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Toys For Fun and Learning


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When you look for toys to entertain your new puppy, you must consider the safety or danger of each one.  "Safe" toys for your dog will be determined by the puppy’s size, age, chewing history and activity level. As you get to know your puppy’s personal preferences, you can expand his toy chest. Remember that he will need toys for several different situations and what is safe to play with during supervised playtime may not be suitable to leave in the crate with the puppy while you are gone to work.
Like children, puppies seem to have an innate ability to find and are ALWAYS attracted to, the most dangerous object in the area. Puppy-proof your play area and be sure to check for children’s toys, poisonous plants, plastic bags or small objects that could be ingested, like string, rubber bands or paper clips. Make sure you puppy-proof ALL areas of the house or yard that your puppy will have access to.

As your puppy grows and his chewing habits change, be sure to remove and discard inappropriate toys. Baby puppy toys that are too small can become choking hazards as your puppy gets bigger. Also, you need to remember to regularly re-evaluate your puppy's play areas. As your puppy grows, he will be able to reach new dangers in previously safe places.

Avoid purchasing toys that have small parts that could be chewed off and/or ingested. Immediately discard any toy that begins to break into pieces or that your puppy has chewed pieces off of.  You should also avoid rawhide treats and toys as they are especially dangerous choking hazards for puppies. Many dogs are also sensitive to rawhide and may have digestive upset after chewing on rawhide toys or treats.

Use "tug-of-war" toys for puppy only play. Tie one end to a solid object (make sure whatever you tie it with is either puppy safe or high enough that the puppy cannot reach it) and let the puppy play with the tug toy by himself. Do not use these toys for play between you and your puppy. Games that set you up in competition with your puppy or that encourage aggressive behavior are always inappropriate. Be sure and teach children this rule and enforce the concept so they understand not to do anything that teaches the puppy to be aggressive.

  Save treats like hooves and pig’s ears for supervised playtimes. Restricted toys should also include toys with squeakers and most plush toys.  Plush toys labeled for children under 3 do not contain dangerous fillings, but that does not mean that the filling is actually edible if your puppy should chew up the toy. Be sure that plush toys are machine washable.

Some dogs feel the need to kill squeaking objects and may actually eat the squeakers out of toys if they can get to them. Even puppies that have previously done well with squeaky toys should not be left unsupervised with these toys. You never know when your puppy may suddenly decide that he must kill this "dangerous” enemy.

  Hard rubber or nylon toys like Kong products and Nylabones are safe and last longer than soft toys. These items are available in many sizes and shapes and the Nylabones have flavorings added to help attract and keep your puppy’s interest. If your puppy tires of the Kong toy too quickly, break up his favorite dog biscuits, mix with peanut butter, fill the Kong and watch the games begin. Of course, we don't recommend that you do this on the carpet! Other versions of this toy are the cubes and balls that can be filled with small treats.  The puppy must push the toy around with his nose or paws and he is randomly rewarded for his efforts. This can keep the puppy entertained for hours if he's a real chow hound.

I also highly recommend the knotted “rope” toys. These can be thrown in the washing machine with bleach to keep them clean and I have yet to find a teething puppy that won’t chew on one. There is of course the old stand by tennis ball too. Watch for weak areas that could be chewed through if you have an aggressive chewer and throw any balls away that seem worn out.

Keep a toy chest for your puppy and rotate four or five different toys out weekly so he doesn’t get bored. Make an exception for his obvious “favorite” by leaving it out all the time. Try to provide different types of toys so that your puppy will have a toy to fetch, a soft “baby” to snuggle with, a toy to chew, one to roll and maybe that evil squeaky one that needs to be “killed!”

On snowy days or when you just don’t have time to take your puppy for his regular walk, try a game of "Hide and Seek" with his toys or treats. An interactive game of finding toys and/or treats is a good way to work off pent up energy. This type of interactive play is very important for your relationship with your puppy. It can help reduce stress due to confinement, isolation or boredom and it gives you an opportunity to work on your puppy’s socialization and appropriate/inappropriate behavior with people.

Fetch games are also great training exercises, so be sure and pick up several toys that are easy for the puppy to pick up and carry. Insist that your puppy learn to retrieve and release without a fight and never chase your puppy to get the toy back. Start teaching retrievals with the puppy on a long lead so you can reel him back and exchange the toy for a treat and praise. As he learns this concept, reduce the frequency of treats and begin asking the puppy to "sit" when he returns to you. Eventually, you can eliminate the treats and just use play and continued play as rewards for returning.

Latex Frog and Latex Pacifier - for Dogs and Puppies

Snackbones - Bacon & Cheese  Flavored Egg Babies by Plush Puppies Glow in the Dark Gumabones for your dog         GumaKnots Vinyl Knobby Balls - for Dogs and Puppies Edible Peanut Nylabone Pig Ears Greenies for Puppies Dental Chew - Plaque Attackers Dinosaurs by Nylabone Crazy Ball from Nylabone Chilly Bone from Multipet Wiggly Giggly Balls and Bones, Jacks, Play pals


Your puppy's Toy Chest should NOT contain any of the following items:

  • Clothing or shoes - if you choose to do this you might as well open your closet and let the puppy choose his own items as you are giving the dog permission to destroy your possessions!
  • Children's toys - children's toys are not made for dogs and should not be given to your puppy.
  • Sponge toys or other soft items that are easily shredded.
  • Soft rubber, "plush" or stuffed items or plastic items from which a piece could be chewed or pulled off and which might choke or suffocate the dog.
  • Items with hard and/or sharp points or edges.
  • Items with attachments that could be chewed or broken off and might be swallowed.
  • String, rope, twine, yarn, baggies, plastic bags, twist ties or any other item not specifically designed for dogs.
  • Any item that is not size or age appropriate. (Some "puppy" toys may be too soft for adult dogs and some large dog toys are inappropriate for small dogs or puppies.)  
  • Any item that is small enough to fit into the dog's mouth and that could be fully or partially swallowed.
  • Any item that is disintegrating, losing stuffing, pieces or that is otherwise falling apart.

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Copyright © Sandcastle Kennels 2009

Last revised: April 15, 2009

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