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Pets love to play, and we love to play with them! They also adore treats, which come in handy as rewards or just to show our love for them. But what are the best treats and toys for your pet?
Treats are helpful when you’re training your pet or teaching them new tricks. And sometimes it's hard not to toss them a yummy surprise on special occasions, like their birthday, after you’ve been out of the house for a while, or when they give you that pleading look with those big loving eyes.
Treats are fine for pets as long as they're given in moderation. They should make up only 5% or less of your pet's daily food intake according to our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®). The rest of their diet should consist of a nutritionally complete pet food.
When you buy treats, read the ingredient lists so you can make smart choices for your pet. Look for treats that are low in unhealthy fats and sugar, which contribute to obesity and lead to issues from joint pain to heart disease.
You can also whip up homemade pet treats. It’s easier than you think! Check out these recipes for cats and these for dogs. Additionally, you can offer your pet-safe fruits and veggies, like cut up apples, sweet potatoes, or banana.
If you want to cut back on pet treats, you can use alternative ways of rewarding your pet. For instance, hide a new or favorite toy behind your back and offer it to them when they comply with your command. Pets are people pleasers so showering them with praise and love without any other reward may sometimes work too. Additionally, you can try clicker training where you make a clicking sound to acknowledge good behavior in lieu of a treat.
Pets love toys almost as much as they love treats. And giving them safe and entertaining toys is part of being a responsible pet parent. Toys have all sorts of benefits for your pet including:
Shopping for pet toys online or wandering the toy aisle in a pet store can feel overwhelming. There are so many choices! Here are a few things to consider as you shop.
Any toy you offer your pet should be sturdy and well-constructed. If it gets torn apart, your pet could choke on or swallow the pieces, which can obstruct your pet’s digestive system.
Look for trusted brands or toy manufacturers with reliable reputations. If a toy has small or added parts, like strings, feathers, or plastic eyeballs, make sure they're securely attached, so they don't come off during playtime.
Intestinal blockages are a common pet injury that can be expensive to treat, especially if surgery is needed. Pet insurance can help you cover those costs.
You'll want to purchase toys big enough that your pet won't choke on or swallow them. You also don't want toys that can get stuck in your pet's mouth, which can be painful and restrict your pet's breathing. Also, if you try to pull the toy out, you could end up fracturing your pet’s teeth or injuring their gums and soft tissues of the mouth.
Of course, a safe size for toys is relative to the size of your pet. For instance, a Chihuahua will be able to play safely with smaller toys than a Labrador Retriever. Some toy packages include guidelines on appropriate pet sizes. If you’re not sure if a toy is safe for your pet, you can ask a knowledgeable pet store employee or speak with your veterinarian.
Toys that are too hard for your pet can injure your pet's teeth, gums, and mouth. To judge the hardness of a toy, you’ll need to consider your pet's size, age, and health. Larger pets will have stronger teeth and jaws than smaller ones. Puppies and kittens should be given softer toys than adult pets since they're still developing. The same goes for senior pets or pets with health conditions who could hurt themselves if they chew on a hard toy.
You should also think about your pet's personality and how they like to play. Is your pet a rough-houser who enjoys ripping things apart? In this case, you'll need to provide extra sturdy toys that can withstand tough play. Or is your pet more of a snuggler who likes to cuddle up with their toys? Then your pet may do fine with and even prefer softer options.
Pet toys can get pretty icky, especially if they're well loved. You'll need to clean them regularly to prevent bacteria from building up. Toys that can be safely tossed in the dishwasher or washing machine can be more convenient than those that need handwashing. In any case, be sure to throw toys out when they start to look like they may fall apart.
There are plenty of fun dog toys available, including ones you can play together and others that can help keep your pup busy when you're not available.
Some people worry that playing tug-of-war with your dog can encourage aggressive behavior. However, this is not the case as long as you manage the game properly and set safe boundaries.
For instance, if your dog gets over-excited, calmly end the session and put the tug toy away. Also, be sure you don't act too aggressive during the game to avoid modeling bad behavior. Plus, you could injure your dog if you rip the toy out of their mouth.
Games like tug-of-war can actually be a useful training tool for your dog. It can help teach them self-control and reinforce commands like "stop" and "drop it." "Drop it" is an especially useful command that can come in handy when they pick something up in their mouths that was better off left on the ground.
You'll find cat toys made of wool, fur, fleece, or plastic. Toys that make sounds, such as electronic chirps, jingly bells, or crinkly noises. Toys that light up or move around. And of course, lots of toys with catnip. You can experiment with different types of toys to see which ones your cat likes best.
You don't need to break the bank on pet toys. In fact, you can make some fun and inexpensive ones from items around your house. Here are some examples:
Now go and have some fun with your pet! It's one of the best parts of being a pet parent.
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.