Some Many Toys, So Little Time... or What Stimulus Does Your New Puppy Really Need?
Updated: Apr 16
Walking into a pet store for most new owners can be nothing short of overwhelming. Toys, treats, grooming products, food, training products and the list goes on and on. So what exactly should you purchase for the exciting (and sometimes challenging) first weeks with your puppy and why?
Most families adopting dogs today, have no intention of training their dogs for service, agility or working dog trials. Even though dogs today are primarily bred as companion pets, they still need a "job" on a regular basis. If you don't provide stimulus or "work" for them... unfortunately most Golden Retrievers will find something to occupy their minds and chewing needs on their own. That comes at the expense of things like your sofa, pillows, shoes, carpet, toilet paper rolls, and even computer and phone chargers. The fix seems basic on the surface-provide them with appropriate outlets such as toys, puzzles and appropriate chew objects. Selecting the actual toys on the other hand can be confusing, overwhelming and costly.
So WHAT things do you absolutely HAVE? The simple answer to this question is: a tug, a chew, a retrieve, a squeak, a puzzle and a cuddle.
In all honesty, most needs of your new puppy can be met with the following: a tug, a chew, a retrieve, a squeak, a puzzle and a cuddle. The more difficult issue is all the variety. As any experienced pet owner will tell you, even the most fascinating highly recommended toys may not match your dogs needs. So be prepared for some trial and error.
Most new puppy owners can have success with 6 to 8 different toys that provide different texture, size, shape and use. Toys provide great mental stimulation that encourages active play and minimizes boredom and destruction on your pet's part. In fact toys are an excellent way to teach your dog to relax. However, dogs are a lot like children, and they get bored with their toys quickly. When this happens, the value of the toy as a mental and physical outlet is lost. The toys should be given out a few at a time, then rotated every few days so that the pet always has something different with which to play. Rotating toys is the best way to keep them effective. We have compiled a sort of "wish list" of various types of stimulus for you at Amazon. But if you are like me, you probably prefer the joy of searching for new and exciting toys on your own. Read on to discover the types of toys we recommend to start with.
One of our all time favorite tug toys is this nearly indestructible rope tug with a bell inside of the tire. The rugged tire with a bell in the center makes noise, provides a tug opportunity as well as a retrieve opportunity. We actually have 2 or 3 on hand in case one gets lost. The official name for it is Tire Tuff Jingle Ball Rope or X-Tire Ball. This toy serves as a great tool to help teach the retrieving skill because the bell alerts the puppy and the rope can "tease" him into following the object.
Bully sticks, elk or deer antlers, hooves and other long-duration chew products promote relaxation and focused chewing. We always suggest families are prepared for when a puppy wants to"mouth" (explore your hands, fingers, toes, feet etc) Dogs will lie down with these products (behavior we like) and contently chew. One of our favorite types of chew object is the bull pizzle. These too come in a wide assortment. Our favorites are approximately 6" in length, odor free and spiral spring in form. This allows puppies and dogs the opportunity to "hold" the stick in their paws. One caution is to check the product description and make sure they are long enough that your Golden cant swallow it
A Kong is a rubber beehive shaped toy that you fill with some sort of soft treat. The task is for your dog to
discover how to get the food out with his tongue. Most owners fill the Kong with canned dog food, plain white yogurt, pumpkin, sweet potato or any other soft healthy food and freeze it. One of the amazing things about the Kong is that it freezes solid within 45 minutes and can keep your dog occupied for a LONG time. Just remember when you don't want your dog to be a nuisance, it's your task to keep him buy. Send your dog to his bed or other quiet place and give him the Kong. This is so effective that clients have told us it’s the best advice they’ve ever received. Kongs are a dog’s best friend making them a very good friend to humans too.
Quivira Golden retrievers are born with an innate sense for retrieving. And be aware-some days they may just wear you out with it. Hopefully you realized that every Golden comes with that built-in drive to retrieve whatever it can carry in his mouth. To help develop this drive we recommend starting with a simple Hex ball. These flexible carry toys come in a variety of sizes; we have found that the medium is a good starting spot. The nicest thing about this toy is that puppies can easily grip this with their mouths and carry the toy; it's also pretty light which makes it a great toy that young puppies can carry easily. One note of caution-we never leave dogs unattended with this toy as they could possibly chew it into small pieces. Tennis balls of various shapes are also a great toy for retrieving as they fly fast and far and are easy for most Goldens to grab on to.
There’s nothing quite like a high-pitched squeaky toy to keep Golden Retrievers occupied. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), studies conducted by scientific researchers to examine why dogs preferred certain toys over others concluded that it can all be traced back to our dogs’ wolf ancestry. Similarly to how wolves choose their prey, dogs prefer toys that can be torn apart, smell like something
they can eat, or that make noise.That squeaking sound may be annoying to us, but to our pets, it resembles the sound of a scared or injured animal, which activates their hunting instinct. You might find that your Golden simply won't stop with the squeak until they have torn it out of the stuffed animal it is likely hidden in. According to Kimberly Alt from the Canine Journal, the sounds given off by a squeaky toy give your dog instant feedback that their bite is strong and effective, which keeps them stimulated to continue playing and satisfied by their progress. Most squeakies come hidden in the depths of some type of a plush toy. If you don't want your house covered in stuffy, you might consider an unstuffed plush toy. Many of these have an additional benefit of having a crackle sound in the tail. This is a draw for Goldens as well.
Most of us have jobs that keep us away from the house for at least eight hours a day. I cant tell you how
many times I have been asked: "won't he be lonely". Well the answer might be yes, but the real question should be "won't he be bored". Because unfortunately, a bored dog is usually a mischievous or even destructive dog. Bored dogs can be a problem for owners as they’re more likely to get into trouble.
In other words, lack of mental stimulation and exercise during the day leaves our dogs looking for something to do, and often it’s not something we approve of. Enter into into the world of puzzles. One of our favorite companies in this category is Outward Hound. This company produces a vast variety of amazing, mentally stimulating toys for our Goldens that even I struggle with when it comes time to add treats. A particular favorite with our dogs is the Hide-A-Squirrel Plush Dog toy. Dogs LOVE to take off the lid and dig and pull the provided "squirrels" from the plush "trunk". A bonus to this toy is that it hits a couple of categories of toys. It has puzzle, plush and squeak elements and we find that dogs are crazy about it. Plus you can purchase extra squirrels or hedgehogs if any get lost. Another stimulating puzzle we love is Hide n Slide Dog Treat Puzzle. We break soft treats into tiny pieces and hide in each section and time our Goldens as they search and have to open the compartments to get the treats.
Very few owners can resist the urge to purchase plush, cuddly stuffed toys for their puppies. Several of the toys we mentioned fall into this category. Toys that crackle, squeak easily and are soft/plush but tough are the best toys to look for. Kong has developed a fairly tough toy that many dogs like and that last longer than some of the lesser quality toys. A word of caution with the plush toys: remember that dogs have a drive to find the "squeak" and get rid of it. This means be on the watch for a toy that has seen it's better days. If you are finding stuffing around the house, it's likely time to dispose of that toy.
Recently we have been using the Snuggle Puppies with new adoptions in our home. They have been AMAZING!! and all of our families that have been using these guys LOVE them!!! Please keep in mind this is ONLY to be used in the crate when puppies are being crate trained. It's not a toy. Instead it is a comfort object. These are washable and work GREAT for settling a new puppy in his or her new place. We are STRONG believers in CRATE TRAINING.
A few important warnings about dog toys.
Keep in mind that a toy's value as stimulus can change over time. A plush toy that was safe from your 10-week old puppy might not be a good choice when the dog is 5 months old and destuffing the toys and swallowing the squeakers! A small tennis ball that was perfect for your 8-week old to learn to retrieve can become a swallow hazard as your puppy grows up. Supervise your dog when he is playing with a new toy and monitor the dog’s interaction with the toy regularly to ensure that the toy continues to be a safe choice.
Think of toys as being interactive and you and your puppy as a team…dog and owner. By thinking and playing this way your are bonding with your puppy and also providing built-in supervision. These toys include fetch balls, and tug-o-war ropes. Interactive toys should only be available to the dog when you and he are playing together. After the play session, put those toys away so the dog always looks forward to playing with them…and you. Consistency is key for where you store toys. Decorative baskets are a great storage option. You will see that very quickly, your puppy will learn where the toy box is.
Also, be cognizant of what you give your dog as a toy. If you give your puppy an old tooth brush, socks, old slippers or articles of clothing to play with, they will see all of these items as their playthings. Dogs cannot distinguish which of your socks and shoes are okay to play with and which are not. It’s best to keep your things separate from their toys to eliminate any possible confusion.
If your dog has a new toy that he shows no interest in, engage him in play using the toy.
If this proves ineffective, drop the toy in your bed or laundry basket for a day and try to engage him again. Often, items that smell like the owner are more attractive to the pet. If the dog still shows no interest in the toy, consider the material, shape and size of the toy and don’t buy similar toys again. A dog that has regular mental and physical stimulation is a happy dog, and happy dogs typically have very happy owners. So get up, go out and enjoy your Golden!