This morning as one of my favorite trees was being taken down, I had the opportunity to spend an hour with one of my favorite dogs who is no longer here on earth. There were hundreds of pine cones in my driveway and pine cones were Dylan’s oyster. I never saw him with a tennis ball. There weren’t a lot of toys around the house, a few of the more popular dog toys, but they never seemed that important to him. But when he was outside, he was in doggie toy heaven. Dylan loved pine cones and he treated them like gold. He would fetch pine cones all day, every day from any human who would appease him. When the humans were in the house he was often seen popping them up in the air and catching them or just throwing one across the yard and then fetching it back. Pine cones were Dylan’s joy.
Kaiya, my terrier mix, touched no toy, stick, or ball the first week I spent with her. She was living in a shelter and “not herself”. She showed no interest at all in any toy. I was at a very well-equipped training center with her and we tried every dog and human toy to no avail. She was not interested in chewing anything, chasing anything, or tugging anything. We tried tennis balls, rubber balls, sturdy toys, cotton toys, chewy toys, and she just wasn’t going there. When we brought her home she met my dogs at a park and everyone got along great. They played and we all walked home together so my dogs (Star and Bo) could bring her in and show her the house. They walked around the house and the first toy Kaiya saw she grabbed with gusto and taunted her new big brother. He growled, she growled back. I stood ready for anything and to my delight they began a game of keep-away, with Kaiya enticing 14 year old Bo into a short game. Now, she likes all toys, preferring tug and chase to fetch, and she likes a good solid toy to chew on rather than a soft, fluffy toy. Still her favorite toy is whatever toy her sibling or friend has.
Dogs are like people that way. No, please no comments about anthropomorphizing. All I’m saying is they make choices, they have preferences, likes and dislikes, and they sometimes enjoy something so much they carry it around with them all day, every day. When they’re stressed they may not want to play. If their teeth hurt they may not want to tug. Sometimes change in toy behavior can be a barometer to health issues. It changes sometimes quickly, sometimes not, and we need to go with the flow. It’s up to us to find toys for them or to at least make them available for our dogs to find.
When our new dog comes home, whether it’s a puppy or an adult, the toys need to be given slowly and with supervision. Watch your dog and his behavior. If he grabs a stuffed toy and destroys it within seconds, that’s not the “kind” of toy for him. Take away the pieces and try with a sturdier toy. If two dogs fight over certain “high value” toys, take them away or only use them under human supervision. The options are endless. It’s up to your pooch to guide you to his interests and then it’s up to you to provide safe, appropriate choices.
The world of dog toys is changing. There are a number of interactive toys to keep your dog’s mind busy and learning. There are food toys which are just fun and yummy, and there is every kind of squeaky toy or ball you can imagine. They even have toys that moo and oink and squawk and talk. These days you also have choices about toys made with natural products. Be careful of toys that may contain toxic materials. Make informed decisions about choosing good products for your best friend.
Remember, your dog playing with toys is great, but if you become part of that game the benefits will increase. It will not only help your relationship grow and continue to build that strong bond between you and your dog, it will also add to your dog’s exercise and fun.
Check out this link to natural dog toys http://www.onlynaturalpet.com/default.aspx
Have fun and play hard.