Christmas is the time for giving and the most common time for dogs to receive toys from you, your friends and relatives. This is when you must be the responsible guardian in their lives and make sure that those well-meaning gifts are safe for your dog and sometimes simply smile sweetly, say thank you and pop the unsuitable presents away, safely out of reach!
Toys are a vital addition to enrich the lives of our domesticated non-working dogs and replace activities such as hunting, chasing and killing prey. Those squeaks in dog toys are not just for fun or added to drive you mad, they are the closest thing to the sounds of a captured rabbit or small furry and mimic the kill, which is of course why the first thing your dog often wants to do when given a squeaky toy is to remove the source of the squeaking by disembowelling the toy! Those squeaks come from small plastic inserts within the toy and are a swallowing danger, so once the toy has been ‘killed’, get rid of that squeaker (and the giant piles of toy stuffing!). Look out for some of the toys that make other sounds as those inserts can be even more dangerous and some even contain metal parts.
Some dogs like to have a soft toy to carry around, so be sure that the toy size is right for your dog and that any fur or plush fabric does not significantly shed or scratch. Look out for stitched on additions like eyes and tassels as these can be choking hazards for dogs. Avoid cheap rubberised plastic toys as not only are they very rapidly destroyed and form choking hazards, but many include dangerous dyes and other chemicals. Remember that nearly all toys end up in your dog’s mouth and sometimes for prolonged periods of time, so any chemical within the product will easily be absorbed or ingested.
Balls are a favourite for many dogs. Large dogs will easily destroy cheap tennis sized balls and can choke on the rubberised pieces. Once a ball is damaged it is best thrown away. Remember to never throw a tennis ball directly at your dog to catch, as it is easy for the ball to lodge in the throat and block breathing, particularly in the large breeds that can get their mouths completely round the ball. Dogs sadly die every year from freak accidents catching balls even when the owners are on hand to try and dislodge the ball. Always aim to throw the ball well beyond the dog so that they are retrieving it from the ground. Be careful also with throwing heavy balls – dogs can get knocked out too!
Toys such as the Kong® and various treat cubes and maze games are great toys for keeping dogs busy and can also be used in hide and seek games. Once again ensure that the size of the product is right for the size of your dog i.e. the toy should be too big to swallow.
Think too about the activity level of your dog and match the toy to your dog. If your dog is either very young or elderly (or simply has joint disease), a Frisbee® might be inappropriate and bad for either the dogs developing or degenerative joints, whereas for a very active fit dog, a Frisbee® used as the toy of choice on the beach (where there is a nice soft landing and good distance) might be a perfect way for your dog to expend top energy and maintain fitness. There are toys and accessories to entertain all shapes, sizes and activity levels. Remember that smell is the key sense for dogs and even very elderly arthritic dogs can have real enjoyment from rooting for treats in products such as the SnuffleMat® which helps keep the mind active and gives purpose with reward.
It is a really good thing to have some toys that are kept back and rotated as ‘special treats’ or for use on certain days of the week, rather than giving everything at once. Anticipation can be a good thing to keep your dog mentally active and alert!
Have fun with your dog and keep them safe - Remember that the thing they want to play with the most this Christmas is YOU!
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