We’ve all done it. We see a cool toy at the local pet store and of course, our faithful companion looks longingly at us as if to say, ‘Please, oh please – I gotta have it!’ So we cringe at the price, shell out fifteen bucks and take it home. Then the carnage begins. That sweet faced pup quickly dispatches the toy and looking at the remnants, you realize that you just spent a buck a minute for your dog’s entertainment. Aggravating as it seems – this is the reality of choosing dog toys.
It’s truly not your four legged toy killer’s fault for the toy’s quick demise. We are constantly presented with a myriad of choices. Literally, hundreds of products are displayed to us in our local stores or websites. How do we know what is safe and durable? Which one will my dog love? Which one will stay together for a while? How can I make a wise and economical choice?
The first step in finding the right toy is to identify HOW your dog plays with their toys. The experts at K9Tuff.com have devised three different categories relating to how dogs play with their toys. They are the ‘pickers’, ‘rippers’ and ‘chewers’. Each one of these categories is based on what part of the mouth (particularly the teeth) a dog prefers to use when playing. Once you understand each of these categories and how your dog may be fit into one over another you’ll be able to make better dog toy choices. Let’s take a look at the categories and identify where your dog fits.
First, we’ll look into the ‘pickers’. This refers to the dogs that use their incisors (front teeth) to play with their toys. A good example of this is the tennis ball picker. If given one, they’ll spend their time picking the felt off the surface until it has been de-fuzzed. They’ll also leave small holes in things such as a fleece toy or bedding. They simply like to nip at an object and pull until something gives. Generally most small to medium size dogs are in this category.
The ‘rippers’ have a different approach. They’ll primarily use their canines (the pointy teeth) to latch on to an object and tear or shred it with a side to side or pulling motion. Puncturing objects is also a characteristic of rippers. These dogs typically like to flip and shake their toys violently. They love tug games and rope type toys. Most medium to large sized dogs are in this category.
Finally, the ‘chewers’ are one’s that can make mince meat out of the toughest stuff. They’ll primarily use their molars to patiently grind a toy down to a nub. The intense force a dog’s jaw can exert when nearly closed is incredible and these dogs use it to their advantage. Typically, the larger dogs fall into this category.
Now, some of you are saying, ‘My dog does all of these’. In nature, a canine will use each of these methods to consume a meal. Our domesticated friends have the same instinctual forces at play. However, you’ll find your dog has a preference to one and the key is to identify which one they do the most.
Observing your dog playing while assessing their behavior will go a long way in deciding proper toy choices. Simply gather your arsenal of existing toys and let your dog play with each of them individually. If you don’t have many toys at this point, place a wadded old sock inside another old sock and tie the end. Try not to interact with your dog while they are playing so that you don’t influence what they would naturally do on their own. Like we discussed before, you’re dog is likely to pick, rip and chew, but if you watch closely, they’ll spend more time doing one more than another. Once you’ve made this determination, you can focus your selection efforts on that particular category.
The next step is deciding how to apply your observations to selecting a proper toy. There are two ways to go about this. The first one is to select a toy from a different category than your dogs. For instance, if your dog is a picker, then choose a toy that would appeal to a chewer. The second way is to select a toy that is made specifically to withstand the type of abuse of a particular category. An example would be to choose a durable plush toy for a picker or chewer that is ruggedly constructed and reinforced to avoid tearing. Both of these methods have their merits and are worth exploring. Some dogs are willing to try new things and others will want to stay with toys they are most comfortable with. We recommend trying a toy out of their comfort zone. Not only will it be more challenging but also more mentally engaging. If they don’t take to it, you can always fall back to what they are comfortable with and try something different in the future.
Now that we’ve identified your dog’s category and decided on an approach, let’s take a look at what kind of toys each type prefers. The following is a list that generalizes each type of toy in the categories.
Pickers – tennis balls, plush toys, rope toys.
Rippers – rope toys, retrieval toys, floppy toys, soft nylon toys, plush toys.
Chewers – hard nylon toys, rubber toys, specialized rubber type toys.
We’ve intentionally excluded vinyl and standard plastic toys. At K9tuff.com, we do not believe that there are ANY vinyl or standard plastic toys on the market that are safe for use. Vinyl toys tear very easily and pose an ingestion and blockage hazard and standard plastics pose the same risk. However, it is worth noting that there are toys made from specialized plastics that are safe and durable. Exploring this list, you can start to get an idea of what toys to try that would be in a different category than your dog’s ‘comfort zone’. Armed with this knowledge, we can now explore specific examples of each toy. We’ve sited some examples that provide direct links to the actual toy on our website. You can get a better idea from the product description if you follow each link. At the bottom of each description page, there are additional links to similar products. This will begin to paint the picture on the types of toys you should be selecting for your dog. Please take a moment to explore some of the toys in this list.
- Kong Biscuit Ball – a rubber ball with spots for treats.
- Diamond Plate Ball – a rubber formula ball with a treat spot.
- Orbee – textured rubber formula ball.
- Ultimate Bone – soft, durable and reinforced.
- Alligator – a tough toy that’s used to getting bit.
- Farm Dog – soft and durable.
- Kong Wubba – the king of floppy! Dogs love to whip this toy around.
- Nylabone – Original Knot Bone – Looks like those rawhide bone but is actually hard nylon.
- Nylabone – Turkey Leg – Huge Turkey leg shaped nylon toy.
- Goughnut Stick – virgin rubber, extra durable with safety core.
- Rugged Rubber Dynamite – extra durable rubber toy with a fun shape.
Specialized Rubber Type Toys:
- Zogoflex Bumi – z shaped tug toy
- Orbee Tuff Bone – Bone shaped toys in many sizes.
- Planet Dog Strawberry – Another fun shaped, durable, rubber formula toy.
Now, you’re armed with knowing what to look for in your dog, what types of toys apply to a category and specific examples of each.
If you have a picker and you wanted to try something in a different category, you might choose a Nylabone Original Ring (hard nylon). If you wanted something for your picker in the same category, you may choose a Mighty Toy (plush toy).
For those chewers, things are a bit more challenging. Since they’re so powerful, most toys other than rubber or nylon don’t stand a chance. However, there are a few plush toys that are built specifically to withstand the torment of large chewers. They are the Mega Ring, Mega Square Ball and Mega Odd Ball. For the durable rubber products, there’s always the trusty Kong Extreme and new innovative products called the Goughnut Extreme and the Goughnut Stick that take safety to a new level.
The next time you’re shopping for a toy, you’ll have all these tools in your tool box and will be able to make a good decision about what is safe, durable and ultimately economical for you and your picker, ripper or chewer. With a sound choice, you should be able to convert your dollar a minute investment into a dollar a week or more. You’ll be happier about your choices and your dog will have an engaging toy that will last.
If you have any additional questions about the information in this article or need a little more guidance, please visit our site at k9tuff.com and we’ll be happy to help you.