Dog Toys - A Serious Subject!

Dog Toys have a serious side to them, believe it or not! You need to get the right toy for your breed, and know how to use them to get the best results from your dog training.

Some dogs are never happier than when they're chasing a ball. Many of the herding breeds will play ball all day and still come back for more. Some of the guarding breeds and terriers, on the other hand, will enjoy something they can get a good bite into, and which responds - so squeezy squeaky dog toys are very popular with them.

Most dogs will enjoy playing with you with a Tuggie - and don't worry about bad behaviour resulting from this. Simply teach it with lots of calm control and clear cues for starting and stopping and you'll have a great game you can play all your dog's life.

Then you have the cuddly dogs, who want to love their dog toys, and carry them around with them. Since my children have grown out of them, the dogs have inherited all their cuddly toys.

IMG ROLLO WITH SHEEPY My whippet will take a teddy bear, snuggle up with it on her bed, then drape her chin over it, very fetchingly! She has a very soft nature, and this behaviour is not in any way problematic, but such "trophying", as it's called, of dog toys, can lead to problems of aggression in just a few dogs.

The reason is that they are treating the toy as they would treat a kill in the wild. They would bring it back to the lair for their own consumption, and only when they finished would selected other animals be allowed to have some. This behaviour can be strong in some dogs, and you can just imagine what happens when, say, a child goes to pick up a toy from the dog's bed ... it can lead to a bite, possible litigation and destruction of the dog - and at the very least, misery all round.

It's easy to pick up on this behaviour with dog toys while the dog is still a pup, and change it by simply teaching your puppy that giving up the toy is a good idea - it's always swapped for a treat.

Pay him in Toys

If you can use them well, dog toys can be a fantastic training aid for you and your dog. To improve his behaviour around the house, and encourage him to come when he's called, you can produce his favourite toy from your pocket and get whole-hearted co-operation!

But it's in with competition dog training that toys can really come into their own. Go to an Obedience or Agility Show and you'll see dog toys being used in many different ways. Watch how the top trainers use them - sometimes they are rewarding quiet behaviour, sometimes exciting the dog deliberately, and they always use them to get attention from their dog. In top level Obedience, the handler and dog move as one, so concentration from the dog is an essential ingredient.

And, of course, playing with your dog is fun! No point in doing all that dog training if you don't both enjoy it.

A dog toy can be anything you choose, and some handlers will just use their lead as an effective toy. But if you want something purpose-built for the job, there's a huge selection of dog toys. There are quantities of marvellous dog toys to fit every pocket - financially as well as physically!

There are cuddly toys for the softies and squeaky toys for the psychopaths. There are lots of online shops as well as the local pet stores and chains, and if you want the biggest choice of all, go to one of the major dog shows. Crufts has hall upon hall of doggy goodies, many of them toys.

Balls and Frisbees

There are some spectacular toys specially for ball-freaks (dogs or people). When it comes to throwing things for dogs, there is a huge choice. Balls, balls on ropes, balls you can fire long distances, balls to kick, and balls to play tug-of-war with. There are some phenomenal ball-launching toys - one of them can actually be worked by the dog himself. So if you have a ball-freak, he's going to think he's died and gone to heaven if you get him this! Take care your dog doesn't crashland on balls to stop them - this can lead to shoulder injuries.

Frisbees produce such athletic leaps and catches that it's become a sport in its own right.

IMG ROLLO IN SNOW WITH FRISBEE Frisbees come specially made for dogs. In the dog's eyes that statement is self-evident - all Frisbees are for dogs! But, to save the aerodynamically unsound tooth-holes in your children's frisbees, get one specially for your dog. You can get soft rubbery ones, and some made with very tough nylon fabric, so you can play tug-of-war with them without lacerating your dog's mouth or losing a finger.

The wonderful thing about these doggy frisbees is that they float! You can "float" them in the air too. They're so light that when you throw them crosswind they'll hang in the air over your dogs while they wait eagerly beneath for them to come down. Catching a frisbee in flight is much less stressful on a dog's skeleton than stopping a rolling ball, so teaching your dog to become a flying disc dog can help to reduce injuries.

If you enjoy the sight of your athletic dog jumping, you'll love seeing him leap through the air to snatch a frisbee out of the sky!

Home Alone

There are also some interactive treat toys which are specially designed to amuse dogs who might suffer from boredom when they're left alone. They can either simply chew at them and lick out the food stuffed inside, or they can push them around with their nose and gradually get out all the treats. They get a little exercise as well as a puzzle to solve, and can be kept occupied for quite some time.

Then there are puzzle-solving toys, too. The dog may have to use his nose to locate concealed treats, or simply enjoy pulling small squeaky toys out of a "house". You can improvise some of these yourself, using old soft toys, glove puppets, socks, etc. You could even use the playschool standbys of eggboxes and yogurt pots - the toys won't last long, but they'll give your dog a lot of pleasure!

The Ultimate in Dog Gifts

Dog owners are the easiest people to buy presents for, and dog toys are always a popular choice. There are quantities of marvellous dog toys to fit every pocket - financially as well as physically!

The ultimate in dog gifts has to be ... a dog. As we all know "A dog is for life, not just for Christmas", and getting a new puppy at Christmas is not the best idea for even the doggiest of homes. There's simply too much excitement around, and far too much rich and unsuitable food which will end up in the dog, as everyone gets caught up in the spirit of Christmas giving.

After Christmas is a good time to pick up perfectly nice puppies who have been given as presents ... and booted out shortly after. But if you're buying from a reputable breeder, you will have trouble finding a pup at all at this time, as the breeders tend to time matings carefully to avoid their precious pups ending up as unwanted dog gifts.

But if you still want to go ahead, be sure that one of the dog gifts you choose is this first-class book on rearing The Perfect Puppy. I would recommend this book to anyone starting off with a new puppy - even if it's their fifth dog! There is so much sensible information here - especially about socialising your new pup, that I would rate it as one of those dog gifts that is always welcome.

For those who'd rather gaze at an active dog on their wall, while their own dog sleeps beneath - or perhaps a dozing dog on the wall, while their hyperactive dog plays ball outside, dog pictures make wonderful dog gifts.