine the composition of a particular chew toy. Often times checking the country of origin is a good starting point but not necessarily a true indicator. Public awareness for toxic chemicals in the manufacturing of synthetic chew toys has eliminated them from toys made in the USA and Europe but this is not necessarily true in other parts of the world.
Many of the chew toys on the market today are meant to be slowly consumed. Anyone who has shopped in a large pet store recently is aware of the multitude of consumable chew toys available today. These chewables run the gamut from dried, boiled or smoked body parts from any number of animals to molded items composed of protein and starch to flavored synthetic objects made to look like natural animal parts.
Consumer awareness is your best bet. Many of these types of consumable chew toys will be reviewed on this website in the near future in an effort to educate our readers on which are the most safe and which to avoid.
The bright side of toys.
Everyone with a dog companion has seen their immediate excitement when you pick up a certain toy to engage them. Dog's love to play and toys are the catalyst. Whether its a game of tug, a squeaker toy that has come to life or chasing after a thrown toy such as a ball or any other type of throwing toy, their enthusiasm for being in the moment is infectious.
Playing with toys can be a great way to supplement your dog's exercise program. Most trainer's will agree, exercising your dog is not only good for their overall health but its also a good stress reducer, builds the bonds between you and your dog and improves behavioral compliance. If your dog enjoys fetch, this is a great way to burn some calories. Balls are not the only toys that can be thrown and today. Now there are many types of toys that can be thrown and as long as it gets the attention of your dog it serves the purpose.
Exercise should be a regular part of every dog's schedule, however for some dog breeds its absolutely essential. Dogs within the working breeds need plenty of exercise. Lack of exercise in these dogs often reults in boredom which can lead to unpredictable behaviors. Many of these behaviors are difficult to correct and may require professional help.
Psychological well being
Mental stimulation of your dog can be acheived through the use of many types of toys. Even fetch is a mental activity when its combined with a review of commands such as sit, wait and come.
Puzzles and interactive games provide a mental challenge that has a reward in the end. See our discussion of the various puzzles and interactive toys available. For best results, you want to introduce your dog to the simple puzzles in the beginning to get the most fun from these toys. Starting off with a puzzle of high difficulty will only lead to frustration.
Age appropriate toys
There are physical changes that take place as a dog matures from a newborn puppy through adulthood and into their senior years. Exercise should be a vital part of each stage in development. However, the level and type of activity and the type of toys that are best suited will depend on the age.
Before puppies have been weaned, they have been learning to explore their environment with their mouth. Puppies want to chew on everything. So what are good choices for your puppy that may only be 8 weeks old? Good choices include size appropriate hard rubber and synthetic chew toys, thick rope toys and unstuffed plush toys.
Up until 12 - 16 weeks, your puppy still has all his puppy teeth and will go through a teething stage as he begins to loose them. Many of the hard rubber toys have ribs and nubs on the outside surface. These will stimulate the gums and encourage their puppy teeth to fall out when its time. Most toys can be frozen and this too helps the teething process. Try stuffing a treat toy and then freezing it. The thick ropes can also be soaked in water or beef juice and then frozen.
Once your puppies adult teeth have come in consider adding some of the hard nylon toys to their toy basket. At his point, the key to selecting the most appropriate chew toys is understanding your dog's chewing style. On our page, Hard Natural Chews we discuss how to match your dog's chewing style to the many different chew toys available.
Sign up for our FREE report.
"What Trainers Say About Using Toys During Training"
To receive a digital copy of our 15-page report, click on the eReport image above. The book covers some interesting applications of toys used by dog trainers to reinforce behaviors.
Your email address is totally secure and will only be used to send you the report.