Sunday, October 18, 2009
Toys. Every puppy needs toys, and big dogs too. My house looks like a kid’s play room with all the toys strew around the various rooms. My adult dogs, who spend time much of their time on my verandah, go absolutely gah-gah when then come into the house for a brief visit. They run around picking up a toy then discarding it for another. They just can’t make up their minds which toy to play with.
Quality toys that can withstand the pressure of a german shepherd’s or rottweiler’s jaw are hard to come by in Jamaica. Sure, all of my dogs had toys as puppies (except the pomeranians), but now that they have gotten big, the toys last about 10 minutes, the most. So I have to give them cheap toys like empty soda bottles with the caps screwed on really tight–they love the challenge of getting it off–and, of course, the kong toys.
The picture above features just some of the toys that the puppies got to play with while growing up in my home. I couldn’t find them all because they were scattered around the house. Mr. Moose, the stuffed animal, stayed in the whelping box with babies. Sometimes they would snuggle with it. The pacifier (red toy) was a favorite when the puppies’ teeth started to erupt, but I took it away from them a few weeks back because it’s made of very soft material. They would wreck it in no time.
The blue and yellow balls and the green frog were favorites. The puppies enjoyed chasing and retrieving the balls, and the blue ball was perfect for that. It’s made from hard plastic, and the holes in it allowed the puppy to grab hold of it. Froggie has been the object of tug-‘o-war and the cause of many dog chases around my living room. Unfortunately it has lost it’s squeak: someone put a hole in his head! I’ll have to replace Froggie at my next visit to the store.
Of all the toys, however, the big yellow ring in the background and the bright pink porcupine were the least favorites. The ring was too heavy, but I’m guessing that the puppies that remain with me will enjoy playing with it once they get bigger and stronger. It’s made from a hard material so should withstand vigorous chewing. The puppies never did figure out a way to play with the porcupine because he has a prickly surface.
With the economy as it is in Jamaica, and the high cost of food, one could ask, why spend money on something as “unessential” as toys? The answer is simple. Toys and playtime are vital for a puppy’s mental and physical development. It teaches the puppy how to problem solve, develops neural pathways in the brain that will support learning new tasks and adapting to strange situations. Most of all, it promotes constructive chewing. My dogs do not chew the furniture or any of our belongings when they have their own toys.
When choosing toys, it’s best to find a variety of shapes, textures, and sizes. Color is of little importance because dogs see varying shades of gray, though I love the brightly colored toys that litter the floor.
These puppies grew up with toys, and it is my hope that they will continue to have toys throughout their adult and senior years. Of course the toys will need to be appropriate for the dog. For adults I have found that kong toys, or any toy made from kong-like material are ideally suitable for my shepherds and rottweiler. You can also use homemade toys, too, like a length of hose, and plastic soda bottles.
If you have any suggestions for toys, feel free to add them to the comments column.