"Huh! My dog would tear that up in about 30 seconds," the lady said, shaking her head at the hand-made toy I'd proposed she buy at our agility club's fund-raising craft fair.
"That's great!" I said. "That's exactly what he's supposed to do. And that's why it's only $3.00."
She didn't buy it--the toy or my line. She probably went to Petsmart later and spent three times that amount on a toy that wouldn't last any longer than the ones we were selling for $3.
Many years as a retailer for dog toys (and as an owner of destructive dogs) have taught me the truth about dog toys. Here it is . . .
1. Your dog will like the toy (i.e., enjoy it more) if he can destroy it. That's what most dogs do. They chew, rip, shred and "kill" their toys. That's the kind of "interaction" your dog wants with his toys. It satisfies his most basic desires as a prey animal.
2. Dogs are not crazy about indestructible toys. The "indestructibles" serve a purpose, but offer the dog much less satisfaction. Generally, a dog will prefer a soft, cheap, fleece squeaky toy over a fancy Cordura nylon toy because it's easier for him to sink his teeth into it.
3. Sinking teeth into a toy and ripping it apart is the next best thing to eating it. Dogs go through the process because they instinctively want to destroy the evidence of their kill, or because they don't want another animal to consume their kill first. Let your dog experience the fun and pleasure of ripping up a toy. When it becomes hazardous, take it away and discard it.
4. Toys are manufactured primarily for dog owners rather than for dogs. Give a dog an assortment of Nylabones and Kongs (basically indestructible but still appealing) and a few rope toys or old knotted socks, and he'll be happy. But if you want to spend more money, go to the pet store and buy the cute toys that appeal to you. Just remember to closely supervise your dog as he plays with them (and destroys them) and remove them when they become dangerous.
5. You can't predict how your dog will react to a certain toy. An extremely aggressive chewer may be able to destroy a Nylabone in two days, but he will cherish and cuddle a particular soft toy. A passive dog that's never destroyed anything may turn into a Cujo with a cute stuffed squeaky toy. A dog who loves all balls may turn his nose up at the new one you just bought for him.
The best for offering your dog instant gratification (the kind you used to get in your Christmas morning stocking) are those he can tear up. Just don't let him eat them. Avoid toys with removable parts like bells and plastic buttons that could cause choking.
Life is short, and even shorter for your dog. Let him have some frenzied fun this Christmas. Let him destroy his new toys with gusto!