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Wobblers, Kongs, Boomers, Balls, Tuggies, Fluffy, Pheasant ...
A brief look at the world of Dog Toys by Keith Fallon
During my work as a professional trainer and behaviourist I see and hear a lot about dog toys. Everyone has a story and a favourite toy for their dog. Mr Stinky, Pheasie, balls, sticks, kongs, ball on a rope, frisbees - the list is endless. Prices of course can vary wildy as can quality and usefulness.
Do dogs actually need toys?
Toys can provide mental and physical stimulation comfort and increase the dog owner bond. Some dogs love toys, others are not so keen. It all depends on your dogs breed and temperament.
Physical and Mental Stimulation
Toys can be used to play "fetch". Some dogs naturally play fetch others need a bit of encouragement. Increase the difficulty of fetch by getting your dog to wait before sending them off or throw the ball or other toy into some long grass to get that nose working! Balls are usually the toy of choice for fetch but also look at retrieving dummies or dumbells for variety. Hide the toy in the house or garden then send your dog off with a "find it!". Dogs love puzzles and "find it" is great for mental stimulation.
One unsual toy which I recommend for high energy breeds such as collies is the Boomer Ball from The Company of Animals. Very tough and great for chasing around and burning off energy.
Controlling your dogs toys can help towards reducing dominant behaviour in dogs. If toys are high on his tick list of important things then make sure you control access to the toys. Put them in a toy box and either have designated playtime or teach your dog to fetch certain toys giving them different names. Its cute when your dog brings you his favourite toy and pushes it at you, but this can be attention seeking and from time to time turn things ariound and demand he fetches your toy of choice.
As a Distraction and Reward
Toys can also be used as distraction, to increase focus on the owner or as a reward instead of treats.
I discovered these great lure tyoe toys recently whiuch can be a great distraction. Real rabbit (not for everyone) or sheepskin. Useful for carrying around in the pocket.
Types of Toys
There are toys for throwing or hiding, toys for chewing and toys for companionship. If you know your dog is a chewer then avoid soft easily swallowed toys.Your dog may actually show you which is their favourite,. It could be a cheap rubber ball or a fake pheasant to carry around. The good old Kong is a useful addition as it can be thrown, chewed or stuffed with your dogs food or treats as a boredom buster.
Obssessive Behaviour or Possessiveness
One word of caution talking as a behaviourist,everything in moderation. Dogs can get obssessed with certain toys and develop OCD type behaviour, leading to stress.
Too many toys can also cause issues, if your dog is ignoring their collection of toys and finding you (nipping) , your expensive cushions or mobile phone more interesting then put all the toys away and have a "play time". This will reignite the dogs interest in the toys again, similar to children who suddenly rediscover some old forgoten toy in a box.
Always make sure you can take your dogs toy away to prevent possessive behaviour. Finally the good old gasme of Tuggy! I have seen some bad behaviour develop from playing rough tuggy tyoe games. Som e training methods encourage the dog to play tug as a reward. Again use in moderation as this game can increase the desire to bite and hold in some dogs.