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K-9 Corner: As dogs evolve, so do their toys

“Why do so many people treat their dogs like children, you know, buying them toys and so forth?” I’ve heard this question before, though not recently.

Dogs are evolving just as we are. In our country, the population started as hunters and farmers and now hunting is a pastime sport and there are fewer farmers each year.

Dogs originally were kept by people to guard the livestock from predators, herd sheep and cattle, kill vermin and hunt.

Now the majority of the population lives in cities or built-up urban areas where their pets are confined to condos and apartments with only brief periods for outdoor exercise. Furthermore, most adults work, leaving their pets to fend for themselves for hours at a time. This can lead to behavior problems in canines.

One owner admits her dog howls when she is out of sight. One of my dogs (now deceased) was inclined to urinate small amounts if left alone too long. The longer I was gone, the more puddles I had to clean up, UNLESS… I left one or two chew toys with him.

Now there are a large variety of toys available to occupy a dog’s time while the family (his pack) is away. Some large dogs like the challenge of a heavy ball (advertised as nearly indestructible) to roll around. Others need the incentive of food tucked into a pocket of a heavy ball. The dog rolls the ball and the food falls out of the hole. The food ball is too easy for some dogs who prefer to chew, so a sterile bone with a hollow center that can be filled with cheese or peanut butter is the toy of choice.

Some dogs are dominant natured and are frustrated when they realize that they are not going to be “leader of the (family) pack.” One Saint Bernard owner revealed that her huge male dog “adopted” a large stuffed chew toy as his frustration reliever. “At the first sign of frustration, the dog would seek out his toy and the more frustrated he became, the harder he chewed,” this owner said. She admitted that, over the years, she has spent hours repairing the toy because she was not sure the dog would accept a new one.

My little papillon loved pigs’ ears to chew on and throw around. It took her months to actually chew one up so it was an economical toy for her. Not so with my larger dog who could consume a pig’s ear in an hour or two. He got a chew hoof. This brings up durability. If your dog sneaks his toy outside, he may decide to bury it. Rawhides, bone shaped or flat, dissolve if buried in damp ground, the chew hooves do not. Plush toys do not hold up well outdoors either. Select your toys to fit your dog’s personality and need and whether they will be used either indoors or out.