Toby, the 4-year-old terrier mix, is obsessed with any toy that has a squeaker.
“Stuffed toys are his favorite,” says Toby’s owner, Doug Kraus, of California. “Right now his favorite is a flattened toy squirrel with a squeaker in the tail. With stuffed toys, he pulls the stuffing out to get the squeaker. That’s the victory.”
Given Toby’s terrier breeding, it’s not surprising he likes to “kill” stuffed varmints with squeakers. Many adult dogs, ranging from 2 to 8 years, favor dog toys that remind them of why their ancestors were originally bred.
Casual observation confirms this. Herding dogs are often obsessed with balls, including large ones they can push around. My Corgi Nigel used to steal my horses’ large rubber ball and “herd” it around the yard, barking the entire time. Every herding type dog I know who likes to play with dog toys has a penchant for balls. They are easy to chase — herding dogs were bred to drive livestock.
Terriers and terrier mixes (like Toby) like to catch plush toys and tear them to pieces, especially if they squeak. Terriers were originally bred to catch and kill rodents, so it makes perfect sense.
Sporting type dogs like Labradors and Golden Retrievers (and mixes) like to carry things around in their mouths. Whether it’s a ball, a plush toy, a sock or a glove, they are all about picking things up and holding them in their mouths, which is exactly what hunters bred them to do.
When picking out toys for your adult dog, start with the ones that you know he likes the best. If you are feeling adventurous, try giving your dog a toy he’s never been exposed to before, and see how he likes it.
Keep the following points in mind when choosing a dog toy for your adult dog:
- Look for toughness. Unless you have a very small dog, or one who doesn’t try to murder his toys, you need to find something that is very durable, to withstand powerful jaws. When a medium to large adult dog sets his mind to destroying a toy, very little can stop him. But you can make the toy last longer by picking one that is made from sturdy materials and has a strong double stitch. Keep a close eye on your dog when he’s playing with a toy. Once he breaks it or tears it open, get rid of it. Otherwise, he can swallow some of it, which is a bad thing.
- Be sure it’s not toxic. Your dog will no doubt be sinking his teeth into whatever toy you give him, so make sure it’s made from materials that won’t make him sick. Read the packaging on the label, and look for nontoxic plastics and coloring. Better yet, go with a natural toy that is made from hemp, wool or another natural fiber, and is colored with vegetable dyes.
- Keep training in mind. You can double playtime with training time if you choose the right toy. If you want to teach your dog to fetch — or encourage his natural abilities in this area — pick a ball, rope toy or flying disc. If you are thinking about getting into agility competition or another dog sport, use whatever toy your dog likes the best, as long as it keeps him interacting with you.“Since I do agility competition with my Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd and two Border Terriers, getting them all to play with me is probably the most important training tool I have,” says dog owner Martha Faulk of Colorado. “A braided rope toy is popular with all my dogs, and can be dragged along the ground to get the dogs to run after me.”
- Make it washable. Your dog is going to slobber all over the toy you get him, and drag it through the dirt. Get dog toys you can toss into the washing machine or rinse off with a garden hose.
You will have several dog toy categories to choose from when you start perusing the pet supply store or the Internet. Each has its own benefits:
- Plush: Plush toys are usually full of stuffing. Dogs love them because they like to tear the “guts” out of them, especially if a squeaker is hidden inside. These are great toys for adult dogs, although it’s important to keep an eye on your dog while he’s playing with one. Once the stuffing gets ripped out, it’s time to throw the dog toy away.
- Chew: Toys meant specifically for chewing are good for adult dogs who like to gnaw. These toys are typically shaped like bones, or sometimes teething rings, and are meant to withstand strong jaws.
- Tug: Any dog toy designed for you to hold at one end while your dog pulls on it is a tug toy. Tug toys are usually made from rope or strong canvas, and can be great for training. If you play tug with your dog with one of these toys, teach your dog to drop it on command. This is important so your dog doesn’t think he can take things away from you whenever he feels like it.
- Chase: Toys designed for dogs to run after, like balls and flying discs, are good choices if you have a dog with lots of energy he needs to burn off. Tennis balls are a big favorite for most dogs, although they don’t stand up to much chewing. If you dog likes to gnaw on a ball rather than catch it, buy a hard rubber model instead.
- Interactive: If you want your dog to occupy himself when you don’t have time to play with him, get a puzzle-type toy that he has to figure out. These contraptions allow you to put treats inside, and your dog has to learn how to get them out. A toy like this can keep your dog amused for hours.
If you want to keep your adult dog healthy and happy, take time to play with him every day. The right toys will help you along the way.