Dog Toys – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Your dog’s toys are more than just play things!

You want the best for your pooch! That’s why your dogs toys should be chosen with as much care as you give to their nutrition and medical care. Your dog needs activities and things to occupy them throughout their lives. Dogs toys stimulate their minds, exercise their muscles and jaws, clean their teeth and can result in happy, healthy well-trained dogs.

It’s important to provide quality toys for your dog to play with – either with you and/or other dogs (preferred) or alone. Different dogs will have different needs. But there are some dog toys that should be avoided by all dog owners. But, while I hope you take on board the information I have put together here, I also think you should be relaxed about this.

By all means choose carefully but don’t worry about everything. Just use caution. While I mention all the “dire consequences” of some popular toys, it should also be remembered that dogs have been playing with some of them for decades and not all of them died from it. So just take the information and apply it to your dog and your situation with the best tools you have – your knowledge of your dog.

Dog toys should be fun, long-lasting and most of all, safe. The level of risk with some toys depends upon your dog’s size, age, how energetic they are, how much of a pig they are and whether they are determined to reduce everything that comes within their grasp to a pile of tiny scrap toy shavings.

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There are the obvious dangers but I think they need to be stated anyway:

Electrical wires and cords (especially for puppies) seem to be endlessly fascinating to the canine mind. Make sure dogs are supervised around them and try to cover cords and plugs if you can (products are available at your local hardware store to do this).

Then there are the more innocent dangers….

String, dental floss, ribbon, rubber bands, stockings, and anything else long and thread-like that could be ingested. These can become entangled in the intestine and can lead to death in severe cases.

IMPORTANT!!

If your dog has swallowed thread or string NEVER try to pull string out of a dogs throat when your dog has swallowed it. If it looks like it hasn’t gone down far you can just gently try and remove it. But if you encounter ANY RESISTANCE AT ALL STOP and take the dog to a vet. If you try to force it out you could seriously injure or kill your dog. Same if you see it coming out the other end!!!

(For this reason – many experts say DO NOT BUY ROPE TOYS!!!!!!!!!! – more on this in our section on rope toys)

Kids toys can be a major risk for choking – almost any kids toy you can think of runs this risk. Just don’t let them play with the kids stuff.

Household poisons – Fascinating smells and containers can lead dogs to swallow poisons in the form of your laundry/kitchen products. Keep those well out of reach (just like you would with toddlers).

Personally – I don’t leave my dogs in the house unsupervised unless they have been out for a HUGE walk and I know they are too tired and laid back to be getting into mischief. And I never leave a puppy loose in the house unsupervised – only in a crate or in a puppy playpen.

The usual balls and things!

Tennis balls make great dogs toys, especially for interaction with you. And there are many new products around that bring a whole new meaning to the notion of playing ball with your dog. (See “recommended toys”)

They are generally not recommended for unsupervised play as most dogs can break them open and swallow small pieces.

Just keep an eye on them. Even better are some of the new innovations in making similar but stronger tennis ball substitutes(see recommended toys below).

Don’t EVER give them or let them get hold of golf balls.

Don’t buy cheap imitations of the new ball game products if you can help it – you’re just asking for trouble. Usually they fall apart as soon as your dog so much as looks at them funny and there you have it – instant choke hazard!

Kongs and other treat dispensing dogs toys.

Dogs love toys that have treats hidden inside them. There is quite a range of these kinds of dogs toys available and even some that talk to your dog. They can be hours of fun and amusement for your furry friend!

Some companies are selling dogs toys that require your dog to push a long lever in order to receive treats. This currently popular treat dispenser, that looks like a one-armed bandit, has been responsible for some serious eye-injuries. Please don’t get that toy for your dog to use when you are not there.

Teaching your dog this trick is cute and nice for you but if you consider it from the dogs point of view – its really not that great a thrill, apart from the actual treat. Dogs don’t naturally like to pull levers etc, that’s a human obsession (have you been in a pokey palace lately???). Dogs like to jump about, chase, bark joyfully, play wrestle with each other, chew, play tug etc not pull on levers and wait to see if they hit the jackpot. Maybe we could take a few hints from them!

In addition, I wouldn’t be keen to leave an overweight piggy dog with any kind of access to this little paradise gumball machine!!!!

Kong Dogs Toys are a better option.

These toys are made of the toughest rubber I have ever seen. Even my dog can’t make a dent in the big black Kong I bought him!

You can let them play with Kongs just as they are or fill them with some healthy tempting treat that they can get to after a lot of chewing and playing with the Kong.

The right size Kong can keep a puppy or dog busy for hours but again, don’t buy one that is too small for your dog. Especially if they associate the Kong with food, they are more likely than ever to swallow the thing whole if they can.

Careful about putting things like peanut butter in Kongs – many dogs are allergic to peanuts and some fillings popularly used are full of sugar. Also remember to include the Kong filling in the daily calculation of your dogs food intake – especially if he’s needing to lose weight!

Click here for our recommended list of dog toys!

Dogs toys for tugging!

Rope tug toys and “bones” – Although these are very popular (and I have them at my house!) there is some concern that when they shred they become little thread hazards and are likely to entangle themselves in your best friends intestines.

Well, its probably true. So I have them in the house and I use them with the dogs, but I don’t let my dogs run off by themselves to play with them once they start to fray. When they become moderately frayed I get rid of the toy altogether and buy a new one.

Some suppliers will tell you their rope dogs toy is okay because it’s knotted at the end so the threads cant fray off. BUT YOUR DOG WILL EASILY UNDO THE KNOTS!!!!!!!!!! Mine certainly do – any dog I’ve ever had of any size chews the knots off the end of rope toys!

After all that’s what the knots are there for isn’t it??? For happy pups to chew off?????????

Maybe……..just MAYBE…if you have an incredibly polite pekingese or similar who doesn’t do that sort of thing it would be okay. But then, so would anybody’s rope toy in that case.

Others will claim that their dogs toys are so cleverly designed and strong that dogs cant wear them down enough to get threads. Also not true. Any rope toy can be broken down by a dog.

The best thing is not to get them if you are concerned enough OR just buy one that looks reasonably good quality (e.g. will last more than 5 minutes) and watch it for signs of deterioration. As soon as you see any thread get stuck in your dogs teeth or fall onto the floor, get rid of the toy. Never let them have it unsupervised and regularly check it over for loose threads.

About tug toys and training

There are some important issues that you should know about your dog’s safety and your safety when playing tug games with dogs. I will be adding a section on this soon.

Soft/plush teddy toys – If you want to give your dogs soft toys, then give them something sturdy and size appropriate. Give a small dog a small mouse or something and a Great Dane a whopping great teddy bear! They will love you for it. That said, lets just look at the safety factor.

These toys are fine for a dog who likes to carry the soft toy around and maybe mouth it a little like a mother would to her pups, or cuddle it etc. But if your dog clearly wants to shake, kill and then dismember the poor thing then don’t let him/her have one. They risk swallowing pieces of the toy and choking or blocking their intestines up.

Also – consider this if your dog is inclined to this kind of feral behavior!! Do you really want to encourage your dog to find small fluffy animals and tear them limb from limb??? They think you have given them prey and happily cheered them on while they tore it apart. So will you be surprised next time you’re out walking your dog and he proudly brings you back a neighbors’ ripped up cat or a native endangered animal corpse????

Unless you really really trust that your dog isn’t going to tear up the toy, don’t give any dog a soft toy with a darn squeaker or bell inside (choking again!).

If you have a puppy and you want her to feel comforted in the crate or wherever she sleeps, then try making something out of old rags with your smell on them. A rag doll made out of a sturdy knotted-up pillowcase or towel makes an excellent dogs toy to comfort your new arrival. (Don’t expect them back though!!)

General Dogs Toy Tips!

Variety is the spice of a dogs life!

Remember to vary your dogs toys. They will need more than just one worn old tennis ball to keep them happy.

My dog actually chose a spot in the shed where he stores various toys that I gave him or that he found himself. He even puts them ON a shelf (Its true!!!)

If you sneak in without him seeing, you’ll see he has a very eclectic collection (not all of which I would actually recommend!!) including a couple of plastic milk bottle lids, a stick or two, half a tennis ball, a punctured and much chewed soccer ball, a couple of old bones, a few stones from inside whatever fruit are falling off our trees at the time, a kong and a large undamaged snail shell (don’t ask me!! – but I’ve seen him carrying it around like its the crown jewels)

Keep it clean!

It is important to maintain some level of clean around your dogs toys. No need to be obsessive and wash them all the time but be aware that their toys can make them ill with unhealthy bacteria if you aren’t careful.

Kongs should be washed out after having sloppy food put in (like peanut butter or cream cheese) and plush toys should be washed (so look for machine washable plush toys for your dog). Bacteria loves soft toys!

Raw Hide toys/treats

A special warning about raw hide treats. There are some concerns about these kinds of treats or toys. For more information please see our discussion of dog treats.

Click here for our recommended list of dog toys!

 

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DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Should you think that your pet needs medical attention, please contact your local veterinarian.  
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