Play it Safe!

Just like kids, Beardies love toys! Toys provide a distraction when you aren’t at home by relieving boredom and keeping your dog from engaging in otherwise undesirable behavior. In addition, toys such as balls help to release pent up energy, while others like bully sticks help to satisfy a dog’s natural urge to chew. Toys can be used to teach your dog or puppy the difference between what items are “okay” to play with and what items are “not okay” to play with. Toys also allow you to reward your dog with something other than food and treats. This is especially true if you are concerned about your Beardie’s weight. Most importantly, playing with your dog is a wonderful way to strengthen the human/canine bond, but toys should never be a substitution for your company and companionship.

How do you choose a safe toy? First, be sure you are purchasing an item made for dogs. Generic stuffed toys, although cute, may be filled with items not intended for your Beardie. Also avoid stuffed toys with ribbons, bells or pieces of plastic, since these are usually the first thing your Beardie will try to remove and if ingested could cause choking or digestive problems. Make sure the toy is appropriate for the size of the dog. Small toys can be fatal if swallowed by a large dog. You should also consider your Beardie’s personality when choosing a toy. The dog who loves to play with your socks, will probably like plush toys and the one who spends hours trying to get that piece of kibble from under the fridge, will enjoy a problem solving toy. The Beardie with a strong chase/prey drive will undoubtedly enjoy running after a Frisbee or ball.

A few words about rawhide (dried cow skin) — No, not, never! Dogs have been known to choke on pieces wedged in their throats, and some have needed surgical intervention to remove pieces lodged in the intestinal tract. Veterinarians say there are no reliable statistics on how many dogs are hurt or killed by swallowing rawhide because the obstructions are hard to see on an X-ray. Need another reason? Due to the fact that the manufacturing of rawhide chews and bones is unregulated, there is little control as to how safe they are for your Beardie.  Many dangerous chemicals are used in the processing of rawhide and there have been reports of dogs becoming sick with salmonella after ingesting rawhide.

I’m sure many of you may have seen the stories that made their way around the Internet about the Four Paws Pimple Ball. This is the Four Paws dog toy that has been recalled after several dogs died and one had to have its tongue amputated. Advertised as rough and rugged and virtually indestructible, one would think this toy would be a safe choice. However, while chewing on the toy, a vacuum was created and it effectively sucked the dogs’ tongues into the hole in the ball. This likely occurred because there is not a second hole in the ball preventing the vacuum effect from happening. This just reinforces the need to supervise your dog with any toy. If you are interested, there are photos and a video available on the Internet. (Google Four Paws Pimple Ball, and follow the links).

About a year ago, Whole Dog Journal (WDJ) published an article titled “Why Vinyl Stinks”. According to the article, vinyl contains a number of additives known to be highly toxic. Over time, phthalate esters, a chemical used to make vinyl pliable, can leach out into skin, tissues, air, water and the earth. Not all phthalates are the same, and some have not been researched thoroughly to determine their safety. The article suggests dogs and puppies may be ingesting toxic chemicals from chewing on toys made from vinyl. For more information, you can access the entire article on line by typing the title in your favorite search engine.

A word to the wise about buying dog toys from those dollar stores — you get what you pay for. Many of the pet toys and items were found to have dangerous levels of toxic paint. The paint contains high levels of lead, which if ingested, can cause adverse health effects. Most of these items are made in countries that do not have strict regulatory guidelines when it comes to manufacturing. If your Beardie is a real foodie, be careful using toys that you stuff with treats. A Beardie with a peanut butter filled Kong is safe when secured in its crate, but food aggression can quickly arise in a pack setting.

Some good toy choices include:

Feeling altruistic? Visit www.planetdog.com, for a terrific dog toy shopportunity. The toys are non-toxic, eco-friendly and made in the USA. You may pay a bit more, but the balls and toys last a very long time. Toys are categorized for puppies, dogs, and old souls, so there is something for every Beardie. Be sure to check out stores in your area, since many pet retailers carry a limited stock of Planet Dog items.

In conclusion, you should choose toys based on your Beardie’s personality and needs, and always provide proper supervision. Make sue the toys you purchase are intended for dogs. Remember, accidents can occur in seconds, but the effects can sometimes last a lifetime. So play it safe when it comes to your Beardie having fun.