JULY 2009

HI THERE,

Toys form an important part of the life and development of any human child. Same for your dog or puppy! There are wonderful toys available for your dog. Some come with a pretty price tag, but nonetheless are great instruments in the education of your dog or puppy.

Toys can roughly be divided into three categories:

The all-day-everyday-toy
These are the toys that later form part of your garden's design or part of the interior decoration in the house - they lie scattered (and often tattered) all around and your dog has access to them at all times. He can pick them up and play with them whenever he is bored enough to take an interest in them - which, of course, happens very seldom. Dogs, like children, would much rather prefer that someone else use that toy to play with them, instead of amusing themselves. These toys can include things like:
- a ball
- a piece of rope
- empty plastic bottles (just remember to remove the cap)
- a squeaky toy made from durable plastic.
- for the bigger and stronger dogs - even an old tyre

These are also your less expensive doggy toys and nobody minds if they get destroyed after a while.

The oh-so-special-toy
This is a special toy - a treat for the dog and a time to interact and bond with the human owner. This is also a working and training tool, but the dog doesn't know this, he just regards it as fun. This special toy gets put away, out of reach, after every session and the dog only has access to it when the owner chooses. This toy is used to train the dog to do retrieving - you throw the toy, he brings it back to you, you throw the toy .... ad infinitum (provided that he retrieves and brings it back every time). After play, you put the toy away until next time. You can also use the toy to reward the dog for a job well done. The dog gets to play with the toy for a while if he has completed a task, such as concentrating on specific obedience commands, successfully.

The following toys are suitable:

- a fluffy toy
- a ball
- a rope
- a squeaky toy
- a dumbbell
- a frisbee

One thing to remember is that if your dog has access to a ball or a rope all day long (the previous category of toys) it is pretty pointless to make a ball or a rope also his special toy. Chose something different, something interesting to get his attention. Just keep a close watch - fluffy toys can be destroyed in the wink of an eye and they cost a pretty penny!

The oh-I-am-so-bored-and-naughty-toy (educational toys)
These are probably the most expensive dog toys you can get (some of these toys even come with an instruction manual for the owner!). These toys are supposed to keep the bored dog occupied, and a busy dog does not have time to be naughty (dig up your garden or bark until the neighbours get mad). These toys work on food rewards - your dog has to play with the toy and then be rewarded every now and then with a treat coming from the toy.

Such toys include:

- The rubber kong. Shaped like half a rugby ball, it bounces off into different directions when the dog tries to get hold of it. The hollow centre can be filled with some gooey doggy stuff, like a peanut butter and biltong mixture, cheese spread, etc.
- A big (genuine) marrow bone can be filled with the same gooey stuff.
- The activity ball and
- The buster food cube. The latter two are filled with doggy biscuit treats (or even his daily ration of normal doggy food pellets). If he wants his food - he has to work for it: roll the ball or cube around and hope that something yummy will eventually fall out.

These toys are designed to keep the dog's paws and mouth busy, as well as his brain - trying to figure out how to get hold of the yummy stuff. This is the kind of toy that you leave with your dog whenever you go to work in the mornings and need to keep him out of mischief for a while.