Walk into any pet store and you will find all kinds of toys for your dog to play with. The most tried and true dog toy, though, is the classic squeaky toy. Why do dogs love playing with these toys so much?
Why Dogs Like Squeaky Toys
Your dog may enjoy their squeaky toy for a variety of reasons, but most dog behavior experts agree that the three main reasons dogs like squeaky toys are related to hunting instincts, chewing, and the sound itself.
A lot of squeaky toys may be small, fuzzy, and shaped like something a dog may instinctively want to hunt. The squeaking sound they make may even sound similar to the alarm sounds that natural prey may make. This can explain why hunting breeds may have a higher affinity for squeaky toys than non-hunting breeds. This can also explain why some breeds, such as terriers (which were originally bred to be ratters), may love shredding their squeaky toys. Of course, any breed can enjoy playing with squeaky toys, but hunting instincts may explain why a Jack Russell loves to destroy their squeaky toys while a miniature schnauzer may be content to simply squeak it.
Another reason your dog may enjoy squeaky toys is because of the squeak itself. When your dog chomps on their favorite toy and immediately hears a squeak, they get immediate gratification. This can trigger something like a positive feedback loop. Hearing the squeak sound may trigger dopamine to be released from the reward center in your dog's brain. Your dog may continue to squeak their squeaky toy in order to feel that dopamine rush again.
Your dog may also learn that if they squeak their favorite squeaky toy around you, that might get you to play with them. If every time you hear your dog playing with their squeaky toy you join them in their play, your dog will quickly make a correlation between "squeak toy" and "mom/dad plays with me." Some folks may jokingly call this their dog training them, but if your dog is asking you to play with them, who are you to say no?
Finally, your dog may enjoy their squeaky toy because they just love to chew things. This can be especially true for younger puppies that are teething. Similar to cats and scratching, different dogs may have different preferences for chewing texture. Teething puppies may enjoy softer, rubber toys. Older dogs, especially smaller breed dogs that are prone to dental disease, may prefer soft, stuffed squeaky toys. Power chewers may do well with so-called indestructible toys. Toys made of heavier rubber, plastic, or vinyl may also last longer than plush squeaky toys, but they may still have to be replaced at some point. It's also important to remember that your dog's preferences may change as they age.
How to Play With Squeaky Toys
Playing with your dog may seem like something that would just be intuitive, but there are tips and tricks to get your dog to play with you. Most folks may try to get their dog to play with a toy by prominently shaking it in front of their face. Some dogs may respond to this, but remember: Your dog probably likes their squeaky toy because it mimics prey. A squirrel probably isn't going to run up to your dog and dance right in front of them. Instead, slowly move it along the floor just out of your dog's reach to stimulate your dog's prey drive.
Squeakers, stuffing, and even rubber pieces can be hazardous if your dog were to eat any. It's important to always supervise your dog with a new toy. Toys should be checked regularly for any rips or tears that may break off or potentially be eaten. Plush toys that have holes in them should be thrown away, or you can sew the hole closed to prevent your dog from ingesting any stuffing material. Damaged plastic and rubber toys should be disposed of. Toys that are very hard plastic can get rough edges after being chewed up. Any toys with rough edges that could potentially injure your dog should be thrown out. Always supervise your dog when playing with any toy.