Ball/Rope combo

Ball/Rope combo

There are a lot of toys for dogs on the market but most dogs only need a few. I often visit people who have a basket of dog toys collecting dust. I’m going to give you a breakdown of the essential toys. Every dog needs a ball, a rope and a stuffed toy (stuffing optional). These three toys address a dog’s primal instincts and for some, traits for which they were bred.

A ball is the quintessential dog toy allowing dogs to express their retrieving genes. Even if your dog wasn’t bred to retrieve it’s very possible that your dog can learn this skill. It’s a wonderful way to exercise your dog without a lot of physical effort on your part. In addition to exercise you can use a game of fetch as a training lesson teaching the dog to retrieve, return and release the ball. When choosing a basic ball for your dog shop for hard (durable) natural rubber. The glue in tennis balls, when activated with saliva, can erode the enamel of a dog’s teeth. Natural rubber is the best choice and washes easily with warm water and soap. Choose a size that is appropriate to your dog’s mouth.

The next toy you might consider is a rope for tugging. Any sturdy rope will do. Tugging is a fun game that simulates the tearing of a carcass (sorry).  Playing tug with my students and my own boy is one of my favorite ways to train. While playing tug I’m able to practice the “release” and “leave it” command. Some folks still perpetuate the myth that playing tug of war will make your dog aggressive. That’s poppycock. If your dog is going to become aggressive you don’t have to play tug with him to bring that out. With that said, your dog may have the potential to behave aggressively during a game of tug if he has gotten it into his head that the rope belongs to him. If you’ve trained your dog well enough to release and leave the rope any attitude of entitlement should remain at bay.

Nitro takes a break in the stockroom at RAW after a game of fetch.

Nitro takes a break in the stockroom at RAW after a game of fetch.

The last toy to consider is a stuffed (or not) toy with a squeaker. Offer them something with fur (faux, of course) they can shake, squeak, and throw in the air. Pay mind to the squeaker. If it comes out, throw it away to prevent ingestion. Same goes for the stuffing. And on that note, there’s no point in scolding your dog for pulling out the stuffing. It’s only natural. Let him have his fun and then throw away the stuffing. He will still enjoy playing with the empty toy. Playing with an animal carcass, albeit fake, can bring much joy to your best friend.

These three toys provide the bare essentials. One toy that I love but did not include in my top three is a ball/rope combo. With these toys the human can throw the ball by the attached rope further than if they were just throwing a ball. The rope will allow for a game of tug, as well as fetch, and keeps hands dog-saliva free. I keep two at my store for sale that I like very much. One is made of rope entirely and the other is a rubber ball with a nylon handle.

When sharing toys with your dog he should be supervised to ensure that he will not chew on the toy. If he takes to chewing on a particular toy it should be put away for your dog’s safety and only brought out for play time when a responsible human is present. Try to encourage the dog to play with the toy as it was intended. No matter how safe or durable the manufacturer claims it’s toys to be never leave your dog alone with a toy until you know him well enough to know what is safe to leave with him. Bowel obstructions are dangerous and costly. Follow my safety tips and enjoy playing and training with your dog and these essential toys.