We spoil our pets. We buy them organic, protein-rich food, feed them delicious treats, and shower them with toys as if every day is their birthday, which makes it all the more frustrating, of course, when they lose interest in those toys.
So why? Why do dogs lose interest in toys that they loved so very much when they first got them? It turns out it's not your dog being a brat — it's just science.
Dogs lose interest in toys because of a hard-wired condition called neophilia.
Studies have shown that dogs suffer from something called neophilia — an intense preference for novelty. That means that dogs are just hardwired to prefer new things and, by extension, to lose interest once something is no longer new and shiny.
In a study published in the journal Animal Cognition, researchers from the University of Giessen in Germany and the University of Lincoln in the U.K. worked with 17 dogs to test their preferences for new things. In the first stage of the study, the dogs played with both researchers and two toys. Once researchers confirmed that the toys in play were, in fact, toys the dogs liked, they then presented each dog with three toys — two of which the dogs had played with before and a new one. The dogs were then able to choose a single toy to play with. The new toy was chosen in 38 of 50 tests.
In another study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol Anthrozoology Institute and the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition, 16 adult Labrador retrievers were each given a toy for 30 seconds. Then, researchers took the toy away and gave it back to the dog after a short time and repeated this process until the dog stopped showing interest in the toy. On average, the researchers found that dogs lost interest in the toys after five 30-second play times. Added up, that's two and a half minutes of play before the dogs were no longer interested in the toys. That's INSANE (and insanely frustrating, for the owners paying good money for these 2.5 minute entertainments).
Regularly rotating your dog's lineup of toys keeps them novel for longer.
The good news is there are ways to extend a toy's shelf life with your dog. The number one way? To literally put the toy on a shelf (or in a box or in a room your dog isn't able to go into). Rotating your dog's toys is the easiest and best way to get the most out of a toy's novelty.
If a toy is available to a dog all of the time, they will quickly lose interest in it. Your dog will respond to the toys longer if the are rotated regularly.
Giving toys a new smell can also make them seem new to your dog.
Another way to "trick" your dog into liking an old toy is to give it a new smell. When your dog is bored with all of his toys, try taking them outside and rolling them in the grass at his favorite park. The new smell will stimulate your dog and make the toys seem new again.
Some dogs prefer toys that challenge their brains.
It's also important to plan ahead when buying toys for your dog. In general, dogs will stay interested longer in toys that keep them mentally stimulated. If your dog bores easily, try buying him some puzzle games that force him to think and then reward him (many will dispense treats or kibble when the dog solves the "puzzle").
The types of toys dogs like best.
When it comes to shopping for your dog, the options feel endless. And that's doubly true when it comes to toys for our dogs. From bones to adorable little plush toys, the dog aisles in pet stores go on for miles, but it turns out there's a reason. Our dogs actually like lots of different toys, and certain toys serve certain purposes. But if you're new to dog ownership, or if you've never really thought too hard about what toys to pick for your dog, don't worry. We've got your complete dog toy guide right here.
Chew Toys: It's in a dog's nature to chew. Not only are chew toys a favorite among dogs, but dog owners love them as well. They can curb destructive chewing, help with teething and keep your dog entertained. You have many types to choose from. Some are designed to help clean the dog's teeth during playtime. Others are flavored, or can be filled with treats, making them a more enticing option than your slippers. (Unless your slippers taste like peanut butter.)
Squeaky Toys: Dogs are natural hunters and in the wild many prey animals will make a small squeaking noise that doesn't stop until the kill is made. Squeaky toys satisfy a dog's primal instinct to capture prey. Squeaky toys in the form of small animals are even more enticing. Make sure to chose plush toys that are made for dogs. Plush toys made for children should never be given to dogs: it's a lot easier for a dog to rip off and swallow small pieces like buttons, or to get into the stuffing itself and try to eat that.
Puzzle Toys: Puzzle toys provide hours of entertainment and rewards for dogs. Some can be loaded with treats: when the dog interacts with it, the toy will dispense a treat. Another type of puzzle toy is a plush toy with compartments that hide smaller toys. As the dog discovers their hiding spots, she receives the reward of more toys. This can satisfy the primal need to hunt.
Tug Toys: Tug toys are a favorite among dogs because they encourage owners to play with them. A good tug toy will be large enough for you to handle without getting in the way of the dog's teeth. The toy should also be strong enough to handle the pulling power and biting strength of your pet. Lastly, a tug toy that has different textures can be fun for your dog, offering different chewing experiences. This makes the toy fun even when you're not able to play. For example, a tug toy made of rope and rubber materials will provide hours of tugging and chewing fun.
The most important quality that can make a toy your pup's favorite is YOU!
Finally, if you really want to pique your dog's interest in a toy, get involved. Playing with your dog is the number one way to get his attention and make him excited about a toy. If you want to play with it, he will too.