For a dog's emotional wellness, play is essential and toys can be useful for encouraging play and promoting mental and physical enrichment. It's important for dogs to have access to different toys, but not all toys are equal in the eyes of every dog. Just like you have preferences for what games or activities you like, dogs also have their own preferences for what toys they like best — and how they like to play.
Considerations when picking toys
When trying to find toys your dog will love, consider what you know about your dog's preferred play styles. Some dogs like to play tug games, whereas others prefer chasing and retrieving. Other dogs enjoy toys they can enjoy with you, while other dogs love to solve puzzles. It's also important to consider the location where you want your dog to play. If you're looking for toys that your dog will love to use outside, look for ones that are made with materials that are easily washable.
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When finding toys, it's also useful to consider your dog's size — so the toy is the right size to be safe for them. Toys that are too large may be frustrating for your dog and discourage them from playing. On the other hand, toys that are too small can present a serious choking hazard. Be sure to supervise your dog while they are playing with toys. Some dogs can play extra hard with their favorite toys, which can lead to them being ripped open or pieces being chewed off — which could be hazardous if ingested.
Experiment with toys
If you aren't sure what kinds of toys your dog likes best and will love to play with, it can be helpful to experiment. Having a wide variety of toys made from different materials, like hard versus plush toys, squeaky toys and grunting toys, etc., can enable you to learn more about what type is interesting to your dog. Give your dog as many options as possible to encourage different interactive experiences or solo play. Your dog's preferences for toys may surprise you over time since toy preferences can also change over the course of a dog's life.
If you have a dog who often gets bored with toys, you can try to create a love for the toys by not putting them out all at once for them. Even if dogs love their toys, they can also sometimes get bored with them. To make your dog's existing toys more interesting, take a bin and put some of your dog's toys into it and then put it into storage in a closet or somewhere your dog can't access them. Then, every few days or every week, trade the toys you have out for the toys you have in storage. This can make the toys seem "new" again for your dog and can build your dog's interest and engagement.
You can also create a toy-share arrangement with dog-loving friends. If you have friends with dogs of similar size to yours, arrange to wash and then trade clean or unused dog toys that your dog wasn't interested in, and trade them. Trading toys with friends is a good way to save your budget but it can also let you experiment with different types of toys and see what your dog likes best.
Get your dog interested
If you have a dog who has historically not been interested in toys, you can build their toy engagement. For dogs who have previously not been interested in playing with toys, introducing them to toys and balls that dispense treats or food can be a great way to build engagement and interest. You can also use plush toys and tug toys that have fillable pockets that can be filled with high-value dog treats. For dogs who haven't expressed a lot of interest in toys, treat-filled toys can help to build value and engagement. Most dogs enjoy the opportunity to play with toys, and building your dog's toy drive can be useful for their life. Building your dog's love for toys is also useful as a way to diversify rewards while training. Playing interactive games is also a great way to bond with your dog.
Enjoyment over aesthetics
There are so many cute dog toys that are available to purchase. From interactive agility sets to DIY dog toys to the many options on the pet supply store shelves — it can feel overwhelming to choose which toy! When picking out toys, it can be tempting to buy the ones you think are cutest. Try to resist the temptation to make a decision based on aesthetics and instead go for the toys that inspire the kinds of play that your dog finds the most engaging.