With the gift giving season upon us, I thought I'd throw out some recommendations on what to give your pups this year (and what to stay away from).
First, here’s what to stay away from.
Let's just make a blanket rule: no animal byproducts. Some common examples of what I'm talking about are rawhides, bully sticks, deer antlers, pig hooves, cow tails and especially actual bones. The reason-- just about none of these are very safe for your dog to chomp on, and believe it or not they can make it much more difficult to teach your puppy what's ok to chew on and what's not. The same cow hides that are used to make leather shoes and boots are also treated with a plethora of chemicals to make rawhides. Rawhides, bully sticks, and tails also tend to expand when wet, so when your dog is chewing off little bits they have the potential to expand and cause blockages in the throat or digestive system. Antlers, hooves, and bones all have a tendency to crack and splinter under hard chewing. The potential damage there is far too high to risk as far as I'm concerned. Add to that the aforementioned chemical treatments that these receive as well, and you’re really just giving your dog a deep well of risk to keep them occupied.
Alright, enough of the stuff I don't like. Here are the bones, balls, and toys my dogs and I enjoy every day.
To start, you should know that I'm a paid spokesman for exactly nothing and no one, so this really is just a list of stuff I like.
Nylabones: These are just about the only bones I give my pups to chew on. I can see about half of their product line littering my floor as I type this. I'm sure there are other quality bones out there, but these are what I trust in terms of safety and durability. The material is unlike anything else in your home, which cuts down on the chances for mistaken chewing. They also don't splinter or crack. Instead, they tend to shave off in tiny specks which pass through your dog safely.
Kong: When filled with peanut butter, cheese, or even just your dog’s daily meals, these toys are an excellent way to provide a lasting and mentally rewarding snack, treat, or meal. Or, just use them as a ball. The unpredictability of the bounce is especially enticing for most dogs.
Chuckit: I think the kick fetch ball in Chuckit’s line may be my two younger dogs' all-time favorite toy ever. These toys are definitely created with going out to the yard or field in mind, not for lying around the house and chewing. A dedicated dog will strip these bare in no time, so make sure to keep them out of the way until playtime, unless you want to buy them over and over.
JW brand: These toys also seem to be geared toward fun and activity. Their construction of the rubber seems to be similar to that of Kong, although I don't know if that's true. What I do know is that my dogs love these toys. The Bad Cuz (ball with horns and feet) has been a huge favorite in my house for years. Even though I'm constantly bringing home new toys for my dogs (I’m a massive spoiler), we still have JW toys from nearly ten years ago rolling around and being played with.
Tuffy's toys: This is another brand that I have toys from going back years that have held up and still receive regular play. These toys have been our go-to tugs for as long as I can remember. While it’s relatively easy for a dog to pull the stuffing out of them if they’re allowed to, the outer construction is strong enough to keep going anyway.
All of the toys I've listed are ones that I highly recommend, but make sure to use each of them for their intended purpose. Read the packaging, check the sizing for your dog, and use them appropriately. Don't be surprised if you try to play tug with a fetching toy and it rips apart on you.
Now that you’ve read my list of favorites, it’s time to go get your pups some presents and have fun!