I love dogs and have owned several dogs throughout my life. When I was a child, we had a Beagle mix (OK, he was a mutt) and we never had any toys for him. Just my two brothers and me. We were just the toys our dog needed. Us and the squirrels. He loved to chase the squirrels!
He never had obedience training and he never chewed up the house. This was a time before cell phones, cable television, computer games, and many other modern conveniences. After school, we were expected to remain outside until it was time for dinner, and we took the dog with us. We all knew to be home when the streetlights came on.
Why Do Dogs Need Toys?
Dogs don’t actually need toys, they need activity. Dogs were originally working animals. They helped our hunter/gatherer ancestors hunt for food and keep the tribe fed. Their keen senses helped our ancestors prepare for other predators and protect the tribe. Now, they are couch potatoes while we go to work and leave them home alone.
If your existence was just to get up, go out to “take care of business,” and return to sleep in a corner all day while your pack mate went out, you would go bonkers in a minute. Dogs live in the moment, the “now”, so they have to do something to make “now” a bit more interesting. If that is to let you know that they are displeased because you are not there with them, then you’ll find chewed walls and sofas when you return home. Your dog wants to spend every waking moment with you (and not a few sleeping moments with you also). My chihuahua is sleeping on my shoulder as I write this.
The earliest toys for dogs were sticks and balls. This is the classic retrieval game of “Fetch”. You throw a stick or a ball, and your dog returns it to you, waiting excitedly for you to throw it again. And again. And again.
There were also pieces of rope with knots ties in each end. This could be used for games of “Fetch”, but also for “Tug-o-War”. This is where you and your dog try to pull the rope away from the other one. There are no winners or losers in this game because you can keep playing it again. And again. And again.
Obedience training is necessary for today’s dogs to ensure that they are good canine citizens and are well socialized around their family, other people, and other dogs. Obedience should be a form of play and work for your dog. It is good quality time that you can spend together. You can find obedience classes at your local shelter or a good reputable pet supply store.
Basic obedience commands are also a form of play. We have a veteran at my place of work who has a service dog who helps him with different tasks. We are allowed to give him treats after the treats have been approved by the owner. We must also make the dog work for the treat. I always ask what the dog needs to work on at that time. The dog has a weigh in every three months and is tested annually to ensure that he still remembers his commands. It’s fun for the dog and fun for me and my co-workers.
These are toys designed as puzzles for your dog. They can be many different shapes and sizes of these from the simple chew toy with the treat hidden inside to a more elaborate puzzle that requires the dog to manipulate the puzzle to get to the treat.
I had one puzzle for my late dog, Gabriel, that consisted of a plastic puzzle with eight different compartments to hide treats. My dog had sever separation anxiety and I thought that this puzzle would keep him occupied for awhile so that I could go off to work. Gabriel had the entire puzzle figured out in 15 minutes. He was amazing!
There are toys that will focus on different areas of what your dog needs whether it is puzzles or chewing, but they are all designed to occupy your dog and eliminate boredom.
I am giving squeaky toys their own attention because my mother only buys dog toys based on the number of squeakers they have. For her, it’s the more the merrier.
Some dogs will absolutely destroy the squeaker and you run out of toy very quickly. Some dogs, like my Beppe, love his toys and will take care not to destroy the squeaky inside of it. He takes very good care of his toys. But he still leaves them all over the house and barks when he tosses them someplace where he thinks he won’t fit. (He’s a chihuahua, but he thinks he’s a mastiff.)
My sister-in-law runs triathalons and her dog runs with her. Now you don’t have to be a competition runner, but you can take your dog running with you. If you are not a runner, take your dog for a walk. We take our dog with us when we are walking in the Crop Walk to raise funds for hunger relief. Walking and running are great exercise for both you and your dog. My husband likes to take long walks, about two miles, and he takes our chihuahuas with him. That’s like a marathon for them, and they are always in good spirits when they return. As a plus, the younger of the two dogs will start whining around 8:30 pm to be tucked into bed because he’s all tired out.
Why You’re the Best Doggie Toy Ever
The common theme among all dog toys is you, the owner. You are the key piece of every toy designed for your dog. Good dog toys keep the dog occupied, but the best dog toy keeps the dog enamored. You dog loves you and would rather spend the entire day hanging out with you than in any other way. That’s the best toy ever!