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As a dog owner, you're probably only too well aware of how excitable your dog becomes at the mention of their favourite dog toy. Or, indeed, how much faster their tail can wag when you bring home a new toy for them to play with. And it can fill us with just as much joy when we see how happy our dogs are.

Dog toys, especially natural dog toys, are essential for various reasons. Ultimately, they provide a sense of canine enrichment, i.e., dog toys ideally stop pups from chewing your favourite cushions (or shoes in our household!). They provide mental and physical stimulation and depending on the toy; it can distract them long enough for you to get on with other jobs!

Dogs and their toys

We’re a nation of dog lovers! From toys to accessories, grooming, and clothes, reports suggest that we Brits spend, on average, £1,150 a year on our furry friends, with the UK as a whole spending approximately 10 billion a year on our dogs!

This may seem a little extreme, but for animal lovers everywhere, it is entirely normal. How often have we heard the saying a dog is a "man's best friend"? and it's true! Our dogs become a considerable part of our family, and as such, receive the customary birthday presents, Christmas presents from Santa, boredom-busting toys, and more!

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plush dog toy or chewing toy is really important for both them and their owners!

Dog toys provide both physical and mental stimulation, as well as preventing destructive behaviour and encouraging relaxation. Often if dogs get stressed, playing with a new toy, or snuggling with a familiar toy helps keep them quiet, calm, and distracted.

The importance of play

Dogs should have a wide range of suitable dog toys available to them. Not just to show how spoiled they are but because it can help with behaviour. Toys are often used in training as a reward mechanism for good listening and obeying commands. This is an excellent technique for puppies when we start to train them to sit and stay, for example—using the toy as a reward that they then get to chew on and play with after a job well done.

This also leads to keeping dogs active. Dogs need to burn off the abundance of energy they come with. Of course, nothing beats a nice refreshing walk, but dogs love to play with their owners too. It's exciting to play with a rubber dog toy, for example, that squeaks every time they chew it in the right position!

Dog toys also help to keep dogs distracted and busy. This can be important if dogs are left throughout the day while you're at work, or even if you're working from home. They need to have something to play with, chase, chew, follow, etc. Otherwise, boredom can set in, and the alternative is to chew something they're not supposed to, throw your favourite shoe around the house or worse!

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This is why toys can be great boredom busters, especially those treat dispensing dog toys (we love these, and our dog does too!). The design of these toys focuses on providing mental stimulation and a way to ease boredom, which (fingers crossed) reduces the risk of destructive behaviour!

With a range of different types of treat-dispensing toys available, you can mix and match and find the perfect one for your pet, providing them with endless hours of fun and keeping their brains active and engaged!

Whether they're a pup or an older canine, every dog loves soft and plush toy at some stage.

When they're pups, it's important to introduce a soft toy as comfort from being away from their mother and their litter. A cuddly toy they can snuggle up with and feel safe and secure. This toy will undoubtedly become their favourite comforter as it keeps their smell, and when they're feeling low, or poorly they have their comfort toy to turn to. (It's a little like babies who have comforters when they're little, a favourite blanket or teddy that they use to help them settle and feel safe).

Your dog will know what they like, and they know what they don't

A little like ourselves, dogs know what they like, and they know what they don't.

What's more, no dog is the same. Every dog has their own personality, their own unique traits, no matter if they are the same breed, or brother and sister, they are as individual as we are.

For some, having a plush toy to cuddle up to, lick continuously, and look after as their own pup is the best toy in the world.

For others, having something to chew, to try and shred into a thousand tiny pieces every time they play with it (we have a dog like this, can you tell?!) is the best, most exciting thing in the world to play with.

It's about knowing our dogs and trying various toys to see which ones they like the best!

Dogs will also have varying energy levels, which will affect what toys they prefer.

Again, for some, having something like a squeaky rubber duck can be all the fun they need. Whereas, for those dogs who are bouncing off the walls, you really can't go wrong with an exciting, fun, brightly coloured tennis ball (we especially love our natural pink monster tennis ball roller – ideal for Halloween (not that our dog is spoilt)!

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A little bit of toy creativity can go a long way.

With the dark mornings and nights now setting in, we're now all experiencing much shorter days, so we need to keep our dogs active to stop boredom and naughty behaviour setting in!

Some of the best dog-friendly games you can play with your dog, and their toys include:

Naming their favourite toy. Naming a few of their favourite toys as soon as you introduce them, you can then create a game calling out the toy's name and telling your dog to go and get "snowy" from their toy box. This type of play and game is also great for training, and your dog will also place value on the toy, making it much more important than the others in their box.

Playing hide and seek. Dogs love this game, and it's really interactive too. Hiding their favourite toy and making a game out of finding it can be exciting and fun and something that everyone can take part in – even the kids! As well as keeping your dog stimulated it also helps to create a bigger bond with your pooch as you play and interact together.

Tug of war. A dog’s all-time favourite. Playing tug of war with either a rope pull or for those dogs who don't have the strongest teeth, unstuffed dog toys are a great alternative!

Creating your own agility course. Great for the more adventurous dogs in our households, you can use their toys to create an obstacle course in your own home. Having them fetch and return, jump over ropes, weave in and out of cuddly toys, crawl underneath dining room chairs, not only is this great agility, its great exercise, and mental stimulation!

Which hand is it in.? Our dog loves playing this game with us! Not only is it a great game to engage their brain, but it's also a lot of fun. Hiding your hands behind your back with their favourite toy, or even a healthy treat. Make your pup sit as still as possible until you choose a hand. Then slowly bring your hands around to the front for them to choose which hand they think their treat is in. Watch their tails wag faster as the excitement builds!

The three-cup game, also known as `find the treats'. Hiding a healthy dog treat under a cup, mix all three cups up, so they're no longer in the same position. Your dog then has to decide which cup they would like to choose. Finding the right cup, they're then rewarded with a tasty, delicious treat!

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Natural Dog Toys

Environmentally friendly dog toys are not only great for our planet, but for dog owners, you'll find that they're also built to last!

Sturdy and fun, natural dog toys are made from eco-friendly materials; they don't cost the earth, and your pet will love them!

Letting your dog decide.

If your dog is more active and spritely throughout the day and if you're honest, you can be tired just watching him run around excitedly because it's the morning and he hasn't seen you all night, then you need to find a way to burn off some of that excess energy. For some bouncing fun, you can't go wrong with the Air Kong Squeaker Dumbbell. With a non-abrasive felt which is kinder on your dog's teeth, this toy is not only great to throw and fetch; it floats in water too. Plus, with a squeaker inside, playtime has never been so exciting!

For those dogs who love to lounge about all day, following the sun shining into the house, you need a toy that encourages them to get moving! Providing them with a distraction squeaky toys such as our cheeky pigs can fly latex dog toy is great. Quirky and fun this toy is durable and has a built-in squeaker to entice them out of their slump. However, nothing gets a dog moving faster than the thought of a treat. Kong balls are a great way to reduce boredom and offer both physical and mental stimulation to even the laziest of dogs.

For those very intelligent dogs who not only learn quickly, they often try and outwit their owners; puzzle toys make for great mental stimulation.