How to choose the right toy for your dog

How to choose the right toy for your dog

Different dogs have different play styles. When buying a toy for your dog, think about the kind of play he enjoys most, and look for something that will satisfy that drive.

While most dogs today join our families as companion animals, they often retain the instinct to work the way their ancestors did. That’s why it’s important to keep your dog busy, both physically and mentally. Fortunately, playing with a toy can fill the void, and keep him from getting bored and anxious. To start, you need to determine how your dog likes to play.

What’s your dog’s play style?

Your dog’s play style can depend on several factors, including his breed. For example, dogs originally bred for hunting may prefer playing fetch over settling down with a puzzle toy. Other influential factors include his lifestyle, size, energy level, age and health. Here’s a breakdown of options to help you find the perfect plaything for your pooch.

Toys for the tugger

Dogs like terriers and bulldogs have a tendency to tug. If your dog enjoys the challenge that tugging offers, look for a heavy duty rope toy that won’t break under pressure. Fibrous materials like cotton and hemp are ideal. As with all toys, opt for high quality. It will pay off when you don’t have to replace the toy within a week.

Toys for the fetcher

Balls and discs are the classic choice for dogs like retrievers and terriers, who love to chase and fetch. Manual and automatic launchers are another great option if you have a dog that “just won’t quit”. Manual launchers are simple throwing devices that double the distance of a regular toss by catapulting the ball. With automatic devices, you just drop the ball into the machine, which then launches it. You can even teach your dog to drop the ball in himself!

Toys for the chewer

Many dogs – especially large breeds like Labrador retrievers and German shepherds – love chewing. Look for an eco-friendly product that’s less likely to contain toxic materials that can harm your dog if accidentally ingested. Of course, you should always take toys away once they’re damaged; this is especially true if there’s a squeaker. Rubber toys are great options for chewers, as they’re made to withstand excessive chomping. You can also stuff some of the vessel-style toys with a healthy snack to keep your dog busier longer.

Extend the lifespan of your dog’s toys and prevent boredom by rotating them. Stash a few toys away and bring them out once he starts to lose interest in his current ones.

Toys for the worker

Many breeds, like Border Collies, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Huskies, like to keep their minds as well as their bodies occupied. For canine workaholics, look for interactive toys that offer a goal to work towards. Again, vessel-style toys are great for this because they can be stuffed with treats as a way to challenge the dog. Try foods such as natural peanut butter and dehydrated sweet potato. Puzzle toys are another effective way to exercise your dog’s mental faculties. They encourage dogs to work for their meals by performing a series of tasks to access the food. Puzzle toys test your dog’s memory, sharpen his recall skills and can keep him occupied for hours.

If your dog spends a lot of time alone, interactive robotic toys can be programmed to keep him busy until you return. Some dispense treats, while others move around to stimulate your dog’s senses and encourage him to keep playing.

When it’s time to crash — toys for the cuddler

Like children, a lot of dogs take comfort in sleeping and snuggling with their playthings. If your dog matches this description, look for plush toys he can take to bed. If he has a tendency to chew, however, monitor him during naptime to ensure he doesn’t decide to destroy his toy upon waking up. If you have to leave him alone, opt for a more solid, non-destructible toy. It might not be as nice to cuddle with, but like a security blanket, its presence can improve your dog’s sleep by offering him a sense of familiarity.

Good quality dog toys can….

  • improve mental health and development
  • help with training
  • teach your dog how to be independent
  • stimulate his natural instincts
  • clean his teeth and gums
  • increase physical activity
  • deepen your mutual bond
  • prevent boredom
  • offer comfort
  • relieve stress and anxiety.
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Emily Watson is a staff writer for Animal Wellness Magazine and Canadian Dogs Annual. She is a certified yoga and medical Qi Gong instructor and has been writing — creatively and otherwise — for ten years. Off the mat and away from the keyboard, Emily can be found hiking, camping and travelling with her wife and fur babies.