It's probably happened before, you arrive home with a brand new chewy for your canine companion. He seems especially excited at first, but after only an hour or two, you notice it is discarded in an empty room somewhere. Have you ever experienced this as a dog owner? Don't be concerned, you aren't alone. Your dog isn't always going to make sense with his proclivities involving toys and chewies. And when examined in depth, it turns out they actually have some pretty standard logic behind these seemingly random behaviors. Below, the best information available has been laid out to help explain why your dog loves his toys just so darned much.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs have a very nuanced way of playing. Animal researchers from the south of England wanted to know exactly how nuanced this complex set of behaviors actually is. So, they set out to discover the root causes behind this. What these scientists actually discovered was that your canine truly loves the impact they have on the items around them. Being able to tear apart a brand new toy is incredibly pleasing and satisfying for them. That is why your dog most often actually prefers toys that just do not last very long. This goes back to things contained within your dog's ancient wolf DNA. There is a component to their destruction of new toys that aligns itself with natural hunting instincts that still surface from time to time. They want their prey to react when they "hunt" it. In this case, the prey is their newly discovered toy.
This is one of the reasons your dog gets so excited when a new toy makes noise or when it has some sort of a flavor. This locks in with their natural hunting instinct and reinforced the sensation for them that they have successfully hunted something. When you compare a squeaky animal shaped toy to something like a simple bone or a tugging rope, there will always be clear winners and preferences.
If you find yourself going through toys incredibly fast, try investing in more durable items that can hold treats or food. A lot of brands make exceptionally durable products of different rubber blends and are usually certified as non-toxic. These will entice your dog to "keep at it" even though they may not degrade as quickly. The added treat flavors will aid in this sensation, as well as continue to support the instinctual and emotional support of your canine companion. This can also help your dog’s dental health.
Encouraging the Behavior
A dog's need to satisfy it's hunting behaviors can have a direct, positive impact on their behaviors at home. Most dogs develop a lot of pent-up energy, especially if they spend a good portion of their time at home. This is part of the reason why some dogs are so destructive when you leave them for the day. When a dog is bored, it will most commonly revert to its instinctual behaviors. The most common instinct for the average dog is hunting and the physical components of this behavior are what show themselves while you are away, namely chewing. While training can aid in curbing this destruction, providing ample pieces of entertainment for your dog while you are away is really the only way to keep them from "hunting your house."
Labradors and Retrievers are two breeds that have a different type of toy behavior. One is called trailing, and this is when your dog always seems to show up with a limp plush or equivalent item (like a sock). This behavior was bred into them from inception. These specific lineages, in particular, have been bred to hunt, and when they show up in front of you with a droopy toy, this is them "retrieving" the prey that you or they have successfully killed.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Activity toys are toys specifically designed to keep your dog active and expending his energy. They tend to be motorized so that you can get them playing while you do other things. These are a great way to get your dog additional exercise while curbing parts of his play that may be a little too destructive. Bones and other chew toys that are organic in nature are always good for your dog's dental health, as well as being a great way to keep them away from artificial substances like plastics. And, they tend to be digestible, which means your dog gets to curb his appetite at the same time.
At the end of the day, your dog is really just a big puppy inside. He is not always aware of why he is doing what he's doing, just that it is fun and satisfying. Make sure you always provide your dog with plenty of toys in addition to healthy attention. With this as your general practice, your dog will continue to tug on your heartstrings!
By a Pug lover Shane Langenfeld
Published: 02/23/2018, edited: 01/30/2020