Thursday, February 23, 2017

Balancing fun and safety when shopping for dog toys

Sinead the Boston terrier with her toy

Toys are more than fun for active dogs. A well-chosen dog toy can help a dog burn off excess energy, bond with other animals in the household and hone coordination. For little dogs like Sinead, a day wouldn't be complete without an active play session with one, two or three dog toys.

So, as you can imagine, we have plenty of dog toys. And since I'm still not mobile due to my broken leg, we add new toys all the time. But I've found that not all toys are created equal. And sometimes, the toys my dogs like best aren't suited for their play style.

Consider this little toy of a researcher and his snake. It has several different surfaces for chewing, and it has several different embedded squeakers for added fun. It's a lively little toy for a lively little dog. Sinead can chew it, as she does here, or she can play tug with it or run after it when its thrown.

Sinead the Boston terrier with her toy

It's a sturdy little toy, so I would imagine it will hold up to a great deal of attention before it falls apart. And there are no bits that can be torn off and choked on.

To me, this is an ideal toy. But on the same day, I introduced a new toy that both Sinead and her pug brother like a little better. And this toy isn't safe for them.

Here's the toy. It's a lion's head that's shaped a little like a ball with plenty of bumps (the nose, the ears) that make it ideal for grabbing. It has a very loud squeaker embedded inside, which is wonderfully noisy. And the entire head is covered with messy hair which could be used for tug games.

Lion's head dog toy

Looks pretty great, right? But that hair is a big problem. Liam sat down with this toy for some independent chew work, and like most dogs would, he focused on that hair. He liked the feel of it between his paws and his teeth, and he spent quite a bit of time in rip-and-tear format. Just 15 minutes later, this is what Liam looked like.

Liam the pug ruins his toys

See that fluff in his mouth? Yup, that's lion hair. And it's dangerous for him to ingest this stuff. It's fibrous and tangled, and I can see it working through his intestines and causing a blockage. I could never leave him alone with this toy, and I can't let him play with it as he'd like to even when I was watching. So into the scrap heap it goes.

On this Thankful Thursday, I'm grateful to my younger self. When Liam and Sinead were small, I spent a long time training them to respond to the "drop it" command. That comes in handy when they're working with a toy like this. I give the command, they drop the toy and they get something else as a replacement. That spares me from the task of running after them and trying to grab things from them (which I can't do right now especially).

Have you ever been thankful for your dog's training? Leave me a note in the comments!


  1. I have been thankful both dogs will let me put my hand in their mouth to remove things.

  2. Oh, the drop it command has definitely come in handy a time or two. Although, Rita's so good at not picking up stuff she shouldn't, I haven't had to use it on her in a while. Guess we should practice a bit! (Bummer about your leg! Hope you're healing up fast!)

  3. Finding safe toys is paramount, the P.A. had a Jack Russell and a Patterdale Terrier [sadly both went OTRB in 2010] and she used to be paranoid about the squeaky toys as the Daisy & Willow would 'murder' them in minutes! XOX

  4. This is important stuff to keep in mind! Not all dog toys are created equally (or safely). Our dog growing up was a retired police dog (a Labrador retriever named "Partner") ... he definitely knew those commands by heart. :)