With so much choice, what type of toys are best for dogs? How do you know which to choose? We offer our advice...
Dog toys come in all shapes, sizes, colours and textures. You can choose from novelty, squeaky, chewy, and plush types, suitable for throwing, retrieving or tug games, and even interactive toys that provide mental stimulation when your dog is left on his own. Always buy toys specifically designed for dogs, and make sure the toy is suitable for the size and strength of your pet.
Although some companies indicate this on their packaging you should use common sense based on your own knowledge of your dog's behaviour. Supervise play with those toys that may prove less robust under a determined onslaught (such as squeaky latex or stuffed ones) so that if necessary you can step in and remove them before they have been reduced to small pieces and swallowed.
Balls are hot favourites with many dogs, but can be lethal if they are too small because they may be swallowed and or get wedged in the throat. Select one that is larger than your dog's jaw and can't be compressed down to a size that he can swallow. A toy that has a rope attached to it will not only be safer, but will enable you to throw it further.
As well as being a fun way of interacting with your dog, toys can make useful training aids, used as a reward for doing something or to help break undesirable patterns of behaviour. To be used successfully, you need to ensure that the toy you choose for your dog really does motivate him. Pick out the toy you feel your dog likes best, and then put it away out of his sight. Allowing free access to it will reduce its level of appeal and the impact it makes when you want to use it as a reward.
When you feel like it, get the toy out and have a short but very exciting game with it round the house or garden. Stop the game while your dog's still really interested in it - don't play until he's had enough, but leave him wanting more. Put away the toy and ignore your dog until he settles. The next time you bring out the toy, you should find your dog is much more interested in it.