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Dog toys fall into two broad categories: those that you and your dog can enjoy together, and those that he can play with on his own. Within those categories, there are six types of toys. Tug, fetch and chase toys fall into the first category.
Tug. Tug often involves jerking, pulling and shaking motions, so these toys are made to be fairly durable. A toy doesn’t have to be labeled as a tug toy to be played with in tug-of-war fashion. But for stronger players, toys specified for tug are important, as they are better equipped to withstand such harsh motions. Tug toys vary from ropes to character-shaped objects to toys with handle grips for a better grasp.
Fetch. The standard fetch toy is a ball, but a variety of shapes and launchers are gaining popularity. Shapes include flying discs, rings, character-themed toys and arrows. A variety of throwers is also available; some increase velocity and distance by adding an extension to natural arm length, while others launch toys with slingshot- or air pressure-type mechanisms.
Chase. This game invokes a dog’s instinct to chase after moving things. A flirt pole, which has a toy attached to a sturdy rope and wand, falls into this category.
Independent play toys engage your dog in tasks he can do on his own. These toys help keep him occupied, engage his mind and provide comfort.
Chew toys. These toys are designed for a dog to mouth and chew on. Such toys can help redirect your dog’s energy and attention away from objects he should not be chewing, like furniture or your belongings.
Puzzles. A puzzle engages your dog’s mind by encouraging exploration and problem solving. These toys challenge your dog and can help to combat stress and boredom. Puzzles vary in complexity from beginner level to expert. Some puzzles are meant to be played with in a fairly calm manner — the dog uses his teeth and tongue to remove a hidden reward — while others are more active and invite physical movement with paws and nose to unearth a treat. Puzzles can conceal food, edible chews or smaller toys.
Calming toys. Calming toys can provide a comforting distraction during times the dog may be upset or anxious, like when he is left home alone or has to ride in the car. (However, dogs should never be left alone with rawhides or other toys that they can potentially tear apart and swallow.) These toys may include engaging soothing sounds, extra-snuggly material and calming smells. Some may also have puzzle features to help distract anxious dogs.
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