When considering toys for any dog, bear in mind that all dog toys have an intended purpose in mind and to service a variety of play needs.
There are four key types of toys, each with a different intended purpose:
- Interactive puzzle toys
- Chew toys
- Chew toys that can be filled with treats (treat dispensers)
- Toys intended for throw and retrieve style play
It helps to consider the needs of the individual dog when selecting appropriate toys. A dog’s chewing and play needs are a vital component during the selection process. KONG recommends that dog toys are to be used under supervision to ensure they are being used safely, especially with puppies and young dogs as their chewing temperament is still developing.
A dog’s chewing temperament is not necessarily predictable by it’s size, breed or age, so use these elements as a supplementary guide when making selections. Be sure to also check out the safety precautions, either contained within the toy packaging or printed on the outside of the packaging for recommended product usage. KONG recommends supervising toy play so that you are in the position to discourage chewing or gnawing on products that are not deemed fit for such behaviour – this can be done by redirecting chew style play towards suitable chew products. As young dogs mature they give you an indication of their developing chewing temperament. This can be gauged by observing the level of destruction and longevity of their toys. Some dogs regardless of breed and size can be very gentle on their toys, which may last them for years. Whilst other dogs may be tough on toys and able to destroy them with ease over a short period of time.
A dogs chewing temperament is a combination of the individuals ability to apply heavy compression coupled with the motivation to do so, even the gentlest dog can apply heavy compression when motivated to do so. Dogs much like wolves are social animals that use their jaws not only for eating but for social interactions with their pack or family members.
During play, puppies are learning to inhibit the force of their bite with other dogs or family members. They learn that play is more likely to continue if they aren’t too rough, therefore there is value in being gentle. Toys don’t provide the same feedback so a dog can be as gentle or as rough as they like to derive enjoyment from the game. Many toys even channel natural instincts to catch, chase, shake and crush prey which may explain why some dogs become particularly stimulated by squeaky toys.
Dogs experience varied reactions to plush or squeaky toys, some just love to gently compress the toys repeatedly to elicit the squeak while other dogs can become overly excited. During this excitement toys may be more likely to suffer destruction. Dogs will vary significantly in how they play and interact with different types of toys, some simply enjoy the act of carrying around a special toy and some like to sleep with their favourite toy. Then there are the dogs who derive great enjoyment from the act of pulling, ripping or tearing toys apart, even grinding them into little pieces and tearing out the internal stuffing. This is simply the nature of dogs which evolves as they mature.
There are three basic chewing styles when it comes to dogs and their toys:
- Gentle Chewers – These dogs are easy on toys and prefer plush or fabric toys. They usually like to lick or suck on their toys, but rarely ever destroy their toys.
- Average Chewers –These dogs love to play with all kinds of toys and will often carry toys around with them. They can be destructive with plush and fabric toys but rarely are destructive with rubber toys.
- Power Chewers – These dogs are usually strong, determined chewers who require more discretion when it comes to selecting toys. Choose durable, interactive play toys along with firm rubber toys. Sizing up above the recommended weight and size range can also be helpful when picking toys for dogs known to be powerful chewers.
Frequent inspection of the dog’s toys is recommended, examine each toy for wear and tear. Toys showing signs of wear i.e. holes or pieces tearing off should be discarded and replaced.
During the puppy teething stage, the teeth begin to fall out and are replaced by permanent adult teeth at about four to five months of age. The teething period can be frustrating and painful as the puppy clamps their mouth on everything within reach, from furniture to expensive shoes. This is an attempt to relieve the discomfort and unfortunately the plush or material toys can be at risk from destruction during this phase. You can help to promote entry of growing teeth by selecting appropriate rubber toys that are gentle for growing teeth and jaws.
There are puppies however that can be tough on toys even from a young age, so always select toy durability based on the individuals chewing temperament. KONG Rubber toys are an excellent way of establishing healthy chewing habits. When a puppy is found chewing on anything inappropriate (shoes, furniture etc.) these toys offer an excellent way to assist in redirecting the behaviour. This allows you to show the puppy what they can chew, rather than focusing on what shouldn’t.
For added relief during teething, KONG rubber toys can be filled with treats or dog food and then frozen. This can provide added gum relief whilst chewing on the toy. KONG rubber toys are made from high grade, natural rubber and can help teach correct chewing behaviours that both satisfy natural instincts and can prevent destructive chewing in the home.
Article by Rachael James on behalf of KONG Company Pty Ltd