When you see your puppy or adult dog playing with a toy, he’s not just playing. Depending on the activity, dog toys can be used for:
- Mental stimulation- when games are played that involve problem solving
- To teach Instructional Commands (such as “Give” or “Find it!”)
- Build a foundation for other training later in life (retrieving, obedience, etc.)
- Activities to reduce separation issues when the owner is gone
- Rewards during training- used contingently, dog toys can be one of the most effective positive reinforcers for training
- Breed specific activities (Sporting breeds retrieving, Terriers and squeaky toys)
There are different types of toys.
- Biting Toys- can help with teething and can be used to teach puppies and dogs that they should not mouth or bite people during play, but a toy instead
- Balls- can teach gross motor skills and provide exercise. Puppies can learn the basics of other skills such as the retrieving that can be developed for hunting, obedience competition, or other advanced skills
- Chew Toys- are good for teething and are important during developmental changes in dentition, they strengthen the face and neck muscles
- Noise Toys- teach dogs to not be afraid in the presence of unusual sounds, they teach cause/effect—squeeze it to make the sound, and they can be used for practice at locating sounds
- Soft Toys- a familiar soft toy provides comfort and familiarity. Many dogs will take their favorite stuffed animal to their bed. Taking a favorite toy along on a trip will make the dog feel more at home.
- Hard toys with food inside- can keep a dog busy and thus, reduce separation issues.
At our house, stuffed animals are the preferred toy for (supervised) Puppy Play time. Does your dog have a favorite toy?