Toys are an essential dog accessory. Indeed, they allow your four-legged friend to occupy himself during your absences, but can also help you educate him and develop his senses. It is important to choose the toys for your dog carefully so as not to put him in danger.
Why play with your dog?
Playing with your dog doesn't just keep him entertained, it also undeniably strengthens your relationship with your dog. Spending time with him deepens his trust in you, as well as his affection. Playing with your dog is also an excellent way to maintain his physical health by allowing him to exert himself during sporting activities, or his mental health with intelligence games. Dogs need regular stimulation to avoid becoming bored. Indeed, a bored dog is a dog that may gradually develop destructive behaviour, barking at the risk of disturbing neighbours, or quite simply falling into a serious and dangerous depression.
Finally, playing helps with educating your dog. He will be much more willing to learn commands if he also can have fun at the same time. Don't overlook the power of play in education: it's your best weapon, better even than treats.
How to choose a toy for your dog?
Not all toys are suitable for all dogs. The first thing to take into account is obviously your dog's safety. If you have a large, powerful dog, avoid toys that are too small as they could get stuck in their mouth or throat, or too weak as they may break and your pet could then swallow pieces, choke or suffer from an intestinal obstruction.
Always choose a toy adapted to the size of your dog. If you have a small dog, buy small toys that won't hurt his teeth or jaw. Conversely, larger dogs will need sturdy dog toys.
Puppy toys evolve over time as your dog grows. Remember to regularly buy new adapted toys. Another essential rule to remember is to change the dog toy as soon as it is a little damaged or broken. A defective toy is a danger to your dog's health.
Choose rubber toys, which are softer than plastic ones. The splinters of the latter can indeed injure your dog's gums.
Beware of the noise that dog toys can make. Some of these noises are quickly annoying for dogs and therefore have the opposite effect to the one intended. It is also possible that the noise will end up driving you insane! Try to strike a happy medium with a sonic dog toy that doesn't bother the whole neighbourhood.
Toys to exercise
Some toys are great for helping your dog play sports. Here are some great classics.
The dog ball
The dog ball is unquestionably the best of dog toys. It has many advantages: it is affordable, can be used just about anywhere, and when it is of good quality, it is safe for the dog. This toy also requires minimal effort: you just have to throw the ball and wait for your dog to bring it back to you! Choose a ball well suited to your four-legged friend and avoid tennis balls, which, once torn, pose a risk of ingestion.
The dog rope
The principle of the dog rope is very simple: you grab one end of the rope, your dog grabs the other end, and you pull at the same time! The rope is a great way to teach your four-legged friend how to manage frustration.
Like the ball, the dog frisbee is a classic dog toy. Again, choose a rubber frisbee, neither too heavy nor too light. The frisbee requires only a minimum of personal investment, just like the ball. Be careful to throw it in a safe place where it won't run into someone or lead your dog to a dangerous place (like a road, for example).
Intelligence games are a good way to stimulate the intellectual activity of your dog. Some breeds, such as the Australian Shepherd, the Border Collie or the German Shepherd, are known to be very intelligent, but in reality, all dog breeds are more or less so.
And to maintain their mental and intellectual abilities, it is important to provide them with adequate games. Here are some ideas.
There are all kinds of games, and among them, intelligence mats or sniffing mats. The principle of this toy is simple: your dog must find a treat hidden inside. This toy can also be used as an occupation game.
Puzzles and other brain teasers
This type of toy also appeals to your pet's greed. Your dog must find a treat hidden inside by solving a puzzle or jigsaw. This can for example be hatches to open, or a ball to drop into a hole. Again, this is also a great occupation game!
The pot game
You don't necessarily need to spend money to satisfy your dog. Do-it-yourself games are also very effective. So why not try the game of pots? Hide a treat under a jar, among three or four others, and mix them up. Your dog must then find the one that contains the treat so that he can eat it.
You can't be with your pet all the time. In any case, he must also learn to be alone to avoid developing separation anxiety, which can be as harmful for him as for you. But to prevent your dog from getting bored, it is very important to provide him with something to occupy himself in your absence. A bored dog is a dog that will eventually be unhappy.
Kongs are one of the great classics of dog toys. The principle is very simple: a treat is hidden inside the toy. Your dog must then retrieve it as best he can. It is important to choose a Kong adapted to the jaw of your pet. There are Kongs of different sizes for this, from the smallest to the largest. However, the Kong is not suitable for all dogs: indeed, impatient dogs with a powerful jaw may decide that the easiest and fastest way to recover their treat is to break the object!
Often used for cats, the Pipolino is also a great way to occupy your dog. Again, you appeal to his greed. The Pipolino is a kind of big tube in which you slide dog biscuits and treats. The dog must then manage to get them out if he wants to be able to eat them. The Pipolino is also a fairly useful tool for regulating the appetite of overly greedy dogs by preventing them from throwing themselves headlong into their bowl.
When your puppy is teething, it's important to provide him with items so he can soothe his gums, and keep him from attacking your furniture. Buy things or bones for your puppy to chew on. This type of product can also be used by adult dogs, as it helps maintain good oral hygiene. The Kong can very well do double duty here.
Among the other accessories for your dog, you can for example buy him a soft toy. Some dogs appreciate this presence, especially if the stuffed animal smells like their mother or their siblings. This is a great way to ease the transition from breeding. But beware, other dogs will take great delight in ripping the soft toy apart and getting all the stuffing out, which can be harmful if he swallows it. You can also buy other products such as small inflatable pools. Some dogs love water games! It is also a good way to cool your dog when it is too hot.
But while toys are great, it is even better to do activities with your dog, in order to stimulate him and to strengthen the bond between you and him.