Last month we took in a cute little Terrier Mix puppy who was about 4 months old. We've been
having so much fun with him and he is spoiled rotten. Our adult children bring him new toys
every time they come over because he goes through most so fast. His toys don’t last more than a
day or two and I’m not exaggerating. I am a little concerned about this and wanted to get your
opinion because when I say he goes through toys, I mean he chews them to pieces and swallows
parts of them too. I assume that dog-toy-makers take that into consideration when they design
toys – but at this point I am worried. It can’t be good for him to be eating chunks of plastic and
cloth. Am I being too overprotective or should I tell my kids to stop bringing toys?
Puppies need playthings or they will find their own “toys” in and around the house, i.e., shoes,
clothes, pillows, and expensive computer cables – the latter was my dog’s favorite during his
formative years! When a young dog is given toys, he learns what he is allowed to chew and
play with, as well as what is off limits. There is definitely a learning curve involved with this, as
your puppy will most likely try a few “off-limits” items before he gets the idea. Still, by
providing toys, you are setting him on the right path and giving him something positive in which
to channel all his puppy energy.
Nevertheless, not all toys available in pet stores are suitable for all pets. Many toys are now
graded in several ways. You may notice that some are intended for large breeds, some for
medium dogs, and some for small dogs. However, certain small and medium pooches have quite
strong jaws, and being that your puppy is a terrier mix, you should probably look for toys that are
graded by durability rather than by size. What I mean by this is that toys appropriate for Pit
Bulls are probably about right for your dog too.
Still, even the strongest toys are vulnerable to the amazingly strong bite of a dog and you should
examine all playthings on a regular basis for wear and tear. Once any of your dog’s toys start
showing signs of tearing or cracking, it’s time to get a replacement.
I don’t suggest giving puppies snuggle toys that are soft and plush. Though some dogs love little
stuffed animals, most pups tear through them in no time, swallowing the fiber fill used to give
the animal shape, along with the material holding it all together. This can be especially
dangerous if buttons or small plastic pieces are used for eyes and noses, etc. Though uncommon,
some dogs have been known to suffer from intestinal blockages as a result of eating dog toys.
And of course, there is a choking hazard associated with swallowing button eyes and noses and
even the squeaking devices that are hidden in the middles of many canine playthings.
The choking hazard can also be applied to small rubber balls if they are swallowed whole. It is
very important that any ball given to your dog be large enough that it cannot be swallowed.
Even when this rule is followed, I strongly recommend observing your puppy at all times when
he is playing with a ball. Be careful using tennis balls, as an avid chewer will quickly rip off the
outer cloth covering. If this happens, take the cloth part away from your puppy before he has a
chance to swallow it.
Your dog should have a lot of different types of toys; however, give him just one at a time and
put it away before giving him another. The different physical properties involved with how each
toy bounces or responds to his chewing will keep his mind stimulated and prevent boredom. A
bored canine is a dog who will find trouble. For him, trouble means fun. For you, it will mean
finding your expensive athletic shoes sporting new ventilation holes!
A final note – I am not so certain that all dog-toy makers have the right idea when it comes to
designing safe canine playthings. When you consider that these toys are supposed to help define
for a dog what can be chewed and what cannot, you can only say to yourself, “What were they
thinking?” as you observe bins of toys shaped like human feet or shoes.
Good Luck with your puppy.