Keeping your dog entertained is almost as important as keeping them well-fed and exercised. A bored dog will become frustrated and badly behaved, and can even become irritable. If your dog goes without stimulation for too long, you may even find they become aggressive, so it is important that you find a toy that your dog will love.
However, you might be surprised at how picky your pet can be. Dogs may turn their noses up at an expensive toy, only to opt instead for gnawing at a stick they find in the garden or destroying one of your shoes. In order to choose an effective toy, you need to understand what dogs get out of playing.
Canines play for a number of reasons, and as such there are a few different types of toy that cater to their varied needs. These cater to the instincts your dog naturally has, and should keep them entertained on a regular basis.
Dogs love something they can get their teeth around, and chewing is very therapeutic to them. But how do you ensure they chew a toy and not your favourite piece of furniture or clothing? The key is to understand why they gnaw.
One of the reasons for canine play is to practice hunting for food. As such, dogs prefer chew toys that simulate this practice. How? One way is to have one that makes a noise; even a simple squeak will remind your dog of hunting, and keep them occupied for hours. Dog's instincts say that anything that makes a noise hasn't been killed yet, so they will keep attacking a squeaking toy for ages.
You could also find a toy that can be torn apart. Several dog toys have noticed this trend, and have brought out items comprised of several pieces attached together using velcro. This means your dog can tear it apart to their heart's content, and you can put it back together afterwards.
Similarly, dogs also like to simulate hunting by working for their food. Some owners take their dogs for a walk before feeding, but this can be difficult to coordinate with a busy lifestyle. Another option is to opt for a puzzle toy.
These are complex toys that contain food that is gradually dispensed as the dog plays. Most commonly, this is done by having a hollow, sturdy ball of some kind wit a small opening. Food is put inside, and gradually falls out of the hole as the dog plays. This is great for your pet's mental health, as it gives them a great sense of fulfilment.
It also makes sure your dog doesn't wolf their food down, as they are forced to eat it slowly. Fill it with a high-quality brand, such as Arden Grange dog food, and your dog will go wild for it, keeping them occupied for ten times as long as a standard meal time.
Playing with you
Dogs are inherently social creatures, used to travelling and living in packs. When you adopt one, you and your family become part of their pack, and they will start responding to your moods, becoming excited when you're excited, and bored when you're bored.
As such, it is best if you participate in playing with your dog. Just sitting back and watching while your dog plays will sometimes make them feel almost awkward, as they wonder if it's okay to be playing if nobody else is. Participating makes them feel much more at ease, increasing their enjoyment and their mental wellbeing.
A 'tug toy' is great for this. Often, this consists of nothing more than a rope with a knot at each end, giving both you and your dog something to hold on to. Playing tug of war in this way can be great fun for both you and your pet, so it is a good investment.
Make sure you choose a tug toy that will be safe for your dog to use, though. Bear in mind that they can hurt their teeth if you are too rough, so opt for one made of rubber or soft rope and try to be a bit gentle, while still providing them with a challenge.
Written by: Hannah Dyball