Keep Your Dog Entertained with Toys, Treats
Animals in zoos have a variety of activities to keep them occupied and interested throughout the day and night. Pets need this kind of stimulation too, especially dogs. Unfortunately, many dogs spend their days in home environments that can be lonely and lack stimulation.
Their instincts are to hunt, explore, play or socialize and lack of stimulation can lead to feelings of confinement, boredom and stress. They often relieve this stress by exhibiting destructive behavior. However, toys can help dogs alleviate this stress and reduce the likelihood of destructive behaviors such as digging and chewing. If toys are not provided, some dogs will resort to chewing whatever items are available. That might include your new shoes, a favorite book or the couch!
Keep your dog content with these sugggested toys and treats. Remember to only leave toys that you've observed your dog with and are comfortable leaving with him. Never leave your dog alone and unsupervised with a new toy or chew.
To begin selecting the right toy for your dog, it's helpful to look at toys in two ways - playing and chewing. Playing toys can be interactive items that you and your dog play with, or solo items that are to be played with under the supervision of a Pet Parent. Chewing toys come in basic and extra strength consistencies and are designed to satisfy a dog's instinctive need to chew.
The right size toy or rawhide chew
Toys that are the right size for a puppy might be too small by the time he's full-grown! Provide bigger toys as your dog grows. Select toys and rawhide that are big enough so that they can't be swallowed or become lodged in a dog's throat or mouth.
Variety is the spice of your dog's life!
Dogs need a variety of playing and chewing toys to keep them entertained. One or two toys just aren't enough to alleviate boredom. Make only four or five toys available at a time and rotate different toys weekly to keep a dog's interest. However, don't take away a toy that your dog has become strongly attached to.
Is your dog a "chewer"?
Aggressive chewers will tear toys apart, resulting in parts that can get lodged in the mouth or throat and even kill a pet if swallowed. Aggressive chewers should have only durable, hard rubber or nylon toys. Semi-aggressive chewers may not tear toys apart, but will chew enough to cause wear on a toy. Toys made of canvas or rope are softer yet won't come apart easily, making them ideal for semi-aggressive chewers. Non-aggressive or very light chewers are less destructive and can have plush, vinyl or latex toys.
When giving your pet a new toy, observe how he interacts with it. If he is destructive with it, take it away. The toy could come apart, and he could swallow the pieces, creating a choking hazard. Instead, purchase a toy that is harder and more durable.
Extra strength - Rubber and nylon toys are great for more aggressive chewers and dogs with strong chewing instincts. These toys are durable and some come with a hole in them, which adds interest for the dog when a treat or some other material is inserted into the hole. They are also designed for "hard chewers", so they won't chip, break, tear or pop. Your dog will think it's a new toy every time!
Basic strength - Made with either nylon or cotton rope material, rope toys are perfect for semi-aggressive chewers and have the added benefit of providing a flossing action that helps with dental care. A favorite among dogs that love to play tug of war, the cotton fibers of the rope clean teeth and massage gums as dogs play. These types of toys are machine washable but should be replaced when frayed.
Solo toys - Good for non-aggressive or very light chewers,vinyl and latex toys are solo playing toys that come in all shapes and colors, including seasonal themes. Many also make a fun, squeaking noise that adds interest for your dog. Latex toys are especially good for puppies and senior dogs because the latex is easy on their teeth and gums. Most of these toys measure from 5 to 7 inches.
Other types of solo playing toys are those made of plush or fleece. Due to their soft construction,these toys can be easily torn and should only be used under the supervision of a Pet Parent. Filled with stuffing (and sometimes a "squeaker"), these are not for aggressive chewers but more for dogs that like to carry and cuddle toys. If there are any tears in the toy, discard it and replace it with a new one.
If you're looking for a solo toy that's easy to clean, try a canvas or cloth toy. Toys made with canvas and other materials are washable and quite durable for even semi-aggressive chewers. Dogs love the "mouth feel" of a cloth toy and many of the easy-to-fetch styles have an internal "squeaker" to add an extra element of interest for your pet. Primarily for "light" chewers, these toys are for solo play and are not intended for use as a chew toy.
Interactive toys are designed for play with you and your pet, and are not to be used as chew toys. Some of the more popular interactive toys are flying discs and balls. These toys should be used in large, open spaces where your dog can expend a lot of energy and indulge in its natural instinct to jump. A simple game of catch-and-retrieve provides great exercise for both you and your dog. Plus, it's an excellent way to bond with your pet while reinforcing positive behavior. Just be sure to only use flying discs or balls that are specifically designed for play with dogs.
Using treats to reward and pacify your dog
There are many different kinds of treats you can give your dog. PetSmart recommends certain types of treats to address specific dog needs. For example, rawhide and natural treats are a great way to satisfy your dog's natural instinct to chew while helping to remove plaque and tartar. You'll want thicker rawhide for an aggressive chewer and softer types of rawhide for puppies and older dogs. Soft and chewy snacks are a great way to make you your dog's best friend because they come in a number of textures and flavors almost all dogs love. This also makes them ideal for training rewards, too. Finally, there's the old reliable dog biscuit. Dogs love the taste of these baked treats, and biscuits also help remove plaque and tartar from your dog's teeth.
You've got fun dog treats and toys in your home right now!
Consider leaving on a radio or TV for your dog when you leave home. Your pet may find the background noise soothing in your absence. There are even "pet videos" available that run in a continuous loop in your VCR. Just think, your dog could end up watching more TV than you do!