Why Dogs Need Toys – Dog Behavior Modification

May 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Dog Behavior

Toys are a source of great pleasure to dogs but they also serve as important tools in behavior modification. Toys are mentally and physically stimulating and fulfill the pet’s needs. Even though dogs today are primarily bred as companion pets, they still need something to do. In the absence of a “job”, they will look for things to do to occupy their time and fulfill their chewing needs. If you don’t want them to choose their own chew toys or games…such as chewing on your sofa, unraveling all your toilet paper rolls, or destuffing your favorite arm- chair, provide them with appropriate outlets.

There are hundreds of dog toys on the market and many people fill toy boxes for their pets. Toys are excellent mental stimulators that encourage active play and minimize periods of boredom. This reduces the risk of destructive or attention seeking behaviors manifesting in your pet.

However, dogs are like children, and they get bored with their toys quickly. When this happens, the value of the toy as a mental and physical outlet is lost. Our dog trainers recommend that customers select six to eight toys for each pet ensuring that each are different in texture, size and shape. The toys should be given out a few at a time, then rotated every few days so that the pet always has something new with which to play. This keeps things interesting for the pet, fulfills their needs, and keeps toys effective.

Most people greatly underestimate the intelligence of dogs and are surprised to see how much their pets enjoy a challenge. In the resource section of our website, you will find excellent websites that offer mentally challenging toys for your pets. One in particular is called the I-Cube.

The cube is a toy, and inside the cube are additional toys, which the pet has to learn how to get out. When you watch your dog work this toy, you will be amazed at his prowess!

Toys are also an exceptional way to teach your dog to relax. Chew bones, Bully Sticks and Kongs filled with food will entertain your pet for hours. They appreciate the activity, and you’ll appreciate the quiet time. A Kong is a rubber beehive shaped toy that you fill with food and your pet has to figure out how to get the food out. Want forty-five minutes of peace and quiet? Fill a Kong with canned dog food and freeze it. When frozen, send your pet to bed or to his quiet place and give him the Kong. This is so effective that numerous customers have told us it’s the best advice they’ve ever received. I said the same thing myself when I learned this trick! Kongs come in multiple sizes and can be stored in the freezer so they are always available when you want one. Just remember to reduce the amount of dog food you feed daily to make up for their Kong intake!

A few important warnings about toys. First, ensure that you always supervise your dog when they are playing with a new toy. If they break it or destuff it, you’ll want to be there to take away the small parts and of course, not buy that particular toy again. Interactive toys are meant to be used as a team…dog and owner, which provides built-in supervision. Second, be mindful of what you give your pet as a toy. If you give your pet socks, old slippers or articles of clothing to play with, they will see all socks, shoes and clothing as their playthings. Dogs cannot distinguish which of these things are OK to play with and which are not. It’s best to keep your “toys” separate from their toys to eliminate any possible confusion.

If your dog has a new toy that he shows no interest in, engage him in play using the toy. If this proves ineffective, drop the toy in your bed or laundry basket for a day and try to engage him again. Often, items that smell like the owner are more attractive to the pet and ease their loneliness when the two of you are separated. If the dog still shows no interest in the toy, consider the material, shape and size of the toy and don’t buy similar toys again.

A dog that has regular mental and physical stimulation is a happy dog, and happy dogs typically have very happy owners. Who’s up for a game of fetch?

© Paws in Training, Inc. 2009


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