Why Toys Are Important For Your Dog's Wellbeing
Dog toys aren't just cute accessories you get to scatter around your home when a puppy moves in. They're also an important part of your dog's emotional and physical health. You may have noticed that your dog has certain toys he likes at certain times of the day. That's because each one serves a purpose in keeping him happy and helping him expel energy. Your dog's toys can act as important bonding tools between the two of you. You know how your dog runs to his toy when you get home and brings it to you with those particularly loving eyes? This is his way of connecting with you. (Your pup releases the "love hormone" oxytocin when he looks you in the eyes, by the way, so be sure to make plenty of eye contact as you play).
If you want a fun way to teach your dog to do things like sit and stay, using toys is a great way to do that. When you use toys as training tools, you can wean your dog off of always wanting a treat for his reward. He can grow to be just as excited about getting to fetch his ball once he has obeyed your command as he used to about getting a treat. This means that keeping dog toys around can also help you fight obesity in your pup. This is especially important since an alarming number of pets are overweight, which can lead to health problems for them just like it does in humans. Toys also provide great exercise. If you have a particularly athletic dog, you may not be able to run as far or as fast as he can. But if you get him a good toy launcher, you can give your dog hours of calorie-burning fun.
Another reason your dog should have plenty of toys is that he gets bored. Your dog doesn't have e-mails to answer and errands to run all day long like you do. He mostly just lays around until you take him out for walks, but giving him toys can offer him a way to entertain himself while you're busy. Plus, an entertained dog is a well-behaved dog (read: a dog who isn't chewing on your designer shoes or furniture). Toys can be items of comfort for your pet, too. If you rub them on your neck and chest, your scent on those toys will comfort your pet when you leave the house.
The History Of Dog Toys
Before the late 1800s, dogs mainly just played with things humans already had lying around, like tennis balls, sticks found outdoors, and bones from the butcher. Around the late 1800s, humans became interested in behavioral enrichment, a concept that pertains to enhancing the environment of captive animals through toys and other items.
The late 1800s saw the beginning of toys made with dogs in mind. Companies began to sell stitched leather balls since they were much more durable than standard tennis balls. In the 1920s, department stores began carrying rather basic pet toys. Dogs actually have World War II to thank for the emergence of more creative toys. During the war, technological advancements in rubber were made, making rubber toys possible. Even after those advancements, there weren't many companies dedicated exclusively to making rubber toys for dogs for quite some time. Instead, baby toy companies took advantage of the emerging market and started producing a few toys for pets.
In 1976, the Kong came on the market. The toy had a rough start, however, with many pet owners not understanding the concept. It wasn't until the mid-1980s that the Kong finally took off. It eventually inspired several spinoff toys, called food delivery toys that essentially contained treats for dogs, releasing the food in a timely manner as the dog played with them. Slightly after the Kong came out, so did large pet stores selling nothing but pet supplies, like Pet Supplies Plus. The early 2000s saw the emergence of interactive toys like the Wubba that require both the owner and the dog to play, creating a bond between the two.
How To Choose The Right Dog Toys For Your Pup
It seems like the first thing some dogs do when they get a new toy is try and rip the stuffing out. If this sounds like your furry friend, there are fortunately plenty of toys today made without stuffing, for this very reason. Ropes are a great option for teething puppies or adult dogs who just love to chew. Some even have materials mixed in that can help clean your hound's chompers as he chews, helping to prevent problems like periodontal disease. Ropes are also perfect for a good old-fashioned game of tug of war.
Owners of athletic dogs might want a frisbee-style toy that you can throw for your dog in the park. These tend to be made from a soft inner material encircled by a rubber exterior ring, so they don't hurt your dog's mouth the way plastic frisbees can. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, a rather complex condition researchers are still trying to understand, he likely eats things he isn't supposed to and makes messes while you're away. A food delivery toy is a good option for a dog like this because it will keep him busy trying to extract the food that's inside, instead of trying to extract the stuffing from your couch.
For dogs who are intrigued by noises, there are squeaker toys, as well as toys that contain little speakers that play music and sounds while your dog plays with them. If your dog loves the water, there are some toy options that are both water-proof and can float, helping your pup keep an eye on his toy while he swims after it in the ocean or pool.