Dog Toys – the 4 Types and How to Use Them Right
Walking down the toy aisle of your local
pet supply store can be overwhelming;
there are hundreds of toys to choose
from. Most people just get whatever looks
or at least whatever their dog picks up
and slobbers. On today I’m going to show
you the four types of toys you should
have and how best to use them.
Hey everybody, Ian here with Simpawtico Dog
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Now, let’s get to it!
So, in all things there’s a strategy if
you dig a little deeper.
Toys are no different. You can use your
toys to develop your relationship, to
teach important skills and behaviors and
generally make life a lot more fun. To
start, understand that dog toys break
down into four main categories. They’re
chew toys, dental toys, interactive toys and
The nature’s of these toys is fairly
self-explanatory. Info on how to use
these in the smartest ways, however, is
not so easily come by.
Worry not friends, you’re in good hands.
Let’s go over these one at a time:
Perhaps the most obvious and ubiquitous
category is chew toys.
These are designed to be chewed, mangled,
punctured, gnawed on, and beat up on a
Consequently they are generally made of
tough rubber or silicone or even antler,
and come in tons of shapes and sizes.
Dental toys are also a pretty obvious
category. An augmented chew toy of sorts,
dental toys are designed to scour teeth,
massage gums and promote blood flow.
These can be supplemented with doggy
toothpaste if necessary,
although most of them are designed to
work alone. These have ridges, knobs, fins,
and scales on them to work on the dog’s
mouth while he or she chews. Some dental
toys are in fact fully consumable. With
we’re now getting into much broader
territory. Interactive toys are ones like
tug toys, balls, frisbees, retrieval
dummies, and variations thereof.
Interactive toys also include puzzles
and games. As the name says these are
things that your dog interacts with on a
higher level than just laying down and
chewing. Interactive toys are great
because not only do they provide mental
stimulation, which is just as important
as physical stimulation,
but they also offer endless training
opportunities. Every moment with one can
be a teachable moment.
That’s huge guys, don’t waste it. Finally
we get to plush toys.
These are primarily stuffed animals and
although it also includes the stuffingless “flatties.” Generally these kinds of
toys look like little animals or cute
little characters. Like the others, they
come in an endless array of shapes and
sizes for all kinds of dogs.
Okay, great. Now we know the
so what the heck do we do with them? Well
what ends up happening in most
households is that owners by a whole
bunch of toys from all four categories
and then just go “Here you go, Rover!” All of
the toys are available all the time with
little to no guidance or supervision.
What a waste of an opportunity. Come on!
We can do a lot better than that!
Here’s how it works with the categories:
chew toys are available all the time.
You should have chew toy trained your dog
right from the beginning, either as a
puppy or as a newly adopted dog.
If you have not spent time chew toy
training your dog,
start now. Chewing releases endorphins
that calm your dog down and produce
feelings of contentment. A chew toy trained
dog is comfortable being alone and tends
to stay out of trouble when they’re
unsupervised. Puppies and/or new dogs
should initially be fed exclusively via
hand feeding or chew toys like a Kong or
a Squirrel Dude. Forget all the fancy
recipes you find online and for sure
don’t buy any of that cheese whiz looking
crap made to fill chew toys. Instead use
their normal food.
Measure it out, moisten it, and freeze it.
Now its on demand and convenient. Leave
them with food when you leave the house.
Use food-filled chew toys when you must
attend other things.
Tie food-filled chew toys to the
insides of crates to facilitate crate
Tie them to trees in the yard during
summer time for outdoor fun. Since you’re
using their normal food,
you’re keeping their nutrition balanced.
You’re not glutting them with treats,
which should ideally
only be about ten percent of their daily
You’re also empowering their food to be
a training reward all by itself.
You can use dog food to train your dog
and save the treats for jackpots.
Ultimately a food-filled chew toy will
create train a dog
ultra fast. This makes potty training and
overall management a breeze.
It also trains the dog to enjoy time
circumventing the destructive behaviors
associated with boredom or isolation
distress, which is commonly mistaken for
Heck, even true separation anxiety can be
mitigated to some extent with strategic
chew toy training. Regular chew toys also
make great coping methods for high
stress or arousal; train your dog to
funnel excitement and energy into a chew
Now, dental toys can be left out to for
the most part. The exception to that
would be if you plan to use a toothpaste
with it in which case they’re brought out
at regular intervals to temporarily
replace a regular chew toy.
These should be supervised when
toothpaste is involved and of course
cleaned afterwards. Also dental toys
should be checked after each use.
If any of the massaging studs or fins
start to come off, the toy should be
retired. All chew toys for that matter
should be regularly inspected and
retired when they get too small or too
mangled. Interactive toys are only
brought out when a play session is
initiated by you.
You keep them put away and you decide
what game to play and when. Your dog may
have favorites, and that’s great, but he
shouldn’t have free access to the
By controlling access you can leverage
the toy and the activity as training rewards.
Training doesn’t always have to be done
In fact, toys are a gateway to phasing
out treats all together.
You then also use the games and
activities to teach behaviours to your
For example, tug is an awesome game.
Look if a well-meaning neighbor or pet
store trainer tells you to never play
tug with your dog because it’s dangerous,
please think them and walk away. That is
As with all games with your dog, tug is a
great opportunity for learning and
You just have to start out by teaching
the rules. Playing tug with a puppy is
one of those activities that helps to
develop a soft mouth.
It goes along with the bite inhibition
training that we do in the off-leash
puppy classes, and every dog should know
Take It and Drop It, two important and
very basic commands.
Incidentally interactive toys are a
fantastic way to do just that.
Dog toys without squeakers are the best.
Most dogs really go bonkers with
squeakers, but a squeaker can trigger
higher levels of arousal and encourage
them to dissect the toy to get it, which
is a bad habit.
We don’t need our dogs to find that
activity fun and start dissecting the
mail and your purse, or to go after other
things that squeak like the neighbor’s
chihuahua, a kitten or your guinea pig.
Finally plush toys. These are the most
misunderstood and misused category of
Many owners buy these for their dogs and
allow them to destroy them.
Guys, this is wrong. Not only are you
missing out on a tremendous learning
opportunity, but you’re also training
your dog to tear apart other things they
find, like slippers and wallets. A dog
should never destroy one of these toys.
In fact, a $1.99 plush toy
should ostensibly last indefinitely.
Your chew toys and interactive toys
should get all the wear and tear; the
plush toys are for teaching. A really
good play and learning session I’ve used in the
past uses an interactive toy and a plush
toy, and it goes like this:
The tug toy comes out first. The dog
can’t have it until we say “Take it.” And
we play tug for a minute or so. This is a
great time to teach game manners and
rules like, “Don’t ever accidentally get
me with your teeth.”
Now we use “drop it.” Teach it,
reinstruct it, reinforce it. The tug toy
goes away and the plush toy comes out.
Here’s where things get interesting. we
squeak it and treat it like a baby in
hands. We treat it like it’s alive. We
want softness and kindness toward it. Any
grab, bite or tug gets a “Hey! What have
You’ve hurt Mr. Toy!” See, this is a
violation of the take it rule. That is to
say, the dog can’t take it in her mouth
unless and until we okay it.
It also shows you the difference between
what you think the boundaries are and
put your dog thinks they are. Very often
there’s a disconnect there.
This is where we step up, and bridge that
gap. If they grabbed for it or if their
drop it is sloppy,
then we have a five-second instructive
time out in a Down stay.
Now the plush toy goes away and we
repeat the cycle a few times. So, the
interactive toy comes out again and we
use tug as a reward for being nice to
the plush toy. Play this game between
five and ten minutes. When you’re all
done say, “All done,
thank you!” and put the toys away. Remember,
access is restricted to these toys to
only times when games are being played
with you. Don’t forget to praise
enthusiastically for every good thing.
Reinstruct for slow responses. Repeat
exercises and have high expectations.
Treats are not necessary here because
the rewards are intrinsic–they’re built
into the activity. And for that to work
this it’s got to be fun, so relax and
make learning part of your fun. It will
pay off huge down the road.
I mean look, imagine if you had other
small animals in the house, a guinea pig
or a bearded dragon, or imagine if you
had a new baby or one came to visit or
maybe your cat has kittens or maybe you
messed up your knee and you just need
rover to take it easy around you for
the next few weeks.
That’s what these activities are for.
Understanding how best to capitalize on
these toys and their categories can help
you develop a lot of healthy dog
behavior and build a rock solid bond.
So there you go, fellow dog lovers.
Thank you for watching, don’t forget to
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comments about how you use toys in your
Check the description for notes and
resources, and until next time
keep learning, keep practicing and i’ll
see you soon.