Dogs need their toys. They look at their toys as their personal possessions and they guard them carefully. There is a natural instinct in all dogs to have a selfish streak. This causes them to play tug-of-war with your socks and it causes them to carefully hide their favorite toys behind the sofa. It does not matter if they live inside your home or out in the yard, a dog needs to let their selfish instincts thrive by playing with their favorite toys.
I have been blessed with many dogs throughout the years and they’ve all had probably hundreds of toys during that time. I have myself, become somewhat of an expert on dog toys. I have witnessed the countless dog smiles and the look of wild-eyed excitement that a toy will bring in a dog’s life. Over the years I have also seen how a dog comforts themselves to a peaceful slumber by resting their heads against their toy. A good dog toy can keep the monsters away at night, or so I am told by my wife.
On occasion I have seen dogs make their own toys too. We rescued an abandoned puppy from the side of the road once. After she became acclimated to her new home and us, she began to play a bit and I would notice that she would seek out pine cones from around the yard to play with. She would chew on them and throw them in the air and bark happily at them. I figured that pine cones were all the she had to play with in her previous life, and even though she has countless wonderful chew toys of all types now, she still prefers to sneak in a pine cone from time to time. Dogs have excellent memories and they can easily remember their favorite toy of all time.
I have learned the hard way that expensive and elaborate dog toys are not always the best. I have bought many types of electric or radio controlled dog toy gadgets that were just too cool to pass up. Trips to the local pet store usually result in a bag full of pricey dog toys being transported home in a shopping bag. Their fancy labels show very excited dogs playing with the toy with wild abandon. Our anticipation builds as we let our dogs have their new toys and then a minute later they are off someplace slinging around their old ragged toy or pine cone while the new toy is quickly abandoned. Such is the folly of pet toy designers, not the recipients.
Our house has become a dog toy storage warehouse of sorts and I’ve lost count of the times that we have tripped over a stuffed lobster or stepped on a sticky and slimy chewy bone. Each of our 3 dogs has their one particular super special toy. All of my dogs in my past have also had that one toy that stands out above all of the others. It may take a little time at first, but eventually you’ll notice that one special toy that they prefer, and once they do, that particular toy is theirs for life. Our oldest dog has a pink stuffed teddy bare that has been by her side every night of her life and it will always be the only one that she sleeps with.
Many years ago, my beloved little dog Snuggles, passed away. I was devastated and heartbroken and consumed with loss. I gathered up a giant bag of her toys and went to the local dog shelter and asked if I could distribute them to their dogs. They said of course you can, so I gathered all of the strength that I could muster, and went up and down the aisles of kennels. By God’s miracles, I somehow had exactly enough toys to give every dog in the place one toy each. Even the large and violent dogs suddenly became overjoyed when I gently pushed it’s new toy inside their kennel. I specifically remember one little shy dog that was hiding behind a cardboard box shivering. He watched me dutifully give all the other dogs their toy and talk a bit with each one. I reserved the one last toy in my bag for a special recipient. This toy was a stuffed chicken that my dog Snuggles played with for years. I had a long history with Mr. Chicken and Lord only knows how many times I had to climb under the bed to rescue that chicken for Snuggles. That day, the shy little puppy in the kennel refused to come out from behind the cardboard box in spite of my calling him to me. I pulled the old chicken from my bag and gently placed it on the floor of his kennel and backed away. I hung around a bit like I was busy doing something else. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him crawl on his belly and sniff the old toy. A moment later, he latched onto the chicken and pulled him behind his cardboard box. I left that day feeling like Snuggle’s spirit was with every dog in that place. I bet she comforted all of them too considering their surroundings.
No dog should ever be without a toy. Even large outside dogs need their toys, and it is up to us to make sure that we have a fresh stock of Mr. Chicken’s available at all times!