If you've ever shopped for a brand new puppy, you know how overwhelming the selection of toys can be. What do you get for large dog breeds? What about small dog breeds? What dog toys are safest for my puppy? I decided to visit Petland Naperville and look around at their toys. A very helpful Pet Counselor gave me a tour of the store to see all the dog toys and dog care items. The Pet Counselor reviewed which toys were safe and recommended for use with a puppy.
The Pet Counselor explained to me that there are supervised and unsupervised toys. Some toys are fine to be left out and alone with the dog but others, while lots of fun, could be harmful to the dog if they are left unsupervised.
The first thing that I learned was that puppies are different from adult dogs. Puppies need to chew on things (think teething). If they aren't given appropriate dog toys, then they most likely will start chewing on your things---wood trim and furniture, shoes, clothes, purses---you get the idea. So, for strong chewers---think large dog breeds---brands like Kong, Mammoth and JW have sturdy items like hard rubber toys, the TireBiter, and Invincible Chains to occupy your puppy and last a pretty long time. For small dog breeds, you still need the same types of dog toys, only smaller. The advantage to having a small breed puppy is that their jaws aren't as strong (=destructive) as their larger counterparts. Just keep in mind that they still need to chew, but don't get a toy so large that they can't "conquer" it.
Puppies also need to have dog toys that stimulate their minds. I highly recommend the Hol-ee Roller that Petland Naperville's Pet Counselor showed to me. It comes in a range of sizes from mini to large, and it is flexible enough that you can stick a treat inside it (she recommended a pig ear, which dogs love). This ball can be larger than your puppy, because it is lightweight enough to be picked up, shaken, and thrown around by both small dog breeds and large dog breeds. She demonstrated this with a bulldog, and that bulldog whipped that ball around like it was showing it who's the boss!
I like stuffed animals. I think it's cute when a dog lays on one as if it was a real creature. However, stuffed animals as dog toys are a whole lot different than the one you give a child. For starters, it's a good idea to get one with a squeaker in it. I learned that dogs think primitively with this, thinking they've actually caught their prey. There is another reason why you should get your puppy a dog (not human) toy---stuffing. Many dogs have gotten sick by ripping apart a stuffed toy and swallowing the stuffing. There are many, many dog-safe "stuffed" toys that have no stuffing at all. One brand is called Skinneez---these are flattened versions of animals---and dogs love them!
It's important to start getting your puppy used to dental hygiene as soon as you bring him home. Good dog care includes brushing your dog's teeth with doggy toothpaste and a doggy toothbrush. The sooner you make this part of your routine the easier it will be for your puppy to become used to it. There are small brushes for small dog breeds and larger brushes for large dog breeds. Your puppy will probably think that this toothbrush interaction is a game, which will just bring you closer to him. There are also dog toys that have dental benefits. Nylabone is a brand of bones that are designed to scrape the teeth clean. Rope toys are also geared to "floss" your dog's teeth. I would also get some healthy treats that are designed to clean teeth, like Greenies. These treats come in different flavors and are very popular.
Of course, there is no substitute for being a "human toy." Dogs of all ages and breeds seek companionship. Puppies (and dogs!) like to be the center of attention---getting belly rubs, ear scratching, back petting, kisses and hugs. The best "toy" you can give your dog is your own love and attention!