Many vets are not fans of ball throwers, as it can cause later leg problems for dogs. It’s up to you, some dogs may think life is not worth living if they can’t run after balls. Try nice long walks with stimulation first. But if you throw balls, then interact with other exercise. Don’t just stand there with a ball thrower and throw a ball miles, just because you’re too lazy to take a walk through the forest.
- Dogs love socks (especially smelly ones) but these are choking hazards, so keep them safely stowed away. The same with slippers.
- Play hide and seek behind a sofa. Call them and they think they found you, they love this game as they think they are St Bernard finding someone in a mountain. Give them lots of praise. One Newfoundland in Cornwall loves saving people so much in water, that locals pay (money goes to a rescue charity) to jump in the water and get saved by him!
- Sticks can impale when thrown, so leave them to forage, but don’t throw them. At the beach, avoid throwing frisbees near seals (you should not be near seals anyway, with dogs). One frisbee recently got caught around a seal’s neck and almost decapitated her. She survived, but others are not so lucky.
- Rotate toys, as dogs love a variety. Most dogs adore tugging games.
- Antler chews are best avoided as they can cause broken teeth. One vet says ‘never give a chew or toy you would not like to be whacked on the knee with’.
- Clean toys with warm biodegradable non-scented dish liquid and water, rinse well and use a hot cycle on the top rack with strong water pressure and air-dry (don’t dry in ‘dry rooms’ they could go mouldy.
- Squeakers can be a choking hazard, especially as many dogs will try to kill them!
- Rough play is okay for dogs that won’t go out of control. But always keep toys at waist height to stop them jumping up and getting too over-excited, which could injure.
If playing in the garden, be sure to remove toxic plants and mulch. And never use slug pellets or other dangers. See make your garden safe for pets.
Choosing Safe Toys
- PDSA has a shop of toys that are likely safer as they work with vets to approve, before sale.
- Blue Cross is a fan of balls with topes, as they are less likely to be swallowed. Beco has a good one, made with biodegradable materials.
- Choose brand names that are safe like Kong (these are made from tough rubber and can be filled with treats. For soft toys, always use only supervised and throw away, if damaged. Play is important, but PDSA says to ensure the toys are for the right age, breed and size, and made from non-toxic materials. If a dog can pick it up and carry it around in its mouth, it’s likely a choking hazard.