Puppies love toys. During the puppy's period of rapid development, from 8-weeks-to-9-or-10-months-old, it's important to give him appropriate toys for his age. Breed may also play a role in what toys become his favorites: a hound will naturally enjoy anything he can chase after and carry; terriers are natural diggers and tuggers; and a gundog puppy loves chewing, fetching, and interactive toys.
Of course, your puppy's personality also can guide you. If your puppy is bursting with energy and likes a challenge, he'll love a toy that he can play with, and that also dispenses treats. Some pups are natural cuddlers and like to snuggle with a soft, plush toy, while others may toss it around the room and tear it to shreds. As a general rule of thumb, read the manufacturer's guidelines to make sure the toy is appropriate for your dog's age and size, and that it has been tested for safety.
It's Teething Time
Regardless of breed and personality, one thing you can be sure of is that puppies chew. At around four months old, they start to teethe, as their puppy teeth are replaced by adult teeth and molars. At this stage, chewing may seem like your puppy's obsession, and he'll chew on anything, including your favorite shoes or the dining room chairs. As anyone who's ever taken care of a teething baby knows, teething is painful and your puppy needs ways to distract himself and reduce the discomfort of sore gums. Teething toys help your puppy while giving you an opportunity to teach him what he may and may not chew on. These toys are made specifically for your teething puppies:
The shapes and textures of this chew toy will satisfy his need to chew and also keep him entertained.
Nylabone also makes a treat-filled chew toy that can be frozen to give your puppy cooling relief, hours of chewing, and mental stimulation, as he figures out how to get at the treats.
The Benebone Peanut Butter Flavored Wishbone Chew Toy has a curved shape that lets your puppy hold on to it for a satisfying chewing session. Even better, it's flavored with real peanuts.
The Arctic Freeze Chew Toy is filled with purified water. Just freeze it and let your dog cool his aching gums as he chews. You can even fill it with his favorite treat.
When to Replace or Discard Toys
Whether for a small pup or full-grown dog, toys eventually will have to be replaced.
- Many chew toys are made specifically for a puppy's deciduous, soft baby teeth. An older dog may gnaw pieces off the toy and ingest them, which can cause intestinal and digestive problems.
- Size matters. Toys made for the small mouths of an 8-to-10-week-old puppy may cause a 6-to-9 month-old puppy to choke.
- You want to teach your dog what's appropriate to chew on and what is not, so don't give him toys that resemble taboo items, like a squeaky shoe toy or a cute little toy cellphone.
- Regardless of your dog's age, any toy should be replaced when it looks like it could break or tatter, for example if a rope toy has loose fibers that your dog could ingest. If it's a chew toy, check the wear patterns on it and discard it if it appears to be at its breaking point.
- Upgrade to age-appropriate toys. As with children's toys, the manufacturer will recommend an appropriate age range.
- Just as a toddler may grow tired of a toy he's mastered or played with for weeks, a puppy especially loves brand new toys to play with. There are some interactive toys or puzzles that “grow” with your dog.
- There also ways to make old toys seem new again.
Whether you're helping him through teething, teaching good behaviors, or just enjoying playtime with your puppy, good quality, age- and size-appropriate toys are as important to his development as training and exercise. And, they're fun, too!