It is a truth universally acknowledged that dogs are man's best friend.
And what do we do for our best friends? We buy them toys. Lots and lots of toys.
I'm fortunate to have a great dog in my life, and I spare no expense in keeping her happy and healthy to the best of my ability. This includes, among other things, having a lot of toys. And I mean a lot of toys. Too many toys, probably--no, definitely. We definitely have too many dog toys at home. Part of this, you could say, is because I'm one of those crazy obsessed dog people. Hey, I'm not denying it. But there's an important reason to invest in having a variety of toys for your little floof, too: they need them.
Dog toys are important in raising a happy, healthy pup. They're right up there with vet care, good nutrition, and a safe and secure shelter. For dogs, toys aren't just a luxury, although it might certainly seem that way. Trust me, I know--you can walk into a pet store and think you've mistakenly walked into a high-end toy store. The pet industry is huge, and "boutique," or specialty toys are incredibly popular. You don't need to spend a fortune on toys for your dog (I doubt the little guy cares if its an officially-licensed character from your favorite cartoon), but you're probably not going to do yourself any favors if your four-legged friend doesn't have access to things he can play with.
Dog toys benefit dogs in three different ways: they prevent boredom, can provide comfort, and can prevent your dog from developing problem behaviors.
Dogs aren't like people. They can't call their friends, they can't drive themselves places, and they don't have "hobbies" like people do. Dogs are limited to the entertainment in their environment. But they need to expel energy! Dogs need both physical release of energy and mental stimulation. Toys can help! Gnawing on bones or chew toys is a great means to expel pent-up energy when they aren't able to run it off at that moment. Soft toys can also provide comfort for dogs left alone with separation anxiety (and are really satisfying to rip apart). And let's put it this way--just because you don't leave any "dog toys" around the house for your dog to play with, it doesn't mean that he's not going to find something to entertain himself (like couches or carpets or shoes or even wire crates).
Because dogs have a variety of needs, there exist a wide variety of dog toys, ranging from the soft, cuddly, and stuffed to the more rugged and durable toys meant to be bitten into.
Dog toys are made from a range of materials as varied as dogs themselves. From cotton to canvas to nylon to latex to rubber and everything in between, there exists the perfect toy for your pooch (and yes, some are even made from petroleum products).
Note: when choosing toys for your dog, you must consider your dog's size, activity level and preferences--not all toys are a good fit for all dogs.
Petroleum-based dog toys
It's not uncommon to find dog toys that started out as petroleum. These kinds of dog toys are often more rugged and targeted towards more "agressive" chewers. Since these toys will be chewed, we recommend only giving toys that are meant for dogs (and are non-toxic). Knowing what kind of toys your dog likes is also important--a chew toy un-chewed is a sad, sad thing.
Here are a just a few examples of some popular, petroleum-made dog toys:
If you want to avoid toys with stuffing, and your dog likes something to get his teeth into, water bottle toys are incredibly popular. It's not uncommon for dogs to chew up water bottles--they make fun crunching noises and they can chew them into little pieces. The obvious problem is dogs aren't supposed to eat plastic. And the plastic can get sharp and injure your dog. These water bottle toys are designed to give your dog the satisfaction of chewing on an empty water bottle while providing a protective layer of fabric.
Bones made out of rubber, plastic, and nylon are all available and are popular chew toys. These non-edible chews are often given as a substitution for "real" bones or rawhide. Disproportionately-sized bones can be a problem for some dogs--too small and they can splinter, which can lead to problems. Plastic bones can be a great way for a dog to release energy by chewing, without the greasiness of animal parts. But as with anything, these toys are not for every dog. Since these bones are inedible, it's important to monitor both your dog and the chew for signs of distress. These toys should be replaced if and when it becomes too small for your dog to safely chew or the ends are worn down.
Apart from bones, balls are probably the most stereotypical dog toy on the market. But come on, whats more fun than throwing that slobbery ball? My dog insists that they're tug-of-war toys (and rarely is she ever wrong...). Balls especiallycome in all shapes, sizes, and materials, but tennis balls might take the cake. Tennis balls are something both dog and man can certainly enjoy. Frequently people just recycle their old tennis balls to their dog, but the market is filled with dog-specific ones, as well, which range in size, color, shape, bounciness, and even squeakiness. These toys are made from a hollow rubber core covered in either a wool or nylon shell and are perfect for on or off the court. GO FETCH!
Now go out there and have some fun with some dog toys!