Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular pets in the United States. If you’re wondering why, there are a whole host of reasons. For example, they make great family dogs, they’re gentle and good with kids, they’re smart and easily trainable, they’re useful service dogs, and even make hunting companions. Golden Retrievers have their own kind of quirkiness and attitude. Most love playing with toys, especially the soft kind. Why do Golden Retrievers love stuffed animals? What other toys are safe to give your dog? What if you have a Golden Retriever who loves to ruin toys? What can you do about a destructive chewer?
The Root of the Behavior
Golden Retrievers have a debated origin story. Regardless of the true version, the breed began in England and Scotland during the mid-1800s. They were first used as gun dogs since they had a useful ability to retrieve fowl unharmed. As a general rule, Golden Retrievers are extremely patient and gentle, which makes them great companions and family dogs. However, just because the breed tends to be gentle, a bad breeding, improper socialization, and insufficient training can cause your dog to become aggressive or defensive, just like any other dog breed. Since their origins as bird retrievers, most Golden Retrievers still enjoy soft toys. Perhaps it’s because of their origin as retrievers, but most also tend to be very gentle with their toys, even plush toys. They enjoy the feel of soft, cushy, and sometimes squeaky toys in their mouth because it may satisfy their predisposition toward carrying fowl undamaged.
However, just like any other dog breed, not every single Retriever will be gentle on toys. Plenty of owners have Golden Retrievers who enjoy chewing anything and everything to pieces. Boredom is often a key factor in dogs who chew incessantly. Golden Retrievers may also have a higher need than other dogs to bite. It’s an instinct in all dogs, but Golden Retrievers might require more time spent biting on toys. When toys aren’t available, they may resort to anything else they find, including your belongings or furniture. Additionally, you can’t adopt a Golden Retriever puppy and expect them to be gentle from the get-go. Puppies need training, socialization, and time dedicated to teach them to be gentle. They also need plenty of exercise and chew toys to exercise their need to bite and chew. Not devoting enough time and energy on your Golden Retriever puppy can mean the difference between a wonderful, calm family pet and an aggressive, destructive dog.
Encouraging the Behavior
Giving your Golden Retriever soft toys is fine, as long as they aren’t super destructive. Once a toy has a hole in it and begins to leak stuffing, it’s a good idea to throw the toy away. If your dog enjoys chewing on said toys, it might become expensive to replace stuffed toys frequently. Instead, you can opt for a more heavy duty toy. Kongs, Nylabones, and chew resistant toys are all good options. Most pet stores should have a variety to choose from. You should make sure the toy is an appropriate size for your dog. Toys that are too small can become choking hazards. Toys that squeak may also be exciting and enjoyable for your dog to play with, but some dogs see the ongoing squeaks as a personal challenge.
Getting into the toy to destroy the squeaker can lead to choking hazards, either from the toy’s stuffing or the small squeaker inside. You can give your dog toys meant for children, but make sure you remove any parts that may become unattached and swallowed like tags, ribbons, strings, or any dangerous fabrics or filling. The toy should be safe for children under three years old and appropriate for your dog’s size and destructiveness. The best toys are natural rubber, since they’re difficult to destroy and safe on teeth. Interactive toys that disperse treats are also a good idea as they keep your dog busy and away from unwanted habits like chewing and digging.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog can handle soft toys without ruining them, it’s also a good idea to keep them clean. By washing your dog’s toys when they become too dirty, you also keep them from harboring a great deal of harmful bacteria. You can wash stuffed animals in the washing machine if you use a laundry bag or a knotted pillowcase. Using hot water will help eliminate germs, but it will also probably melt off any glue on the toy (like glued-on eyes). That harmful bacteria can lead to infections and other illnesses. Not only for your dog, but also for your other family members if they handle the toy too.
Soft toys can be extremely comforting and enjoyable for your dog. Inspect your dog’s toys often and toss those that begin to fall apart. Keeping playtime interactive and engaging is also a must, especially for puppies during training. Keeping the toys clean and whole is essential. If you have a chewer, expect to replace toys often, but that’s better than replacing your furniture.