==> Do you know where German Shepherds and Children are alike?
They love to play with TOYS!
Top 6 Toys that German Shepherds LOVE
When your GSD is gnawing on your favourite slippers or other belongings then it's time to think about the right new toy for your dog.
Requirements for dog toys
- your dog must LOVE it!
- it must be SAFE for your dog!
- the material must be NON-TOXIC!
- it should be USEFUL for education and training
- it should be mentally and/or physically STIMULATING
- it should be DURABLE
- it should be EASY TO CLEAN
A LOT of requirements, I know. But we are not the average dog site just recommending you some dog toys for the sake of it. We are a .ORG for a reason. Everything we do and say is the result of research and deeper thought processes - if not experimentation. Also, you and I don't want to spend money on toys unsuitable for our best friend, or falling apart within days, right? And, we want our dog to be SAFE.
While another MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL (much later) will focus on GAMES to play with our dog, this Periodical is about the TOP 6 TOYS of a physical nature. Not really the top 6 toys, but the top toys in the 6 dog toy categories.
So what's the difference between dog toys (this Periodical) and dog games (a future Periodical)?
The key difference is that dog games we play with our dog, ie dog games always are Together-Time with the dog (to improve bonding) - while with dog toys generally our dog can play on its own. Generally, because:
- While with a toy, we must casually observe the dog, for safety reasons
- And some toys actually require that we play together with the dog
Now, taking all anecdotal evidence together, we came up with a list of clear winners. However, you know your dog best, so just take these as suggestions:
The Nylabone Galileo® is an insanely tough nylon chew bone. You must get the right one though (puppy/ adult dog). The Nylabone Galileo is great to strengthen a puppy's teeth as well as give the adult German Shepherd something to release its immense energy level (and clean its teeth too).
Likewise, Westpaw's Hurley® is a super-tough, multi-functional chew bone that's ideal to be taken outside when you two get some exercise - even in the water!
Chuckit!® is a non-toxic high-impact ball that's made to last, and this ball is more FUN for your dog than the typical tennis ball that you may have found outside your local tennis courts.
Likewise, Floppy Disc® is huge FUN and exercise for your dog (and you too). Why not use the ordinary frisbee? Because the Floppy Disc's floppiness is safer and healthier for teeth and gums (you have no idea at what force a GSD catches an item in its mouth!), and it flies slower (so that your dog can really see it close while chasing it; we will show you later What Dogs See). - Tip: Throw the Floppy Disc to levitate just above and ahead of your dog's reach. Cool!
Westpaw's Tux® is a good example. It's made of a non-toxic material trading as Zogoflex®. Tux is pliable, bouncing, recyclable, buoyant, and dishwasher-safe too!
Likewise, Kong Extreme® - maybe the toughest non-toxic material of all, this buoy-shaped interactivity toy is perfect for the mental and physical stimulation of a German Shepherd. Place his or her favourite treat inside and watch with fun how your dog tries to get at it, while having FUN on its own with tossing around the buoy.
Hartz Roundabouts® is a great example of squeak-only toys. They are made of latex that lasts. Note though that you can't make every dog happy with squeaky toys - some GSDs may find them disturbing or annoying (I do too). But it's worth to try out one of these toys too.
Hide-a-Squirrel® is immensely popular among German Shepherds. Surprisingly I'd say, because it's plush and it contains small parts (the squirrels).
Likewise, Dog Egg-Babies is another multi-functional toy that promises your dog loads of lasting FUN, as well as mental and physical stimulation. Just don't get those with small floppy parts (like eg the hedgehog has on its feet), then they last longer and are safer! Note that these toys also squeak - as long as they work.
Most Tug Toys perform poorly, and it's better to just take a strong leather lead or cotton rope or wet sauna/bath towel. However, one toy that isn't actually promoted as Tug Toy does have its merits: Fresh-N-Floss® is tough enough for a short quick pull with your German Shepherd, and while doing so it is proven to be brilliant on your dog's teeth - while gentle enough for its gums.
A good alternative is Vip's Tuffy's Ultimate. A soft Tug Toy of enormous strength with good oral cleaning effect too.
Except for pure Chew Toys, all these toys can be considered Interactivity Toys as they either return sound, light, or movement when your dog plays with them.
Why is interactivity so important?
Because boredom is poison for dogs, and all the more for the active and smart German Shepherd Dog breed. Boredom results in health and behavior problems with your dog. So, do provide at least one dog toy of each dog toy category shown above, to help avoid that your dog gets bored too much.
- Don't leave your dog alone with any of these toys, because no toy is 100% indestructible. Just look on a beach what a force as gentle as water can do to a ROCK over time! [Added: Well, one toy apparently is indestructible, even for a GSD's entire lifespan, see further below]
You don't want your dog choking on parts of a disintegrated toy. So, particularly in the first days or weeks with a new toy, do observe your dog to assess how safe s(he) plays with that toy - like you would do with your child too.
- For the German Shepherd, generally buy the largest size of any toy. Not because this dog is a large breed (the standard GSD really isn't a large breed, rather medium), but because a toy with larger parts is safer for a larger dog. While say, a small ball may easily get stuck in your dog's throat when (s)he is all excited or physically exhausted, a larger ball cannot.
- If you put a toy in the dishwasher, do make sure a) that you place it in the top drawer (if the heat source is at the bottom of the machine), and b) that afterwards you rinse the toy very well with clean cold water before you give it back to your dog.
- Do provide your German Shepherd with a variety of toys in order to train brain, senses, and muscles in multiple ways, and to be more FUN for your dog.
- Most importantly for behavior purposes: Do not let your dog have several toys at the same time, instead always provide only one toy at a time, and change the toy every hour or so.
- And when you determine that playtime is over, or when your dog leaves the toy alone (because (s)he is bored with it!!), take away the toy.
- Even when your dog is playing delightfully with the same toy (ie not yet bored), I would strongly suggest to remove the toy after two hours MAX (swap it for another toy, or take a dog walk, perform feeding, go to sleep, whatever).
(How to remove a toy the right way is not the topic of this Periodical, see above)
So why do we link to Amazon for all toys? Because on Amazon, all the above toys are between cheap and embarassingly cheap. I need to be economical, and I assume you too. But our dogs don't know the price, so we will get away with that.
- If you ever want to use a Laser Pointer to play with your GSD, NEVER risk to point the laser in a direction where your dog's eyes may look into the laser light during chasing it. A fraction of a second is enough to damage the dog's eyes permanently. If you have kids in the house, make sure that they adhere to this advice too!
- With Treat Toys, only place one or two treats at once inside them (if the treats are separable). When they are eaten, depending on the time lapsed and the amount of treats already given, leave it at that and take the toy away for another day - or repeat the 'search and rescue the treat' toy session one or two more times if your dog is still eager to play (always 'leave on a high').
- With Tug Toys, most important is that you and your dog are always aware who is ultimately in control (you). Don't play with this type of toy until your GSD has fully accepted you as the Pack leader. Eg your dog must be able to fully adhere to the DROP IT command. Also, don't play with this type of toy more than 3 rounds, then put it away until at least several hours later.
- Also, with Tug Toys, make sure that you never 'shake the dog by the jaw' from left to right (like you see dog owners and trainers do in youtube videos and movies). That ruins the dog's gums, loosens the teeth, and brings high vet bills upon you. Only use tug toys for straight pulls. If the dog shakes its head during pulling, that's fine, don't stop the FUN because of that.
Added: Above I wrote "No toy is 100% indestructible. - Well, one toy apparently is indestructible, even for a GSD's entire lifespan".
So, what's this toy then? Well, that's a very special 'toy' that doesn't quite fit in the above dog toy categories. Because, it's more a full-blown autonomous exercise instrument for our German Shepherds. It's called the Varsity Ball, and if your GSD plays with this one then (s)he may work out until (s)he's totally pooped! So again, you must be careful and observe your dog initially to see how your dog plays with this ball.
The Varsity Ball costs more than any of the above Amazon-typical toys. But then, like I said, this is more than a toy, it is an autonomous exercise instrument for our dogs. And yes, apparently NO dog, not even a tiger, has been able to destroy this ball. Period.
This 'toy' also doesn't fit in the above scheme because this ball is so large and heavy that there's no way for a GSD to choke on it. And since it cannot be destroyed it cannot disintegrate either. Hence our dogs cannot swallow parts of it - which so often happens with standard toys once they disintegrate!
In short: The Varsity Ball appears to be the only toy we can leave our German Shepherds alone with. Even all day while we are at work (after the safety precautions mentioned above).
There are of course other toys on the market too. This is just our list of suggestions of Top Dog Toys in each dog toy category, taking into account the feedback from thousands of other GSD owners too.
==> Next edition: Core Areas of German Shepherd Psychology <==