Toys serve many functions for a puppy – they’re not just fun and games for your pet! Choosing the right toys for your dog can mean the difference between a dog who is mentally stimulated and attentive and a pup who is bored and aggravated. Fortunately, dog trainers and veterinarians have influenced the teams who create these toys and you can find toys that are both fun and functional for your dog!
When Should Your Dog Have Toys?
Every dog should have a few toys they enjoy, but the stage that needs them most is puppies and young dogs. Just like human babies, puppies teethe and find relief from discomfort by chewing and mouthing objects. Around 4 months of age, a puppy loses their milk teeth which are replaced by adult teeth.
“A puppy’s mouth becomes overly sore, tender, itchy, and uncomfortable as they mouth during the teething stage,” Dr. Marty Becker, DVM says. “During this time it’s likely the puppy will seek relief to soothe their aching gums by chewing on a variety of items that can include off-limits items like the TV controller, shoes, cords, and other ‘feel good’ items that provide a happy distraction and bring relief as their adult teeth emerge.”Dr. Marty Becker
But it’s not just puppies who benefit from toys. Adult canines love their toys for everything from mental engagement to just having a chew toy – the desire to chew doesn’t disappear once the teething stage is over!
Choosing a Toy
Chew toys are a perennial favorite among dogs, so owning several options is a great start for any dog owner. In addition to basic chew toys, some toys can also be used as a puzzle and treat dispenser for your dog. Toys come in a variety of shapes, sizes, plush, and hardness, allowing you to offer several unique options to your pup.
When your puppy is teething, consider finding a chew toy that can also be frozen. The cold will help relieve any swelling your puppy may be experiencing and reduce their discomfort. Dogs chew instinctively as a way to get to relief from oral irritation or just as a fun distraction. If your pup strays into chewing on off-limits items, don’t punish them. Focus on keeping those items out of reach, and constantly redirect your pup toward items they can chew.
If your dog eats dangerously quickly, slow them down with a puzzle feeder. Access to a variety of toys can be extremely helpful for your pup if they need to entertain themselves for long hours when you are at work. Rotate through the toys you own to keep their toys novel and engaging. Choose toys for durability, texture, and purpose – and hopefully cuteness too!
If you find that your dog is engaging in some destructive behaviors, offer them something interesting to do instead of checking out your garbage. Treat dispensers and puzzle toys are wonderful ways to give your dog an interesting challenge.
Find a cuddly chew toy. Some dogs love snuggling with something while they sleep – a plush toy can be a perfect snuggle buddy to keep in your puppy’s bed.
Best of all, make sure to find a toy to play with together. Choose a ball, rope toy, or even a chew toy for fetch. Playing with your dog helps you both learn about each other and build trust.
Important Considerations For The Best Toys
Choose toys that will handle your dog’s level of chewing. If your dog is either strong or determined, they can easily shred more delicate toys, so choose sturdy and durable options. If your pup really just mouths their toys, you can opt for a softer, less hardy chew toy.
If you notice that your dog has damaged a toy and any pieces are becoming loose, replace the toy immediately. Even if the toy is their favorite, replace it before it can become a danger due to loose pieces or strings.
Dogs love to play, and you may find that some of the most beautiful moments you’ll get with your pup come during those play sessions. Both dogs and humans benefit tremendously from play, learning major social cues and expectations through these interactions. Making time for fun helps you and your dog bond, gives you both some exercise, and provides some essential mental stimulation for your puppy. So head outside or check out the local dog park with your pup this week, and pick up a new toy to occupy them on your next errand! Your pup (and your shoes) will thank you for it.