We all love to give our dogs the cutest toys, but it is important to make sure that our best friends have the most appropriate toys for play. When they do, we can be ensured that they are happy, healthy, and appreciative of the care we’ve given them. Here are some of the best toys that I’ve found—and trust me, with my lab mix, who is a big rambunctious rough house of a player, these toys stand up to all sorts of tests. These toys focus on your dog’s physical health, but more importantly, expending some mental energy.
1. Toys for Feeding
When you feed your dog using toys, you are solving many problems at once. If you choose the correct toy—one that is challenging enough, without being too challenging—your dog’s brain will be stimulated. This will be beneficial in curbing destructive behavior.
While physical activity is important in your dog’s life, so is mental stimulation. When dogs haven’t had enough “brain work” some can display unwanted behavior. You may be surprised at how much energy it takes for your dog to get its meals from a toy. Our favorite is the TreatStik.
The design is beautifully simplistic, you fill the TreatStik up with food and your dog tries to figure out how to get the food out. When finished, your dog is full and exhausted. And sure to sleep the rest of the day instead of eating your new shoes.
Toys for feeding are also good for dogs who eat too quickly, as they limit the amount of food that comes out at once.
2. Toys for Stuffing
Most dog owners have a Kong. And most of us stuff it with peanut butter, which is a good place to start. But to really get your dog’s motor going (and to get that brain working and keep it active) it is best to layer the flavors. Here is my Coco’s favorite Kong stuffing recipe:
Layer 1: treat stuck in the bottom hole (we make our own)
Layer 2: mixture of sardines and dry kibble
Layer 3: some soft leftovers from our dinner in the fridge
Layer 4: a little cottage cheese or yogurt mixed with a few bits of dry kibble
Layer 5: cover the top with peanut butter
After I completely stuff the Kong, I put it in the freezer to make it extra challenging to empty.
You can use all kinds of ingredients to stuff a Kong; just look in the refrigerator. Also, this site has some great recipes and tips.
3. Toys for Interaction
Some of our favorite toys come for West Paw Design. These toys, like the Hurly and the Jive, are great for interacting with your dog. They are made from recycled material and have a satisfaction guarantee. In addition, they are made in the USA, so you can be confident that your dog is safe when chewing.
We use the Jive ball and the Hurley in many ways. We play fetch with Coco, practicing the “go get it” command and the “leave it.” Often, I will hide them in the house while Coco sits in the kitchen (practicing the “wait” command). When she finds one, I reward her hard-working nose by trying to get it away from her, something she finds endlessly amusing. When we’ve had enough I tell her to leave it and we do it all over again. This interaction is priceless because it teaches her that if she does what I want, she gets to play and it makes us both happy.
4. Toys for Treating
Our favorite toy for dispensing just treats is Busy Buddy’s Squirrel Dude. This cute and durable squirrel has a hole in the bottom for you to insert treats. Little rubber prongs around the opening make the Squirrel Dude a challenge your pup by restricting the treats coming out.
What we like about the Dude is that it rolls, so Coco is more engaged with it. She likes to push things around with her paws and nose. Doing so with this toy helps get the treats out, and she is rewarded for being clever and resourceful.
5. Toys for Tugging
Many dogs love to tug. I’ve found that playing tug of war with Coco is good for physically and mentally activity. In addition, it gives us more time to interact and practice commands.
We love West Paw’s Bumi for tugging because it is durable and easy to grab. Since Coco is an aggressive chewer, I don’t care for rope toys as I’m afraid she will inadvertently ingest the strings. The Bumi is S-shaped and expands as you pull it. As with the other products in the Zogoflex line, West Paw offers a replacement should your toy be destroyed. This lets us tug in confidence.
Remember that when playing tug of war, you should establish rules with your dog so that you are in control of the tug session. When you teach your dog the proper way to play tug of war, you are teaching many commands and valuable lessons such as self-confidence and control.
Many of the toys I’ve suggested involve food. These will be a godsend if your dog is food-motivated. If you have a dog who doesn’t care much about food, the other toys suggested could be more beneficial. Providing your best friend with quality play is important and making sure you have the right equipment is essential.
Thanks for reading,
Brandi Elliott is a blogger from Death By A Chocolate Lab: http://deathbychocolatelab.blogspot.com/