Deconstructing a Good Dog Toy

It's a request we hear often:  "I'm looking for a toy my dog can't destroy."  

Unless you're one of the lucky few whose pup treasures his or her favorite plushie, finding toys that last is a never ending challenge.  And while there is really no such thing as an indestructible toy, by understanding your dog's toy drive you can make wise toy selections that result in longer-lasting toys.

Let's begin by talking about why we give toys to our dogs.  Sure, sometimes they get a little bored and other times we just need them out from under our feet.  But that's not the whole story. The toys we provide to our dogs should fulfill their individual need to chew, the level of their prey drive and, in the case of multi-dog households, foster social play.  It is important to provide toys that challenge and interest your dog; rather than searching for that elusive indestructible toy.  Here are some tips for finding a toy that's right for you & your dog:

1.  Does your dog prefer to gnaw on toys or do they pick them apart? Gnawers are best satisfied with hard toys with a level of pliability to suit how strong of a chewer they are (harder for the most aggressive of gnawers).  West Paw Design's line of Zogoflex toys, Planet Dog's assortment of durable balls & bones or the ever-present Kong are all toys that should both satisfy your gnawer and last a suitable time before a replacement is needed.  

For the toy destroyer whose path of destruction lies in picking their toys apart, there are two routes one can go when selecting toys.  First is to select a durable toy described above for gnawers but select one with a minimum of edges.  For these types of dogs, the fewer edges for their teeth to start the shredding process will result in a longer-lasting toy.  We recommend the Planet Dog recycleBall or the West Paw Design Hurley.  

The alternative toy in this scenario is to select a toy that will challenge and engage your dog's toy shredding ways.  That's right.  I said engage.  Cause if you can't beat them, might as well join 'em, right?  Select rope & fleece toys that are tightly knotted in such a way that the entire toy will not unravel once the first knot is chewed through.  Our favorites here at NoPo Paws include the locally made Pittador Pets line of fleece toys.  The tight, thick knotting of these toys prolongs the life of the toy while satisfying your dog's need to shred. 

2.  To squeak or not to squeak.  Most dogs L-O-V-E squeaky toys.  The squeaker simulates the noise their prey would make in the wild, which is why these types of toys are often the first destroyed.  If your dog is one to eviscerate their plush squeaky toys, a stuffing-free toy is one option to continue to satisfy your dog's prey drive by providing the squeaker but avoiding the mess, waste and destruction of a stuffed toy.  In addition to stuffing-free toys, we also carry Dura Doggie's squeaky chew toy, the Beba.  Of course, you can always provide squeaker-free toys, which will prolong the life of the toy for any dog whose destructive tendencies are provoked by the squeak.

3.  Providing an assortment of toys may prolong the life of each toy.  If your dog has one toy, one toy is all he/she has available to gnaw, tear apart or squeak to death.  Their attention is focused on that toy until death do they part.  But with an assortment of toys,  your dog's attention can easily be divided between the toys, which will naturally enhance the life of each in turn.  Many pet owners who successfully expand the life of their dog's toys also rotate toys.

4.  Forget the chew, challenge the brain!  Treat dispensing and puzzle toys are a great way to tire out, occupy and challenge your pooch.  And many treat dispensers live a double life as great chew toys as well!  We find these types of toys invaluable at getting both dogs & us through Portland's rainy season.

5.  Has your dog lost interest in a chew toy?  Initiating and participating in a play session with the forgotton toy and your dog, dabbing a little peanut butter on it - these are all tried & true ways to get your dog re-interested in an old toy.  Even better if the toy is designed to hold treats! 

6.  For the multi-dog household, tug of war can be fun for you and the dogs.  Selecting toys designed for tug play can prolong the life of the toy.  We've got a myriad of toys that fit this description and these are the toys we often bring home to our own pack.  A Cheerful Pet makes 6 feet of boiled wool tug fun in their Tugzee toy.  This is a great tug toy for larger dogs while their Tugzees for Two offers the same fun on a smaller scale for our leetle friends.  

7.  Got an obsessive fetcher?  Mix things up with Ruffwear's Turnup.  This vaguely egg-shaped toy bounces erratically to challenge your fetch maestro.  Or there's the Pittador Pets Rocket - a fleece & tennis ball combination that goes the distance and can finish play time off with a little game of tug.

No matter your dog's play style, we've got the toy(s) for you. And if you're unsure what toy is best for you, I'd love to discuss what would best suit you and your dog.  Come on in!