Toys provide dogs with hours of fun as well as physical and mental stimulation. With the right toys, they are encouraged to engage in natural behaviors such as chewing and playing. Toys are positive outlets to burn excess energy and avoid boredom.
Like humans, dogs have individual preferences when it comes to toys. And if you had the chance to go shopping for toys for your pet, you must have surely realized that there are tons of selections out there and can be pretty overwhelming! Choosing which toy is best for your canine buddy will surely take time and effort especially if you don’t know what your dog likes and what is safe for him to play with.
How to choose dog toys that are perfectly safe for your dog
With so many dog toy options that are available, it’s important to choose toys that your dog will like to play with. A dog’s preference for specific toys generally depends on their playing style and chewing. Safety is also a prime consideration because toys are not created equal. There is a long list of potential risks that dogs can be exposed to when they are given any type of toy. Some dog toys are potential choking hazards; there’s also the issue with lead, arsenic, cadmium, and other toxic chemicals; and the problem with phthalates and BPA in latex toys.
These potential risks are important reasons why safety is one of your prime considerations when choosing toys for dogs. With the right toys, your dog will have plenty of opportunities for safe play and lesser risks of developing undesirable habits that are fueled by boredom.s
Read more about how to choose safe dog toys here!
Tips to remember when choosing toys for dogs
- Always choose toys based on your pet’s age, size, play style, and activity level.
- Examine closely each toy to detect rough or pointed edges, the strong scent of residual chemicals, small parts that can become potential hazards, such as strings, eyes, ribbons, etc.
- Steer clear of heavily-dyed toys. Artificial dyes can be toxic and when the cloth gets wet from the dog’s saliva, it can leach dye.
- Avoid buying toys made of fire retardant or stain guard materials because they may contain formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals.
- Always make a habit of reading product labels and buying only from reputable dog toy companies.
- Avoid plastic dog toys or toys with prices that are too good to be true. They won’t last long and may likely contain harmful chemicals to make them appear more durable.
- Soft-edged toys won’t splinter and are less harmful when ingested.
- The most durable toys are made of natural rubber.
How to safely clean dog toys
Toys need regular cleaning since they can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other potential pathogens. A dog’s mouth is full of bacteria and these can transfer to his toys during play. A thorough, regular cleaning can get rid of dirt, bacteria, fungi, viruses, and even parasites that can infect your dog.
Several techniques can be used when cleaning your pet’s toys. Care and cleaning instructions are usually printed on the tag or packaging of new toys. Ideally, the recommendations of the manufacturer regarding cleaning and disinfection should be followed.
The material that toys are made of should also be considered when it comes to cleaning and disinfection.
- Toys made of plastic, rubber, or nylon can be hand-washed with warm water and antibacterial dishwashing soap. For stubborn grime and gunk, pre-soak toys in a vinegar solution for at least 15 minutes. Thorough rinsing and drying should be done before letting your dog play with the toy or placing it in the toy bin.
- Some toys, like those made of rubber, are generally dishwasher safe.
- Plastic toys are best washed and disinfected by hand.
- Drool-soaked rope toys can be placed inside the microwave, just make sure to remove any plastic rings or metals attached to it. Pre-soak the rope in water for a minute before placing it inside the microwave. Be careful when handling toys from the microwave as they can get very hot. But if the rope has dirt and grime, it’s best to place them in the laundry and dryer as well.
- Plush toys are best cleaned and disinfected in the washing machine using a normal wash cycle and dry cycle with cold or warm water for sturdy and heavy-duty toys. Use a gentle wash setting and low-heat cycle for the more delicate toys. Don’t use hot water because it could damage the material.
It's absolutely essential to keep your dog's toys clean. Read more about how to keep your dog's toys clean here.
Why Does My Dog Prefer Some Toys Over Others?
A dog’s personality and temperament can have a big influence on his toy preferences. With traces of their ancestors’ predatory behaviors still intact, pet dogs play with their toys to simulate the predatory sequence. That’s why soft toys and squeaky toys are a big hit when it comes to dog toys. Some toys trigger a dog’s maternal instincts and they carry the toy around, caring for it as if it’s their offspring. A dog’s special toy may also remind them of good memories or their favourite human.
Toy choices can also depend on a dog’s age. Teething puppies like sinking their teeth and gums on chew toys to find relief from pain and discomfort. Senior dogs love softer toys to hug and tug. Adult dogs that engage in rough play will certainly enjoy sturdier toys like rubber balls and thick ropes.
Some canine breeds also have their toy preferences. Labrador and golden retrievers have an obsession with balls, while hounds and terriers like toys they can tear and shred.
Also read more about why your dog prefer some toys over others here.
Why Do Dogs Destroy Their Toys?
Animal behavior experts have identified several important reasons why dogs take great pleasure in tearing their toys apart. If your pet loves to engage in the habit, it’s time you take steps to identify what is motivating your pet to behave this way so you can undertake measures for behaviour modification.
The top reasons include the following:
1. Prey drive
Toys that squeak or emit a sound tend to trigger the predatory instincts of dogs. They won’t hesitate to bite, shake, and rip the toy to pieces until it’s “dead” which gives them a feeling of satisfaction for having completed the hunt sequence.
Dogs that lack physical and mental stimulation will try to find ways to amuse themselves and burn excess energy. Unfortunately, boredom can be potent fuel for the development of bad behaviors. They can also vent their frustrations on their toys as they engage in destructive habits.
3. Reinforced behavior
When you laugh or simply watch your dog biting and tugging his toys, you are actually reinforcing the behavior. This is also true when engaging in a game of tug-of-war with your pooch.
4. Mental challenge
Dogs are smart creatures and they love mental challenges. What better way to sharpen their mind than to dismantle their toy of figure out how to get that their favorite treat out of the toy. These dogs would do well with interactive toys and puzzles.
5. Wrong toys
Know what toys are ideal for your pet based on his age, size, breed, and temperament.
How to fix a dog toy so it's just like new
Fixing “injured” toys is quite an easy task as long as you are armed with the right techniques and sewing tools, like needles, thread or embroidery floss, cloth, replacement squeakers, etc. You should secure squeakers by encasing each inside a strong fabric so your dog can’t easily remove it. Holes and tears will have to be sealed and covered. More stuffing may also be needed. All edges of the “injured” toy must be secured with a basic topstitch twice to make it more durable. After fixing whatever needs to be fixed, giving the toy a good wash will make it good as new.
Read more about how to fix your dog toys here!