It is important to pick toys appropriate for the dog's size and energy level - a toy being available in a pet store doesn't mean it's suitable for all dogs. A calm small dog has completely different requirements than an energetic large dog. Toys that are too small can be dangerous too - they might be swallowed, or choke the dog. Use common sense.
To be on the safe side, remove all strings, ribbons, eyes, and other parts that can be chewed off and swallowed. Also look over your dog's toys from time to time - many toys are great when they're new, but should be tossed out when they're getting worn. Rope toys, for instance, are great until the dog gets the knots open. After that they become a dangerous pile of string.
Soft toys made for children should not be used by pets. The filling can be very dangerous, and has even killed dogs. Not even pet-safe fillings are made to be eaten.
Many dogs who spend most of the day alone like to have a comfort toy, like a piece of dirty laundry that smells of you. It can be an old T-shirt, a blanket, or a towel. Pick something sturdy and be prepared for it being destroyed by excessive bedding, sniffing, and carrying.
If your dog tires of toys quickly, try rotating them on a weekly basis. You can make kits with a variety of toys and change them once a week - this makes old toys like new. Some toys can be refreshed too. Antlers, for example, are pretty expensive, and many dogs tire of them after a week. Try soaking the antlers in some chicken broth - it will make them interesting again.
The most important thing to your dog is having some of your time and attention. Take some time to toss a ball or a frisbee, or play hide-and-seek. Hiding small treats and teaching your dog to seek them can be fun for both, and helps your dog use both mind and nose.
What's your dog's favorite toy? We'd love to hear your favorite tips.
~ Maria Sadowski ~