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By Laura Matney

Picking the right toy for your dog

Toys are an important part of a dog’s life. The right toys will help relieve boredom, provide comfort, help prevent behavioral problems, provide exercise for the dog’s jaws and help keep teeth healthy. Not all toys, however, are the same in terms of safety and quality.

Keeping dogs safe

When picking out toys, remember that size matters. Pick toys that are large enough so that the dog won’t be able to swallow it. Activity level matters, too. Is the dog a couch potato or likely to rip apart the toys? Before giving a toy to the dog, make sure to remove string, rubber bands and ribbon. In addition, make sure that the dog does not have access to children’s toys or things like pantyhose – both of which could be swallowed and pose a choking threat.

Rawhide bones seem like a natural choice for most dogs, but they too can be broken off into small pieces and could also pose a choking hazard. Bones from the butcher could crack the dog’s teeth. Both versions of bones should only be used under the watchful eye of the owner if used at all.

Plastic, too, is an area for caution. Many plastic toys have been heavily treated with chemicals. The act of chewing creates moisture and heat that can break down those chemicals and risk exposure to your dog. A good pro tip is to dig a fingernail into the toy. If a mark can’t be made that way, it is probably not a good choice. It will be too hard for the gums of puppies and senior dogs.

Good choices for dogs

Good choices are hard, thick rubber toys like Kong or Nylabone products, which can be fun for chewing and carrying around. These toys, also available in varying sizes and shapes for every dog, can also be good to put treats or peanut butter in to keep dogs interested and engage their problem-solving brains.

Rope toys are also good choices. Rope toys with knotted ends simulate a bone. Tennis balls are also good, as long as they are regularly replaced as they start to wear out. Soft toys can be comforting to dogs. With soft toys, it is important to know the dog. If the dog likes to carry soft toys around in its mouth, make sure that the toy is small enough to fit in the dog’s mouth, but again, large enough not to be swallowed. If the dog likes to shake or “kill” its toys, make sure it is sturdy enough to withstand the attack and also large enough not to be swallowed.

What will Fido like?

Every dog is different and will have different approaches to playtime. A few good rules of thumb to keep in mind are that dogs see toys much like wolves see prey. Toys that make noise will typically be more interesting than quiet toys. It’s also important to change out toys frequently – dogs will naturally be interested and curious about new things.

There are endless options available for dogs of all shapes, sizes and activity levels. Ultimately, though, the dog’s owner or family is the best toy. Putting aside time to play with the family pet is critical to the health, emotional state and safety of a dog.

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