Do You Make These Toy Play Mistakes With Your Dog?


Do You Make These Toy Play Mistakes With Your Dog?

I love playing with my dogs and I recommend it to all clients as well. It is fun and bonding, it can take away stress and anxiety and it lets you learn a lot about your dog and his preferences and likes.

If at all possible, try to play a little bit with your dog every day. It will remind him constantly of how much fun it is to be around you and make teaching obedience and listening skills faster. If your dog enjoys spending time with and focusing on you, paying attention will come naturally.

However – not all play is equal.

Especially high-drive dogs can be so enticed by playing that accidents can happen quickly. Injuries are common when not playing in a smart way that takes into account that the dog might be too wound up to watch out for his own safety.

Read on to find out which play mistakes not to make!


Drive – Excitement – Recklessness


Before we dive into specifics, let’s look at the type of dog that tends to get injured during playtime.

Dogs have different levels of “drive”. This is a measurement for how excited they can get by reinforcements. Dogs that are very driven might go crazy as soon as they see you reach for the ball or frisbee or head towards the door to take them to the park. They will run and play until they are totally exhausted.

Other dogs feel less strongly about play and while they will participate, they don’t lose their mind at the first sign of playtime.


It is the first group of dogs that tends to get injured during playing, as they do not think about their body once the adrenaline hits. When chasing toys, these dogs will perform quite reckless maneuvers in order to catch it. It is our task to make sure that we do not set up situations in which a hotheaded dog could hurt himself when going for a poorly thrown or placed toy.


But let’s start with the basics: Toys at home.


Mistake #1: Leaving The Wrong Toys Out At Home


We all want our dogs to have a good time when we cannot directly interact with them. This can be when we have to go to work, are doing housework or are taking a moment to just sit down and relax. Leaving toys scattered around for the dogs to entertain themselves with seems like a good idea, right?


Unfortunately, the majority of dog toys is not suitable for unsupervised play. As a rule of thumb, if there is any part that the dog could potentially tear off the toy and swallow, you do not want to let your dog be alone with it.

This applies to all types of stuffed animals (imagine the vet bills for a dog who has ingested stuffing…), rope toys, tennis balls for some dogs (strong chewers enjoy tearing them apart), all soft toys and anything else that looks like it might not withstand your dog’s jaw.

Only strong rubber toys such as Kongs should be available to your dog when he is unsupervised, and also with those you want to make sure they are large enough that they cannot get lodged in his mouth.



Mistake #2: Making Your Dog Jump To Grab A Toy


dog jump stick


This seems like a good way to play, right? Playing keep-away with a toy above your dog’s head, making him jump up to snatch it. Dogs (unfortunately) love this game and will play it forever.


Let’s look at what’s happening to your dog’s body:


When he is jumping up to get the toy, he cannot look at all where he is going to land. Since this game is usually done in one place with the dog moving rather vertical (like in the pictures), all momentum at the time of landing will hit the hind legs, hips and spine of the dog.

If a dog is chasing a frisbee and jumping for it, he usually has a lot of forward momentum, so only a fraction of the force of landing actually hits his body. In the scenario of the dog jumping vertically however, there is nowhere for the impact to go other than back end.

In the right picture we see the dog turning in the air, he will probably tumble upon landing (or contort his body while still in the air). Combine this with the fact that the dog has no means to even see where he will hit the ground and make necessary adjustments. A dog who sees where he will land can account for eg an indent in the ground or a pebble, but if he doesn’t see it’s there, even a small surface irregularity could make him lose his balance.