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A dog enjoying a toy is as entertaining to us humans as it is to the dog. Perhaps that’s why dog owners spend roughly $79 a year on new dog toys. With hundreds, if not thousands, of dog toys to choose from, how do you choose a toy your dog will love instead of spending your money on what seems like a terrific toy only to watch your dog ignore it?

Dog toys can be broken into categories like training toys, treat-dispensing toys, interactive toys, comfort toys, and self-amusement toys. There’s a lot to choose from, so you’ll want to see which would be most beneficial for your dog. Instead of letting your dog try every toy on the pet store shelf, here are some helpful tips for choosing the right toys.

Why Playing Is Important for Dogs

Playing has many benefits for dogs. It can help them relieve stress, get rid of pent-up energy, strengthen your bond with your dog, and stimulate them mentally. The majority of dogs enjoy playing, so if you want to see that tail wagging, you’ll want to pick a toy that they’ll enjoy, and that’s durable enough to last awhile.

Play can be a great motivator for training and good behavior, and you can really bond with your dog by spending time playing with them every day. Play can go hand-in-hand with training, and build skills that are crucial to your dog behaving. Plus, a dog that’s tired from playing is less likely to misbehave — they won’t have the energy to!

If Your Dog Likes to Chase Things

Of course, tennis balls are probably one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of dog toys. You’ll want a multipack of these because, no matter how great a retriever your dog is, some balls will disappear. If you play catch with your dog at a dog park or other open space, choose colored balls to distinguish yours from those belonging to other dogs. Rubber balls are more durable than standard tennis balls.

A disc toy is also great for chasing. Some breeds are especially good at this, known to catch the disc in midair. Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Rat Terriers, and all types of Retrievers especially love the challenge of chasing a disc toy. Choose a disc toy made specifically for dogs. They are softer and easier on the dog’s mouth.

If Your Dog Loves To Chew

Hard chew toys, dental chews, and rope toys should entertain them. If they’re a heavy chewer, choose a toy that’s durable and won’t break into small pieces. Chew toys are also useful training tools for teaching puppies what they may and may not chew.

Parson Russell Terrier laying down with its toys in the grass.

If Your Dog is Especially Attuned to Treats And Rewards

Try toys that dispense treats, such as the popular KONG dog toys, which you can fill with small treats that your dog retrieves as they play with it. For mental stimulation, there are challenging toys that require a dog to work to get to the treats.

If Your Dog Likes to Cuddle and Carry Things Around

They’ll like a soft, squishy dog toy, made of fleece or plush. If it has a squeaker, even better! Just like small children, a dog may bond with a special toy and even sleep with it.

Dog Toys for Different Sized Breeds

Puppy Dog Toys

Puppies need different dog toys than adult toys for many reasons. Their teeth are still coming in, and they still have a lot to learn. They’re experiencing many things for the first time, so it’s important to get puppy toys that are safe and especially made for puppies. Teething toys are especially good for puppies to help sooth their gums as they’re teething.

Small Breed Dog Toys

When looking for dog toys for your small or toy breed, it’s good to take into consideration their size. You want to get a ball that isn’t too big to put in their mouth, but also not so small that they could swallow it. Some popular small-breed dog toys include plush toys and different shaped ball toys.

Medium Breed Dog Toys

For toys for medium-sized dog breeds, looks for toys that are durable and a good size in comparison to their body. Different breeds will have different needs and drives, so strong, durable pull toys will be good for some breeds more than others.

Large and Giant Breed Dog Toys

Large and giant breed dogs may also need larger toys. Their mouths are bigger, and they can be stronger depending on the breed. You may need more durable rope toys or balls, making sure that the balls are big enough that your dog can’t choke on or swallow them by accident.

Dog Toy Studies

Why do dogs prefer some toys over others? Certain dogs like certain toys for scientifically-backed reasons. Researchers at the University of Giessen in Germany and the University of Lincoln in England studied Labrador Retrievers, which are famous for their love of play. The results may help you choose dog toys that won’t be left gathering dust in a corner.

  • Researchers think that dogs perceive toys the same way that wolves perceive prey. They like toys that smell like food, make noise, and can be torn apart. However, be careful with toys that break into small pieces that can be harmful if swallowed.
  • Hard, quiet toys may be less interesting. If your dog can’t tear it apart, chew on it, or have it make a noise, what’s the point?
  • Dogs are much more interested in new toys. In the study using Labrador Retrievers, the dogs were invariably interested in each new toy, but only for a short while. The dogs lost interest once the toy became familiar.

Because we’re not going to present our pets with a new toy every day, Psychology Today has some tips for making an old toy seem new again:

Instead of leaving toys scattered around, put each toy away once in a while. Employing the adage, “out of sight, out of mind,” the toy will seem new again when you pull it out for playtime.

You can also make an old dog toy seem new by changing its scent. Roll it in the grass, give it a light spray with fabric softener, or dab it with some other scent to give it a new smell, and it may seem like new to your dog.

Most of all, dogs prefer any toy that also involves you. They’re social animals and are much more excited if you participate. Old dog toy, new dog toy, or just an old sock — it won’t matter as long as you’re playing with them. As you may expect, having a playmate is a lot more fun than playing alone.
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