Thursday, September 3, 2009

THE SAFEST DOG TOYS

A bored dog is a destructive dog. German Shepherds are too intelligent to lie around all day and be happy and content. They need something to do to not only to exercise their bodies, but to exercise their brains as well. They are a playful, energetic breed and look forward to chasing, pulling, shaking or chewing on something. The more challenges you give them, the happier they are. With today’s market of endless choices of dog toys, you’ll easily satisfy that need. But which ones are safe and which ones should you avoid?

Common sense will tell you that some toys are just not good for a dog the size and strength of a German Shepherd. These would include anything that has small pieces that can easily be chewed off, like stuffed animals with eyes or noses made of buttons or other small objects. Plus many of them have a squeak in them, so watch that they don’t get this out and swallow it. While most dogs love stuffed toys, keep an eye on them as they will pull these apart and the stuffing will end up on the floor or in your dog’s stomach. These are some of my dog’s favorite types of toys because they love to shake them and throw them about. Also throw these stuffed toys in the washing machine occasionally as they become dirty and bacteria ridden very easily.

Another favorite and inexpensive toy that many dogs love is the tennis ball. It bounces easily and it fits into their mouth comfortably. They love chasing this ball and if you don’t watch them, they will tear this ball apart. However, as much as they love this ball, it can quickly become a death trap. Just think for a moment, this ball can be thrown long distances and easily bounces. Your dog waits in anticipation when you throw it to him. He jumps up in the air and catches it easily because it’s small enough to fit in his jaws. Because of the force behind the throw, the ball becomes lodged in the dog’s throat. Think it doesn’t happen? Read on.

A breeder/trainer friend of German Shepherds had a dog who was ball obsessed, especially the tennis ball. He played with these balls for years with no problems. Then one day, the unthinkable happened. My friend threw the ball to her dog. He jumped up in the air to catch it and it became lodged in his throat. She couldn’t remove it because the force jammed it down his throat blocking his air way. Panicked, she somehow got her dog into the back of the car to rush him to the vets. She told me that the dog was dying in the back seat while she ran every red light to get him the help he needed. The dog succumbed to the lack of oxygen and fell limp on the seat. She told me the next thing she knew was that because of him “dying” all of his muscles relaxed and the ball became loosened and the ball fell out of his throat. The good news is that the dog survived. However, his beloved tennis ball was shown the garbage pail. So as much as your dog might love the tennis ball, this is an accident waiting to happen.

Other dangerous toys are of the homemade type. In the summer because of the warmer weather, I sometimes freeze water in an empty plastic milk container. The dogs love these. But because they are chewers, they will start chewing the containers and before I know it, shreds of plastic are lying all over the back deck. How many pieces of this plastic are they swallowing? I had one girl choking and coughing after one of these incidences. They no longer are given these containers.

So what are some safe toys that we can give to our dogs for their entertainment? The Kong toys are great for the jaws of a German Shepherd. They say that they’re indestructible, but you should always keep an eye on them anyway. The company has what they call the Extreme Kong for the more aggressive chewer. I used to have a huge male who absolutely loved the Kong. This was his toy of choice. He lived to be 14 ½ years old. All these years later, that darn toy is still around. My three dogs now don’t show any interest in it at all. The Kong Company makes many other toys that come in different shapes and sizes. With the original Kong toy, there’s a hole at the bottom where you can put food or treats to give your dog another type of challenge as he tries to retrieve the delectable goodie.

Some of my dogs used to like the Frisbee toy. The dog who likes to chase and retrieve will usually enjoy this activity. There again, be very careful with this as well. Usually the old stand by type of Frisbee is made of plastic. You get the “chewer” type of dog, and he’ll be biting off little pieces of this as well. Now you can get the Frisbee made of different materials. The Nylabone Company makes a Frisbee with a Nylabone shape on top of the toy so the dog can easily grab it. The company advises that this is not a chew toy, so supervision is advised. Then I’ve seen Frisbee’s made out of heavy duty rope fashioned in a circle for an easier grip. And even the Kong Company now makes a Frisbee.

Other fun toys that are constructed well that you might consider are, the Goofy ball that squeaks, and bounces in all different directions. Some dogs like the knotted ball or ropes to play tug of war with. There’s the Booda bone that is cornstarch based that doesn’t splinter and is safe to chew on. The Buster cube is a toy you fill with treats and when rolled a certain way, the treats roll out. Cuz Bad is a hard rubber squeaky toy that some dogs love. The choice of toys is endless. Not every dog likes every type of toy. Find out what type of toy entertains your dog and match it to his personality. Some dogs are ball driven, some like to chase, and some like to shake the heck out of their toys. Not all toys fit all dogs. Whatever your dog likes, just make sure he’s safe with that toy. Supervising your dogs’ playtime is always a good idea, because you can get dogs like two of mine who find chasing bumble bees is a challenge that they are always up to meeting! I always have to be on my toes with these two!

The dog toy market offers a huge variety of entertaining distractions. The prices will vary as well. You can find just about anything you’re looking for on the web and the many pet stores both large and small. To save yourself money when buying stuffed toys, go to the Goodwill or second hand stores. Many times you can find almost new stuffed toys there. Again, watch for the eyes and nose and squeakers that they're not something they can chew off. If you find the ones you want, buy them (very cheaply), bring them home and wash them in your washing machine.

I’m sure your dog has his favorites that you don’t see listed here. What kinds of toys do they like?

My rating for the “indestructible toys” on the market: durability: (4), craftsmanship: (4), variety: (4), value: (4)

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