What's the top reason manufacturers of doggie toys design them to squeak, peep, cheep, squeal and whine? Dogs love them. As you watch your dog grab his favorite squeaky toy, shake it with all his force, and then toss it in the air, you may think he has gone bonkers. Dogs who get hyper with squeaky toys are acting out their ancestral hunting instincts.
The Sound of Prey
Despite a recent history of being served their food on time in bowls filled from a bag or can, many dogs remain instinctive hunters. That squeaky toy gets your pampered pooch revved up because it mimics the sound of small prey. In nature, such squeaks will attract dogs and trigger their prey drive. Dogs respond by twitching their ears and using their noses to locate the prey, stalking, and possibly digging up, pouncing on, or chasing the prey.
Recreating the Predatory Sequence
When dogs hunt in the wild, they follow a predatory sequence that includes the following steps: searching, stalking, chasing, catching, biting, killing and eating. If your dog hears a squeaky toy sound, he may become hyper so he's ready to engage in some of these actions in play. For instance, if your dog gets hold of a squeaky toy, he may vigorously shake his head to "kill" his prey. In the wild, this action would break the spine of a small animal. Your dog may then "dissect" his conquered squeaky toy by breaking it apart. In this case, be alert: Countless dogs have swallowed the squeaker, and some have required surgery to get it out.
If your dog has a history of hunting, anything that squeaks may particularly get his attention, because he has learned to associate squeaky noises with the adrenaline rush of the pursuit. He may become hyper upon hearing squealing sounds that resemble a frightened or injured animal.
Dog Breed Predisposition
Not all dogs respond to squeaks in the same way. Squeaks are particularly appealing to dogs descended from ancestors who were selected to hunt vermin. Terriers, for instance, are attracted to toys that resemble mice and squeak, because terriers were selectively bred to hunt and kill mice and other small prey. Retrievers may be attracted to plush toy ducks that make quacking noises. While all dogs have some level of prey drive, not all dogs will get hyper upon hearing a squeaking sound.
By Adrienne Farricelli
About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.