The Best Types of Toys for Your Dog
Are you trying to find great gifts for your dog amongst the millions of dog products on the market? Perhaps you're having difficulty selecting toys your dog will love? A brief introduction to some favorite dog toys and dog supplies will help you choose the best dog toys for your canine companion.
Kongs: A Kong is a snowman-shaped rubber toy that can be stuffed with a variety of treats. Frozen Kongs are long-lasting and great for hot summer days. Kongs can be filled with canned dog food (mixed with kibble, if you like), cottage cheese, yogurt, peanut butter, ground raw meats, biscuits, meatballs, etc. Buy at least two Kongs, so one can be in the freezer at all times. Kongs are made in a variety of sizes and chewing strengths - from puppy to senior, "regular" red Kongs to black Kongs for power chewers (and blue Kongs, for the strongest of chewers), in sizes for dogs from 5 to 200 pounds. Dishwasher safe.
Tug-a-Jug: The Tug-a-Jug (TaJ) is a transparent plastic bottle which is filled with kibble. The bottom of the TaJ has small holes through which the kibble can be scented. At the top of the bottle is an opening through which a rubber rope is threaded - this rope rolls around sporadically as the dog pushes the bottle around, releasing kibble as it goes. Dishwasher safe.
Buster Cubes: Buster Cubes are plastic cubes (coming in small and large sizes) containing a number of internal chambers which hold kibble. The Buster Cube's level of difficulty can be adjusted according to the individual dog's proficiency. Buster Cubes can be very loud when rolling around on hardwood floors (as can TaJs), and are somewhat less easy to clean than Kongs and TaJs.
Nina Ottosson Toys: Nina Ottosson (N.O.) toys are the Cadillac of food dispensing toys. With a relatively diverse product line, the interactive Nina Ottosson toys come in plastic (dishwasher safe) or wood models, and are divided into three different levels of difficulty - easy, medium, hard. Is your dog the destructive type? Don't leave her unsupervised with these great puzzle toys!
DIY TaJ: Only give this toy to your dog when supervised. Drill kibble-sized holes into a clean plastic bottle. Insert kibble, screw on lid, voila! Home made TaJ!
Yard or Home: Throw away those food bowls! Dogs should earn food through training, toys, and scent games. Hide your dog's meal of kibble throughout your living room, home, or yard and let him "hunt" for his meal by sniffing it out!
Without question, CleanRun.com has the best selection of tug toys. They have leather tugs, rubber tugs, furry tugs, and even food-dispensing tugs! Some dogs like rope tugs - these can also be soaked in low-sodium chicken broth, frozen, and given to teething puppies (under supervision, of course).
DIY Tug Toy: One yard of three foot fleece fabric, cut into three strips (smaller strips may be needed for smaller dogs). Knot one end, braid tightly and knot at other end. Tie one additional knot in the middle.
Many worry that tug toys can cause aggression - this will not happen if rules are in place for play. With the DIY tug, one end of the toy is yours and one end is the dog's. If the dog's teeth travel above the knot, game ends. Always initiate play - the tug toy should be sacred and not left around; it is a powerful reward. Train a reliable "out" on cue, and don't be afraid to let your dog win...how long would playing any game be fun for you if you never won?
Fetch Toys (Do Not Provide Unsupervised)
Tennis Balls: For fetch only, not for chewing. The Kong company has a line of Air Dog toys which are made of tennis ball type-material (in a variety of shapes and sizes) but much friendlier to dog teeth than traditional tennis balls. As a bonus, Air Dog tennis balls squeak!
Frisbees: Consider getting a soft, rubber-like frisbee as opposed to a hard plastic one which may hurt dogs' teeth.
Other Recommendations: Planet Orbee toys, Zogoflex's Huck and Hurley toys.
Chew Toys (Do Not Provide Unsupervised)
Bones: Marrow bones are not recommended for power chewers, and should not be provided to dogs unsupervised. Cooked bones are not recommended for dogs.
Rawhides: Always choose pressed rawhide, preferably made in the U.S.A.
Antlers: Antlers can be expensive, but are long-lasting chew toys.
Other Recommendations: Nylabones, Bully sticks
Some dogs love stuffed animals. If your dog loves stuffies but destroys them, check out Tuffy's dog toys.
DIY Flirt Pole
Does your dog have an intense prey drive? Try making a flirt pole, the backyard lure-coursing toy! Check out this thread for great tips from Dogster Nick on how to make your own flirt pole for a quick, fun, and inexpensive DIY toy making project!
Photo: Mario Anima
Related Advice from Other Dog Owners
The gentle harness is the best
I highly recommend the gentle harness. If your dog is pulling on walks, these harnesses will put a stop to it without hurting your pet. If it works with 200 pound dogs (I have a Mastiff) it will work with a small dog. Eventually they will realize pulling won't get them anywhere and you can go back to using a regular collar.
When using a gentle leader harness or any harness I would leave a collar on just for the purpose of having ID tags on your dog at all times.
As far as leaving a harness on a dog, it should only be for outside, I have seen dogs wear harnesses full time and have skin irritation issues because it's harder to keep them adjusted properly and they just cover more skin, leaving more to get irritated.
~Candy H., owner of Mastiff
Choose the right harness to help train your dog
If you have a dog that naturally (or through training) walks very nicely on lead without pulling, a body harness is a great choice for him. However, if you have a dog that pulls strongly, the types of harnesses where the leash attaches on the back are a poor choice. Those actually encourage pulling because they allow your dog to put his full weight into pulling you.
A good option is the Gentle Leader harness or similar harnesses, which have the leash clip in the front. What happens with those is, when the dog starts to pull, it turns the dog toward you. While they can still pull to some extent, this helps you in training your dog to walk nicely.
No type of harness or collar is ever a substitute for proper training, and everyone's goal should be to eventually only need a flat collar when the dog is trained to walk nicely without straining. All devices that control, correct, or turn the dog are TRAINING devices, not a permanent solution.
~Chris & Brian C., owner of German Shepherd