- Squeaky toys promote exercise — Playing with toys is a good way to get your dog more active. This can prevent harmful health conditions like obesity.
- Play is essential for all dogs — Playtime releases happy hormones in the brain. So, it’s a great way to prevent boredom, stress, and even problem behaviors like excessive barking.
- Squeaky toys can be used as training aids — Whether it’s their favorite plush squirrel or a squeaky ball, toys make excellent rewards for positive reinforcement training. Regular fun training can also improve the canine-human bond.
Walk into any pet store and you’ll find a wide range of squeaky dog toys. Bring a new toy home to your pup and they are bound to go crazy for it as soon as they hear that high-pitched noise. For humans, the relentless squeaking can be annoying but the sound taps into your dog’s natural instincts.
Why do dogs like squeaky toys
Your dog isn’t trying to irritate you by constantly chewing on their favorite squeaky toy. They actually love the sound and the feel for a variety of reasons — all of which are directly related to their natural hunting and chewing instincts. Researchers think that dogs perceive toys in the same way that wolves perceive prey, particularly toys that smell like food and make a noise.
When your dog bites into a squeaky toy, it immediately triggers the natural predatory sequence: freeze, stalk, chase, pounce, and kill. Today, companion dogs don’t need to hunt for their food because it’s literally offered to them on a plate (or dog bowl!) However, this doesn’t mean their instincts have disappeared. Toys are a great way for your dog to burn off excess energy and go back to their roots as hunters. Furthermore, it’s fun and keeps your dog’s attention away from naughty behavior — like turning your furniture into their next toy.
All dogs have a natural prey drive but it’s stronger in some breeds than others. Breeds that were originally bred to hunt, like golden retrievers, often enjoy their squeaky toys more than non-hunting breeds.
You’ve probably witnessed your puppy ripping into a new chew toy with excitement. But if they love them so much, why do they destroy them so quickly? Again, this is a trait that can be traced back to their natural origin as hunters. Your dog is basically dissecting their kill. Of course, some toys are just cheaply made, so make sure you only buy toys that are robust enough to withstand repeated play.
Plush squeaky toys are a great way to help your puppy through the teething process because biting down on something can relieve pain. They are also great for older dogs with sensitive teeth and gums. However, active chewers will need something more robust to prevent fluff from ending up all over your carpet. Look for indestructible toys, such as rubber kongs, to keep your dog busy for longer. But, do avoid any toys that are too solid (i.e., they don’t have any “give” to them) because they can fracture a dog’s teeth.
Watching your dog happily chew on their favorite toy is one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s also tons of fun for them. Hearing a squeak when they bite into a toy releases the happy hormone, dopamine, in your dog’s brain. This gives instant gratification and encourages them to come back for more. Your dog may also associate toys with social play. So, they will often chew on their toys in the hope of getting more playtime with you.
How to safely play with squeaky toys
Playing with squeaker toys is a favorite pastime for many dogs. It prevents boredom and provides a great way for pups to interact with children, other animals, and their owners. However, there are some potential dangers, especially if you have an overactive chewer.
The best way to offer your dog’s favorite toy is for short periods as a reward for good behavior. Then, you can put it away until next time. You should also make sure your dog understands the ‘drop it’ or ‘leave it’ command. If you’re finding this difficult, offer them something even more enticing, such as a Kong filled with tasty food or treats.
Dogs should be taught to ask for their toy by sitting or standing calmly. If they are not trained correctly, they can become possessive of their toys. This may cause aggressive behavior with people and other animals.
Here are some more pointers to ensure a safe, fun playtime for you and your dog:
Learn your dog’s play style. Dogs have different play preferences depending on their age, personality, breed, and health status. Some dogs love to tug on rope toys, others enjoy tossing around a squeaky toy or running after a tennis ball. So, work out what triggers your dog’s predatory instincts. Remember that all dogs enjoy playing. Physical exercise is also important to prevent obesity and potential joint problems. If your dog is acting lethargic or lazy, try to boost their energy by trying different games, toys, and social activities.
Create a safe space. Playing is a joyful yet important experience for dogs, especially puppies. Play teaches your dog how to be social, refines their natural instincts, and promotes physical activity. However, a dog won’t play if they are feeling hungry, in pain, or fearful. Wolves will only choose to play near their den because it’s a safe place. Domestic dogs are the same. So, if you’ve tried all types of toys and your dog still isn’t interested, make sure they feel secure by keeping unfamiliar noises and movements to a minimum.
Inspect your toys regularly. Dogs love to chew on their toys but this can often lead to tears and holes, especially with more aggressive chewers. It’s a good idea to regularly check toys over for any damage and replace them when necessary.
Throw away or repair damaged toys. Squeaky toys can get destroyed very quickly. Dispose of severely damaged toys or you can try to repair them. Just make sure you don’t use any dangerous substances like super glue or duct tape. Also, check they are still robust before handing them back to your dog.
Supervise your chewers. Always supervise your dog’s playtime with squeaky toys to prevent any accidents. Squeaky toys have a small squeaking mechanism inside, which is the perfect size to be accidentally swallowed by an overzealous dog. This can cause a dangerous obstruction in your dog’s intestinal tract. Ingesting too much stuffing from a plush squeaker toy can also cause similar issues.
👉 Lethargy and a decreased interest in play can be signs of a serious health condition. Speak to your vet if you are concerned.
How to choose safe squeaky toys
There’s a huge variety of squeaky toys from which to choose. Small dogs can be given smaller squeaky balls or plush toys. However, big dogs may need more sturdy toys. Toys with rubber spikes over the surface are great for keeping their teeth clean. You should also look for BPA-free dog toys that are made from food-grade material. These are antibacterial and can withstand excessive chewing for longer.
Frequently asked questions
Do dogs think squeaky toys are alive?
Dogs know that their squeaky toys aren’t alive because they hear no heartbeat or breathing. However, a squeaky toy can remind them of the cry made by an injured prey animal. This triggers their natural predatory drives.
Why are dogs obsessed with squeakers?
When a dog chomps down on a toy and hears that classic squeak, it triggers the release of dopamine in the brain (also known as the happy hormone). This provides instant gratification and encourages them to come back for more.
Are squeaky toys good for dogs?
Squeaky toys are a great way to keep your dog active. Plus, they are great fun to play with! However, you must supervise all play sessions, especially if you have an avid chewer. Some toys, especially plush toys, can easily be ripped apart and the stuffing can cause obstruction if too much is ingested. Squeaky toys also have a small squeaker mechanism inside which can be dangerous if swallowed.
Can squeaky toys give dogs anxiety?
Some dogs can be fearful of sudden loud noises. So, squeakers can potentially cause anxiety in certain individuals, especially if they have had a negative experience in the past. If this is the case, try alternative toys such as tennis balls or tug toys.