There is an enormous variety of toys available to keep our doggies amused. You can choose from simple balls to psychologically analyzed and carefully engineered objects that are meant to be educational while keeping the dog busy for hours. The cost of these amazing things, some of which even run on batteries, with lights, sounds, action, and remote controllers, are as expensive as any educational toy you might buy for your children. I suppose that the expense might be considered worthwhile, if they save the new sofa from becoming a pile of shredded rags…
However, my puppies are not very impressed with these things. For them, the greatest toys are some twigs or branches they have stripped off the hedge in the garden, a big empty plastic soft drink bottle, which also makes a lovely noise when they chew on it and bat it around the yard, an empty cardboard toilet roll which can be shredded into tiny pieces (and boy, how much more fun it is if it is a full toilet roll!). And they are very amused by watching me pick up the pieces afterwards. That can keep them happy for a long time, especially when they try to help.
These fancy toys that run around beeping and flashing lights and crashing into the wall are amusing for a few minutes. But I have never really seen a dog that was interested in it for much longer – seen it, inspected it, let’s go on to something more fun that I can get my teeth into…
I haven’t found that the expensive toys are stronger or last longer than the simple things. Actually, they don’t seem to last very long at all, when a determined dog gets to work on them. The puppies manage to take apart all the supposedly dog proof squeaky rubbery little bears, hedgehogs, and rubber chickens. Who ever decided that these things will be of particular appeal to a dog? The thing that is of interest is the squeak they make, not what they look like. Come on, do you really think that a rubber chicken looks like a real chicken to your dog?
One of Habibi’s favorite toys is a medium sized rubber ball. It was actually the inner part of a Kong sort of toy that was covered with supposedly indestructible canvasy material with fringes to make it more interesting. Within a few minutes, he stripped all the material off and shredded it. The ball, however, is really tough – despite his most serious efforts, it remains whole and undamaged. What Habibi really likes is that it has a squeaker inside, so as he chews on it, it squeaks. He loves that! He loves it so much that, at times, he feels a strong necessity to go and get it and start to squeak it when he is feeling bored – which includes the middle of the night, when there is no action going on around the house.
We all know that mothers are very geared to particular sounds, and can sleep through a bomb, but wake up immediately at a tiny whimper from one of the children. I also have well developed selective hearing – for instance, years ago when I was working with horses, I woke up and knew something was happening because it was too quiet – and sure enough, when I went out to look, one of the horses had his foot caught in the fence and the others were all standing there silently watching him. What is unfortunate is that this squeaky ball has the exact sound of a crying puppy. Even though I KNOW there are no puppies around, my immediate response to hearing the ball is to leap up and look for the puppy in distress – not at all appreciated when this happens in the middle of the night.
Habibi has discovered that squeaking his ball gets a response – action! How cool! And he has also learned that it is a good idea to hide it somewhere so that I can’t find it when he is not playing with it, and I won’t be able to put it somewhere unreachable.
I don’t find it necessary to buy all these expensive toys for my pack. I have found that a simple piece of rope or rag is great fun, and especially when I am on the other end holding it and wrestling with them. Dogs don’t care if they have the most costly toys on the block. They do care about who is having fun with them, even when it is with simple things.