As dog owners, we love our dogs and give them toys to provide some fun and entertain them. Sometimes, though, our dogs eat the toys, which can be terrifying to witness! Toys aren’t cheap, and it can be annoying when your dog destroys a toy after chewing on it only for twenty minutes.
So, how do you get your dog to stop eating toys? After all, we still want to give them new toys, but we don’t want to break the bank or risk our dogs eating them.
With adequate training that addresses your dog’s underlying mental and physical needs, it is possible to teach them to stop eating their toys. You should also ensure that you’re offering only highly durable, long-lasting toys to begin with so your dog doesn’t have the opportunity to eat them.
Before diving into the step-by-step processes of getting your dog to stop eating their toys, we’ll first touch on why your dog may be eating his toys in the first place. It’s essential to have a solid understanding of the entire problem so that you can try to prevent it in the future!
Why Do Dogs Eat Toys?
Dogs love playing with toys, and sometimes they get carried away and end up ending their toys. Some underlying conditions may cause your dog to be more likely to eat his toys.
Reason 1: Anxiety or Boredom
Have you heard of the phrase “bored to tears?” It’s a quick way to say that you’re incredibly bored to the point of frustration. Dogs can get bored too! Every dog is different, but it’s widely accepted that most dogs need at least 30-45 minutes of exercise daily.
In addition to the physical exercise requirement in dogs, dogs also need mental stimulation. Mental stimulation help keep a dog’s mind active and sharp- it’s part of keeping all dogs out of trouble including puppies! In most cases, increasing mental stimulation can resolve unwanted and destructive behaviors, like eating toys.
Reason 2: Pica
Pica is a medical condition that causes dogs to eat objects that aren’t food, like rocks, dirt, or even socks. This severe medical condition could lead to intestinal blockage, which requires surgery. Since Pica is a medical condition, it requires working with your veterinarian to treat it.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Eating Toys?
Now that we understand the two most common underlying reasons that cause a dog to eat their toys, let’s go over how you can get them to stop eating their toys!
1 – Keep Toys Out Of Reach
Of course, this is the most obvious solution. You should always supervise your dog when they’re playing with toys. If you aren’t there to watch them closely, keep toys out of reach by putting them on top of the refrigerator or keeping them in a closet.
There are two unexpected benefits of keeping your dog’s toys out of reach!
The toys will be more attractive to your dog. If you leave your dog’s toys out 24/7, not only is it risky because your dog could eat them when you’re not looking, but the toys also become boring to your dog. Since your dog has access to them at all times, they don’t hold the same value or stay exciting. When you put the toys out of reach, your dog will forget about them when they’re gone and then get excited for them as if they’re brand new when you bring them back out!
You’ll increase your bonding time with your dog. Being an active participant in your dog’s playtime will increase your bond! It’s important to spend quality time with your dog. Plus, both of you will be entertained and bored!
2 – Increase Physical Exercise & Mental Stimulation
As we touched on previously, making sure your dog gets the right amount of physical exercise and mental stimulation is incredibly important. If your dog is under-exercised and not mentally stimulated enough, they’ll be bored. This will lead to more destructive behaviors, like chewing and eating toys.
If your dog has a habit of eating toys, consider gradually increasing their physical exercise and mental stimulation to see if that solves the problem! By increasing their exercise and providing more opportunities for mental enrichment, you’ll be meeting your dog’s basic needs. When these needs are fulfilled, they’re less likely to be bored or anxious and will be more content and happy.
Not every dog is meant to be a superstar athlete, so simply increasing to a 30-60 minute daily walk is sufficient. If you have a sporty athletic dog on your hands, you may need to consider more intense exercise, like running or taking up a dog sport.
All dogs will benefit from mental stimulation. This can be as easy as providing puzzle toys or as challenging as training a new trick or skill. There are also plenty of ways to keep your dog entertained without toys.
3 – Choose The Right Toy
If you’ve ever looked at a pet store or even scrolled Amazon for dog toys, you’ll see thousands upon thousands of options. Choosing the right toy from the get-go will help you set your dog up for success so that he doesn’t have the option to eat the toys. Not all toys are created equal, and naturally, dogs will prefer some toys over others.
Select the right size toy. First and foremost, be sure to select the appropriately sized toy for the size dog you have. You should never give a large dog like a Rottweiler a small toy that is intended for a Chihuahua. Your dog is much more likely to eat a toy that is too small for him, and this can become a serious choking hazard.
Select an appropriate toy shape. Some dogs are “pickers,” meaning they’ll pick on any piece of fabric that sticks out like sewn-on eyeballs or the legs or tails of animal shapes. For these dogs, it’s best to get toys with one solid shape that don’t have appendages.
Choose durable toys targeted to super chewers. There are many options for durable, long-lasting toys specifically made for dogs with jaws of steel. These toys are meant to withstand intense chewing so they don’t break down into smaller pieces as your dog plays with them. Goughnuts is one of the most durable brands on the market that you can buy on Amazon.
Choose interactive toys. Interactive toys are a wonderful option for dogs that eat toys. Interactive toys are things like puzzle toys or treat dispensing toys. You put some food or treats inside the toy, and your dog has to work to get the food out.
These toys benefit your dog in significant ways! First, these toys mentally stimulate your dog because they have to think through and solve how to get the food out. Second, since these toys mentally stimulate your dog, they’re getting some energy out and aren’t as likely to be bored or anxious. Third, these toys can occupy your dog for quite a long time! And fourth, you can actually feed your dog their meals with these toys!
Simply put your dog’s food in the toy and give it to them to work through instead of offering their meal in a bowl. This will provide some much-needed mental stimulation while forcing your dog to eat slower, which can be good for their digestive health! When selecting an interactive toy, be sure to choose one that is durable and doesn’t have removable parts.
4 – Discard Worn Toys
As your dog plays with his toys, they will become worn down. Many dogs will hone in on any worn parts and continue to bite at those areas in an attempt to destroy or open the toy. To be safe, you should always discard toys at the first sign of wear and tear.
5 – Provide Safe Chews
As annoying as it can be, chewing is a natural behavior for dogs. If you stifle a dog’s instinct, that’s when they’re likely to “act out” and perform that behavior in a destructive way. If your dog has the urge to chew, consider redirecting them to an appropriate, safe chew.
Safe chews could be a hard toy designed for chewing, like a Benebone., or they could be edible chews, like bully sticks.. Regardless, make sure you’re supervising your dog closely when you provide either of these options.
6 – Teach a Leave It Cue
If you’ve implemented all the tips above, your dog’s toy eating problem should decrease. However, teaching your dog a “leave it” cue will be helpful if you’re still having problems.
The leave it cue will be beneficial throughout your dog’s life. With this cue, you’re teaching your dog to ignore items on the ground and not grab or eat them. This can work with toys or even things like socks or food.
To teach the leave it cue:
- Stand in front of your dog with food in your hand. Cup your hand, so your dog isn’t intently staring at the food, and hold your hand to your side. When your dog looks away from your hand and back to you, use a verbal marker like “yes!” and reward your dog with a treat.
- Practice this several times. The goal is that you want your dog to automatically look away from your hand with the food and make eye contact with you.
- As your dog becomes skilled, you can increase the difficulty by lowering your hand or placing food on the ground. It’s essential to set your dog up for success! You can do that by setting the food on the floor a foot or more away from your dog. It’s important to make sure your dog doesn’t get the food – no matter what, so be prepared to put your foot over it if you need to.
- Practice this in different environments with different types of food and begin practicing with toys.
- Once your dog can do this successfully 9 out of 10 repetitions, you can add the “leave it” cue. Begin by dropping food or a toy and immediately saying “leave it” once you drop it. Reward your dog when they look away from the object and make eye contact with you!
Practice this in real life! If you see your dog getting ready to pick up a toy that you know they may want to run off into a corner and chew on, ask your dog to leave it.
7 – Teach a Drop It Cue
A “drop it” cue is another helpful cue you will use throughout your dog’s life- from saving a toy from destruction to preventing your pup from chomping on a lizard this command is extremely helpful. While the leave it cue is meant to prevent your dog from putting something in its mouth, the drop it cue is the cue you use when your dog already has something in its mouth.
To begin to teach the drop it cue:
- Find a toy your dog loves and start playing together. After a few minutes of playing, hold still and do not move the toy anymore. This makes the toy less fun and interesting to your dog!
- Since the toy is no longer interesting to your dog, your dog should naturally drop it on their own. Wait for them to drop it, and use a verbal “yes!” marker to mark those moments and then reward your dog.
- Continue repeating this with your dog. As your dog begins to drop the toy quicker after you stop moving it, say “drop it” at the same time your dog drops it.
The next time you catch your dog trying to eat a toy, you can put this cue to work by asking them to drop it.
Should You Worry If Your Dog Eats A Toy?
While we should undoubtedly prevent our dogs from eating toys to begin with it, it’s not always an emergency if they do. If your dog chews the toy into small enough pieces, there’s a slight chance that your dog could pass the toy pieces through their intestinal tract, and it can come out in their stool.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. It is possible that your dog could end up with a medical emergency if they eat a toy. Toys that don’t pass through the intestinal tract become stuck. This is called a foreign body, resulting in emergency foreign body exploratory surgery.
If you notice any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy and know your dog can get carried away with his toys, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
Unfortunately, many dogs will try to eat a toy at some point or another. Or they’ll try to eat something else they’re not supposed to. They get too excited and carried away, and before you know it, they swallow at least a part of a toy!
Eating a toy can be a severe medical emergency, so it’s best to prevent this from happening in the first place. Management strategies like keeping toys out of reach, discarding worn toys, and always supervising your dog with toys are the best ways to prevent your dog from eating a toy in the first place.
However, increasing physical exercise and mental stimulation may be two solutions you may not have thought of to get your dog to stop eating toys. Many dogs eat toys because they’re bored or anxious, and increasing exercise and mental stimulation can solve that problem and many more!
When selecting toys designed for power chewers and following through with all of the other tips presented here, you’ll be on your way in no time to getting your dog to stop eating their toys!