Not All Toys are Chew Toys: The different Kinds of Dog Toys and their Benefits

THE MYTH

One of the most common misconceptions amongst dog owners is that chewing behavior is considered playtime for dogs. The second one is that all dog toys are chew toys. But unless it involves food/edible chews & treats, or the dog in question a teething puppy, chewing is actually not a play behavior at all!

On the contrary, chewing on non-edible items is a sign of discomfort in dogs, and it's caused by boredom, anxiety, or gum disease. In this blog we will address the most common reason for destructive chewing in dogs (boredom) and give a brief overview of the several main categories of dog toys. 

 

DO DOGS REALLY GET BORED?

In today’s busy world where work, fitness, friends, electronics, family life, and chores all compete for our time, it is very easy to forget that our dogs are 100% dependent on us for entertainment. They can't sit on the couch for ten hours a day with some popcorn and binge-watch their favorite show while you're working. They can’t log into their Facebook and interact with their friends. They can’t grab their car keys and go out for brunch with the girls… 

Even though the use of dogs as working animals has become less common and their roles have shifted to being companion animals, the natural instincts and behaviors that were bred into them to perform so well as working animals are still very much unchanged. So for example, dogs that were bred to herd sheep (a mentally and physically demanding job), are going to get bored out of their minds if they are left at home for 8-10 hours a day.

So what do dogs do when they get bored? The same thing humans do: they find their own ways to cure boredom. Since they can’t read and don’t have opposable thumbs, to cure boredom they use what they can - their mouths. 

THE FORMULA FOR A DESTRUCTIVE DOG

Ever heard the saying "a bored dog is a destructive dog?" Yeah, it's true. For the vast majority of dogs, the go-to activity to cure boredom is usually chewing/shredding things. What makes matters even worse, is that if all they are given are things to chew on and they don't ever get to play with their humans, eventually the dog comes to believe that their purpose is to chew everything up. This is how you end up with a term we see all too often: "super chewer" or "aggressive chewer."

 

SO IS CHEWING BAD?

That depends. Letting your dog chew on textile toys, random objects they find around the house, or on your furniture is not good for them (or you). However, chewing on proper chews and designated chew toys can be a great way for your dog to let off some steam and keep him busy for a short period of time while you do something else.

Additionally, chewing on proper chew toys and hard chews is good for their dental health as it helps remove plaque and build-up from their teeth. But providing your dog only with chew toys/bones as a replacement for playtime is a perfect recipe for creating a destructive dog. 

Knowing is half the battle, and here at Tearribles we are on a mission to make this world a better place for dogs (and their owners). So without further ado, here is a breakdown of different types of dog toys, how to use them, and their benefits. 

 

THE FIVE MAIN CATEGORIES OF DOG TOYS

 

  1. Chew Toys. We call these “boredom busters.” These toys are usually made of rubber, nylon, or natural materials like wood and are built to withstand hours and hours of gnawing. Chew toys are toys that you give to your dog when you want to keep them occupied while you do something else. Think of them like the dog equivalent of fidget spinners- it gives them something to do for a short period of time. After about 20-30 minutes, most dogs will usually lose interest and will need another source of entertainment, or will be too tired from chewing and take a nap. Our preference when it comes to chewing and boredom-busters, are natural, edible chews. Using edible chews helps your dog limit chewing to edible items, which is a benefit when it comes to small shavings that break off when dogs chew on the toys. Most rubber and plastic chew toy shavings are pretty safe, but if we can choose to have rubber/plastic in our dog's stomach vs a digestible, naturally edible chew, we always go for the natural ones. 

Benefits: Aside from keeping your pup busy, chews can also aid in teeth cleaning. Dental hygiene is essential for dogs, and regular brushing of teeth is not enough for proper dental hygiene. Some places are left inside the mouth that are hard to reach, and chews can help get rid of that build up. Chews are further helpful for massaging the gums and eliminating stuck food particles that are not easily removed with brushing. They help eliminate the chances of bacterial growth inside the mouth. 

 

  1. Comfort Toys. These are most commonly known as plush toys, aka "plushies." Comfort toys for dogs are usually made of soft materials like plush and are designed for cuddling. They provide dogs with the same type of comfort that babies get when holding their favorite plushie. Sometimes they have a squeaker in them that a dog will find entertaining to compress. Comfort toys can also be used in a game of indoor fetch if the pup is interested in fetch toys.

Benefits: Comfort toys serve two purposes: the first one is to distract your dog and indulge in a new activity of keeping their "companion" safe, and the second one is to relieve their anxiety during stressful times knowing their familiar buddy is by their side. A comfort toy makes sure that your dog spends the hours they're away from you with a familiar “friend.”

 

  1. Interactive Toys. These toys are usually every dog’s favorite type of toy. They come in various shapes and sizes, can be made of various materials, and are designed for dogs and humans to play with together. Toys that fall into this category are fetch toys, hide and seek toys, and tug toys. No matter what shape or size they come in, they have one thing in common- they require the human to participate in play time. Dogs’ all-time favorite toy, the tennis ball, is an example of an interactive toy. Tearribles are also interactive toys. The reason interactive toys are usually dogs’ favorites are because 1) they get to play (aka spend quality time) with their human, and 2) because they get physical and mental stimulation at the same time. This usually results in a happy, tired dog.

Benefits: The core benefit of interactive toys is to allow your dog to exercise their natural play behaviors, and provide them with lots of mental and physical exercise, while building a strong bond with their owner. These toys are also great tools to use for training disguised as play. You can use them to teach your dog various commands, the most popular ones being "drop it," "bring it back," "leave it," or "find it."

 

  1. Chase Toys:  Many breeds of dogs are natural-born hunters, and their primal instincts often lead them to chase after anything that moves. This innate behavior can be harnessed and channeled into a fun and stimulating activity with the right chase toys. Chase toys come in various forms, from flirt poles to motorized remote-controlled setups.

Benefits:  Chase toys are not only great for keeping your buddy entertained but also provide them fun mental and physical exercise. These toys tap into a dog's love for running and pursuing objects, making them an excellent choice for active breeds like Border Collies, Greyhounds, and Australian Shepherds. 

 

  1. Puzzle Toys aka Mental Stimulation Toys. These toys are usually made of plastic, wood, or textile materials and come in many shapes and sizes- square, rectangular, round...you name it. They have various types of compartments in which you can hide treats, which your dog has to sniff out and figure out how to get to. Once loaded with treats, the puzzle toy is then presented to the dog, who gets to solve the mystery: how to get the treats out of each compartment. Pro tip: you can use Tearrible limb pockets to hide treats in for extra fun play time.

Benefits: Different dog breeds have different physiological needs. Dogs are intelligent, and the smarter they are the more mental stimulation (vs physical stimulation) they require. Mental stimulation toys can provide them with a challenge that will keep them happy and get their brains working. Puzzle toys are the most sophisticated ways to stimulate your pup's brain and tire them out. It's comparable to us solving a mystery game or doing math. 

 

SO WHAT TOYS SHOULD I GET FOR MY DOG?

Your dog should ideally have at least two toys from each category. You can put half of them away, and rotate them every few weeks for more excitement and enrichment. While different breeds have different activity and mental stimulation needs, most dogs will enjoy a variety of play styles, with one or two being their favorite. We will cover more about breeds and their instincts in a future blog post, but in the meantime, the best way to find out what play styles your pup will enjoy the most is to try them all & let your pup decide. 

Now that you are an expert on dog toys, you can save your wallet and help your dog live a fun-filled life by providing them with different toys that satisfy their different instincts.