Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our Fall issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the magazine delivered to your home.
Some dogs see a stuffed toy, and their prey drive kicks in. Others like to retrieve them or chase them. What about your dog? Take this quiz to find out the hows and whys of your dog’s relationship with her stuffed animals.
1. It’s your dog’s birthday. You buy her a brand-new stuffed toy. Your dog:
a. Shreds it in 5 minutes
b. Plays fetch for a while. She gently carries it back to you until your arm is tired.
c. Carries it around with her and protects it. Aww, she thinks it’s her baby!
d. Sometimes sleeps with (or humps!) stuffed toys. Or carries it around for a while, then chews it up.
2. When given the choice between a Frisbee, tennis ball, a Kong treat dispenser, and a stuffed squeaker toy, your dog chooses:
a. The squeaker toy. She loves killing stuffed animals!
b. Any fetch toy! She can’t get enough fetch.
c. All of them. She gathers them up and guards them.
d. So many toys! How can she choose? It’s toy overload!
3. You get a stuffed toy with a squeaker inside. Once you squeak it and toss it to her, she:
a. Goes right for the jugular. As it squeaks pathetically between her jaws, you decide that next time you’ll buy a toy with replaceable squeakers.
b. Wants you to throw it so she can retrieve it for you. You decide her next toy will be an automatic fetch machine.
c. Takes it from your hand and leaves. Later on, when you try to take one of the other stuffed toys from her bed (gotta rotate those toys to keep them interesting!), she growls and barks at you.
d. Just looks at you. Squeaky, squeaky. Nope, still just a questioning stare and a head tilt.
4. At the vet’s office, your veterinarian mentions a recent surgery in which she removed stuffed toy fluff blocking a dog’s digestive tract. You say something like,
a. “Oh, yeah, I have to buy stuffless toys now. Luckily when my dog ate stuffing, she passed the fluff with no trouble.”
b. “Wow! I don’t think Bella would ever eat fluff. She’s gentle with her stuffed toys.”
c. “After Fifi destroys a toy, she’ll guard its remains, but I’ve never seen her eat them.”
d. “Oh, wow. I’ll keep an eye on Daisy from now on. You never know with her.”
5. Dogs behave differently based on the type of breed they are. Typically, terriers enjoy destroying stuffed toys, retrievers like to retrieve, and herding dogs like to chase toys like Frisbees. Your dog:
a. Must have some terrier in her. She loves killing stuffed animals!
b. Is a retriever or probably has retriever blood in her. She certainly acts like it!
c. Is not a guard dog breed, but she guards her toys and will get aggressive if you try to take them away.
d. Is just a weirdo. She doesn’t fit any category!
Mostly As — The Destroyer
Dana Ebbecke, an Animal Behavior Counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center, is a certified professional dog trainer who has worked with dogs professionally for more than 10 years, so she’s seen all types of interactions with stuffed toys. The most exciting part of a stuffed toy is the squeaker, she said.
“Squeakers simulate prey sounds, and many dogs will immediately locate and remove the squeaker from a toy because it’s the most fun part!”
But this results in a lot of destroyed toys, so buy durable ones and those with replaceable squeakers, and rotate toys regularly. Also supervise your dog to make sure she’s not eating anything she shouldn’t be!
Mostly Bs — The Carrier
Dana said that many behaviors stem from the dog’s breed type. While terriers are often toy destroyers and herding dogs like to chase toys, “retriever type dogs enjoy retrieving items.”
So if your dog loves fetch and gently picks up toys to bring back to you, perhaps she has some retriever in her lineage.
“Sometimes breed types can contribute to how a dog plays with toys,” she said, but “it varies from individual to individual.” Your dog may just be gentle and love playing fetch!
Mostly Cs — The Obsessed
If your dog gets mad at you when you try to take away a toy, or if she obsessively carries a toy around, you probably already know there’s a problem.
“Some dogs can develop resource guarding of valuable items,” Dana said. “If a dog displays concerning behaviors, especially if they begin to display aggression, contact a certified professional dog trainer to help with these issues.”
Mostly Ds or a combination of all — The Unique Individual
Your dog may not fit any of the typical characteristics — she may ignore toys, be a purebred retriever who never wants to retrieve, or play differently with different stuffed toys.
“Each dog is an individual; different dogs have preferences on how they interact with toys,” she said. As long as your dog doesn’t eat inedible toys and displays healthy behaviors, it’s OK if she doesn’t fit into any category!