If your dog loves squeaky toys they certainly aren’t alone. Go to any pet supply shop and you’ll find a variety of squeaky toys made of different material from plush to vinyl, making various kinds of squeaking noises. Some dogs have a preference for one type of squeaky toy over another, but what is it about squeaky toys that are so enticing to our dogs?
Why do dogs like squeaky toys?
“The main theory behind why dogs love squeaky toys so much has to do with their prey drive. It’s thought that the squeak of a toy sounds similar to the high-pitched cry of prey being chased or caught,” says Dr. Jamie Richardson, Medical Chief of Staff at Small Door Veterinary.
The sound of a frightened or injured animal might not be what first comes to mind as we watch our dogs play with cute squeaky toys, but it’s likely at the forefront of our dog’s minds.
“Although a little bit morbid to think about, at one time our dog’s ancestors had to hunt for their food” says Dr. Tory Waxman, Chief Veterinary Officer and co-founder of human-grade dog food brand Sundays for Dogs, Inc.
How does your dog react when playing with squeaky toys?
Dogs love squeaky toys because the toys tap into dogs’ prey drive, a normal behavior that is fun and highly rewarding for dogs. However, use caution until you how your dog reacts while playing with toys.
“For certain dogs, squeaky toys can put their predator-like tendencies into overdrive to an unsafe degree and redirect this behavior elsewhere. Be careful if you have very small dogs, cats or pocket pets (such as guinea pigs, rodents) in your household if this is the case” cautions Dr. Waxman. Your dog could potentially redirect from the toy onto your smaller pet, which could lead to injuries or worse.
Don’t let your dog destroy squeaky toys
As fun as squeaky toys are they can cause injuries.
“Many squeaky toys contain a small plastic squeaker. For non-destructive dogs, this is a benefit as once the squeaker breaks, some toys allow you to replace only the squeaker and not have to buy a new toy. But, that small plastic squeaker can be very dangerous — especially if swallowed whole as it could cause an intestinal obstruction requiring surgery or endoscopic removal,” says Dr. Waxman.
These safety concerns were echoed by Dr. Richardson, who advises you to reconsider giving your dog a squeaky toy if he is a super chewer, who tends to chew and rip apart toys easily. “If the toy is destroyed,” he says, “the squeaker can easily pose a choking hazard, or if swallowed it may cause a life-threatening intestinal blockage. Many squeaky toys also contain stuffing, which poses similar risks if ingested.”
The key to safe playing with dog squeaky toys is ensuring that your dog is just playing with the toy, not chewing them or accidentally ingesting any component of the toys.
Always supervise your super chewer dog while he plays with squeaky toys.
“If your dog is at all destructive with squeaky toys, do not let him play unattended and immediately remove the toy once damaged,” encourages Dr. Waxman.
Unless otherwise stated on the description tag, squeaky toys are not designed to be chewed and won’t be able to withstand prolonged chomping from your dog.
“You should never leave your dog unsupervised when they’re playing with a squeaky toy (or any other toy), to ensure you can step in and remove the toy (or pieces of the toy) if it becomes hazardous,” says Dr. Richardson.
I regularly and closely inspect all the squeaky toys in my house to ensure they are still in good condition and discard any that have become worn or have holes developing. To help your dog be comfortable with you taking the squeaky toys away, always offer a “trade” either for another toy or for a treat, whichever is more valuable to your dog. The goal is for your dog to be comfortable and rewarded anytime toys are taken away to inspect (and possibly throw away), which can help avoid your dog developing resource-guarding tendencies.
How to determine if a toy is safe for dogs
Always pay close attention to how your dog plays and how he interacts with different toys. “Over time, owners will become accustomed to their dogs’ habits and learn what types of toys are best for their dog,” says Dr. Richardson.