Playtime Protocol: 40 Dos And Don’ts for Selecting And Introducing Dog Toys

By Jishnu B November 29, 2023

The companionship of dogs might not solve all the world’s problems, but they certainly make things easier. Ask any pet parent, and they will tell you how their doggos helped them through a rough patch. These heavenly creatures will give you an overdose of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin regularly. They also drastically help you stay fit both mentally and physically. Since they provide you with so many benefits, it’s only fair you give them the best things in return. Buying them good toys is the minimum requirement, and many fur parents are more than happy to oblige. Choosing toys for your fur babies can be enjoyable, but it’s critical to remember a few things because not all will do for your precious pooch. From choking hazards to age and size-appropriate play accessories, here are the dos and don’ts that every dog owner must know when shopping.

Choking Hazards 

We hate to start our listicle with a grim issue. However, choking is abysmally common among dogs. Just in the US, 4.5 million dogs die from choking each year. Therefore, dog parents should definitely take choking hazards very seriously. 

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Not a day goes by in the veterinary office when they do not see a choking pup. Please know that prevention is better than cure, and you may not be around to give your pup the Heimlich maneuver in their time of need. So please purchase toys that are bigger than their mouth. 

Spend Money on Durable Toys

Bringing a dog home involves the sacrifice of letting go of nice furniture. It does not matter what size or breed your dog is. They all have that period in life when they sunk their teeth into whatever they see and fancy.

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The best way to divert their attention from your couch and shoes is to give them a bunch of toys where they can spend their excess energy. However, it’s all for naught if their toy shatters in a span of seconds under their infamously strong jaw, so invest in durable toys. 

Promote Activity 

Dogs are intelligent and energetic animals. Once you get them, you cannot treat them like a showpiece. You must invest some time with them to ensure they feel stimulated and give them the space to burn off excess energy. 

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Which is why playing catch with dogs is an excellent option. They get to be free from their leash and run around for a few moments. Playing with balls and frisbees with dogs helps them dive into their latent hunter instincts. 

Maintaining Variety

Even humans get bored of rewatching their favorite show and eating the same food. This is why we add various options to everything to spice up our lives. The same goes for your dog. Of course, they will have a favorite ball or plushie. 

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However, as a responsible dog owner, you must keep a wide range of toys available. Instead of buying toys of one kind and wasting your money, be adventurous and buy different fun toys that will evoke your pup’s curiosity and keep them engaged.

Hygiene is Important

While dogs are amazing animals, they are not known for their cleanliness. Every responsible canine owner must give them a proper bath regularly. This prevents bacteria buildup in your beloved pet, which can possibly make them sick. 

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The same goes for their toys. While dogs are sturdy animals, excess buildup of bacteria can give them stomach issues and make them vomit. Hence, you should wash dog toys thoroughly at least twice a month. Remember to use pet-safe detergents and scrub brushes for the washing process. 

Checking on Toys

This may be a small step in caring for your pup. However, under no circumstances should you underestimate its significance, for it can literally make a life-and-death difference. We have already discussed how painfully common choking is among dogs at the start of this listicle.

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Just buying them large toys is not enough. You also have to ensure that there are no tears or broken parts. Small cotton or a broken piece of plastic might get stuck in their throat. Ignoring small details like this might lead to disaster. 

Toy Rotation is a Must

No, we are talking about taking a toy and spinning it in your pup’s face like a helicopter (although, depending on their personality, they may or may not like it). This portion is about stimulating your pup by introducing a variety of toys to them. 

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Since dogs are intelligent animals, they are also prone to being bored. Hence, the owner should regularly change up the toys in batches. For example, you could make two batches and let your pup play with them alternatively for each week. This will save a lot of money in the long run. 

Age and Health

Treat your dog like a baby, and everything will suddenly fall into place. Even animals like dogs can have different attitudes depending on their age. When your pup is a small baby, please give them lightweight plush toys that they can carry with their mouth. 

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Since they are teething at that age, it’s helpful for their dental if their toys are soft. Since pups have more energy, you could also engage them in games that will make them run around. Senior dogs are more chill. You should give them a stimulating toy they can play with while sitting. 

Bonding Through Toys

Toys are an underrated instrument that can be used to deepen your bond with your pup. Dogs are there to support you throughout their lives. To intensify this bond, you can present yourself as a playmate with whom they will feel comfortable.

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Playing with dogs will make them acknowledge how important you are to them compared to other humans. Toys are also an excellent tool to use in the early training days of a pup. You can reward them with a new toy if they manage to learn a new trick or command. 

Dental Health is Vital

Allow us to educate you about how important chewing is to a dog. You may think that they are gnawing on your new underwear or socks to annoy you. However, it’s actually a way for them to clean their teeth. Yes, even dogs must do that.

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Chomping on toys removes plaque from their mouth and reduces bacteria buildup. This helps them maintain oral hygiene and overall good health. Some chew toys are specially designed to help your pup clean their fangs. Please buy them whenever possible.

Puzzles to Solve

Unless you own a dog, you can never fathom how utterly intelligent they are. Dare we say, some of them are smarter than most people we know (including ourselves). Scientists say that the average dog has the intelligence of a human child of 2.5 years.

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However, we think the number is much higher. No 3-year-old has ever been able to tell that we are on the verge of a mental breakdown. It would be a shame for dogs to have so much intelligence and no outlet to express them regularly. That’s where puzzles come in.

Safety Certification

We understand that not everyone has the means to buy their pups fancy toys from picturesque Instagram accounts. However, regardless of where you buy the toy and how much you spend on it, please ensure it comes with a safety certification. 

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A safety certification guarantees that the toy was made with nontoxic material and was made to be durable for a certain amount of time. If the toy somehow harms your pup, you can sue the manufacturers and cover the vet bills. 

Practice Safety Check

When it concerns the wellbeing of our pup, no stones should be left unturned, and you should take note of the smallest details. You never know; small things might culminate into big things later. If you are as paranoid as us, you will notice things (whether you like it or not). 

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Even if your newly purchased toy has a safety certificate, you should still carefully observe the first few days of your dog playing with it. If you see any bad reaction, immediately remove it from your dog and take them to the veterinarian.

Dogs Love Cuddles

Dogs are social animals. Whether you like it or not, you will end up on a couch cuddling them. Almost every dog we met loves cuddling intensely (except a few feral chihuahuas). Physical touch is definitely a canine’s love language. 

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Cladding makes them feel safe and sound. However, what happens when you have to leave your pup at home? They will still feel the need to cuddle. For cases like this, please take notice of that one particular toy your dog likes so much; it can provide them with temporary comfort when you’re away. 

Natural Material 

We hate to sound like one of those red-pill dudes who preach about hating artificial makeup and preferring naturalness. However, when it comes to caring for a pup, you will have to opt for natural material for your own good. 

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Processed products have a higher chance of harming the body. Meanwhile, dogs are genetically hardwired to fight back against anything foreign, but there is no need to worry. Lately, toys made with natural products are selling for quite cheap. 

Doggie Paddle

Do not be deceived by the phrase ‘doggie paddle.’ Dogs are surprisingly not natural swimmers. They have the natural instinct to doggie paddle when they are in the water. However, their swimming skills may vary depending on the dog’s breed. 

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A dog’s physique and body structure can alter their experience in the water. For example, a golden retriever will swim better than a French bulldog. This is why you have to give them floaty toys if they get in the pool. 

Invest in Chew Toys

If you bring a dog home, be prepared to invest in a plethora of chew toys. Trust us, you will need it. If you do not buy some, you will 100% suffer the consequences, as your pup will be prompted to chew through your curtains and shoes. 

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Canine breeds are genetically hardwired to clean their teeth by gnawing on things. Therefore, do not be angry at them if they tear a hole through your Prada bag. You could divert their attention by getting them to chew toys. 

Treat-Dispensing Toys

There is no such thing as a dog who doesn’t love a treat. If your dog is not responding to treats, something might be wrong with them (We are serious. Consider consulting a vet). Treats are used to convey that the dog has done something good and is being rewarded. 

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Therefore, you can only imagine their joy when you combine a treat with toys. Treat dispensing toys are wonderful contraptions that hold in a treat that your pup can see and smell. To get to the reward, they must use their brains to solve a puzzle to open the contraption.

Encouraging Exercise 

Dogs are active animals who thrive on being active and playful. When they are a pup, it seems as if their energy is endless. However, as they grow older, they gradually calm down (it is kind of sad to watch, especially as their age advances). 

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However, just because your dog is lazy doesn’t mean you should too. At times like this, you should use throwable toys like balls, sticks, and frisbees to trigger their latent hunter instincts. It will make them get up, run around, and stay fitter. 

Noisy Toys

This may vary depending on the personality of your pup. Some dogs love noisy environments and lively atmospheres. Others tend to be more laid back and prefer quietness (just like us). However, noise-making toys can be excellent tools to train your dog. 

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Positive reinforcement can be applied when you give your pup a noisy toy. You might make a sound with the toy before giving them a treat. At some point, they will start associating the sound with happiness. You could use the same toy to calm your pup down when they are at the vet.

Small Toys

Please keep in mind that dogs vary in shape and size, and so do the dog toys. Therefore, please be extra cautious while choosing toys for your pup. We cannot stress enough how dangerous choking hazards are to a dog. 

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We cannot control every aspect of life. However, as a responsible dog owner, you should do your best to minimize potential hazards. Remember that a toy designed for a chihuahua should not go anywhere near a rottweiler. We all know what will happen. 

Hard Toys

You should also be mindful of the texture and consistency of the dog toy you’re thinking of purchasing. Remember, the younger the pup, the softer the toy should be. Small pups are at their age where they are still developing their canines. 

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Hence, they risk breaking their tooth if they bite something hard. We don’t want that for our sweet pup. If you’ve ever broken a tooth, you know how painful it is. Chew toys are meant to clean their teeth, not break them. 

Avoid String 

We cannot stress this enough. Please do not play with your pup with threads, yarns, or shoe strings. Dogs are not cats. Cats will chase a shoestring and likely never choke on it. Your dog, however, has a 70% chance of swallowing it and choking on it. 

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Therefore, canine owners should be mindful of where they keep items like ribbons, butcher’s twine, and yarn. Keep them in a locked space where your curious pup cannot reach. You especially need to be careful when you bring these items out. 

Be Attentive

Pro tip: Treat your pup like it’s a newborn baby for the rest of its life, and you will avoid many disasters. Please know that dogs are curious animals and sometimes their inquisitiveness can lead to disaster if you don’t look out for them.

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First, your pup will sniff an item, and then they will attempt to bite it — that is where the disaster strikes. Any items that a pup can ingest should be locked and secured. When the mess is unavoidable, please check up on your dogs every once in a while. 

Avoid Toxic Materials

Please do your homework before you choose to bring a pup home. If possible, memorize every component that is harmful to your pup. Before purchasing a toy, check the raw material list carefully and see if it’s natural or not. 

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If you locate anything remotely toxic, throw it away immediately. Please know that dogs do not have hands. Their mouth is their vehicle to carry items from one place to another. Toxic particles from toys can be easily ingested that way.

Likes and Dislikes 

Just like humans, dogs have unique personalities and differ from one another. You can’t expect your dog to act the same as your neighbor’s dog does. Therefore, you should never let anyone tell you that your pup isn’t a special boy. He is because no one else is like him. 

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Because they’re so different, they will have their own likes and dislikes. That also includes dog toys. For example, our senior pup is an old man who prefers to bask in the sun with a teddy bear. He hates the squeaky toys we bought for him. If they have a favorite, get more of it. 

Avoid Children Toys

This is a common mistake among dog parents; we assure you it never ends in anything positive. Yes, you should definitely treat your pup like it’s a newborn. However, that does not mean you give them toys that are meant for human babies. 

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You should only buy toys with safety certificates that are catered to your dog’s age and size. We are sure a Barbie dream house and a Lego tower are lovely gifts. However, you know what’s not lovely? Your pup choking on a Lego block. 

Avoid Toys with Resemblance to Household Items

We learned this tip the hard way. We once bought a pair of Christian Louboutins to save six months of lunch money. Jokingly, we also bought a pair of imitation Christian Louboutin plushies for our six-month-old pup. 

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That day, when we found teeth marks on your Christian Louboutin, was also the day when we learned that pups are smart enough to recognize items with sight. They are also dumb enough not to understand that our shoes are not their toys. So, let this be a lesson not to buy toys that resemble your own items.

Replace Toys Regularly

Introducing a variety in your pup’s toy box will make both their and your life easier. Be warned that your dog can and will get bored of their toys — even their favorite ones, and once that happens, they will cause havoc in your house. 

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Aside from that, replacing dog toys once in a while is hygienic and prevents stomach issues in your pup. There are only so many times you can clean a toy. You can find cheap dog toy bundles on Amazon, saving you much money.

Avoid Small Toys

When it comes to your pup, size definitely matters, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. It will only lead to disaster. This is the fifth time we have highlighted how dangerous choking hazards are, and we still feel it’s insufficient. 

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When you buy toys for your pup, please take their size and toys into consideration. If the toy is small enough for them to swallow, then it is no good. Just in case, please learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a dog. 

Avoid Coatings

Apparently, dogs like colorful things. We have no scientific findings to back this up. However, ours is quite fond of whatever is colored pink. You can imagine her joy when Barbie (2023) first premiered. Sadly, some corrupt manufacturers take advantage of this. 

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Some companies use cheap and toxic paint on the toys, and this paint coating easily peels off like stickers. You can imagine the kind of agony your pup will be in if they ingest those, so please avoid toys with coatings.

Avoid Splinter

No one loves fallen branches and random sticks lying on the park ground more than a dog. It’s a treat for them when they find it and get to play catch with you. The look on their faces when they find sticks is comparable to unearthing treasure.

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However, as adorable as it looks, please avoid playing with rogue sticks and branches because they might sting your pup’s paws and tongue with splinters. Instead, buy fetching toys that are safe for dogs and humans alike. They will save you from having to take a trip to the vet.

Avoid Lasers

Laser pointers are useful and easy tools for pet owners. They are cheap and available everywhere, and most canine and feline owners are tempted to purchase them. They allow you to sit in one place lazily if you don’t feel like moving and still play with your pet.

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However, once you weigh the pros and cons of laser pointers, you will definitely choose to abandon them. Laser pointers can give your pup obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Any sheen of light will start feeling like prey to your pup. Such behavior can easily land them in a precarious position. 

Toys for Aggressive Chewers

Every dog likes to chew. Well, to be precise, they have to chew on something if they want to live a healthy life. However, some like to chew more than others. Even the sturdiest toy can can be easily ripped in toy can rip in half by a dog’s strong jaw. 

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Big dogs, especially bully breeds, have the jaw power to tear through plushies easily. You must be very careful if you have an aggressive chomper who likes to eat plushie stuffing. Designate specific playtimes regularly for your pup, and give the toy to them only when you have them in your sight. 

Check for Recalls

Sometimes, a product is so faulty that the manufacturers are ordered to take items off shelves. It depends on which country you live in. Sometimes, the Ministry of Trade or Safety forces the companies to recall products they deem unsafe or defective.

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Dog toys also get recalled when they do not pass an evaluation. However, you could have already purchased the toy before the recall was announced. This is why we recommend keeping an eye on your local recall list and omitting items from your pup’s playbox whenever necessary. 

Training with Toys

Positive reinforcement is the most effective method for training canines, and toys can greatly benefit you at this stage because pups associate them with happiness. When they see a toy, they feel relaxed and playful. This technique can be used to train them. 

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For example, certain toys make sounds, and you could teach your pup to feel relaxed on command with those sounds. Vet visits will be easier with these, and playtime could also be posed as a reward to your pup when they are well-behaved. 

Changing Toys for Variety

Of course, you need to add variety to your pup’s playbox. It will spice up their life and stimulate them. However, you also need to take your pup’s age into consideration while choosing new toys. When your pup is young, they are more energetic. 

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Their teeth and gums are also developing. Therefore, in their adolescence, you must introduce softer toys and focus on making them run around to burn off excess puppy energy. Older dogs have stronger jaws, easily tearing through a pup’s toy. Therefore, you might want to give them something tougher. 

Mind Their Size

There is a good reason why most toys in shops are categorized according to the pup’s age. Puppies are small, and in their early life, they should only play with something that pairs well with their small size. However, it’s a different case when they grow older.

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Once they are bigger, they can easily swallow toys from their childhood, and we all know that leads to choking. You must be a responsible dog parent and replace the toy box with toys that are proportionate to your big dog. 

Avoid Loudness

Most dogs and dog parents appreciate noisy toys because they are excellent stimulators. However, some toys have taken it too far. Their noise is sometimes so sharp and ugly that it makes birds fly away from the area and disturbs neighbors.

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These dog toys are not ideal for your pup or your home environment because they can easily cause noise pollution. You should especially avoid them if your pup is small and their ears are sensitive to loud, percussive sounds. The last thing you want is to scare them or hurt their ears.

Keep A Close Eye When Introducing A New Toy 

We highly recommend keeping a close eye on your dog when introducing them to a new toy. The first few days of observation will tell you whether the toy suits them well or not. Do not ignore any changes in behavior. 

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If the toy brought no changes in them, that’s good. If it made them visibly happier, that’s even better. However, you must feel alarmed if you see anything less than positive. If your pup abruptly becomes very whiny or lethargic, separate the toy from the ASAP.