How to Use the 4 Types of Dog Toys RIGHT

Walking down the toy aisle of your local pet supply store can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of toys to choose from. Most people just get whatever looks interesting, or at least whatever their dog picks up and slobbers. Today I’m going to show you the four types of toys you should have and how best to use them.

You can use your toys to develop your relationship, teach important skills and behaviors, and generally make life a lot more fun. To start, understand that dog toys break down into four main categories. They’re chew toys, dental toys, interactive toys, and plush toys. The nature of these toys is fairly self-explanatory.

Proper Utilization of the 4 Types of Dog Toys

Information on how to use these in the smartest ways, however, is not so easily available. Worry not, friends; you’re in good hands. Let’s go over these one at a time: Perhaps the most obvious and ubiquitous category is chew toys. These are designed to be chewed, mangled, punctured, gnawed on, and beat up on a regular basis. Consequently, they are generally made of tough rubber, silicone, or even antler and come in tons of shapes and sizes. Dental toys are also a pretty obvious category. An augmented chew toy of sorts, dental toys are designed to scour teeth, massage gums, and promote blood flow. These can be supplemented with doggy toothpaste if necessary, although most of them are designed to work alone. These have ridges, knobs, fins, and scales on them to work on the dog’s mouth while he or she chews.

Some dental toys are, in fact, fully consumable. With interactive toys, we’re now getting into much broader territory. Interactive toys include ones like tug toys, balls, frisbees, retrieval dummies, and variations thereof. Interactive toys also include puzzles and games. As the name says, these are things that your dog interacts with on a higher level than just lying down and chewing. Interactive toys are great because not only do they provide mental stimulation, which is just as important as physical stimulation, but they also offer endless training opportunities. Every moment with one can be a teachable moment. That’s huge, guys; don’t waste it. Finally, we get to plush toys. These are primarily stuffed animals and stuffed shapes, although they also include the stuffingless “flatties.

” Generally these kinds of toys look like little animals or cute little characters. Like the others, they come in an endless array of shapes and sizes for all kinds of dogs. Okay, great. Now we know the classifications, so what the heck do we do with them? Well, what ends up happening in most households is that owners buy a whole bunch of toys from all four categories and then just go, “Here you go, Rover!” All of the toys are available all the time with little to no guidance or supervision. What a waste of an opportunity! Come on! We can do a lot better than that! Here’s how it works with the categories: chew toys are available all the time. You should have chew toy-trained your dog right from the beginning, either as a puppy or as a newly adopted dog. If you have not spent time chew toy training your dog, start now.

Chewing releases endorphins that calm your dog down and produce feelings of contentment. A chew-toy-trained dog is comfortable being alone and tends to stay out of trouble when they’re unsupervised. Puppies and/or new dogs should initially be fed exclusively via hand feeding or chew toys like a Kong or a Squirrel Dude. Forget all the fancy recipes you find online, and for sure, don’t buy any of that cheese-whiz-looking crap made to fill chew toys. Instead, use their normal food. Measure it out, moisten it, and freeze it. Now its on demand and convenient. Leave them food when you leave the house. Use food-filled chew toys when you must attend to other things. Tie food-filled chew toys to the insides of crates to facilitate crate training.

Tie them to trees in the yard during the summer for outdoor fun. Since you’re using their normal food, you’re keeping their nutrition balanced. You’re not glutting them with treats, which should ideally only be about ten percent of their daily caloric intake. You’re also empowering their food to be a training reward all by itself. You can use dog food to train your dog and save the treats for jackpots. Ultimately, a food-filled chew toy will train a dog ultra-fast. This makes potty training and overall management a breeze. It also trains the dog to enjoy time alone, circumventing the destructive behaviors associated with boredom or isolation distress, which is commonly mistaken for separation anxiety.

Heck, even true separation anxiety can be mitigated to some extent with strategic chew-toy training. Regular chew toys also make great coping methods for high stress or arousal; train your dog to funnel excitement and energy into a chew toy. Now, dental toys can be left out for the most part. The exception to that would be if you plan to use toothpaste with it, in which case they’re brought out at regular intervals to temporarily replace a regular chew toy. These should be supervised when toothpaste is involved and, of course, cleaned afterwards. Also, dental toys should be checked after each use. If any of the massaging studs or fins start to come off, the toy should be retired.

All chew toys, for that matter, should be regularly inspected and retired when they get too small or too mangled. Interactive toys are only brought out when a play session is initiated by you. You keep them put away, and you decide what game to play and when. Your dog may have favorites, and that’s great, but he shouldn’t have free access to the interactive toys. By controlling access, you can leverage the toy and the activity as training rewards. Training doesn’t always have to be done with treats. In fact, toys are a gateway to phasing out treats all together. You then also use the games and activities to teach behaviours to your dog. For example, tug of war is an awesome game.

Look if a well-meaning neighbor or pet store trainer tells you to never play tug with your dog because it’s dangerous; please think them and walk away. That is complete rubbish. As with all games with your dog, tug is a great opportunity for learning and bonding. You just have to start out by teaching the rules. Playing tug with a puppy is one of those activities that helps to develop a soft mouth. It goes along with the bite inhibition training that we do in the off-leash puppy classes, and every dog should know Take It and Drop It, two important and very basic commands. Incidentally, interactive toys are a fantastic way to do just that. Dog toys without squeakers are the best.

Most dogs really go bonkers with squeakers, but a squeaker can trigger higher levels of arousal and encourage them to dissect the toy to get it, which is a bad habit. We don’t need our dogs to find that activity fun and start dissecting the mail and your purse, or to go after other things that squeak, like the neighbor’s chihuahua, a kitten, or your guinea pig. Finally, plush toys. These are the most misunderstood and misused categories of them all. Many owners buy these for their dogs and allow them to destroy them. Guys, this is wrong. Not only are you missing out on a tremendous learning opportunity, but you’re also training your dog to tear apart other things they find, like slippers and wallets. A dog should never destroy one of these toys.

In fact, a $1.99 plush toy should ostensibly last indefinitely. Your chew toys and interactive toys should get all the wear and tear; the plush toys are for teaching. A really good play and learning session I’ve used in the past uses an interactive toy and a plush toy, and it goes like this: The tug toy comes out first. The dog can’t have it until we say, “Take it.

“And we play tug for a minute or so. This is a great time to teach game manners and rules like, “Don’t ever accidentally get me with your teeth.” Now we use “drop it.” Teach it, reinstruct it, and reinforce it. The tug toy goes away, and the plush toy comes out. Here’s where things get interesting. We squeak it and treat it like a baby in our hands. We treat it as if it’s alive. We want softness and kindness toward it. Any grab, bite, or tug gets a “Hey! What have you done?! You’ve hurt Mr. Toy!” See, this is a violation of the take it rule. That is to say, the dog can’t take it in her mouth unless and until we okay it.

It also shows you the difference between what you think the boundaries are and what your dog thinks they are. Very often, there’s a disconnect there. This is where we step up and bridge that gap. If they grabbed for it or if their drop is sloppy, then we have a five-second instructional time out in a down stay. Now the plush toy goes away, and we repeat the cycle a few times. So, the interactive toy comes out again, and we use tug as a reward for being nice to the plush toy. Play this game between five and ten minutes. When you’re all done, say, “All done, thank you!” and put the toys away. Remember, access is restricted to these toys only when games are being played with you. Don’t forget to praise every good thing enthusiastically. Reinstruct for slow responses. Repeat exercises and have high expectations. Treats are not necessary here because the rewards are intrinsic—they’re built into the activity.

You will not be able to use reward training as effectively as you could because you are teaching your dog – an animal classified as a scavenger – to take food for granted. Look at it this way: you can’t get someone who lives in a pizza parlor to help you move by offering them pizza. You see what I’m getting at here? Kibble works excellently for training because it’s nutritionally balanced. You’ll be using a good deal of it so why not use the healthiest thing available. Many canine nutritionists recommend that treats only make up ten percent of your dog’s daily caloric intake, so using kibble to train makes perfect sense. Now how do we deploy the different reward levels? Start with kibble for basic behaviors.

This will make up the majority of the work you do with your dog. Use a treat or a jackpot for difficult things and for stellar performance. Here are some specific suggestions. Your results of course may vary. For basics like sit, down stand, or stay use kibble to train duration. Use treats for proofing distance, and use a jackpot for when they nail both during a big distraction.

For take it, leave it and drop it, start with kibble then progress to treats and even jackpots to proof it. If your dog can leave a piece of meat on the floor they’ve really got it down! For tricks like rollover or play dead you can probably use a treat in most cases. Going on their backs can be spooky for some dogs so use a higher value reward to get the job done then you can use kibble for practice and use treats to shape it and improve performance.

For long distance training I would probably use treats initially and jackpots for a fantastic job. Then use kibble for that, raise the criteria, reward the new expectation with treats. This way you keep building and improving. Another cool way we use reward scaling is when we working with anxious or reactive dogs. Use treats for normal work and then jackpots for when their reaction (or rather their lack of reaction) reaches a new milestone. Make sure to consult a professional to help you in these cases. We can also use reward scaling to teach volume and urgency. In emergencies we tend to get loud, even yelling. When I get louder I want the dog to think, “Oh man! this must be important!” I don’t want a dog to think they’re in trouble which is going to make them hesitate and possibly make the wrong decision.

So for example you could practice recalls with your dog and scale up the reward the louder you get. Kibble for tone- neutral, treats for calling loudly, a jackpot for shouting, and then a ten-thousand-dollar jackpot for outright yelling, Then the next time you yell when they squirt out the front door they’ll pay way better attention.


And for that to work, it’s got to be fun, so relax and make learning part of your fun. It will pay off hugely down the road. I mean, imagine if you had other small animals in the house, like a guinea pig or a bearded dragon, or imagine if you had a new baby or one came to visit, or maybe your cat has kittens, or maybe you messed up your knee, and you just need to take it easy around you for the next few weeks. That’s what these activities are for. Understanding how best to capitalize on these toys and their categories can help you develop a lot of healthy dog behavior and build a rock-solid bond. So there you go, fellow dog lovers. Thank you for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel, thumbs up this video, and connect with me in the comments about how you use toys in your home.

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