Playing with toys is important to your dog’s well-being and happiness. To guard against accidental injury, follow these six toy safety tips.
1) Think about the toy’s size
Look at the size of the toy versus the size of your dog’s mouth. Can he fit the toy completely inside his mouth, making it a choking hazard? Or is the toy so large that your dog strains his jaws to try to get hold of it? Keep in mind, if a dog bites hard on a toy, such as a tennis ball, it will flatten down, which means he could get it inside his mouth. The danger is that the toy may then return to the original size in his mouth.
2) Look at what the toy is made of
Choosing the safest toy for your dog depends on a few factors, including his personal chewing style, your quality control criteria, and whether or not the toy has any moving parts that might easily be chewed off. Plush toys are great for interactive play such as fetch, “find it”, and tug. When your dog is left alone with these toys, however, they can be quickly chewed apart, leading to the ingestion of squeakers and batting, and an emergency vet visit. Rubber toys tend to be more durable and are a safer option for your dog if he’s unsupervised. Again, this will depend a lot on the size of the toy and your dog’s chewing style.
3) Determine if the toy is too hard
The toughness of a toy does not equate to safety. It’s best to look for a toy that has some give when your dog bites down on it.
4) Consider a toy you can fill with snacks or food
Allowing your dog to work for his food is mentally challenging and a great way to keep him occupied. Some toys are designed to be filled and then frozen, while others are intended for dry food or treats.
Again, be sure to pair the toy size with the size of your dog’s mouth. Pay close attention to puzzle toys to ensure your dog can’t remove any pieces and ingest them. And double check that your dog isn’t eating bits of rubber if he’s chewing on a frozen snack toy.
5) Buy toys from reputable sources
You may want to purchase toys that are made in Canada or the US, and that’s great. However, it’s important to know that the term “made in” simply means the toy and all its parts were assembled in that country. All the raw materials used for the toy could have been sourced from other countries where health and safety standards aren’t as high as they are here. If you want to be sure, contact the manufacturer and ask where the raw materials are sourced.
6) Know when it’s time to toss a toy away
Buying high quality dog toys costs more, but they’ll last longer and be less likely to fall apart or cause an injury requiring veterinary attention. Even with the best quality toys, however, the day will come when it’s time to throw them out and replace them. If you see excessive wear and tear on your dog’s toy, or there are bits coming off, it’s best to get rid of it.
Tonya Wilhelm is a dog training and cat care specialist who has traveled the US promoting positive ways of preventing and managing behavior issues with a holistic approach. Named one of the top ten dog trainers in the US, she has helped thousands build happy relationships with their dogs using humane, positive training methods. She wrote Proactive Puppy Care and other books. Tonya offers group and private dog training classes, provides training and behavior services via phone and online, and does workshops at pet expos. raisingyourpetsnaturally.com