A high-pitched noise comes from the living room but you aren’t too concerned because your dog was playing with a toy. Their favourite toy these days seems to be a plush dinosaur named Rex who squeaks every time your dog bites him. Sound familiar to you? Many pet owners can relate – their furry friends are obsessed with a squeaker toy. What are squeaky toys and why do dogs love them so much?
Different Types of Toys
There are a wide variety of squeaker toys – balls, rope, plush – that are good for chewing, physical exercise and mental stimulation. Plush toys are soft and some are even made from real animal fur. Plush squeaky toys (such as the Yappy Hour Can Plushie) appeal to both big and small dogs. Rope toys are often preferred by aggressive chewers as chew toys are usually built stronger. Squeaky tennis balls provide double the fun as dogs can squish them to get their pet parent’s attention and they’re a great way to get your dog moving. Dog breeds don’t influence the type of toy your canine companion chooses as much as their individual personality. Some dogs really like play sessions and some do not, but most puppers agree that a noisy toy is their favourite one. As a dog ages their preference for certain types of toys will probably change, too.
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Reasons Dogs Love Squeaky Toys
When dogs bite a plush toy and it makes a squeaking sound, this is instant gratification for your furry friend. The Spruce Pets likens this to a positive feedback loop. The sound may spark dopamine in your dog’s brain, and getting that immediate reward may have them going back for more squeaks to feel the rush again. Essentially the squeaky noise gives feedback to your dog that their bite is strong, and that bolsters their ego to continue with their progress.
Dog trainers use squeaky toys as the high-pitched noise gets dogs’ attention right away. It helps them focus on the task at hand and distracts them from destructive behaviours (like chewing on your couch!). Speaking of chewing, playing with a chew toy can have dental benefits as well. Active chewers have less plaque build-up and depending on the texture of the toy, can massage their gums.
There’s another reason that dogs like the sound of squeaker toys so much-it reminds them of a scared or injured animal. A dog’s natural instinct is to hunt for prey. Capturing a soft toy and ripping it apart to find the squeaker is a normal, predatory behaviour for dogs and one of the main reasons that most dogs like plush squeaky toys according to Dr. Karen Becker. Watching a toy being dragged across a floor will entice them more to play than shaking a toy in front of their face as smaller prey do not act like that in nature.
Safety Around Squeaky Toys
Pet parents should always be mindful of their dog’s toys. Squeaky balls could pose a choking hazard to your pet if the whole ball can fit into its mouth. It might become lodged in their trachea, cutting off an air pathway. Tennis balls can be especially abrasive to teeth and skin. If a plush toy is shredded and your dog gets the squeaker, they could end up swallowing it. The American Kennel Club stresses that dogs should never be left unattended with squeaker toys as they can be ingested and cause an intestinal blockage. In most cases, a veterinarian will need to perform surgery in order to remove the item.
The squeaker isn’t the only danger to your canine companions as the stuffing itself and the shell of the toy could be ingested. Dr. Becker says some pet toys could be toxic due to the amount of chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Try to look for toys made locally and out of 100% natural rubber, organic cotton or other eco-friendly materials. It’s important to periodically inspect your dog’s toys for any holes in the material or rips in the plastic, and to discard those toys once they become dangerous to your dog. Your pup probably has their favourite squeaky toy, and under your watchful eye, these play sessions can be a great way to bond with your furry friend.