Even with domestication, dogs still possess predatory instincts; these are survival traits that they have inherited from their wild ancestors. As pets, dogs don’t need to hunt for prey for their meals. To “feed” their predatory instincts, many dogs turn to toys that allow them to simulate predation. This is why many dogs love soft toys and squeaky dog toys. The act of sinking their sharp teeth into soft dog toys and/or the squeaking emitted by the toy can be very satisfying to dogs with strong predatory instincts.
But why are many dogs obsessed with a certain type of toy? What endears them to these specific toys? Is it the toy’s smell? Its size or color? The texture? Shape?
Like humans, dogs have individual preferences that are influenced by their personality and temperament. Animal behaviourists also believe that a dog’s special toy may remind them of their favourite human or a favourite memory or experience. Some dogs like chewing and playing with chew toys, while others prefer playing with balls, a game of fetch, or Frisbees. Some don’t like to play with any toy unless their owner plays it with them. Some dogs become attached to a toy that looks like a puppy, just like a child playing with a baby doll. Female dogs can be attached to a puppy toy, caring for it like it’s their offspring, carrying it around, and playing with it. For these dogs, puppy toys seem to trigger their maternal instincts.
Dogs and their favorite toys
Play is a part of the social development of dogs, thus, there should already be plenty of opportunities for play while they are still very young. Puppies and younger dogs need positive avenues to burn excess energy, and they also tend to be more playful compared to their older and more mature counterparts. Soft plush toys for puppies and younger dogs give them hours of fun and entertainment. Puppies that are teething prefer chew toys that help alleviate the pain and discomfort. Senior dogs prefer softer toys because they are easier to hug and tug. Sturdier toys, like thick ropes or rubber balls, are great for adult dogs. Some dog breeds like Labrador and golden retrievers are famous for their obsession with balls. Playing with a ball or having one in their mouths seems to be second nature to these breeds. Dogs with strong predator drives such as hounds and terriers prefer toys that they can tear and shred.
Do dogs outgrow toys?
A dog’s preferences for specific toys can change anytime in his lifetime. But they don’t outgrow toys because they remain to be toddlers. It is their preferences that may change. If your dog has a favourite toy, there is no reason to replace it with a new one or something you think is better, because your pooch has become really attached to that toy; it’s already a part of what makes up their comfort zone.
But what about if your pet becomes attach to a toy or object that may be inappropriate or unsafe? Experts recommend counter-conditioning by creating a negative experience with the object and introducing a dog-safe toy as a positive replacement. Make the experience more positive and memorable by showering your pet with a lot of positive reinforcement, such as treats, hugs, and extra playtime.
Are there toys unsafe for dogs?
A dog that loves to destroy and rip off soft toys should never be allowed to play with them without close supervision. Dogs should only have access to certain toys (such as very soft plush toys and toys with real fur) when their owners are playing with them. These toys should be stored out of the dog’s reach. In addition to being a safety precaution, storing the toy can also increase its lifespan and improve its novelty. The risk of ingesting a toy is always present and complications can be very serious. Many cases will require expensive surgery to remove the object that has been ingested.
Also read: How To Fix A Dog Toy So It's Just Like New