Dogs love to play, and there are scores of great toys to engage their bodies and minds. Be mindful of your pet's breed and character when choosing games and toys, advises Victoria Wells, senior manager for behavior and training at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' adoption center in New York City.
"Scent-oriented dogs will respond best to games that involve seeking out something that has an odor," she says. "Buy toys that you can hide treats inside, and the dog has to tumble it to get at them."
Intelligent dogs need mental stimulation just as people do, says Wells.
Spot's Seek a Treat sliding puzzle and Discovery Wheel might fill the bill. The Kong line of toys are pack pleasers; the toys have holes at one end to hide treats, and the heavy-duty rubber construction makes them tough enough for larger dogs (available at many pet stores, or at wag.com).
Big dogs will have fun chasing the sturdy Varsity Ball. And for a little humor, consider Moody Pet's Humunga lips-, tongue- or mustache-shaped chew toys that give your dog a hilarious visage when they're holding them (varsitypetsonline.com, moodypet.com).
Dogs that love to interact love to tug. "It's all about who's in control of the game. You decide when you play it, when the toy must be released, when it must be dropped," she says. Teaching these skills early in a puppy's life makes play a lifelong joy. But even a rescue dog can learn, with patience and understanding.
Try a tennis ball attached to a rope, which makes retrieving and throwing easy — no slobbery balls to grip. Petco also offers Bamboo's Combat Bone, a soft and floatable bone-shaped tugger (petco.com).
Sturdy coils of small, medium or large marine-grade rope also do the job, but for multidog tug action, consider Ruff Dawg's four-handled rubber toy (wag.com).
If you've got a ball-loving dog, you've probably spent hours throwing one; tennis balls seem to be the toy of choice. For something a little different, consider the Mystery Tree, which requires the dog to trip a lever to release the ball. And for truly energetic canines, get the Hyperdog Launcher, which shoots up to four balls 220 feet via a slingshotlike contraption. No more goober-y hands or sore throwing arms (activedogtoys.com).
Some dogs love hide and seek; Kyjen has a plush tree trunk you stuff with mini squirrels for Dog to extricate (kyjen.com).
How about chasing bubbles? Activedogtoys.com has the automatic Bubbletastic and Bubble Buddy. The bubbles are bacon- or chicken-scented.
Next week: Toys for cats