How Do Dogs Choose Their Favorite Toy?

What's your dogs favorite toy? We have an endless supply of toys that we can choose for our pups, but almost every pet owner knows the curiosity that comes when our dog selects a favorite.

Often, the logic behind their favorite toy is a little lost on us. We might not think the toy they love most is the cutest or funnest, but our dogs clearly disagree with us. So how exactly do dogs choose their favorite toy? We dug into our dogs' psyche to understand more about how they choose their favorites.

Labrador with a toy
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Most dogs prefer toys that have some give and make noise.

Dogs evolved from wolves, and they maintain some of their predatory drives. Soft toys that make noise remind them of prey, so it stimulates part of their brain that still carries those instincts. So if you notice your dog loves their toy that makes noise or the one that's malleable enough to chew, you can thank their wolf ancestors.

Because these toys have a certain liveliness to them, they can hold your dog's attention for a longer time than a toy that doesn't stimulate these instincts.

The favorite toy your dog chooses may be connected with other instincts.

Obviously, there are hundreds of dog toys that are malleable or make noise, but that still doesn't explain how dogs choose their favorites. But dogs have more than just one simple predatory instinct, and depending on your dogs breed and personality, they may prefer certain toys to others.

black labrador
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Plush toys: Some dogs love plush toys. Some carry them around gently or even snuggle with them. Labradors and retrievers are known for carrying their plushies around like they might carry a duck carcass while hunting with their humans. So dogs with an instinct for hunting may gently carry around their plush toys.

Also, plush toys may remind dogs of their puppies or siblings. Mother dogs whose puppies were taken too early or those who were taken from their mothers before they were weaned may snuggle with something that reminds them of their family. Also, some dogs have strong mothering instincts, so they like having a small toy to care for.

Tearing toys apart: Dogs who not only love toys that stimulate their predatory instincts, but also love to rip them to shreds, may have an even greater predatory drive than most.

Fetching toys: Some dogs can't get enough of fetch, so their ball is their favorite toy. These pups are likely motivated by their instinct to chase down prey.

Puzzle toys: Dogs' instincts drive them on a constant search for food and treats. Because even though these days, they rely on their owners for nourishment, their ancestors had to fight for every scrap. Thus, puzzle toys full of treats will keep them focused for hours until they retrieve all the treats.

Playing Shar Pei
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The most important quality that can make a toy your pup's favorite is YOU!

Dogs can get bored of toys when they're just playing on their own. However, as soon as you join in, their attention spans grow. Having their humans involved in playtime makes all the difference to dogs when it comes to choosing a favorite toy.

"Like when you give your dog a toy and there is a moment that is happy and special with a toy and they associate it with a memory, which is debatable. It's like when you have a toy as a child that your uncle gave you for Christmas and you hadn't seen him for ages. Those moments have a lot of impacts for dogs and the impact can last forever." Liz Kover, dog trainer and director of Miracle Mutts, told The Dodo.

This can come in handy if you need to train your pup to like a different toy than what they usually play with. If your dog seems to enjoy only things they shouldn't play with, then playing with them using a more appropriate toy can help shift their opinion.

Variety

Adult shetland sheepdog seen from above looking up with on the floor all kinds of doggy stuff like bones, toys and food
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Studies have shown that dogs will usually choose a new toy over an old one, because they love novelty. So sometimes dogs will cycle through favorite toys because they crave something new. But don't worry, once they've put down an old favorite for a while, it will become "new" again to them, so you won't always have to keep buying new toys.