How much do you think the average Millennial dog owner spends to take care of her canine companion each year? $300? $700? A cool $1K?
Think higher. The average annual expenditure among Americans ages 22-37 on kibble, bones, leashes, treats, grooming, and of course the best dog toys available is a whopping $1,285. That’s just over $100 each month.
Of course, ask any pet owner about the cost involved in keeping a dog, and they will invariably tell you that it is a small price to pay for the companionship, affection, and fun that they get from their dogs in return. One of the best parts of having a dog around? Playing with him! Read on for a guide to selecting dog toys to bring out your pet’s inner puppy, provide good exercise, and make every play session even more fun.
General Guidelines for Choosing the Best Dog Toys
Choosing toys for your pup might not seem like rocket science, but there are some general guidelines you should know about. Not all of these are common sense, either. Before you bring home a new pet, or before you head to the store to purchase toys for an old friend, take a look at this advice.
All Toys Are Not Interchangeable
With a few notable exceptions — Frisbees and tennis balls come to mind — make sure to buy toys that are made specifically for dogs. Children’s toys might pose a choking hazard or may be made from toxic materials that will harm the dog if he chews on the item.
The same is true for cat toys, many of which have small jingle balls that could easily be swallowed by a larger dog.
Steer clear of bargain bin and dollar store dog toys, too. This is mainly a matter of quality, although safety might be an issue here as well. Most dogs are pretty rough on their toys, so don’t waste your money on shoddily made ones that will fall apart after just a few minutes of chewing, flinging, pawing, or throwing.
Select Toys Based on the Dog
From purse-sized chihuahuas and teacup dogs to giant mastiffs and Saint Bernards, dogs come in a wide range of sizes. A good toy for larger breeds might overwhelm a small pooch, while a tiny toy simply won’t measure up for a big dog.
Take your dog’s activity level and temperament into account, too. Some dogs can’t seem to resist tearing apart plushies and pillows, while others are less apt to destroy stuffed toys.
Make Sure Not to Send a Mixed Message
Since your dog loves to chew on shoes, an old, worn-out sneaker or loafer might make the perfect toy, right?
Wrong. This sends the message that shoes are fair game for chewing and ripping. After all, your pup doesn’t distinguish betweennew shoes andthose that haveseen better days. Resist the urge to “upcycle” items that ought to go right into the garbage can.
Types of Toys To Give Your Dog
Over time, you come to know your dog’s personality and his tastes in toys. It becomes fairly easy to choose playthings that will provide him hours of entertainment. But if you have just rescued a new furry friend or are bringing home a puppy, you’ll want to try a variety of toy types.
Just like humans, dogs have changing tastes and habits. So even if your dog has never really enjoyed, say, squeaky toys, give them another try every once in a while just to see.
Flying discs, tennis balls, balls with launchers, or any other toy that gets you out into the fresh air and inspires a great game of chase will be fun for both of you. That’s also true of toys that let you play tug-of-war, like a sturdy length of knotted rope.
Although they are most often associated with cats, laser pointers can be great dog toys, too. Be careful never to shine the light in the dog’s eye. And let the dog “catch” the red dot every once in a while, lest he get too frustrated and give up.
Calming Comfort Toys
Many dogs have a special toy, often a stuffed one, that they use as a security blanket. It’s not unusual for a puppy to become attached to a plush animal or other cuddly comfort object, and to cherish it all his life. (Word to the wise: if you suspect your dog is becoming attached to a toy, stock up on extras while you can to save heartache down the line.)
Aggressive dogs that feel the need to “prey upon” and destroyplush animalsmight do better with a stuffing-free snuggle toy or even a small blanket. If you do choose to give them plush versions, make sure the dog is supervised whenever he plays with that particular item.
Kongs are perhaps the best-known dog toy of all, but there is a wide array of puzzle toys. These will challenge and stimulate your dog’s brain as he plays and will reward his hard work with a treat or a lick of peanut butter.
Pet experts say that puzzle toys are a fantastic way to keep a dog occupied and distracted while he is alone. They can also help reduce separation anxiety. The toy presents a project for the dog to work on, which can take his mind off of the fact that you’ve left for the office as well.
Final Thoughts About Choosing Toys
As long as you keep safety top of mind when selecting playthings for your dog, you will find that the best dog toys are those your dog really responds to, turns to time and again, and maybe even takes with him into his crate at night. In other words, it’s hard to rank toys because every dog is different.
It may take some experimentation before you and your dog find the perfect squeakers, chew toys, stuffed animals, puzzles, and ropes tostock his toy chest — but you will have a blast along the way!