Did you know that many behavioral problems in dogs are the result of boredom or excess energy? Not only do toys offer physical stimulation, they’re enriching for the mind! If your dog is digging, chewing on furniture, shoes, etc. the right toy might just be the ticket to a happy dog and a relaxed pet owner. There are different types of toys that each have their own benefits:
Interactive Toys (human participation)
· Fetch toys – Balls, disks, oddly shaped rubber toys (Kongs®) that bounce erratically (fun!). There are also some devices that throw the ball to increase the distance of the fetch.
· Rope toys – are good for tugging.
Distraction Toys (keep your dog busy):
· Food Delivery: It’s a puzzle! Designed to be used with kibble or small treats, the dog must manipulate the toy with his mouth and/or paws to get the food to fall out.
· Chew Toys: Hard rubber toys that are hollow with holes at both ends are good chew toys (and can be filled with kibble or treats. Dental chew toys are hard toys that the dog can gnaw on and safely ingest small particles. You should watch your dog to avoid ingestion of large pieces.
· Soft stuffed toys: For some dogs, the stuffed toy should be small enough to carry around. For dogs that want to shake or “kill” the toy, it should be the size of “prey”.
· Dirty laundry: Something that smells like you (like an old t-shirt) can help a dog with separation anxiety. You might not get it back… (or want it).
Make it fun and make it last!
· Rotate toys: Rotating toys out helps stave off boredom and can keep them usable longer! If your dog has a favorite comfort toy, however, you should probably leave it out all the time.
· Variety: Have different types of toys out. Puzzle, comfort, “kill”, etc.
· Play hide and seek: Dogs love finding stuff! An interactive game of finding toys or treats is a good rainy-day activity for your dog when you can’t let them run their energy out.
· Interactive play (you participate): Dogs need interactive “people time.” Interactive play helps expend pent-up mental and physical energy which reduces the stress associated with confinement, isolation and/or boredom. Interactive play is also helpful for young, untrained dogs as it teaches them socialization skills and appropriate behaviors (correcting mouthing, for example).
A special not about tug-of-war: This activity can cause some behavioral issues in dogs, if you find that yours has problems, abstain. However, if you set some rules, it can be a fun game for both of you!
· Choose a toy that will be reserved exclusively for this game. This help discourage your dog from just grabbing and tugging on anything in your hands.
· Teach these commands:
o “Let’s tug” begins the game. Never allow the dog to initiate tug on his own and always use your starting phrase when you begin the game.
o “Give” or “Out” ends the game. Teach your dog to release the toy by offering a treat or better toy in exchange.
Offering a variety of toys to your dog is beneficial in so many ways! Make sure to play with your dog often and please read “Dog toys: How to pick the best and safest” posted by the Humane Society for safety regarding toys.