Sorting through the quagmire of toy and chew options can be confusing…not to mention, expensive. The choices are overwhelming. The true test for great “dog stuff” involves productive, constructive FUN, safety, and durability.
Toys vs. Chews
It helps to separate your dog’s playthings into two categories: toys and chews. You and your dog play together with toys. These include balls and discs as well as plush toys. When the game is over, place that toy in an area which is inaccessible to your dog. Plush toys are targets for shredding, which not only destroys the toy, but can pose a choking hazard. There are also behavior and training benefits to storing toys this way: they become “motivators”.
Chews provide independent engagement, environmental enrichment, and mental stimulation. Chews include bones and bully sticks, antlers, Himalayan chews, and hooves, among others. Check with your vet to make sure your choice is healthy for your dog. Some dogs don’t digest rawhide, for example. Food-dispensing devices rank high for the enrichment and mental stimulation they provide. The food bowl is boring! It’s easy to scoop dog food into a bowl, but much more interesting to present it in a food-dispensing device or puzzle. You can provide all meals and treats in a food-dispensing device. The foraging activity keeps your dog busy and out of trouble. These activities can also reduce stress in fearful and anxious dogs.
The following toys are safe and fun for everyone. Use them as training motivators and practice obedience cues during playtime. Short (5-10 minutes) and frequent daily playtimes work best.
ChuckIt – there is a glow-in-the-dark ball option for fetch games at dusk
ChuckIt – Paraflight Max Glow (disc)
JW Pet Crackle Heads Ball – various sizes; every client who bought one says the dog LOVES it
JW Pet iSqueak Ball – all toys are better with a squeaker
Outward Hound Hide a Squirrel Puzzle – a plush toy with other animal varieties; a game for the four-legged “problem-solver”
Outward Hound Plush Squeaker Matz – these durable tug toys are available in several lengths; go for the long toys for larger breeds
Ethical Pet Skinneeez – long, stuffingless toys are great to play tug; they squeak, too
Kyjen Hedgehog – it grunts; hilarious
Outward Hound Flirt Pole Tail Teaser – a great outlet for dogs who love to leap
Chews include items that dogs love to gnaw on as well as food-dispensing devices for foraging. Use food-dispensing toys for your dog’s kibble – not only his treats. The only toy, which is safe to leave with your dog while he/she is unsupervised, is the KONG Classic. Buy the heavier black KONG Classic if your dog is an insane chewer.
USA Bones and Chews – knuckles, marrow bones, antlers, bully sticks, hooves, sterilized bones
SmartBones – these are rawhide-esque, but more digestible
Himalayan Chews – made from yak milk and very long lasting
Nylabone – Puppy Chew Teething Rings, Keys, Pacifier – use to redirect puppy nipping; some are flavored
Outward Hound Fun Feeder – available in a variety of colors and designs; helps to slow down food “inhalers”
Kyjen Slo-Feeder Bowls – see above
Outward Hound Paw Hide Puzzle – channel your dog’s persistence in a constructive way
KONG Classic – perfect device to introduce your dog to foraging activity; every dog needs at least one
KONG Stuff A Ball/Puppy Activity Ball – two age appropriate styles; use it to play ball AND deliver dinner
KONG Wobbler – fun for the more advanced food “forager”; available in two sizes
Busy Buddy Twist n’ Treat – available in two sizes as well as a puppy version; also a good intro to foraging
Busy Buddy Barnacle Ball – fun three-compartment design for the experienced “forager”; available in several sizes
JW Pet Hol-ee Treat Ball – fun and well-designed for a practiced “forager”; perfect for kibble, not just treats
Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball – double fun: eat and play
Nina Ottosson Puzzles – wonderful variety of interactive fun from the “Founding Mother of Dog Puzzles”; pricier than some, but great design and quality
Where to Find the Good Stuff
Especially when buying food and chews, read the fine print on the packaging. Look for products that are sourced and processed in the U.S. Packaging can be deceiving. There may be an American flag on the bag or a “made in America” statement, but it is produced elsewhere.
The following is a list of reputable retailers and a website where high quality standards and outstanding customer service prevail.
Faux Paws Pet Shop (Summit, NJ)
Woof Gang Bakery and Grooming (Westfield, NJ and other locations)
Pet Valu (multiple locations)
Pet Supplies Plus (multiple locations)
Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel CPDT-KA, 2016 all rights reserved
Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC