Does your dog like his toys so much he never lets them go? Does he play with his toy, be it a ball or a squishy teddy, for ages then bury it in his bed or even yours if you give him half a chance? Or is he the kind of puppy who likes to carry it around the house all day long never seeming to get bored with that small inanimate object he's decided to call his own? The same as many other dogs, he's probably got a toy he's had for a long time which is more tattered and torn than it ought to be, and which you're desperate to dispose of, but can't because he still loves it as if it were brand new. Sounds like a familiar scenario, doesn't it? Dogs often favor one particular toy over any other. Does your pup have just one or is he a certified canine collector who's stored up a massive selection of things he likes to play with? Dogs love toys, it's true. But the question is, why?
The Root of the Behavior
We all have ways of finding comfort. For us humans, a nice soft blanket or a cuddle with a teddy is sometimes all we need to make us feel better. A dog, on that score, isn't much different. But rather than give his toy a hug as we would, he'll hold it in his mouth as he's obviously got no hands to pick it up with. Once he has it there, he may well decide to get a bit more feral and exercise his jaw by chewing on it a little. Give him one with a squeaker in it and he'll show you just how well he can masticate. He might even throw it in the air a few times turning what was an occasional comforter into a plaything. Dogs get bored easily. They, not unlike children, need distraction to pass the time. Depending on what toy you give your dog, they're able to derive some good mental stimulation from the simplest of things which will keep them occupied and out of mischief.
When your dog has a good chew on his toy he is, in part, re-enacting the natural urge he'd have after hunting to finish off his prey. Has your dog ever shredded a toy to tiny pieces? Well maybe he's just a little wilder than you realised. In some dogs the hunting instinct still lingers on and the only way they have of expressing it is by romping around with a toy then destroying it. For a female dog carrying a toy about can substitute the sensation she'd have of transporting her pups from place to place after she'd had a litter. It helps to fulfil her maternal instincts. When her favorite toy is full of her scent it becomes a replacement object for the young she maybe has never had. On the family front for male dogs, reverting back to the pack days when he would have engaged in play with younger members of the pack, playing with a toy could be his way of simulating his role as a father figure.
Encouraging the Behavior
Dogs like toys and dogs like you. Toys are a great way for a dog to instigate interactive play between the two of you. He knows by picking his toy up and dropping it on your knee or in your hand, he's sending you the message he wants to play and hopefully you'll react appropriately. Any activity which prevents your dog from suffering bouts of boredom is a bonus because when they're not mentally stretched they can soon become destructive. Having toys which are specifically his and which he knows he can do want he wants with, will keep him busy and allow him to vent his frustration in a controlled way. Toys can be great training aids. If your dog develops a predilection for a particular toy, when he's learnt a new command or displayed excellent behaviour, it can be used as a justified reward. Is your dog obsessed with his toy? Dogs can develop obsessive compulsive behaviour for many reasons and can easily become neurotic about a toy. If you think he may be too attached to his ball or chewy rope because he can't take his eyes of it or never lets it go, interchanging for something different on a regular basis can help make sure he still enjoys his toys.
Other Solutions and Considerations
With so many different dog toys on the market it's hard to know which is the right one for your pup. If you can tolerate the noise, one with a squeaker fitted will give him more satisfaction than one without. It's important to match the size of the toy to your dog to prevent any unwanted mishaps. Too small a toy for a big dog can increase their risk of choking on it by accident. Dogs love to chew and pull things to pieces so, apart from making sure the toy meets the required official standards and carries the adequate markings when you purchase it, as it gets worn, you'll need to keep an eye on it so no damaged part of it can do him harm.
No two ways about it, dogs like toys and it's natural for them to do so. Playing with toys is a great way of keeping them mentally occupied and prevents them from being destructive around the home. Once they know just which toy is theirs and they can chew it to bits without you swearing, it will hopefully stop them running off with your favorite pair of slippers.
By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/30/2020