Dogs chew for a number of reasons, including boredom, excessive energy and stress. Teething is also a major reason for chewing. Most puppies will teethe between 12 to 16 weeks of age and have all their adult teeth by six months of age, according to the American Kennel Club. This can be a painful process and as anyone who has raised puppies knows, it can cause them to be little chewing machines who can wreak havoc in an owner’s home.
One key to preventing such havoc is redirection: By giving a dog a proper toy to chew on, an owner can curtail inappropriate chewing. The big question is what constitutes a “proper” toy. The answer will depend on a number of factors. Teething puppies sometimes need one type of toy whereas older dogs who chew due to boredom or stress might require a completely different type.
Once upon a time, dog toys consisted of left over bones or discarded children’s toys. Both could be dangerous to dogs, not to mention messy and impractical. Over time products specifically targeted to dog owners and sold as dog toys came to market. As pet retailers, you’re well aware of the market’s incredible range of dog toys, from long-time favorites to new interactive ones and everything in between. Many of these can be used by retailers and dog trainers to address behavior challenges like chewing—but not all. This is why it is imperative that your customers know the difference between a play toy and a chew toy.
Although obvious to retailers, customers need to understand that a chew toy is a product the dog is supposed to chew on and a play toy is one designed for the dog to play with. Remind them that a dog’s favorite play toy might not be designed to withstand even mild chewing.
Generally, chew toys can help alleviate teething issues in puppies. The key word here is “alleviate.” Your puppy-owning customers will not be able to stop their young charge from chewing. They will, however, be able to redirect the puppy’s chewing to correct items (i.e., the chew toys you sell) so that they chew the wrong things less often.
If a customer’s dog is chewing inappropriate things due to boredom and/or stress, play toys could help resolve the issue. Dogs who chew for these reasons need an outlet—something to keep them occupied. The Kruuse Buster Cube is just one of many good play toys you could recommend. Once a dog figures out how to get food out of it, he will play with it on his own. Other outstanding play toys are any of West Paw Design’s Zogoflex toys, such as the Tux or Toppl. Kong Classic and the Kong Biscuit Ball are also fantastic examples, although these Kong products are also meant to be chewed on.
For dogs who need a greater challenge to keep them occupied, you can direct your customers to more complex interactive toys, such as Nina Ottosson dog puzzles, which range from simple to difficult.
Kruuse also has a new interactive toy called the Buster ActivityMat. A problem-solving, interactive play center, it features a heavy fabric mat with press-on snaps that can hold a variety of tasks at varying levels of difficulty, such as opening a Velcro closure or removing a stick to get at the treats hidden with folded fabric.
Interactive play toys such as these are usually not intuitive to dogs. Your customers will need to show their dogs how the toys work one or more times before their canine companions catch on. In addition, your customers should never leave their dogs unsupervised with these toys. They are for owners who want to share in their dogs’ intellectual and problem-solving development. These products also have applications in addressing problem behaviors, which I will cover in future articles.