‘Reframe’ how you think about your dog and its toys

10/29/2013 7:50 AM

10/29/2013 7:51 AM

Q uestion: My dog loves the toys I get for him, but I’m going broke in the process. He destroys every toy I give him, sometimes in a matter of minutes. How can I get him to stop this? – Dillon

Answer: First, congratulations on finding the perfect type of toy your dog loves! Dog owners often have unrealistic expectations concerning how their dogs should treat their toys. While there are some dogs out there who gently mouth toys, most dogs enjoy shredding them when they can. The solution to your situation involves “reframing” how you think about the ways your dog gleans enjoyment from toy interaction, and you being thoughtful about your price point for destructible toys.

Since your dog clearly loves to shred those soft toys, plan on purchasing those with the mindset that they won’t last very long. You may pick some up at a dollar store or a yard sale. Watching your dog destroy a toy hurts less when you haven’t paid much for it – and you should learn to enjoy the glee with which your dog goes after those toys – it may make for a great You Tube video!

One point of concern is that your dog not swallow a great quantity of the soft toy’s innards. Eating the plastic squeaker or the stuffing could pose a significant health threat, so when you give your dog access to these toys, make sure you are around to pick up and dispose of the stuffing as it comes flying out. This is what I do with my own dogs; the hilarity ensues when I give my Dachshund a plushy toy. I sit on the floor, collect the stuffing as it is removed, and when it’s all out, I can relax while my dog continues to toss around the “skin.”

On the flip side, spend a few more dollars and invest in some super resilient, “meant to chew on” toys. They’re out there, although you have to really search to find them. Look for products with money-back guarantees if your dog is able to destroy it; heavy, rubber-type toys are often a good bet. Better still are ones with a port so you can add a swipe of peanut butter or cream cheese to make it a bit more interesting. These toys would be a safer choice to leave for your dog to enjoy when you are gone.

Q: What’s the best way to walk both of my dogs at the same time, without me getting tangled in leashes? – Linda

A: You have a number of options, Linda – pick the one that suits you best. First, you could teach one dog to always walk on your right side, and the other to always walk on your left. Once trained to do so, you walk with a leash in each hand, your dogs consistently remain on their designated side, and you look really cool and smart walking your two well-trained pooches. To get this started, plan on taking some time to train each dog separately to walk on the desired side. Only once each dog really knows your leash walking rules should you begin to walk them together. Enlist the help of a modern trainer, who can help you achieve your goals in a positive and gentle manner, and within a few weeks you should be able to walk them together again.

Another option is to attach a coupler – a 6- to 12-inch leash that has clips at each end. You clip the ends to your dogs’ collars, and then they walk in tandem while you hold only one leash. You can teach the dogs to walk out in front of you, or both walk on the same side of you. Again, this will require a bit of training. Beware, attaching both dog to the same leash without having reliable leash walking skills could be a real power struggle for you, so again, spend a bit of time teaching each dog separately what your expectations are before resuming the tandem walks. Happy walking!

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