Dog Toys and How to Use Them | Winnipeg Humane Society
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Dog Toys and How to Use Them

Filling your dog’s toy box with safe and appreciated toys can take some trial and error. Consider your dog’s size and activity when choosing appropriate toys. Some dogs are safe with soft stuffed toys while others will destroy them and consume the parts within minutes.

We are providing the information below as guidelines. Each dog is an individual and your knowledge of his behaviour and preferences are an important aspect to your choice of safe toys for your dog.

Be cautious

Dogs can be attracted to objects that are dangerous to them. Remember, EVERYTHING is a chew toy to a dog. Just as you should childproof your home by restricting access to dangerous objects, you should do the same for your dog. Puppies can find electrical cords, string/ribbon, pantyhose, and children’s toys engaging. These things are dangerous if chewed or ingested.

  • Toys should be appropriate for your dog’s current size. Balls and other toys that are too small canbe swallowed or become lodged in your dog’s mouth or throat.
  • Avoid or alter any toys that aren’t “dog-proof” by removing ribbons, strings, eyes or other parts that could be chewed and/or ingested. Avoid any toy that starts to break into pieces or have pieces torn off.
  • Ask your veterinarian which rawhide toys are safe and which aren’t. Unless your veterinarian says otherwise, “chewies” like hooves, pig’s ears and rawhides, should be supervision-only goodies. Very hard rubber toys are safer and last longer.
  • Take note of any toy that contains a “squeaker” buried in its centre. Your dog may feel that he must find and destroy the squeak-source and could ingest it, in which case squeaking objects should be “supervision only” toys.
  • Check labels for child safety, as a stuffed toy labeled safe for children under three years old doesn’t contain dangerous fillings. Problem fillings include things like nutshells and polystyrene beads, however, even a “safe” stuffing isn’t truly digestible.
  • Remember that soft toys are not indestructible, but some are sturdier than others. Soft toys should be machine washable.

Toys we recommend

Active toys

  • Very hard rubber toys, like Nylabone-type products and Kong-type products. These are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and are fun for chewing and for carrying around.
  • “Rope” toys that are usually available in a “bone” shape with knotted ends. If the ropes begin to unravel, discard the toy.
  • Tennis balls make great dog toys, but keep an eye out for any that could be chewed through and discard them.

Distraction toys

  • Kong-type toys can be stuffed with kibbble or treats, moistened, and frozen. The right size Kong can keep a puppy or dog busy for hours. Only by chewing diligently can your dog access the treats, and then only in small bits – very rewarding.
  • There are a variety of other treat dispensing toys with hiding places for treats. By rolling or pushing the toys around with his nose, mouth, and paws, your dog can access the goodies.

Comfort toys

  • Soft stuffed toys are good for several purposes, but aren’t appropriate for all dogs. 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 that “prey” would be for that size dog (mouse-size, rabbit-size or duck-size). For dogs that might dissect the toy, soft toys should be given only under supervision.
  • Dirty laundry, like an old t-shirt, pillowcase, towel or blanket, can be very comforting to a dog, especially if it smells like you! Be forewarned that the item could be destroyed by industrious fluffing, carrying and nosing.

Get the most out of toys

  • Rotate your dog’s toys weekly by making only four or five toys available at a time
  • Keep a variety of types easily accessible
  • Provide toys that offer a variety of uses – at least one toy to carry, one to “kill”, one to roll and one to “baby”

“Hide and Seek” is a fun game for dogs to play. Making an interactive game out of finding toys or treats is a good “rainy-day” activity for your dog, using up energy without the need for a lot of space. Interactive play is very important for your dog because he needs active “people time.” By focusing on a specific task, like repeatedly returning a ball, Kong or Frisbee, or playing “hide-and-seek” with treats or toys, your dog can expel pent-up mental and physical energy in a limited amount of time and space. This greatly reduces stress due to confinement, isolation and/or boredom. For young, high-energy and untrained dogs, interactive play also offers an opportunity for socialization and helps them learn about appropriate with people.