Big or small, dogs seem to have cheap tastes in toys


November 13, 1993|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

The results of our informal and unscientific dog-toy survey have been tabulated and analyzed. And the winner is:

The dogs, of course.

There's no end to the number of ordinary household objects dogs perceive as toys. And there's no limit to the expense and time people will spend picking out the perfect puppy plaything.

Judging from the response from readers, the rule on dogs toys seems to be: The more expensive it is, the less likely it is that a dog will like it.

"My husband said: 'Sixteen dollars for a piece of rope,' " said Toni Rosenberg, who bought a jumbo-sized chew rope for the family's 130-pound St. Bernard mix, Sasha. "She has totally and completely ignored it."

The Rosenbergs had hoped the rope would distract Sasha from her favorite toy, toilet paper. Their vet said there wasn't anything wrong with the 11-year-old dog: She just likes to munch on toilet paper rolls.

"We keep the bathroom doors closed now," said Ms. Rosenberg. "Otherwise she'll eat the roll. Then you go in and there isn't any paper."

Other dogs love rope toys, of course, but many people have better luck with homemade toys, old socks tied in knots and worn-out tennis balls (more on those later). Some of these are downright innovative. Colleen Shannon's dog, Bones, adores 1-liter plastic soda bottles.

"One day, we had just emptied a bottle and it was sitting in the recycling bin. Bones grabbed it, but he couldn't get his mouth around it and ended up chasing it around.

"We figured: It's cheap and it's free, after you drink the soda."

Rachele Lizarraga's two dogs, Sooki and Frog-Dog, like to play with raw potatoes.

Sooki, an Australian shepherd-husky mix, was first to see the potential, said Ms. Lizarraga, but the other dog, a retriever mix, was quick to join in.

"My kitten knocked a potato off the table and Sooki grabbed it. Soon, Frog wanted one, too. They don't eat them -- they play with them.

"A potato will last a couple of weeks before we throw it out."

Another inexpensive toy is an old stuffed animal, popular with many callers. Denice Martin's 7-year-old golden retriever, Annie, has one of the best collections around.

"We call them her 'babies,' " said Ms. Martin, a volunteer for her local SPCA. "She'll grab one to greet the mail carrier, barking happily with the toy in her mouth."

Ms. Martin finds the toys at thrift stores. "I buy the ones that are too beat-up for children -- they cost about 50 cents each. She just goes nuts when I pull them out of the bag."

When it comes to more traditional pet toys, it's clear that those stores that open their doors to both people and pets are a hit with animal-lovers.

"Last year, my dog picked out a certain toy," said one caller who didn't leave her name. "She wore it out and we went back to the store. She picked out the exact same toy."

Owners of big dogs most often touted the hard rubber Kong toy, but even those who like it said it was tough but not W indestructible. One Rottweiler owner said his backyard was littered with Kong pieces.

Toni Rosenberg said that when her dog was young, there was no toy that would last very long. "We went through 'indestructible' toys like nobody's business," she said.

One warning, though, to all those tossing tennis balls for their pets: Depending on your dog's strength and style of play, a tennis ball could be a killer. That's because larger dogs have enough jaw strength to compress a ball, which can spring into the throat and lodge there, blocking the supply of air. Without prompt veterinary attention, a dog so stricken could die in minutes.

The motto is to know your dog. If your pet likes to chew on -- not just carry -- tennis balls, you'd be safer substituting a hard rubber ball or a Kong.

Make sure it's safe, and both you and your dog will enjoy playtime more.

Ms. Spadafori is a licensed pet trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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