Choosing the right toy to fit Fido’s style of play can be overwhelming. Just like our four-legged friends, dog toys come in all shapes and sizes, so to help, we’ve broken it down by style of play and the toys to match.
Some dogs like to fetch. Some dogs like to tug. Some dogs like to chew. Some dogs simply like the comfort of a plush toy to cuddle. Or, like most dogs… all of the above. Let’s start with fetch!
Fetch toys have many benefits for Fido. First is exercise. Dogs require daily physical exercise and playing fetch is a great way to tire them out while still having fun. Second, fetch exercises a dog’s brain, with specific rules to follow like wait, chase, capture and return — hence, the game of fetch! Third, playing a game of fetch is a great way to burn off energy, reduce stress, improve social skills, and strengthen the bond between you and your pooch — all of which reduces boredom and the likelihood of bad behaviors such as chewing and barking.
Our friends at Tall Tails have some great tips and tricks for teaching fetch and the toys to match:
- Show your dog the toy and when he investigates the toy, praise/click and treat.
- When your dog is regularly putting the toy in his mouth, build duration by not immediately clicking/praising.
- When your dog holds the toy for more than a few seconds, praise/click and treat. Then, do the same but introduce a verbal cue like “hold.”
- Place toy in sight but away from your dog and introduce new verbal cue like “get it” or “fetch.”
- After successful close-range pickup and return of the toy, extend the distance and continue to click/praise and treats.
- If your dog picks up the toy but doesn’t return it, bring two toys and show your dog the second toy. They’ll want to return to get the new toy and that’s when you click/praise and treats.
- It is important to practice this game with a variety of fetch toys and in a variety of environments.
Note to Pet Parents
Start with an array of fetch toys to see which ones your dog responds to, along with bits and pieces of high-value treats, and then be patient. If your dog doesn’t play fetch, do not be concerned. There are many factors that go into a dog not playing fetch such as genetics, health, loss of interest, the wrong toy or lack of training.
The next style of play — and a doggo favorite — is tug. Also known as tug-of-war, this style of play has gotten a bad rap, but by taking a few precautions and setting some basic rules, tug has many benefits. First, it trains mouth control by directing your dog’s teeth to an approved object like a toy versus household items like your shoes. Second, it improves impulse control and teaches valuable skills such as “take-it” or “leave-it.” Third, games like tug naturally build a dog’s confidence and socialization with humans and other dogs.
Here are more training tips and tricks from Tall Tails:
Teach “Drop It” with a Treat
- Use a low-value toy and let your dog play with it for a few seconds.
- Place a high-value treat in front of your dogs nose and when your dog drops the toy, praise/click and give a treat.
- Once your dog knows to drop the toy as soon as you show the treat, introduce a verbal cue like “drop it” “trade,” or “out.”
Teach “Drop It” with a Toy
- Present a tug toy and start playing.
- After a few seconds, go still and your dog will eventually get bored and drop the toy.
- When they drop the toy, reward them with another game of tug.
- Once they drop the toy immediately after you go still, introduce the verbal cue.
Note to Pet Parents
Be sure to only use toys when playing and never use your hands or items you don’t want your dog biting, chewing or playing with later (i.e. socks). When done properly, tug does not lead to aggressive tendencies but it’s important to set boundaries by initiating the game, maintaining control of the game, and ending the game if your dog is over stimulated, obsessed or overly aggressive at grabbing the toy.
If your pooch prefers plush toys, the benefits are plenty. Plush toys that squeak, crinkle, and crunch will excite your dog’s senses through sound, smell, touch and sight — and when your dog chomps down on the toy, the sound resembles prey during a hunt. Sensory toys are also great for a game of hide and seek. Lastly, the soft textures and familiar scents of home within the toy can be a comfort to your dog while resting and traveling.
Here are tips for teaching hide and seek from our friends at Tall Tails and of course, toys to match:
Teach Hide & Seek
- Let your dog smell a plush toy and then tell him to sit and stay out of sight or put him in another room to prevent him from seeing you hide the toy.
- Hide the toy in an easy place at first and tell your dog to “find it.”
- When your dog finds the toy, praise/click and treat.
- As your dog gets used to this game, increase the difficulty of the hiding spots.
Play is important for all creatures — human, canine, feline, equine, bovine, porcine — you get the point! But, dogs are especially prone to play as anyone who has ever raised a puppy can tell you. Observing their favorite form of play and matching the right toys will go a long way to forming a happy, healthy pup!
Tall Tails knows that every dog is different and plays in different ways. Show them how your dog plays by uploading a short video! You could win a fun Tall Tails prize pack catered to your dog’s play style. Contest ends June 5th, so be sure to enter today!
About the Author
Brandie Ahlgren is founder and editor of CityDog Magazine. She, and her team of dog-loving editors, dig up the best places for you to sit, stay and play with your four-legged friends. Brandie, 12-year-old boxer Thya and Mexican foster failure Pancho, reside in West Seattle and can often be found hanging out at Westcrest Dog Park.