Q: What are the best and safest dog toys?
A: With Christmas right around the corner, this is a timely question. The best toy for your dog really depends on his or her breed, personality, energy level, and age.
Hunting and herding dogs love to play “Frisbee” and “Tennis Ball.” Aside from the fact that your dog will be enormously happy simply because you are playing and having fun together, these types of chase and retrieve games also provide an excellent opportunity for you to engage in some behavior training. You can easily teach your dog some basic commands like “Fetch,” “Come,” and “Give it.”
Retrievers also like to play “Frisbee,” but they love anything they can put in their mouth and carry around. I recommend Kong toys for any breed, since they come in all sizes, but particularly for larger breeds since they are bouncy, sturdy, hard rubber and virtually indestructible. Kong toys are also hollow so they can be packed with food treats and plugged with cheese or peanut butter.
When company is coming this holiday season, give your puppy a loaded Kong toy when you need her to lie quietly in her kennel for awhile. It’s great entertainment, and when she finally gets through the cheese, she is rewarded with a treat. Loaded Kongs are also great to give to your kenneled dog when you need to leave home for awhile. For the first hour or so, she won’t even realize you’re gone.
Squeaky toys are also great fun and give some dogs hours of entertainment. Terriers, Chihuahuas and other smaller breeds love them. Just make sure any squeaky toys you purchase are specifically designed for canines, since “human” squeaky toys aren’t as durable, and that little metal piece that makes it squeak is extremely dangerous if swallowed.
Some dogs have a special stuffed animal and, just like children, won’t go to bed without it. So again, when choosing a stuffed toy for your pet, make sure there are no parts (such as eyes, noses, ribbons, pom-poms, etc.) that can be chewed off and swallowed.
Puppies have to chew, so rawhide gnaw-bones, chewy ropes and similar items are great for developing teeth and sore gums. But, they are equally good for older dogs, too. Be warned, however, since puppies cannot differentiate between a chew toy and your brand new tennis shoes, do not give your puppy anything to chew on that bears the slightest resemblance to valuable things you don’t want chewed up.
Above all else, remember that your dog’s greatest pleasure is simply spending time and playing with you.
I hope everyone, two-legged and four-legged, has a great and safe holiday season this year.