Aug 29, 2010

You May Not Think Toys Are Such a Big Deal -- But They Are Really Important To Pets

Chewed tennis ballImage by Lord Biro via Flickr

 Toys go a long way toward fighting boredom, especially for a dog that must be left alone for long periods of time. They can also help prevent your dog from developing unacceptable habits and behavior problems. Toys can serve as a distraction for your dog when you don’t have time to play more actively with her. The market is flooded with a wide variety of dog toys. How do you choose good toys for your dog?
Toys should be age-, size-, and strength-appropriate. A chew toy should not be so big that your dog can’t get her mouth around it, nor so small that she could possibly swallow and choke on it. Big strong dogs should have larger, tougher toys.
Toys should be safe for active play. Are there sharp edges or pieces that could easily come off? Are the materials it’s made of safe and nontoxic? Rope toys are available in several shapes, but the most popular is a bone shape with knotted ends. You want to choose one made of cotton, as cotton will break down in your dog’s system if little pieces are chewed off. Nylon or polyester, on the other hand, will not break down and can be dangerous.
Toys should be sturdy enough to stand up to your dog’s attention. Is it something that will be easy for her to tear apart? Does the toy have internal springs or other parts that the dog could chew out and possibly cut their mouth on? If it has a squeaker, is it securely attached so it won’t come out and possibly choke your dog? Some toys that move or make noises have batteries that can burn your dog’s mouth or make her sick if she ingests them. Tennis balls can provide hours of fun, but your dog should not be left unsupervised with a tennis ball, since they can be chewed up so easily. Inspect your dog’s toys weekly for signs of wear. When your dog’s toy begins to fall apart, it can become a choking hazard. (And please never punish your dog for destroying his toys: the whole point of toys is for him to play with them and do what he wants.)
There is no shortage of toys for dogs, and the sheer joy (tail wagging, playful dancing) your dog expresses when you introduce him to a new toy is infectious. You’ll quickly fill a toy bin with new things for your dog to play with, and he’ll treat every one like it’s his favorite. See what we have on our website To Your Pet's Health by Wendy Nan Rees.

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