In this part of the Dog-Games Website, we will be looking at the different types of toys that are available to use as motivators for dogs. Not all these objects are shop bought "toys" (although you are welcome to visit our web shop which stocks a wide variety of different motivators). Many of our suggestions are homemade or everyday articles that dogs can get pleasure from playing or using in training situations. Try not to be constrained by what most people regard as toys - use your imagination and whatever you have available both on you and nearby. After all, that is what dogs do - they pick up an object (eg. Prey, objects in their environment, etc) and use these as "toys" to play with. See also Playtime for your Dog for further ideas.ORANGE coded toys are best kept by the owner and used to interact with the dog for training purposes.
GREEN coded toys are suitable for mentally stimulating and rewarding the dog without the owner needing to interact or be present.
BALLS (see our web
shop for a wide selection)
WARNING - Tennis Balls are bad for Teeth!
BOXES AND CONTAINERS
Cereal and food packets/boxes make ideal toys for dogs. As well as having strong residual scents of the foods that were stored in them, toys or food treats can be hidden inside them, and then placed inside another box, or boxes, like the may layers of a Russian doll. Dogs love to paw, rip and chew the different layers, enjoying all the different smells as they try to find the elusive treat or toy. Empty wine boxes also make ideal containers to hide treats or toys in (and it is a great excuse to drink all the wine "for the sake of the dog"!) These type of toys give a whole new meaning to the word "recycling"!
These include such objects as -
- paddling pools or buckets of water for the dog to play in (with or without floating toys, apples etc)
- agility or children's tunnels to run into and perhaps find hidden treats inside
- sandpits or areas of the garden where the dog is allowed to dig and find food treats, raw (not cooked) meaty bones, or toys that you have previously buried.
There are a variety of different floating balls, gundog dummies, floating Kongs on ropes, and other toys specifically designed to float on water for dogs to swim or paddle out to retrieve. Make sure that the area of water you are letting your dog swim in is safe - beware of hidden currents, weeds, ice and steep sided banks. It is a good idea to introduce young dogs to very shallow ponds or puddles so that they can build up their confidence of splashing around in the water to get the toy without going out of their depth. They are then far more likely to become keen swimmers as they grow older as they have built up strong happy associations with water and chasing the toy.
Life rewards explains in detail how dogs enjoy exercising their different senses. One of their keenest is their sense of smell, and this is usually the last of the senses to deteriorate as the dog grows older. Therefore, any games of hunt the food, toy or person will be greatly enjoyed from the tiniest puppy to the very old dog, and exercise their senses and brains - see Mind Games. Experiment on what sort of environments your dog likes to search for things. Some dogs enjoy indoor search games such as under rugs, cushions, blankets, furniture, curtains, newspapers, different rooms etc, while others prefer using their noses outdoors away from the strong scents of humans, cleaning products etc. Try short grass, long grass, different wind directions and weather conditions, woods, ploughed fields, snow, gravel, fallen leaves etc. There is an excellent book by Anne Lill Kvam - The Kingdom of Scent - that explains in detail some wonderful games you can play with your dog using its sense of smell. Also we recommend you reading our section on Digging.
Many dogs love the texture and noise of an empty plastic water bottle (never leave the top on as the dog may choke or swallow it) and will happily spend ages trying to extract an elusive dog biscuit or food treat from inside it. Be warned it can get quite noisy but the dogs seem to really enjoy themselves! I know of some retriever type dogs who feel it is their life's mission to find and take home every plastic bottle they ever find whilst out walking with their owner.... See also our Bottle Buddy toy for a variation on this theme.
SQUEAKY AND NOISY TOYS
Once again, not everyone can bear the noise and volume of these motivators! However, dogs get a great deal of pleasure making these toys work, as they are able to mimic the biting movements of killing prey and the sound is similar to an animal squealing as it dies. Earth dogs such as terriers are particularly keen on these types of toys as they have been bred to kill vermin, which sound very similar. We stock a variety of different squeaky motivators in our web shop and the Mini Retrieve Toys are particularly suitable for small dogs.
STUFFED OR SOFT TOYS
Most pet dogs rarely have the opportunity to kill or dismember prey, yet their strong instinctive drives are still deep within their character. This is why some dogs enjoy chewing and ripping apart soft toys, fabric, leather and rope. Therefore, don't be too angry if your dog "trashes" the soft doggy toy you just bought for him - he really did enjoy it! It might be an idea to make simple soft toys that cost very little to make (such as stuffing an old pair of tights; knitting a simple tube and stuffing it with old rags or toy stuffing; sewing up oddments of fake fur etc) so that their "demise" isn't so frustrating - you can also reuse the stuffing in the next toy you make! Remember to remove any plastic eyes, noses or ribbons from the soft toys you buy from charity shops, before you give them to your dog.
TASTES AND TEXTURES
Dogs get a great deal of pleasure from the different sensations they can experience in their mouths. Some breeds (in particular retrieving dogs) have been bred to be "mouthy" dogs and are happiest either carrying something in their mouths or chewing or savoring the different textures it can find in its environment. These dogs enjoy playing with materials with different textures, and find Raggits and Grabbits and other toys from our web shop very appealing (even more so if foods such as peanut butter, pate, or cheese spread have been smeared on them!).
TREAT PUZZLE TOYS
These particular toys have been an absolute godsend to many dogs and owners as they have been designed to mentally and physically stimulate the dog as it tries to extract the food treats hidden inside the toy. They need no interaction from humans and are therefore very suitable to give dogs which are to be left alone, need to be encouraged to relax and settle, or suffer from separation anxiety. There are various styles and makes on the market, with new designs and ideas being launched every year - some are very popular with dogs while others are not. Let us concentrate on some of the more successful designs.
|Kongs & other licking toys - These unusually shaped hollow rubber toys come in a variety of different styles, indestructibility, and size. They are best stuffed with a mixture of different foods and textures (pate, cheese, meat scraps, small dog biscuits, peanut butter, gravy & plate scraps, etc) and can be frozen in advance and then either thawed or given frozen, or given "fresh" from the fridge. The dog will spend ages trying to lick the food from the hole at the base of the kong, and will bite, drop and roll it in an attempt to reach the elusive bits at the top.|
|Problem Solving toys - These hard-wearing rubber or plastic toys are hollow and either have a series of tunnels, mazes, or holes in them for the treats to drop out of. The dog learns to push, turn and move the toys in order to allow the treats to randomly fall from the toy. They come in a variety of different levels of difficulty and this should be taken into account when buying these sorts of toys. If it is too difficult for the dog to do it may loose confidence in the pastime and decide not to play with any problem solving toys it is given in the future. After all, you would not give a toddler a complicated technical manual to read, would you?|
One of the most popular types of toys used in Dog-Games , as the dog is able to focus on the end being dragged along the ground as the dog returns to its handler over the jumps. Short tugger types are not so effective as the dog looks upwards at the hand and is not able to see the jump, nor the passing dog if working at Gold level of the Games.
Tugger toys are used to fulfill the dog's instincts to chase a moving object, to pounce and "kill", and then to grip and tug against the weight of the handler at the other end. The Dog-Games Shop stocks many different designs of these toys.
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