What makes your pooch feel so attached to that squeaker you got him last Christmas, or that plushy that he seems to carry around with him wherever he goes? Is it true that some dogs prefer one toy over the other and if so, why is that the case?
It seems that toys with a short life span are amongst their favorites, and the reason is because most of them prefer toys that simulate prey. It’s just in the nature of things so this type of behavior should not pose as a concern to you. Let’s find out more about why this is happening and what are the implications that come along with it.
The Root of the Behavior
In the life of your dog, you are the most important…you and his favorite toy of course. Much like a child who can’t sleep without their cuddling toy besides, your pooch just can’t seem to get enough of his squeaky playmate. What makes him so attached to it and what is it about that special, one toy?
Research shows that dogs perceive toys in the same way wolves perceive prey. It all comes down to texture, shape and size. Dogs prefer toys that either taste like food or can be torn apart. And each specific type of toy determines a different reaction from your pup. For example, if your pup is a squeaky toy lover, then he is simply following his natural-born instinct to hunt. At the same time, dogs who opt for plushies, recreate their breeds’ inborn talent for recovering duck carcasses for their hunter masters.
You probably never thought about it that way, still, dogs always reflect their natural tendencies throughout each and every behavior they exhibit. And speaking of natural tendencies, have you ever noticed how your pup never goes to sleep without his favorite toy? Think of it as a child who wanted to care for a baby doll.
From reenacting motherhood to shredding that thing to pieces, it’s all about perception and instinct. You may notice, in some cases, your pooch will hold his favorite toy just for comfort. Whether he is nervous or excited, this is his psychological way of overcoming distress or reinforcing a positive emotion.
In general, dogs will prefer toys that either taste good or make certain sounds. When fetching a ball, for example, your dog will act out their instinct to hunt down a moving target. You will see that there are breeds which prefer a certain type of toy, such as Labs and Retrievers who go crazy for a soft, plush toy, Terriers and Shepherds who love Frisbee challenges and tennis balls, or English Bulldogs and Frenchies who are known to fancy a good game of tug-o-war.
Encouraging the Behavior
Without question, dogs live for the thrill, and that one special toy that they carry around with them wherever they go only reminds them of those special moments. In essence, dogs are eternally similar to toddlers. You can never expect them to grow out of their love for their favorite playmate and the truth is…they never do. So is that something that should concern you?
In reality, dogs may become attached to an object that may be all kinds of inappropriate, such as the toilet cleaner or a pair of your dirty undies. Breaking the habit starts with transforming the experience into a negative one. For instance, you can make loud noises to distract your dog and introduce him to durable, rubber toys instead.
It all depends on your dog's behavior. Whether he plays around roughly with the toys or just needs a sleeping buddy for the night, you need to make sure you buy the right type of toy that is fit for your dog’s personality. You should avoid toys that break apart and can easily be swallowed since they can pose a health risk to your pup. Instead, opt for toys that are soft, malleable and can be chewed easily or make a noise.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Sometimes, being overprotective with his toy can lead to problems related to aggression. The question you have to ask yourself is if someone has his toy, is he going to try to be aggressive to get it from them? If the answer is yes, you probably need to consider getting specialized help. Your veterinarian can help you identify the roots of the aggression and suggest proper treatment.
In many cases, hiring a trainer will help stop the aggression and introduce your pup to other toys as positive replacements. You can also take that special toy away from him until things settle down.
Whether it’s a squeaky toy, a plushy toy, or a tennis ball, dogs will always chase after new sources of excitement, and in most cases, never let go. If your dog can’t get enough of his favorite toy, consider it to be in the nature of things, but do allow him to experience more of the outside world. Encourage healthy play behavior and throw the ball or get down on the floor and play with his favorite plushy instead.