Puppies have no off-button, and a favorite puppy toy can be the perfect way to channel their energy. A variety of puppy toys are available and different puppies may prefer specific toys based on activity level, how puppies play, and a dog's breed.
Popular Puppy Toys
- Stuffed Squeaky Toys: The youngest pups enjoy soft, stuffed, or fuzzy toys. Your pet won’t care about the color and will be more interested in the texture and any sounds it makes. Squeakers and bells are big hits with youngsters.
- Balls: Tiny, huge, soft, or hard balls can get your pup to chase, leap, and fetch, and are great for interactive play. For water-loving breeds, some of these toys float and can work great in wading pools or other safe puppy play areas. For solo play, balls of 10 to 20 inches are a good size and your dog won't be as likely to grab, chew, or eat them.
- Chew Toys: Puppies enjoy chewing opportunities during teething—when baby teeth erupt and later as adult teeth come in. Rawhide chews, rubber bones and more keep puppy teeth on safer targets instead of gnawing your new sneakers.
- Puzzle Toys: Boxes, balls, and activity boards can give your puppy brain exercise. They often are made to contain food or treats.
- Tug Toys: Puppies enjoy trying to best with these toys. So as not to encourage rough play, be careful that you are in control and it is you who starts and ends the game. Pulling too hard can injure tender new teeth, so take care.
Homemade Puppy Toys
Toys don't need to be expensive to be successful.
- Empty paper bags make great fun for your puppy to explore inside or attack and crush from the outside.
- A tennis ball or wadded up piece of paper make easy chase toys.
- An old sock tied in a knot can be used as a tug toy or a chase toy.
Take a cue from cat toys and make a fishing-pole lure toy. These are especially popular with terriers, but many pups enjoy stalking and pouncing. The commercial versions for dogs are called flirt poles. You can make one from a lunge whip found at horse tack shops by tying a stuffed toy or rag to the end and dragging it along the ground. You can do the same simply using a long string with a rag tied on the end. Play keep-away with the toy, “flirting” it just out of reach so your puppy will chase it. Don’t let your dog catch it and play tug or the puppy will destroy it. The idea is to wear your dog out with chase exercise while you don’t have to race around.
Be sure to supervise toy play. Many pups think the best game of all is to disembowel squeakers or bells, and if swallowed, these can cause dangerous blockages. Ears, eyes, noses, and tails of stuffed toys commonly get targeted, chewed off and swallowed. Supervise your puppy with all toys until you know what your dog can and cannot do with them. Even so-called indestructible dog toys may not be safe for some determined breeds.
Playtime and Bonding
While it may be fun to watch your puppy play with toys, you should spend some time each day actively playing with your puppy. The positive attention you give to your puppy during playtime will build a strong bond with your pet. Your puppy will think you are fun and work all the harder to please you. It's good to make play and exercise part of your puppy's schedule. A little play time before and after each meal fits well into a daily routine.
Playtime can also be a chance to introduce keywords such as good, bad, and no. Be consistent in setting rules for play so you don't reinforce aggression. If your puppy nips you, give a yelp and a brief time-out before you resume play. Enforce a "three strikes and you're out" rule and end play after three mistakes.
Set the pattern now and your dog will help keep each other active and having fun for many years to come.