Playtime is probably one of the highlights of your dog's day (equal only to dinnertime!). Playing with your dog is an important part of building your relationship, ensuring they have plenty of physical and mental stimulation, and a safeguard against boredom and its associated negative behaviours.
There are a few things you should keep in mind when planning to use toys during playtime, to make the experience ideal for your dog.
It may surprise you to know there are currently no mandatory safety standards for pet toys in Australia. This means there will be many toys on the market that do not have the durability and quality needed to be played with vigorously by our pets.
Things to watch out for when assessing the safety of toys for your dog are the durability of the materials (is there is loose fabric or string) or if they contain squeakers that could fall out. Always avoid toys made from hard materials like wood, stone, or other inflexible materials that could damage or break your dog's teeth.
It's also important to regularly check your dog's toys for signs of wear and tear including holes, sharp or spiky bits, or tears, and to remove any that are at the end of their use. Toys should also be cleaned regularly and any that are very soiled and cannot be cleaned properly should be retired.
When playing with multiple dogs, be conscious of any possessiveness each dog may have towards favourite toys, and avoid using those special items. Instead, have enough neutral toys available that can engage the dogs without resulting in any arguments.
How to choose the right toys?
When looking for new toys, it's important to understand your dog, and choose toys that align with their favourite activities. Some dogs will prefer fluffy toys to cuddle with, over a squeaky chew toy.
More active dogs will enjoy toys that can be thrown and retrieved, and using toys that are interactive like puzzle feeders can be beneficial for food-motivated and intelligent dogs.
For most dogs, variety is key and it's important to switch up toys regularly. A good idea is to keep a box of toys, and rotate them at least once a week, ideally every couple of days. Choose toys for their quality and durability, and look for brands that conduct regular quality testing on their products.
No substitute for attention
While toys can be great tools for enrichment, they're not a substitute for quality, interactive time spent with your dog.
Think of toys as tools to enhance your playtime with your dog, or to keep them occupied when you're not at home, but always factor in time to spend each day interacting with your dog.
It's also important to supervise your dog with toys, especially new ones, to make sure there aren't any unforeseen hazards to be aware of.
Remember, dogs can take some time to warm up to new toys, so make sure to introduce new items without trying to force them on your dog.
Let your dog spend time getting to know the new toy, and make a decision about whether they want to play with it, on their own.
With the right toys and plenty of your dedicated attention, playtime is sure to stay a highlight in your dog's day.
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