We’ve all been there – getting dog toys that your dog won’t play with, or ones that they destroy in minutes and then look to the next thing to chew on. If this is you first puppy, I hate to tell you but this is something you can look forward to as well. And with all the choices at the pet store, how do you figure out which toy is right for your puppy? On your criteria for selection, you’re hoping you find one that ticks all the right boxes:
- Super safe
- Durable enough to survive constant pulling and chewing
- Will distract them from biting your pants, favorite pair of shoes, ornaments and toilet paper
- 100% FUN!
Besides keeping them busy, did you know that toys are essential for your dog’s well-being and healthy development?
Dog toys can help them fight boredom when they are alone at home, relax them when they are stressed, promote learning and enhance their ability to be independent. Additionally, it encourages natural behavior like exploring and foraging, and also helps prevent behavioral problems such as excessive barking and inappropriate chewing. Some toys are even specially designed to help keep teeth and gums clean and strong.
During a puppy’s development period from 2-10 months, it’s important to give them appropriate toys that cater to their personality and breed. If you've got an energetic pup who loves to chew like there's no tomorrow, you should buy toys that help relieve pressure on their gums and can last for a very long time. Stuffed plushies and teething rings are good options for smaller pups and breeds like Yorkshire or Shih Tzu that tend to have smaller mouths. For those smart pups that need a bit more of a challenge, puzzle toys can help keep them mentally stimulated.
Finding the perfect toy is always a bit of trial and error; you’ll never know which is the perfect toy for your pup until you try them out. As such, the best thing to do is to buy a few different ones to see which one they enjoy the most.
Remember, one of the keys to having a well behaved, happy puppy is to have the right toys in their treasure trove. Their energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity must be funneled into the right place, or else even you can become their chew toy!
Here are some tips for finding the best toy for your puppy that will save both money and energy.
1. A Tennis Ball
A game of fetch is one of the oldest and most popular games for dogs. It allows them to exercise and is also a great way for you to bond with your furry friend. Your pup may not get the game in the beginning so they may require a little bit of training initially.
Heads up! You’ll need to include a tasty treat as a part of the training for this game.
Training your pup to fetch and retrieve is fairly simple: some dogs pick this trick up fairly quickly and will run after a ball as soon as you launch it. The trick is usually to get them to bring it back. One way to encourage this is to reward them with a small treat whenever they bring the ball back. Soon the pup will realize that to get the treat, they must bring the ball back.
If your dog is not too keen on running after a ball, you can start your training by dabbing a small amount of pet-safe food and spreading it on the ball. Let your pet sniff it before you toss it. Most dogs will then follow the scent and go after the ball when you throw it. After they get the ball, encourage them to pick it up and bring the ball back to you. Once they do, praise them endlessly with treats. After a while, you can substitute treats with lots of praise for your pup. Unlike cats, dogs really want to please their owners so making you happy will become enough of a reward for fetching the ball. Pretty soon, you and your pup will be spending hours just throwing and fetching.
Once your pup gets good at recall, you can also start to use a ball launcher to throw the ball farther and farther away from you; thereby increasing the effort and exercise for your dog.
American Kennel Club has a great guide on how to teach your pal how to play fetch here.
2. Chew Toys
Many dog owners swear by chew toys. These toys keep their dogs’ gums and teeth healthy and will ensure they are occupied and happy. There are many different toys available, so try different textures, flavors, and scents to find ones that will appeal to your pup.
As your dog’s teeth get stronger and bigger, different textures and materials may suit them better than others. If the chew toy is too hard, they may simply get bored and discouraged so it’s important to get the right chew toy for your dog’s life stage. If your pup is new to the toy, you can also opt for ones designed to hold treats like the famous Kong. It will give them a reason to keep chewing on a denser toy, and will still offer the many dental benefits of a chew toy.
3. Puzzle Toys
If you are looking for a low-impact game to control your pup's anxiety and destructive behavior, the puzzle game is just what you are looking for.
To make it intriguing, you can add a tasty reward in the end to help motivate them to keep playing. Puzzle games are a great choice for puppies that are learning paw-eye coordination. To avoid loss of interest, start simple, reward often, and then slowly work your way up to more challenging puzzles.
Another trick to get them started is to solve the puzzle together. Doing this will not only give them direction and encouragement but will be a great bonding experience between you and your fur baby. Awww!
While not exactly a puzzle toy, but a great game to play with your pup and one that also develops their sense of smell (especially if it’s a hunting breed) is a game of hide and seek. The idea here is to hide a strong smelling treat nearby or under something and have your dog use his nose to “find it”. If you have stairs in your house, then hiding treats at the top or bottom of the stairs and making your dog run up and down to retrieve the treat is a great way to give them some exercise, especially on rainy days. I do this with my dog all the time and he loves it.
4. Snuggle Toys
For some dogs, toys are more like a friend. If they are clingy, nervous or always looking for comfort then you should get them a good snuggle buddy to help them feel safe and happy.
Snuggle toys come in all shapes and sizes. They act as a pacifier when your puppy needs comfort in the night or when stress or anxiety is triggered by an unexpected house guest or a change in routine.
Be sure that you offer your pup this toy in a calm and safe space. They will eventually start associating their new buddy with safety and turn to their friend when discomfort peaks.
When looking for a snuggle toy, make sure it is safe for your dog and does not have any small parts that may be a choking hazard if they break off.
5. Teething Toys
Most pet parents wish that their pup can skip the teething phase. Unfortunately, it’s an unpleasant stage you can’t escape; however, there are things you can do to reduce the destruction that comes with it.
Remember that your pup is not a little demon trying to wreck your carpet and your shoes, they are just trying to soothe their tender mouth.
You can help your puppy overcome this stage by buying them a good teething toy. If your pup doesn’t know what to do with the toy at first, then add some flavor. Stick to tiny amounts of pet-safe food such as peanut butter (in small quantities) and let them lick it off.
Note: Keep Toy Safety in Mind
No matter how expensive the puppy toy is, be careful of when and how you use it. Not every toy will be suitable to leave with your dog or pup unsupervised. So, be sure you are adhering to all the safety instructions before giving them these delightful playmates.
Some toys like puzzles have small pieces that can be hazardous if left alone at your pup's disposal. Any toy can be a choking risk if not selected appropriately. Hence, always choose the right size and type of toy for your pet and supervise them while they play.
Lastly: Be Creative!
Last but not least; get creative! You can make lots of home-made toys from things you don't use but have lying around, like old mismatched socks or your kids old toys (just careful not to give your dog a toy that your child is still attached to). Think outside the box to make a boring toy much more fun. There are lots of ideas for hand-made DIY toys that you can build from the things you have right at home.
No matter how many toys you buy from Amazon, Chewy, or any other pet store, nothing beats you getting on the floor playing with your dog to make them feel loved and special.
From making up new games indoor or out, to just playing with the toys right alongside them, giving your pup your undivided attention is the best gift you can give.
Does your happy pup have a favorite toy? Let us know and send us pictures of your pup with their best toy to firstname.lastname@example.org