Dogs don’t tend to play with toys unless people are around—yes, you’re their best toy! If you’ve played with a pooch, you know dogs explore the world with their mouths. To prevent injuries, keep their toys size-appropriate. Big dogs might rip apart and eat toys meant for little pups, which could cause choking or intestinal blockages. Small dogs and older pups could injure their teeth on hard toys meant for large dogs.
You should be able to make a dent with your fingernail in all dog toys. If it doesn’t dent, it might eventually break a tooth. Many dog toys tell you what size dogs they’re meant for on the label. But if you have any questions, ask your vet or dog trainer.
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Like our cat toy shopping guide, our goodies are broken down into three categories: play-with-me, keep-me-busy, and calm-me-down toys, plus we have some shopping do's and don'ts.
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Do play frequent games of ball or Frisbee and perhaps a little tug-of-war. “Dogs, like people, often don’t get as much exercise as they need,” says Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Don’t forget that size and toughness count. Stick with a small Frisbee for little dogs and pups and a tougher Kong Frisbee for bigger dogs. If your dog is very aggressive, don’t play tug-of-war.
Do look for tough toys like Kongs that you can fill with treats. They might be the only ones your dog plays with by himself, trying to extract the goodies. Softer versions are good for young pups and older dogs.
Don’t forget to check labels to get the right version for your pooch. Large dogs might quickly chew through softer toys, which would be a waste of your money at best, a hazard at worst.
Do try giving your dog a stuffed animal. “Some dogs just like to hold soft things in their mouths,” Beaver says. Some dogs find it calming to chew on toys like a stuffed animal or rope knot. Toss those animals when it looks like the stuffing is about to poke through.
Don’t buy stuffed animals if your pooch is the search-and-destroy type who tears out (and eats) stuffing. Toys without stuffing are a good substitute. And never give Fido a worn-out shoe; your dog won’t be able to differentiate between an old slipper and new Burberry loafers.
If you have an aggressive dog, avoid squeakers that can easily be ripped out and swallowed. And keep kids’ toys that might be swallowed, like toy soldiers, out of reach. Stanley Truffini of the Georgetown Veterinary Hospital in Redding, Conn., said he operated on a dog to remove a staple only to find it was surrounded by a Koosh ball. “Pet-proof your home and look for hazards on their level,” he says.
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