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Why do dogs need toys?


Most people I know that own a dog, consider their canine companion to be part of the family, and Christmas means buying presents for the dog as well as the children! Are dog toys just a distraction?  Do dogs need toys? What do dogs get out of having toys and what would be on our canines wish list if they could communicate. The truth is that dogs engage with toys for a number of different reasons including:

  • They need to play

  • Boredom

  • Separation Anxiety

  • Social Interaction


With all those behavourial aspects at stake , I think it's fair to say that dogs need toys. Sadly, many owners stop giving toys to their dogs because those that they have given, have been destroyed. This isn’t bad behaviour; it’s simply your dog being a dog. The trick is to watch closely enough to work out what is driving your dog to interact with a toy the way they do? Then pick toys that can usefully fulfil your dog’s need.​

They need to play

Your dog may use toys to get your attention, dropping the ball at your feet, or waggling the tug toy in front of you to “ask” for a tug of war. The same dog, may wander around the group with one end of a rope or cuddly toy in his mouth, hoping that another dog will  play with them. This doesn’t mean that they are the perfect social creature, who always plays with toys thoughtfully. The same dog can just as easily be found pulling the stuffing out of a soft toy, or squeaking a squeaky toy, over and over, because these actions give a big reward. And that’s the main reason your dog does *anything*


If you leave your dog alone for large chunks of the day, especially if it is an ‘only dog’, toys can provide stimulation and comfort to your dog while you are gone. Comfort comes in many forms. For example the warmth of a large cuddly dog toy for a puppy to sleep with,  a ball, bone or nylabone, that allows the dog to chew,  anything that supplies food – from a stuffed kong to a treat dispenser. For dogs who need metal stimulation and like to work out puzzles, there are some excellent dispenser toys that require the dog to work for the treat/food by turning spinners and lifting lids.

Separation   Anxiety

This is a problem often seen in dogs who never learned to be alone as puppies, or in some rescue dogs. These dogs need comfort as well as distraction.  A dog with severe separation anxiety can be very destructive (the act of chewing comforts and distracts them) and every attempt should be made to give them a safe space filled with things they are allowed to chew. This is just one part of treating the problem as a whole

Social Interaction

Dogs are social creatures and love to be engaged with a human or canine friends. Dogs desire and need our attention, and play bonds a dog to their human and a human to their dog. Toys that provide easy, mutual play are usually those that can be thrown/chased, those that create variations of a tug game. A wise owner learns to play with their dog and doesn't allow them to become fixated on one item or type of play..

Since you're the one who gives them the toys, your pooch will associate you with the fun and excitement of play. This helps to build positive relationship between you and your dog. What's not to love about that!

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