Should I Let My Dog Destroy His Toys?August 2, 2021 2021-08-02 8:21
Dogs of all breeds and sizes love toys! There are hundreds of varieties of toys available for every dog to enjoy. Just walking down the toy aisle at your local pet supply store will show you that the variety can sometimes be overwhelming. Have you ever chosen the cutest stuffed squeaky toy for your pup only to find it demolished twenty minutes after he receives it? Now you have a floor full of stuffing and squeakers next to a very satisfied dog. You brush it off and may even laugh about it, but there are real hidden dangers that can occur with this activity.
Let’s examine some reasons why a dog destroying his toys is actually behavior you want to discourage.
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If my dog wants to destroy his toys, should I allow it?
The short answer is no, absolutely not. Many people don’t see the harm in a dog taking his own toy and shredding it to the point where it needs to be thrown away. After all, the toy is the dog’s, and he should be able to do with it what he wants. But this is not harmless fun for the dog and can pose a serious threat to his health, including a bowel obstruction.
Why does my dog want to destroy his toys anyway?
For your dog, the desire to destroy a stuffed animal can be as simple as instinct. If your dog has a high prey drive, they view the toy as their prey and destroy it, as they have been bred to do for hundreds of years. While this is usually the main reason a dog will rip his toys apart, other reasons are:
- Boredom. Your dog doesn’t have anything else to do, so he grabs a toy and mindlessly shreds it.
- It’s the wrong toy for your breed. If your dog is an active chewer, he needs a toy that’s durable enough to hold up to that. Giving your strong-jawed dog a toy that’s made for a dog with a smaller or weaker mouth means he will destroy it quickly and easily.
“Mouthy” dogs such as Pitbulls or Goldendoodles need especially durable toys.
- It’s a habit. From the time the dog is a puppy, he’s usually taught that destroying toys is cute. If the behavior isn’t stopped, it will continue as he gets older – and bigger.
- It’s fun. The dog enjoys searching the toy for weak spots, like seams, and figuring out how to rip out the squeaker and destroy the rest. He views this demolition as a job well done.
Should I stop giving my dog any toys at all?
If your dog is always destroying toys, wouldn’t the simple answer be to stop giving them to him? While yes, that is an easy answer to the problem, the fact is your dog needs toys to remain happy, engaged, and entertained.
Toys should provide more than an opportunity for destruction. Otherwise, what’s the point of having them? If your dog destroys toys in minutes, this means:
- Wasted money. Dog toys can be expensive. Depending on their size and quality, you can expect a price tag of anywhere between $5 and $30+ for a single toy. If this toy is shredded immediately, that’s money you are literally throwing away.
- It’s frustrating. Not only is the wasted money a concern, but now you have something you need to clean up.
- It can lead to the destruction of other things. If your dog is allowed to shred his toys, how will he know the difference when it comes to your couch cushions? Your shoes? Your throw pillows? Your child’s teddy bear?
Why is it so dangerous to allow this behavior?
While a dog may thoroughly enjoy ripping apart that stuffed squeaky bunny, toy materials are neither edible nor digestible. Your dog doesn’t know this. He’s not taking care to not ingest parts of the toy as he’s destroying it. This is an instinctual behavior from before dogs were domesticated, and wild dogs hunted for their food. When they caught their prey, they ate it. Even if you don’t think your dog swallowed any of the toy’s materials, you can’t be too certain. And sometimes, this can be fatal. The dangers of toy swallowing include:
- An upset stomach. If your dog ate the toy’s stuffing, he likely doesn’t feel good. This can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and a refusal to eat, leading to other health complications.
- Choking. If the dog swallows parts of the toy, they can become lodged in the throat or esophagus.
- Bowel obstruction. If the object doesn’t become lodged in the throat, it can become lodged in the bowel. A bowel obstruction can turn deadly very quickly. When the bowel is obstructed, food and liquids cannot pass through the gastrointestinal tract. Blood flow can be restricted and parts of the intestines can die. A bowel obstruction is usually remedied with surgery. Sometimes, the veterinarian may be able to retrieve the obstruction through an endoscopy. This is always an emergency and without proper treatment, your dog’s life is in danger.
Signs of a bowel obstruction
Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog is suffering from an obstruction of the bowel. Symptoms to watch for:
- Repetitive vomiting. Your dog is unable to digest his food, so he’s forced to vomit.
- Refusing to eat
- Dehydration, due to vomiting and the inability to retain any water
- Abdominal bloating or sensitivity
- Physical signs of pain, like whining or curling up
How can I get my dog to stop destroying his toys?
This can seem like a losing battle, but there are ways to curb this behavior. Always choose appropriate toys for your dog based on his size, breed, chewing ability, and prey drive. The more durable the toy, the less likely he’ll be able to destroy it in an instant. Choose toys without stuffing if your dog immediately goes for the squeaker and rips open the soft material to find it. Crinkle toys are more durable than stuffed and don’t have a squeaker.
Monitor your dog when he’s playing with toys and remove them if he starts to become destructive. Don’t allow your dog to play with toys unattended.
When your dog is playing with toys and not destroying them, praise him. Show him that this is the desired behavior you want to see from him. If the destruction starts, redirect your dog to an indestructible toy or another activity and remove the first toy.
Because dogs sometimes destroy toys out of boredom, try to mitigate this by keeping your dog entertained. By selecting interactive toys, where the dog has to roll a ball or move a puzzle piece to get rewarded with a treat, you can keep your dog happy and occupied.
Another solution to pass the time for a bored dog is a Kong. Nearly indestructible and made from durable material, a Kong is not easily penetrated by sharp teeth. Your dog can happily chew away. By filling the center hole with low-fat plain yogurt and sticking it in the freezer, you can give your dog a tasty treat and a job to do. He has to work to get that treat!
Pick up the dog toys when you are leaving the house or are unable to monitor your dog while he plays. If the dog has a chance to destroy the toys and you think he might, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. A dog can destroy a toy quickly and should not be given the chance to do so. Don’t set your dog up to potentially create a life-threatening situation for himself.
The bottom line
No, it is never safe to allow your dog to destroy his toys. While the desire for your dog to do this has been bred into him over hundreds of years, there is a great risk involved if your dog ingests anything inedible. Playing with toys is important to having a happy and healthy dog, so you shouldn’t reduce this risk by refusing to give him toys altogether. Choose suitable toys for your dog’s breed, size, chewing ability, and activity level.
Allowing your dog to destroy toys may lead to confusion over what’s acceptable to destroy. He could start to become destructive with your things, as well.
Monitor your dog when he’s playing with toys and don’t allow him to have the opportunity to destroy them. If you remove the toys when he’s not around, it will reduce his risk of harming himself.
Swallowing toy material can lead to a variety of health issues, but most importantly, a bowel obstruction. When an object becomes lodged in the dog’s intestine, this creates a life-threatening situation which requires a veterinarian and usually surgery to fix. If not fixed in time, the dog can die. It is very important to monitor anything the dog is playing with or chewing. In addition, sticks, rocks, items in the trash, mulch, etc., if swallowed, can cause health issues that can be fatal. Never let your dog destroy anything and possibly swallow something he shouldn’t.